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Matthew 27:38-44: They Mocked Jesus

Posted by adventbiblestudy on September 12, 2012


Matthew 27:38-44 Two revolutionaries were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. (39) The people passing by shouted abuse, shaking their heads in mockery. (40) “Look at you now!” they yelled at him. “You said you were going to destroy the Temple and rebuild it in three days. Well then, if you are the Son of God, save yourself and come down from the cross!” (41) The leading priests, the teachers of religious law, and the elders also mocked Jesus. (42) “He saved others,” they scoffed, “but he can’t save himself! So he is the King of Israel, is he? Let him come down from the cross right now, and we will believe in him! (43) He trusted God, so let God rescue him now if he wants him! For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.'” (44) Even the revolutionaries who were crucified with him ridiculed him in the same way.

 

The Roman guards nailed Jesus to the cross and set it in place on the top of the hill called Golgotha. Three of the guards attended to the crucifixion of the two remaining prisoners as the other guards surveyed the crowd which continued to grow in size. They thought a new group of guards arrived to as reinforcements, but only nailed a sign from Pilate to the top of Jesus’ cross and left. When given this assignment they considered themselves lucky to be up on Golgotha while the other guards were assigned double duty during the Passover celebration. Now they had an unexpected feeling of being alone. Vastly out numbered by the crowd, they wondered if this may be their last assignment.

 

Once the two revolutionaries were crucified with Him, one on His right and one on His left, all the guards met in a small group at the foot of the cross. They watched closely as Caiaphas stood at the foot of the cross reading the sign Pilate had placed there. They could tell he was agitated by the remark Pilate posted, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” They knew all about the long standing strife between Pilate and Caiaphas and expected the violence to increase. Was this the spark that would ignite the fraud into a full scale battle? All they knew for certain is there would be no wine on this assignment. They had to keep their wits about themselves. Duty called.

 

As they stood in front of the cross giving the impression they were a formidable group to content with, looking like a well organized and prepared Roman unit, groups began passing by shouting abuses while shaking their heads at Jesus. At first the soldiers felt relieved because the abuse was not pointed at themselves. Then they began to listen to the phrases hurled at Jesus. “Look at you now!” they yelled at him. “You said you were going to destroy the Temple and rebuild it in three days. Well then, if you are the Son of God, save yourself and come down from the cross!” In all their years of service they never saw or heard such mockery. One by one they looked back at Jesus as they began to regret the beating they administered and how they had mocked Him.

 

The Roman guards remained between Jesus and the crowd. The remaining priests watched as group after group passed in front of the cross hurling insults at Jesus. They looked around for Jesus; supporters. Much like the guards, the priests were expecting some type of uprising, a rescue attempt. They felt out numbered both in the temple court and when they arrived at Golgotha. They gathered what courage they had and headed up the hill to the cross. To the priests it appeared the majority of people supported them and their decision. With Caiaphas gone they wanted to use the opportunity to strengthen their cause. One after another the leading priests, teachers of religious law, and elders also filed past the cross and mocked Jesus. “He saved others,” they scoffed, “but he can’t save himself! So he is the King of Israel, is he? Let him come down from the cross right now, and we will believe in him! He trusted God, so let God rescue him now if he wants him! For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.”

 

At first the priests and religious leaders gave the guards a sense of relief. The threat of an uprising to free Jesus was quickly disappearing. It was soon replaced by a feeling of contempt for the priests, religious leaders and elders. The Spirit had been working on the guards for some time now. They regretted what they had done to Jesus. Now they wondered what type of religious leaders stood there mocking Jesus. The guards thought about the situation. It was their job to crucify prisoners. They heard Pilate declare Jesus an innocent man. As they listened to the insults cast on Jesus the guards remembered the reports they gathered and shared about Jesus. How He healed people, preached to them, fed them, and other miracles He performed. All the reports were verified by a number of soldiers and officers. They wondered if the priests heard the same reports. They know the priests had spies following Jesus. They saw the religious leaders challenge Jesus time after time. There were even rumors, speculation among the ranks that Jesus may organize Israel in a united front against Rome. This was their biggest fear. As long as Israel remained divided they were easily controlled. This was a tactic used by Rome for generations. Jesus seemed to be the only threat to unit them. Not only the Jews, but the Greeks and others Jesus preached to. That was one reason He was watched so closely. From their standpoint they began to think the estimations of Jesus’ influence may have been exaggerated. Even the revolutionaries who were crucified with him ridiculed him as if they did not know Him. The soldiers knew the testimony of a dying man is usually reliable to a point. If the revolutionaries did not know Jesus, the threat must have been nothing more than a rumor. It seemed as if the major threat to them and Rome would soon be over and everything would finally get back to normal

 

As John sat and watched the procession of priests, scribes, Pharisees, and elders he wondered how their hatred of Jesus united them. He didn’t know much about their differences. They all seemed to agree how the Messiah would come and how He would free Israel. He wondered if the quest for power, favor with the Messiah is what separated those factions for so many years. The priests thought the Messiah would return to reestablish the temple order. Obviously with the sacrificial system the center of worship the priests would be highly favored. The Pharisees believed keeping the law would grant them special favors with the Messiah. After all they were the guardians of the law and most qualified to lead. The Scribes took credit for interpreting and writing the laws. Even though they kept little of the law themselves, maintaining it and dictating its enforcement is how they served the God. As John watched each group try to out perform the other by insulting Jesus, he began to wonder how he and he other disciples ever thought the key to establishing Jesus’ Kingdom depended on the cooperation of the religious leaders.

 

As difficult as it was, John looked up at Jesus. It was as if Jesus was calling out to him. John wanted no part of the religious leaders, but felt he there was something Jesus wanted to tell them. As John got up and walked to the cross, the women he was with followed.

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