Family Study: Matthew 27:32-66


Jesus Crucified, 27:33-44

The account of Matthew and the parallel accounts in the other gospels (Mk 15:22-32; Lk 23:33-43; Jn 19:17-24) need to be combined to give the full account of the incidents that occurred at the crucifixion leading up to His death. The order of events seems to be as follows:

1. The arrival at Golgotha (Mt 27:33; Mk 15:22; Lk 23:33; Jn 19:17)

2. The offer of the wine mingled with gall (Mt 27:34; Mk 15:23)

3. The act of crucifixion between the two thieves (Mt 27:35-38; Mk 15:24-28; Lk 23:33-38; 19:18)

4. The first cry from the cross, “Father, forgive them” (Lk 23:34)

5. The soldiers taking the garments of Jesus, leaving Him naked on the cross (Mt 27:35; Mk 15:24; Lk 23:34; Jn 19:23)

6. The Jews mocking Jesus (Mt 27:39-43; Mk 15:29-32; Lk 23:35-37)

7. The conversation with the thieves (Mt 27:44; Mk 15:32; Lk 23:39-43)

8. The second cry from the cross with the words, “Today shalt thou be with me in paradise” (Lk 23:43)

9. The third cry, “Woman, behold thy son!” (Jn 19:26-27)

10. The darkness which overtakes the scene on Calvary (Mt 27:45; Mk 15:33; Lk 23:44)

11. The fourth cry, beginning, “My God, my God” (Mt 27:46-47; Mk 15:34-36)

12. The fifth cry, “I thirst” (Jn 19:28)

13. The sixth cry, “It is finished” (Jn 19:30)

14. The seventh cry, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit” (Lk 23:46)

15. The Lord dismissing His spirit by an act of His own will (Mt 27:50; Mk 15:37; Lk 23:46; Jn 19:30)

Matthew notes that Golgotha is “a place of a skull,” which is what Golgotha means, apparently from the idea that the hill Calvary looked something like a human skull. The hill above the garden tomb discovered by Gordon has a skull-like appearance from the side. The top of the hill is now a Muslim cemetery, and there is a convenient tomb which is identified as the tomb of Jesus at the foot of the hill in the garden. Positive identification of this site, of course, is impossible today.

Matthew records Christ’s refusal to drink the sour wine mingled with a drug, which would have tended to dull His senses and make the cross easier to bear. Matthew simply records His crucifixion ‘without going into details, as the crude spikes were driven through His hands and His feet, and the entire cross was set up by being placed in a hole in the ground.

The soldiers took His garments, tearing them in four pieces so that each soldier could have a part, but they cast lots for the coat, which was a woven garment, as John 19:23-24 explains. Matthew regards this as a fulfillment of the prophecy of Psalm 22:18. Textual evidence seems to indicate that this was added to Matthew’s gospel, but that in John 19:24, it is properly included. In any case, the prophecy was fulfilled.

The event of His crucifixion, as stated in Mark 15:25, reckoned according to Jewish time, was the third hour, or 9:00 a.m., or, as mentioned in John 19:14, the sixth hour, according to Roman time, actually meaning after 6:00 a.m., or early in the morning.

According to John 19:19, Pilate himself had ordered that the accusation made against Jesus should be nailed to His cross; and Matthew records this as, “THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS” (27:37). The wording in each gospel varies, and the title itself was written in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin (Jn 19:20). Putting the accounts together, the full inscription was, “This is Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” All the accounts contain the phrase, “The King of the Jews,” which was the substance of the accusation. Pilate intended this as a rebuke to the Jews, but at the same time it was a testimony to the person of Christ.

Mention is also made of the two thieves who were crucified on either side of Jesus. Only Luke 23:39-43 describes the conversion of one of the thieves. Matthew records the mocking of the crowd and the chief priests and scribes and elders, as they challenged Christ to come down from the cross, if He were indeed the Son of God who had said that He could destroy the temple and build it in three days.

How tragically true it was, as recorded in Matthew 27:42, “He saved others; himself he cannot save.” It was not that He lacked power; it was because it was the will of the Father that He should die. The mockery accurately fulfilled the anticipation of Psalm 22:6-13. Tasker notes there were three classes of mockers: (1) “Ignorant sinners”; (2) “religious sinners”; (3) “condemned sinners.” The tragedy was not that one was dying on the cross, but that the people beheld Him in hardness of heart and wickedness of unbelief.


The Death of the King–The First Three Hours (Matthew 27:33-44)

Golgotha (verse 33) means “place of the skull” (the term “Calvary” means the same thing), possibly so named because the rock formations on this hill may have resembled a human skull. A skull speaks of death and certainly “Calvary” was the place of death. Three men–one innocent, two guilty–would die on this day.

Just before the crucifixion a drink was offered to Jesus (verse 34). This was vinegar (wine) mixed with gall (a bitter substance identified in Mark 15:23 as myrrh). Thus this was a “drugged” drink, and apparently the purpose of this drug was to deaden pain and alleviate suffering. When Jesus tasted it and realized what it was He refused to drink it. He did this no doubt because He wanted to endure with full consciousness all the pain that was in store for Him, in order to be our perfect Substitute and Saviour. [Our Lord’s response to this drug provides a wonderful lesson as to what the believer’s response should be to drugs which wrongly affect the mind and rob us of our full mental faculties. It also shows us how the Lord always faced His problems and never sought to escape from them, as many do today by their drug trips, drinking times, etc.] Note: We recognize that physician recommended pain killers used by modern medicine can be very helpful in managing a person’s pain. We are simply pointing out that our blessed Lord did not seek an escape from the pain and suffering which faced Him at Calvary’s cross.

The crucifixion itself is mentioned in the briefest of terms. It simply says, “They crucified Him” (verse 35). The gospel writers did not go into all the gory details because the essence of what took place on the cross involves not what the Romans did to Jesus (by driving nails through His hands and feet) but what God the Father did to Christ by judging Him for our sins. Many men have suffered and died by crucifixion, and many suffered on crosses much longer than Christ did. The awfulness of the cross cannot be appreciated unless one understands that “the LORD hath laid on Him the iniquity of of all” (Isaiah 53:6) and that “it pleased the LORD to bruise Him” (Isaiah 53:10). His suffering primarily involved our sins (1 Pet. 3:18), not the nails.

Verse 35 gives a remarkable example of fulfilled prophecy. This prediction was given in Psalm 22:18, penned by David a thousand years before the event took place (and centuries before death by Roman crucifixion was even known). The Roman soldiers fulfilled this prophecy to the smallest detail, and certainly these men were unfamiliar with the Hebrew Scriptures and were totally unaware that their actions were fulfilling God’s prophetic Word.

It was a custom to write the crime above the criminal so that all would know the reason he was dying. See verse 37 for what was written over the Lord’s head. He died because He was the rejected King of the Jews. He occupied the center cross surrounded on each side by criminals (verse 38). This was the fulfillment of Isaiah 53:12 (“numbered with the transgressors”).

Those who passed by were very vocal in their mocking (verses 39-43). If Christ had saved Himself and come down from the cross, as these mockers suggested, what would that have meant? If He had saved Himself (compare verse 42), then would He have been able to save others? It was God’s love for the sinner that kept Him on the cross.

Verse 44 tells us about the robbers who died with Christ. Notice what both of these men were doing. This is in sharp contrast with Luke 23:39-43 where we only find one robber mocking Christ. This is a fine example of the wonders of true repentance. One of the criminals stopped his mocking and repented. These two robbers are representative of all people. Every person resembles one of these robbers. Every person is a guilty sinner who either rejects Christ or receives Christ by faith. All men are drawn to that center cross (John 12:32) and they each must decide what they will do with the Crucified One.

The Lord Jesus was on the cross for approximately six hours, from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.


Matthew 27:33-44 Breakdown

33They came to a place called Golgotha (which means “Place of the Skull”)

Golgotha was a hill which was located outside of the city of Jerusalem.

34and offered Jesus wine mixed with gall to drink. But after tasting it, he would not drink it.

This was a fulfillment of Psalm 69:21. The wine was a painkiller to alleviate some of the pain from the crucifixion. Jesus refused it, because He wanted to be fully alert as He was dying for the sins of the earth.

35When they had crucified him, they divided his clothes by throwing dice.

This is a fulfillment of Psalm 22:18. The Roman soldiers would divide all of the property of the condemned. The only valuable article that Jesus possessed was the robe, which was given to Him at Pilate’s house during His mocking.

36Then they sat down and kept guard over him there.

Psalm 22 predicted that Gentile dogs would gleefully watch the crucifixion of Jesus. Gentile dogs was a metaphor for sodomites. The Roman soldiers sat down to watch Jesus suffer on the cross. This is similar to people going to a violent R-rated movie for entertainment.

37Above his head they put the charge against him, which read: “This is Jesus, the king of the Jews.”

The crime of the individual was written on a sign over the cross. The sign said, “This is Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” According to official Roman Law, the crime of Jesus was that He was the King of the Jews.

38Then two outlaws were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left.

Two other criminals were crucified on each side of Jesus.

39Those who passed by defamed him, shaking their heads 40and saying, “You who can destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are God’s Son, come down from the cross!”

Satan did not want Jesus to die on Passover, because this would be a fulfillment of prophecy. He attempted to kill Jesus before Passover, but he was not able to do so. These taunters could not persuade Jesus to come down from the cross and avenge Himself. This was a fulfillment of Psalm 22.

41In the same way even the chief priests – together with the experts in the law and elders – were mocking him:

This was the spiritual condition of the religious leadership of God’s chosen people.

42“He saved others, but he cannot save himself! He is the king of Israel! If he comes down now from the cross, we will believe in him!

Even the taunts of the religious leaders would not cause Jesus to come off of the cross and execute vengeance upon those who were mocking Him. This is an example of divine patience and divine love.

43He trusts in God – let God, if he wants to, deliver him now because he said, ‘I am God’s Son’!”

This was the result of man’s totally depraved and evil mind. Jesus died for their sins, but their reaction was ridicule.

44The robbers who were crucified with him also spoke abusively to him.

Notice that both robbers spoke abusively to Jesus. The other gospels report that one of the robbers had a change of attitude and actually believed in Jesus.

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