Today’s reading is Matthew 27.
At the end of Matthew 26, Jesus faced a religious trial. The religious leaders of Judaism investigated and convicted Jesus of blasphemy (vv. 63-65). By admitting that he was “the Son of God” (v. 63b) Jesus agreed that he shared God’s nature, making himself equal with God.
Here in chapter 27, Jesus was handed over to Pilate to face a criminal trial. It was against Jewish law to claim to be God but it was not against Roman law to make that claim. The accusation against Jesus pivoted, then, from his claim to be the Son of God to his claim to be the Christ (or Messiah)–the King of the Jews (vv. 11-12). Rome took this seriously because Caesar, the Roman king, did not want countries like Israel that were under his authority to rebel. It was blasphemous to claim to be the Son of God; that could get you excluded from the synagogue and the temple. It was treasonous, however, to claim to be the King of the Jews. That charge was brought against Jesus so that the Romans would put him to death.
Pilate, however, was skeptical. Verse 18 says, “For he knew it was out of self-interest that they had handed Jesus over to him.” Their prosecution of Jesus was to protect their own interests as Jewish leaders. Pilate even called them out for wanting to kill an innocent man (vv. 23-24). Consider how chilling that is; the religious leaders of Judaism preferred to take an innocent man’s life over losing some of their influence and power over the Jewish people.
The sinful desire for power caused a few ungodly religious men to put the Son of God, the King of Israel, to death. But although it was their desire and decision to kill him (v. 25), all of it happened under the grand plan of God to buy us out from our subjection to sin and death. Christ died as our atonement for sins. The tearing of the curtain in the temple that separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place (v. 51) showed that Christ was offering himself as the once for all sacrifice for human sins. The temporary resurrection of Jewish believers testified to his power to give new life (vv. 52-53). This is why Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection are so important to our faith. Because Jesus died, we can have new life because he took the penalty for our sins. Those who should have accepted and welcomed Jesus put him to death. By his death, God gave us new life so that we accepted and welcomed Jesus as our Savior and Lord.
So, let’s serve him today through the power and new life he gave us.