Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. - Psalm 119:105

Bible Study Notes

Matthew 27: 45- 66

By Dr. Richard J. Krejcir
Jesus Dies and is Buried!


Jesus Dies and is Buried!
 
General Idea: This passage starts out as Jesus hovers at death's door! He summoned the remainder of His energy to once again press His torn feet against the spike, straighten His legs, and take a deep breath. Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?-which means, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Luke records Jesus' uttering of His last and final cry, possibly no more than an agonized whisper; it is finished. Father! Into Thy hands I commit my spirit (Luke 23:44-46; John 19:30). The eternal God dies, and then, the eternal God is buried. Jesus has accomplished His task on earth and fulfilled His life's mission. Jesus was hung on the cross where He paid our debt of sin, suffering the ultimate punishment on our behalf.

 

This passage continues with the theme of the action of character, as man did his worst, then God showed Himself by doing His best! Man was fulfilling his pride and corrupt desires and condemned the innocent. God's actions showed grace and forgiveness while fulfilling His vow to save man-even when man had proven he was unwilling to be saved and did not deserve to be saved. Yet, Jesus demonstrated His love (Gen. 3:15; John 15:9-13; Rom. 5:12-21). Jesus died and then was buried; but, was that all? Is there more to the story? Friday is here, death has come, but the great hope of humanity is that Sunday is coming! The redemption and salvation of humanity, grace that will be availed, the object of our faith will be at hand and resonate in three days-on a Sunday! And, so it was that His mission to redeem our souls was accomplished. The eternal God still remains eternal, as He proved when He rose from the grave to proclaim our call to tell the world (Matt. 28: 18-20).

 

1.   The sixth hour refers to noon. Hours were usually counted after sunrise. Thus the third hour (Matt. 20: 5) would be 9:00 a.m. A work day began at 6:00 a.m. (just before sunrise). The ninth hour was 3:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. was the end of the work day, depending on when it became too hot. Thus, the time would have been between noon and 3:00 p.m.

a.   This was a surprise as crucifixions usually lasted all day-sometimes, several days. But, Jesus was severely beaten prior to the crucifixion, something most others did not go through. His body was spent.

b.   Darkness alludes to the plagues of Egypt (Ex.10:21-23). It is also a sign of judgment. Prophets often used this in describing the last days or a judgment to come because of man's evil ways (Isa. 42:7; Jer. 23:12). Here, the Jews and humanity in general are being judged for the slaying of the innocent God-Man. In the ancient world, eclipses of the sun or moon were not understood; they terrified people, who saw them as omens.

c.   "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?" As the passage tells us, which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" This does not mean God disrespected Jesus or was disappointed; rather, Jesus is quoting from Psalm 22 which foretells the entire crucifixion.  Jesus is communicating, emphatically, the depth of His suffering! He is suffering the separation from the Father and the wrath from our sin for the first time in eternity (John 16:7-11; Rom. 4:7-8; Eph. 1:7)! This Psalm refers to the vindication and triumph of the person suffering; Jesus was proclaiming victory here-not just agony! God cannot be touched by sin; Jesus took our sin upon Himself and God turned His head as Christ absorbed and bore our sentence of guilt and death. Now, grace is offered, and we, by faith in Him, have salvation by the work He did on the cross! The difference between Matthew and Mark is that Matthew quotes Jesus in Hebrew (Eli); Mark, in Aramaic (Eloi.)

d.   Calling for Elijah. The spectators confused Jesus' cry of Eloi for Elijah's name. Elijah was carried up to Heaven directly; thus, he never died. So, the people in Jesus' time thought he was still walking among them doing errands for God. Rabbis would call on Elijah when they needed help or were in trouble. This is also a fulfillment of prophecy (Psalm 69:21).

e.   Sour wine. Unlike the gall that had an analgesic, this was a popular drink. It was called posca, an old, bad, sour wine that the soldiers drank. Contrast this to the marvelous wine He made for His first public miracle, the wedding feast (John 2:1-12; 19:28-30). This was probably an act of mercy. (Due to contaminates and bacteria, most people drank water with a little wine or beer in it; this killed the bacteria. They did not know about bacteria, but without doing this, people became sick and died. It did not contain any more alcohol than orange juice which usually has between 1% and 5% alcohol-not enough to have a toxic effect.)

f.    Yielded up His spirit was a colloquialism to refer to "died." Jesus, our Creator, our Lord, and our Savior died in our place! The usual cause of death was suffocation; most physiologists believe Jesus died of heart failure.

 

2.   Veil of the Temple was torn. To Matthew's readers, who were Jews, this would be terrifying as the "Holy of Holies," the section reserved for the Ark of the Covenant, was separated from the rest of the sanctuary by this curtain. Only the High Priest could go in to dust once a year (Ex. 26:33), and it was now exposed. This also meant Jesus was pious and important, as, according to lore, destruction took place when a pious rabbi died. The Greeks had similar tales about great philosophers who died and then all "hell breaks loose." Undoubtedly, this happened to the Temple as God demonstrated that the reign of sacrifice and law was over; grace was now at hand (Heb. 9:1-25; 10:14-22). All who are in Christ would now have access to the Holy of Holies (Ezek. 10-11; 1 Pet. 2:9). This is also a rebuff to the pious, fraud religious leaders who were tearing their clothes prior (Matt. 26: 65).  

a.  Top to bottom was a colloquialism for divine intervention; this was no "dry rot!"

b.   Saints…fallen…raised. This is a partial fulfillment of Daniel 12:2. It is also symbolic of our Lord conquering death for us. It was also a taste of the resurrection we all will have in eternity-we will never die again. Unfortunately, for these people, they would die again. Tombs of rabbis and pious people were venerated; this would be a shocking exposé of who Jesus was to the Jews! 

c.   Centurion was a Roman soldier in charge of one hundred soldiers. In practice, they usually had sixty to eighty soldiers, and were a combination of what a Drill Sergeant and a Lieutenant in the Army would be today. Their main duty was to enforce discipline. Palestine was under Roman occupation; thus, this man's testimony as a conqueror, an occupier, and a pagan would be a big slap in the face for the religious leaders! Perhaps, he was the first one outside of His confused and bewildered disciples to truly recognize who Jesus was. He could also have referred to Jesus as a "semi-divine" hero as in the Greek myths, not the Son of Man spoken of in Daniel meaning the Messiah (Dan. 3:25-29). But, then again, this may be the first authentic testimony (Matt. 16:16; Mark 15:39)!

d.   Many women. Family and friends of the executed would be present; these would be the people closest to Jesus both in relationship and in friendship. Perhaps, the males were not there because they feared they would be executed, too. This was a high possibility considering the Roman mindset to kill all, then investigate and answer questions later. It seems the principle benefactors to Jesus' mission and substance were the women! This would be scandalous then, in a time before women's liberation!

e.   Arimathea was a small town about twenty miles northwest from Jerusalem. To be wealthy then, as today, meant you had prominence and influence in society; this is evident for him to have gained Pilate's ear. This act of kindness-to give Jesus an honorable burial-would have been a big risk for him. He could possibly have been kicked out of his synagogue and family, perhaps even lost his wealth. Jesus must have touched him very deeply!

f.     Evening refers to "after the work day;" Thus, it may not have been dark yet, as the Sabbath had not yet begun.

 

3.   Wrapped it. The time and care was taken for our Lord (1 Kings 13:30-31; Isa. 53:12). This act shows reverence and honor. It usually was the women who took care of the bodies.

a.   New tomb refers to one just finished or never used. This would have been a great expense. Normally, the crucified were left unburied or buried in shallow common graves without care. Burying the dead was an important Jewish custom and great care normally went into it, especially to keep the smell down in a very hot climate and to remain ceremonially "clean" (Num. 19:16-18).

b.   The location of the tomb was in a garden near where Christ was crucified (John 19:41). There is ample archaeological evidence that the Church of the Holy Sepulcher (Catholic) in Jerusalem is perhaps the real site of Jesus' tomb. Most burial sites were owned by clans and rich families. A tomb can hold many bodies, and much more with the Ossuaries (small burial boxes). This is a fulfillment of Isaiah 53:9. The body would be left there for one or two years; then, due to land space and expense, the bones would be taken out and placed in an Ossuary. The Ossuary would then be placed on a shelf in the tomb. This is still practiced in many parts of the Middle East today. Most Jews believed in a resurrection at the end of the Age.

c.   That deceiver. Notice their jealous hatred and the hypocrisy. People who are insincere passionately hate those who are sincere. Frauds hate the real thing!

d.   Stone refers to a very heavy, cut stone about three feet in diameter, placed in a carved slot that would take many men to move.

e.   Tomb be made secure. This is a testament to the validity of Jesus' resurrection as the government and the religious leaders had a vested interest to keep Jesus buried! Pilate allowed Roman guards to secure the tomb, leaving no possibility for someone to intervene and steal the body (Matt. 28:11, 14). The seal would invoke a death penalty for anyone tampering with it. No one would have been that foolish; and, even if they were, the wax of the seal could not have been recreated and thus, the resurrection would have proven to be a fraud. If the tomb was tampered with, the religious leaders would have used this to put down the new Christian group once and for all.

 

          The purpose of the crucifixion, for the Romans, was to inflict fear and cause the greatest pain and prolonged agony possible to reinforce that fear. Our Lord bore this for you and for me! As our Lord hung on the cross, He would have struggled to lift His body as it tore from the spikes driven into His wrists and feet. He would have had to do this for each breath, pulling Himself up and down. Without doing this, air could not get into the lungs nor could it be exhaled. This would cause extreme, searing, excruciating pain to shoot along the fingers and up the arms to the brain and back. This was in addition to the deep, relentless, throbbing pain and agony of the nails tearing through the nerves between the bones of His feet and between His forearms and wrists.

 

          The normal death of crucifixion is not because of trauma or blood loss. It is by suffocation due to the body, in shock, being unable to move so as to prop itself up to breathe. Jesus would have been pushing Himself upward to avoid the pain and lowering Himself to take a breath.

 

          The greatest agony He endured was to be separated from the Father for the first and only time in eternity. God cannot look upon nor be touched by sin, and Jesus bore it all-every sin that had been committed, was being committed, and would ever be committed. Jesus had been hanging on that cross for hours with a lacerated, bruised, and beaten body that was twisting, cramping, convulsing, and struggling with every breath.

 

          His agony turned into victory and became our triumph! Do you fully realize what Jesus did for you? Christ took this punishment for us, our fears (as in scared to death, not fear as in reverence to Him) have bared on the cross while the fear and awe of our Lord and Savior helps see what He did for us (Prov. 3:5)! Every time we sin, we incur greater guilt, and we deserve punishment (Gen. 3:1-24; Jer. 17:9; Rom. 2:1-11; 3:10-26; 5:12-19; Titus 1:15; James 1:12-15; I John 1:8-10). But, the incredible miracle here is that we are set free by His work of on the cross (Rom. 5:10; 6:22). By His death and coming resurrection, we are set free; we have salvation by Jesus' sacrificial death (John 19:30). How now will you live your life?

 

 

Questions:

 

1.   If you were a newspaper reporter, what headline would you give for this passage? How would you write Jesus' obituary?

 
 

2.   Do you realize the Gospels place more emphasis on the death of Jesus than on His teaching or anything else? Why is that?

 
 

3.   Why did Jesus say, why have you forsaken me? What does this mean to you?

 
 

4.   How does the fact that this passage testifies how man does his worst while God shows Himself by doing His best give you more confidence and faith in Christ?

 
 

5.  Why were the people surprised to see Jesus dead so soon? Should they have been surprised?

 
 

6.   How would you have felt if you were there and darkness came about all around you?

 
 

7.   Can you describe the depth of Jesus suffering? How does this impact you and the call He has given you?

 
 

8.   How does the fact that our Lord and Savior died in your place affect you? Your walk in Him? Your relationships? Your ministry? Your work? Or?

 
 

9.   What do you think the significance was for the veil of the Temple to be torn?

 
 

10. What would you do if dead people came out of their tombs and started to stroll around?

 
 

11. During Jesus execution, the women were there but most of the men were not. Why do you suppose this happened?

 
 

12. What do you think Joseph's motivation was to give Jesus his tomb, knowing he could possibly lose his place in his family and synagogue?

 
 

13. The people in Jesus' life took the time and care for our Lord's burial. What does this show about them? What about those who did not? What would you have done?

 
 

14. What do you think is the significance of the new tomb?

 
 

15. Why do you suppose the religious leaders were so jealous and hated our Lord so passionately?

 
 

16. How does hypocrisy show insincerity and hate? How does this affect people both inside and outside the church? 

 
 

17. How would you explain the purpose of the crucifixion to a new or non-Christian?

 
 

18. Do you believe that every time we sin, we incur greater guilt and we deserve punishment? How does it feel to know Jesus paid it all?

 
 

19. How does the fact that our Lord bore this suffering for you and for me affect your life? When, if ever, has the impact and reality of Jesus' death hit you? How has your life made a difference? How can your life still become even more different so it reflects Christ's character and not self-character?

 
 

20. Do you fully realize what Jesus did for you? What can you do to more fully understand the depth of His sacrifice on your behalf?

 

 

For more insights see The Crucifixion of Jesus!

 

 

© 2004 R. J. Krejcir Into Thy Word Ministries www.intothyword.org

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