© Rosemary Bardsley 2012 

A. THE ARREST – Matthew 26:47-56

A.1 Jesus and Judas
Judas waisted no time in his identification of Jesus – he went up to him ‘at once’. His greeting Jesus with a kiss is not only betrayal but also insulting, as it repudiates the teacher/disciple role [in which greetings were initiated by the teacher]. By this kiss he betrays Jesus. By this kiss he expresses his real opinion of Jesus.

A.2 Jesus and the disciples
Peter [see John 18:10] reacted to Jesus’ arrest with a clumsy attempt to protect him. Jesus, mindful of the sovereign purpose of God in all of this, forbade further intervention. He also pointed out that he, Jesus, had only to call on his Father, and he would at once put twelve legions of angels at Jesus’ disposal.  This would, however, prevent the fulfilment of the Scripture, so it is out of the question. The eternal purpose of God testified by the scriptures must happen.

A.3 Jesus and his enemies
Jesus does not resist his arrest nor abuse his enemies. He rebukes Peter’s vain attempt to interfere. He rejects the option of calling the hosts of heaven to his defence. And he points out the needlessness of the nature of his arrest: he could have easily been arrested at any time during the past week. In doing so he indicates that even the nature of his arrest fulfils the writing of the prophets.

A.4 The fulfilment of scripture
In his comments to both his disciples and the arresting party Jesus testifies that these events are according to the Scriptures: that the scriptures must be fulfilled that say it must happen this way.

Right through this Gospel Matthew has been careful to align the events in Jesus incarnate life with the scriptures that prophesied his coming.

What occurred in these verses in Matthew that fulfilled the scriptures?










Now Matthew presents events around the death of Jesus as the unavoidable fulfilment of scripture:





There is nothing haphazard about the arrest, trial and crucifixion of Jesus, from God’s perspective. He knew, and Christ knew, all along just how it would be.



The Sanhedrin:
New Bible Dictionary: ‘In New Testament times the Great Sanhedrin in Jerusalem comprised the high priests (that is the acting high priest and those who had been high priest), members of the privileged families from which the high priests were taken, the elders (tribal land family heads of the people and the priesthood), and the scribes, that is the legal experts. The whole comprised both Sadducees and Pharisees.’

‘The jurisdiction was wide at the time of Christ. It exercised not only civil jurisdiction according to Jewish law but also criminal jurisdiction in some degree. It had administrative authority and could order arrests by its own officers of justice. It was empowered to judge cases which did not involve capital punishment. Capital cases required the confirmation of the Roman procurator, though the procurator’s judgment was normally in accordance with the demands of the Sanhedrin, which, in Jewish law had the power of life and death. … The only case of capital punishment in connection with the Sanhedrin in the New Testament is that of our Lord.’ [Page 1143].

Strict rules governed times, places and procedures for Sanhedrin courts, including:

• They did not meet on festival days and on Sabbaths
• Very strict guidelines directed the voting procedure which led to either acquittal or condemnation, with condemnation more rigidly controlled and more difficult to achieve.
• In capital cases, condemnation had to wait till the day following the trial to be declared.

But here we see the Sanhedrin meeting on the Passover/Feast of Unleavened Bread; we also see condemnation erupting spontaneously before even a vote is cast.

The legality of this trial is questioned.


The witnesses:
‘Many’ false witnesses were called but, despite the fact that the chief priests and Sanhedrin were looking for false evidence against Jesus, these witnesses could not offer any evidence to lead to a conviction. Finally, two came and quoted Jesus as saying ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days’.  This appears to be a garbled recollection of something Jesus said quite early in his ministry. [See John 2:18-22].

Jesus doesn’t respond to this testimony.


The High Priest
It seems that the high priest had run out of witnesses. Or, perhaps, he believes that these last two witnesses have given him something to work on, for no mere human could rebuild the temple in three days. If Jesus thinks he can do that, then perhaps he can be convicted out of his own mouth. Whatever his reason, the high priest charged Jesus under oath ‘Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.’

It is interesting that the high priest connects these two titles – ‘the Christ’ and ‘the Son of God’. This is a connection that has been made from time to time, and that is recorded in all four gospels:

• Matthew 16:16 – Peter, speaking for the disciples, stated ‘you are the Christ, the Son of the living God’
• Mark introduced us to Jesus with the words: ‘The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God’ [1:1]
• Demons shouted at Jesus ‘You are the Son of God’ and Jesus rebuked them ‘because they knew he was the Christ’ [Luke 4:41]
• Peter, again speaking for the disciples, said ‘we believe and are sure that you are the Christ, the Son of God’ [John 6:69 KJV]
• Martha testified: ‘I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God’ [John 11:27]
• John’s purpose in writing his gospel is that his readers will believe that ‘Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God’ [John 20:31]

Now the high priest charges Jesus to tell him if he is this Christ, the Son of God, or, as Mark records it ‘the Son of the Blessed One.’

Jesus’ answer is, at first, simple: Yes. It is as you say.

But then he expands on this in such a way that there can be no doubt that he is putting himself on a par with God, and is therefore, in their perception, guilty of blasphemy:

• You will see the Son of Man …[the exalted figure of Daniel 7, and Ezekiel 1]
• Sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One … [the seat of authority]
• And coming in the clouds of heaven … obviously divine, not human

The high priest is exultant. The man on trial has condemned himself with his own words. It does not occur to the high priest that Jesus actually is who he claimed and will one day do what he claimed. He thinks he is just a man taking upon himself the name and the attributes and the authority of God.

The ‘trial’ dissolves into injustice and mockery.


C. PETER Matthew 26:69-75

From the deliberate, planned and calculated opposition of the priests and the Sanhedrin we move to the unplanned and unexpected [unexpected by Peter, but not by Jesus] disaffection of Peter.

Peter never intended to do this. How bravely he had recently affirmed his unswerving loyalty! How determined he was to remain faithful to Jesus, even if he was the last man standing, even if it meant he would die with Jesus.

He has already fallen asleep three times, instead of watching with Jesus.
He has already run away with the others, after his misguided attempt to avert the arrest.

But here he is at the trial, right in the lions’ den, right amid the enemy. Of the other disciples only John is reported to have stopped running away and come back and infiltrated the enemy stronghold. Peter's presence there took courage … but this courage was not enough. This courage failed him. It would seem that he was so overwhelmed with fear of exposure that he did not even realize what he was doing … until the rooster crowed. Then he remembered. Then he realized. And we see his real commitment to Jesus in the bitter tears he wept.


D. JUDAS Matthew 27:1-10

What Judas felt when he saw that Jesus was condemned to death was not genuine repentance, but ‘remorse’. He felt bad, bad enough to return the money and hang himself, but that is a different thing from real repentance towards God and real faith in Jesus Christ.

The priests conscientious refusal to put this returned ‘blood money’ into the temple treasury stands in stark contrast with the readiness with which they had recently taken this very money out of the temple treasury to pay to Judas as blood money!

Matthew connects even this seemingly irrelevant detail about the purchase of the potter’s field with scriptural prophecies:

The connection with Jeremiah’s prophecies is not precise. Jeremiah 19:1-13 speaks of terrible judgement that will fall on Jerusalem for various offences, including the fact that they have ‘filled this place with the blood of the innocent’ [19:4].  32:6-15 records Jeremiah purchasing a field at Anathoth, about three miles north of Jerusalem. The price was seventeen ‘shekels’ of silver.

Zechariah 11:12-13 mentions ‘thirty pieces of silver’ – the wages paid to Zechariah which he threw to the potter in the house of the Lord. This action was God’s indictment against the ‘flock’ which rejected Zechariah his appointed ‘shepherd’. [Note that in Exodus 21:32 thirty pieces of silver is the price set for recompense the master when his slave has been gored by a bull.] Just as Zechariah was undervalued and rejected, even so Jesus is rejected and undervalued.

The question ‘why does Matthew say ‘Jeremiah’ then quote the Zechariah passage?’ is answered by various explanations. Irrespective of which explanation is valid, Matthew’s main point is that even in this action of the traitor God’s sovereign knowledge is revealed.


E. PILATE Matthew 27:11-26

Jesus admits to Pilate that he is ‘king of the Jews’, but says nothing in response to the charges brought against him by the chief priests and elders.

• Was amazed at Jesus’ silence before his accusers [13-14]
• Knew it was out of envy that they had handed Jesus over to him [18]
• Tried to provide a way out for Jesus [15-18,21]
• Was disturbed by his wife’s dream [19]
• Tried to absolve himself of any involvement or guilt in the outcome [24]

The people:
• Were stirred up/manipulated by the chief priests and elders [20-23]
• Took upon themselves and their children the guilt of his blood [25]

The fate of Jesus – flogging, then execution by crucifixion – is sealed. And in this the scripture is again fulfilled.


F. THE SOLDIERS Matthew 27:27-31

Jesus, who has already been flogged [26] is now out of the hands of the Jewish leaders, out of the hands of Pilate, and in the hands of the soldiers – a whole company of soldiers gathers to make fun of him, on top of all he has just suffered in the flogging. Before taking him to be executed they make mockery of the central point of his conviction – that he is the ‘king’:

• They replace his clothing with a scarlet robe
• They put a crown of thorns on his head
• They put a staff in his hand
• They kneel before him and mock him with the words ‘Hail! King of the Jews!’

• They spit on him
• Took the staff and struck him with it
• Mocked him
• Replaced the scarlet robe with his own clothes

None of this was the prescribed punishment. Yet in all of it the scriptures were fulfilled.

What happened

What the scriptures foretold

The Jew/Roman collusion

Psalm 2:1-2

The flogging

Psalm 129:3; Isaiah 50:6; 53:5 [‘wounds’ = ‘stripes’]

The whole company of Roman soldiers

Psalm 22:12,13

The mockery

Psalm 22:7

The scarlet robe

Isaiah 63:1-5

The thorns

Genesis 3:18 – the connection with God’s judgement on sin; Jesus bears sin’s curse

The spitting

Isaiah 50:6



Here again seemingly insignificant details occur in fulfilment of the scriptures:

The site – outside the city

See Hebrews 13:12,13; Exodus 29:14; Leviticus 4:12,21; 9:11; 16:27; Numbers 15:35; 19:3.

The crucifixion

Psalm 22:16

Casting lots for his garments

Psalm 22:18

The mockery

Psalm 22:7-8; 109:25; Isaiah 37:22,23;

The criminals

Isaiah 53:12

The darkness

Amos 8:9

[Darkness as a symbol of judgement]

Isaiah 5:30; 13:10-11; 60:2; Amos 5:18,20;

Jesus’ cry

Psalm 22:1

The vinegar

Psalm 69:21

G.1 Deep truths in this passage

[1] ‘This is Jesus, the King of the Jews’ [37]:
This was written at Pilate’s instruction, identifying the ‘crime’ for which Jesus was executed. Jesus was, indeed, the king of the Jews – not an earthly king whose reign would threaten Caesar, but the eternal, divine King, the King of all kings, the Lord of all lords, the Almighty Sovereign God, to whom every knee will bow.

There was another list of crimes nailed to the cross of Christ – our list [see Colossians 2:14]. It was for our sins that he died, not for his own [Romans 5:6,8,10; 1Peter 2:24; Isaiah 53:5,6].


[2] Christ’s ability, and his refusal, to save himself [41-43]:
Christ’s passivity under the hands of his tormentors and executors was not due to any personal powerlessness as the mockers insisted. As we have already seen in Gethsemane he could have called twelve legions of angels to rescue him, and as John records, the power that Pilate assumed he had was a given power [John 19:8-11], not an innate power such as that of Christ. He, the seemingly powerless one, is actually the one in charge here. His refusal to save himself is because of his commitment to save us.

Twice his claim to be ‘the Son of God’ is thrown at his face. But he has already long since faced this form of temptation, for it was with this same title that Satan prefaced his early assaults against Christ. Satan did it knowing that Jesus was indeed the Son of God; these mockers at the crucifixion do it with contempt. How little do they realize what they are saying!


[3] The three hours of darkness [45]
Darkness, as indicated in the table above, is a symbol of judgement. These three hours are the hours of judgement – the hours during which the Christ is bearing the wrath, the condemnation, the judgement, the curse of our sins.

Hendriksen comments: ‘”Did it have any meaning?” … Yes. It did have a very important meaning. The darkness meant judgment, the judgment of God upon our sins, his wrath as it were burning itself out in the very heart of Jesus, so that he, as our Substitute, suffered most intense agony, indescribable woe, terrible isolation or forsakenness. Hell came to Calvary that day, and the Savior descended into it and bore its horrors in our stead. ‘ [Page 970].


[4] The cry of abandonment [46]
At about 3pm Jesus cried out in a loud voice ‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?’  - ‘My God, my God. Why did you abandon me?’ This is at the end of the three hours of darkness described above.

Morris comments: ‘There must always be a mystery here. We who are finite and sinners do not understand, and cannot even begin to understand, how evil appears to a holy God. The prophet Habakkuk could say in his prayer, “your eyes are too pure to behold evil, and you cannot look on wrongdoing” (Hab. 1:13). And the apostle Paul adds, “him who knew no sin, he (i.e. the Father] made sin for us” (2Corinthians 5:21); and again, Christ became “a curse for us, for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs o a tree;” (Gal 3:13). When we put such passages of Scripture together, it seems that in the working out of salvation for sinners the hitherto unbroken communion between the Father and the Son was mysteriously broken.’ [Page 721-722].

Yet Jesus still addresses his cry to God: ‘My God … my God …’ The connection, the trust, the commitment, are still there. The abandonment was horrific; but it was not the last word. The last word was another loud cry, which Matthew notes, but does not specify.  John, however, tells us exactly what Jesus said just before he died: ‘It is finished.’ [John 19:30]. The abandonment is finished. The pouring out of God’s just wrath and condemnation upon Christ, the sinner’s substitute, is finished. Christ has achieved, Christ has implemented, the eternal plan and purpose of salvation. That which has been anticipated since before the beginning of time is here brought to pass. Now he trusts himself back into his loving Father’s hands [Luke 23:46]. It is done.


[5] The tearing of the temple curtain [50]
At that very moment that Christ died the temple curtain tore from top to bottom: the banned access into the presence of God has been ripped away; that separation between God and man resulting from our sin has been reversed; now, by this death, the way to God and life is re-opened.

We must here go right back to Genesis 3:22-24 where God installed cherubim with flaming swords to bar the way to the tree of life. Those cherubim were reproduced in golden embroidery on the temple curtain that separated the Most Holy Place from the Holy Place, and forever banned human access into the symbolic presence of God. [Except the High Priest on the Day of Atonement.]

The writer to the Hebrews describes the release from this prohibition obtained by the substitutionary death of Jesus:

‘Let us approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need’ – 4:16.

‘We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek’ – 6:19.

‘Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our heats sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.’  - 10:19-23.

The exclusion in place because of sin has been removed; the barrier is gone. No more must we cringe before those prohibitive words – ‘your iniquities have separated you from your God; you sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear’ [Isaiah 59:2]; no more must we fear God’s rejection. For Christ, our substitute, our representative, has been rejected, abandoned, once-for-all. He has done away with sin's dread guilt. He has done away with sin’s curse, having borne it in his body on the tree.

The curtain is ripped away. The way into the presence is opened. Here, in Christ, we are reconnected with our God.


[6] The earthquake and the resurrected saints [51b-53]
Both of these are prophetic of the return of Christ – when the old earth will come to an end and there will be a new heaven and a new earth; and when all saints will be resurrected.

Christ, by his sin-bearing death, has initiated a process that will culminate in his second coming, when the physical impacts of Genesis 3 will be reversed, just as the spiritual impacts have already been reversed. This is the expectation described in Romans 8:18-27.


G.2 Reactions and responses – Matthew 27:54-65

Identify the reactions and responses of the people in these verses