What does it say?
The focus of Matthew 27 is the climactic moment of the crucifixion. As the chapter opens, Judas is dealing with the guilt of having betrayed the Lord. Unable to find a resolution to his guilt, he commits suicide. The religious leaders have now delivered Jesus to the Roman governor Pilate, who offers another prisoner, Barabbas, in exchange for Jesus, but the crowd cries for Jesus to be crucified. Jesus is then beaten, mocked and sent to the cross along with two other condemned prisoners. Matthew describes the crucifixion, burial and sealing of the tomb with a Roman guard in place. Mark 15 corresponds to Matthew 27, recounting the same events with different details and perspective.
What does it mean?
The importance of Christ dying in our place to satisfy the demands of our sin cannot be overstated. The death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ are the very heart of the Gospel, the Good News. Matthew contrasts what is happening on the cross with the very human story of Judas Iscariot. Overcome by the shame of his treason, Judas concludes that suicide is the only way that he can deal with the shame. Ironically, the One he betrayed is dying on the cross to provide the only way to completely deal with guilt and shame. His suicide did not have to happen. There is nothing of such finality in our lives that has to happen as the result of our sin because Jesus’ death provides for our redemption and restoration. It’s simply a matter of whether we choose to believe or not.
Another important contrast in these chapters is between the fear and failure of The Twelve as Jesus is crucified and the courage of a prominent believer named Joseph of Arimathaea. John will tell us that he was a “secret” believer for fear of the Jews and that Nicodemus (John 3) is another silent believer that assists him in giving burial to the body of Jesus (John 19:38-40). Sometimes we are tempted to judge people that for whatever reasons don’t participate in all the programs and ministries of the church. Here, the “regular church-goers” turn up short and the ones that come through courageously are those that we might least expect.
How will I respond?
Because of what Jesus did on the cross, a guilty believer is an oxymoron. Do I wrestle with guilt and shame in any areas of my life? Why? What step can I take today to make effective application of Jesus’ finished work on the cross to deal with my sin and shame?