A Study of Matthew 27:31-44
The title of this study is: “This is Jesus the King of the Jews.”
The Lord Jesus Christ was captured in the Garden of Gethsemane. From there He was led to Annas, and then to Caiaphas, and then before the Sanhedrin, and then to Pontius Pilate, and then to Herod, and then again to Pontius Pilate. And all this happened before about 8 O’clock on Friday morning. Everyone had to get up very early on that Friday, because the priests, the Scribes and the Pharisees had decided that Jesus must die before the beginning of the Sabbath, which started at sundown on Friday. Then Jesus was led away to be crucified, and He was crucified about 9 O’clock that Friday morning. Now let us read from Matthew 27:31 and following:
And after that they had mocked him, they took the robe off from him, and put his own raiment on him, and led him away to crucify him.
And as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name: him they compelled to bear his cross.
And when they were come unto a place called Golgotha, that is to say, a place of a skull,
They gave him vinegar to drink mingled with gall: and when he had tasted thereof, he would not drink.
This drink in the Gospel of Mark is given as wine mingled with myrrh. This is not a contradiction. It indicates that this wine had turned sour and was mingled with myrrh, which is bitter as gall. This was a drink given to criminals before their execution, to deaden the sense of the pain of crucifixion.
But He Would Not Drink it (Matthew 27:31-37)
Why did Jesus refuse to drink it?
Earlier in the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus said to Peter: “The cup, which My Father hath given Me, shall I not drink it?” (John 18:11) The Lord Jesus had to endure the full load of suffering for the payment for our sins. He did not want anything to ease the suffering, or to deaden the pain, or to make Him drowsy. He had to endure the full load.
We read in John 19 that myrrh was also used for embalming a dead body. It had the bitter taste of death. Jesus tasted it, because He had not yet tasted death. Then we read in verse 35,
And they crucified him, and parted his garments, casting lots: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, They parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture did they cast lots.
And sitting down they watched him there;
And set up over his head his accusation written, THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS.
Can you see here the fulfillment of many prophecies?
This tells us that God was the master of the whole situation, directing every detail to the outworking of His eternal counsels.
The Fulfillment of Prophecy (Psalm 22:1, Psalm 22:15-18).
Psalm 22 is a Messianic Psalm, which means that it contains words that have been quoted by Jesus, or it contains words that have been ascribed to Jesus. When we have identified a Messianic Psalm, there is no reason to assume that only the quotations by Jesus are the words of the Savior. Unless indicated otherwise, all the other words in the Messianic Psalm are the words of Jesus. Therefore, when we read a Messianic Psalm, like Psalm 22, we are reading the prayers of Jesus, and we are given a glimpse into the sufferings, which He went through. God wrote this psalm through the hand of David. Psalm 22 begins with the words the Lord Jesus spoke on the cross:
My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?
This cry of agony by Jesus: “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” was heard toward the end of his six hours suffering on the cross.
Were these perhaps also the words of David?
The following verses answer this question.
My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death.
For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have enclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet.
I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me.
They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture.
When we read: “They pierced My hands and My feet”, we can ask: “Was David ever pierced in his hands and feet?”
Has David ever experienced that his garments were divided and people were gambling for his vesture?
But David was also a prophet. God dictated these words to David 1000 years earlier, and David wrote them down under the inspiration of God the Holy Spirit. Therefore, we can read that the Lord Jesus Christ prayed to the Father that His strength is dried up, and He feels like a piece of a broken earthen vessel, a potsherd. He is so thirsty that His tongue sticks to His jaws. He feels like He has been brought into the dust of death. This is a reference to the fact that Adam was formed from the dust of the ground, and God said to Adam: “for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return”. The Lord Jesus feels as if His body is beyond death and that His soul is now suffering the torments of Hell. And then Jesus said:
They Cast Lots Upon My Vesture (Psalm 22:18-20, John 19:23-24, Proverbs 16:33)
We read in Psalm 22:18-20,
They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture.
But be not thou far from me, O LORD: O my strength, haste thee to help me.
Deliver my soul from the sword; my darling from the power of the dog.
In the Gospel of John we have a more accurate rendering of this gambling for the clothes of Jesus. In John 19:23 the stage is shortly after the Roman soldiers had crucified the Lord Jesus. We read in verse 23,
Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took his garments, and made four parts, to every soldier a part; and also his coat: now the coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout.
They said therefore among themselves, Let us not rend it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be: that the scripture might be fulfilled, which saith, They parted my raiment among them, and for my vesture they did cast lots. These things therefore the soldiers did.
What was so special that His coat was without seam?
It spoke of the unbroken perfection of the Lord Jesus. His coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout. God directed the fabrication of this coat. His coat was pointing to the righteousness of Christ, like God says in Isaiah 61:10, “He hath covered me with the robe of righteousness”. The soldiers recognized that this coat was very costly. We also realize that the righteousness of Christ is extremely costly. It can only be obtained through the suffering and death of the Lord Jesus.
So they cast lots for His coat.
What does it mean to cast lots?
God says in Proverbs 16:33,
The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the LORD.
In other words, when we cast lots, we let God make the decision.
Is this not a wonderful picture of what salvation is?
The soldiers cast lots, letting God decide who will receive the coat of Christ, representing the righteousness of Christ. That is exactly what God did. God says in Ephesians 1 that God, before the foundation of the world, decided whom He was going to save out of this miserable mess of mankind. All mankind comes into the world as sinners in rebellion against God. If God would not interfere, all mankind would end up in Hell for their wickedness. But God did interfere. God chose out of this mess of mankind those whom He was going to save from this slippery slide into Hell. And God sent the Lord Jesus Christ to pay for the sins of those whom God chose. That is why the Lord Jesus hung on the cross, because He was accursed by God in our place. The Scripture says:
For the Transgression of My People was He stricken (Isaiah 53:8, Ephesians 1:4-5)
The Scroll of Isaiah is a remarkable testimony of New Testament truths buried within the Old Testament. Especially, Isaiah 53 is an important chapter, because it describes the suffering and death of the Lord Jesus Christ. Today we will focus just on one of the verses in Isaiah 53.
We read in Isaiah 53:8,
He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? For he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.
What did God say here?
Christ was taken from prison and brought before the judgment seat of Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea, Samaria and Idumea. Pilate wanted to set Jesus free, but finally Pilate bowed to the pressure of the Jews, and he condemned Jesus to be crucified. Then the Lord Jesus was taken from Pilate’s judgment seat to Golgotha. “He was taken from judgment (lit: justice)“, which means a fair judgment was withheld from Him. Then God says in Isaiah 53:8, “Who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living.”
In other words, How can He have any offspring? because He was cut off to die, He was executed. But then God added the words: “For the transgression of My people was He stricken.” His suffering was a substitution for the transgression of My people.
Who does God call “My People”?
Are these people the Jews?
Did the Lord Jesus suffer and die for Judas Iscariot?
No! The Scriptures are very clear that Judas was the son of perdition, the son of Hell. And anyone else who has not received the gift of salvation is also on the way to Hell.
Who does God call “My People”?
Are these not the people He has chosen from before the foundation of the world?
Then why do so many people say that the Jews are God’s chosen people?
Does God have two groups of chosen people?
No! There is only one group of chosen people. God says in Ephesians 1:4-5,
According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:
Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will.
Who is God speaking about?
He has chosen us, and He has predestinated us, according to the good pleasure of His will.
Who is “US”?
It is a remnant chosen by grace whom God has chosen and predestinated, out of all nations and tribes and tongues of this world. These are the ones for whom the Lord Jesus Christ was stricken in Isaiah 53:8.
Who does God call “My People”?
Perhaps you remember the last verse we read in Matthew 27:37,
And set up over his head his accusation written, THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS. Are the Jews His people?
The King of the Jews (Matthew 27:37, John 19:19-22)
The most complete rendering of this event was written in the Gospel of John. John 19:19-22 says:
And Pilate wrote a title, and put it on the cross. And the writing was, JESUS OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE JEWS.
This title then read many of the Jews: for the place where Jesus was crucified was nigh to the city: and it was written in Hebrew, and Greek, and Latin.
Then said the chief priests of the Jews to Pilate, Write not, The King of the Jews; but that he said, I am King of the Jews.
Pilate answered, What I have written I have written.
JESUS OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE JEWS was written in Hebrew, that none of the Hebrews may have any excuse, and in Greek so that none of the Greeks may have any excuse, and in Latin so that none of the Latinos may have any excuse of not knowing what occurred here at Golgotha. That covered the known world in those days. Whatever Pilate’s reasons were to place this sign on the cross, it was clearly overruled by God. Here is God’s King; a King in death as well as in life. His cross is therefore a sign of His power; it is the scepter under which “every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Even in death God saw to it that His Son would be glorified, and it was visible to all in Jerusalem, and in Judea and in Galilee. This was the time of Passover. It was the time when all the males adhering to the Law of Moses were required to come to Jerusalem to celebrate the feast of Passover.
Before He was born, the angel announced to Mary “the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David”. After He was born, wise men from the East hailed Him as “King of the Jews”. Five days before His crucifixion the multitudes cried out: “Blessed is the King of Israel”.
Is Jesus then the King of the Jews?
Jesus’ answer to Pilate was: “My Kingdom is not of this world”.
Then spoke “the chief priests of the Jews” to Pilate. Notice that they were now “chief priests of the Jews”. This is the only place in the Bible where God the Holy Spirit indicates that they were no longer priests of Jehovah, but they were priests of the Jews. Judaism was set aside, and therefore its leaders are regarded as serving the Jews, but not serving Jehovah.
The King of the Jews. The Jews wanted the announcement to be changed, but God did not allow it. It stands written forever. Therefore, this event is written in all four of the narrative Gospels.
Jesus is King of the Jews. The question still remains:
Which Jews? (Matthew 2:2, Romans 2:25, Romans 2:28-29, Philippians 3:3)
If Jesus is King of the Jews, is He then not my King?
Does that leave me out?
Perhaps you remember, when Jesus was born, there came wise men from the East to Jerusalem, saying in Matthew 2:
Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.
Those wise men apparently understood this title “King of the Jews” better than most Jews did, because they said: “We are come to worship Him.” You worship only God.
Why would they want to worship Him?
Was He then also their King?
Apparently so. This is what they understood.
Does it profit anyone to be born from the line of Jacob?
In Romans 2:25 God says:
For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision.
We may be born from the line of Jacob, and have been circumcised the eight day, but the moment we commit the first sin that circumcision is undone. God said it. From the day we have committed the first sin, we have become a slave of sin. Therefore our circumcision is undone.
In the New Testament time it does not profit anyone to have been born from the line of Jacob. God continues in verses 28 and 29:
For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh:
But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.
God defines His own terms. In God’s eyes a Jew is not someone who is of the line of Jacob, but someone who has been circumcised in the heart, which means you have been born again, it means you have received a new soul from God the Holy Spirit. Every believer, every saint is called a Jew in the terminology of God. In these verses God indicates that the body is not the focus. It is the condition of the heart that matters. The same message is also conveyed in Philippians 3:3. In verse 2 God warns us for those who want us to obey the Law of Moses for our salvation. Even today there are heretics who say: “You cannot be saved unless you have been baptized in water, or unless you accept the Lord Jesus as your Lord and Savior”. God warns us in Phil 3:2 that they are dogs. Then God says in verse 3,
For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.
In other words, we who have no confidence in the works of the flesh, but who worship God in the spirit, we are the true circumcision, because we have been circumcised in the heart.
Christ is King of the Spiritual Jews.
But is He perhaps King of Israel?
Which Israel? (Matthew 2:6, Romans 9:6-8, Galatians 3:27-29)
Who does God call “My People”?
Is it perhaps the nation of Israel?
Perhaps you remember, when the wise men wanted to visit the baby Jesus, King Herod asked the chief priests and scribes where the Christ should be born. They immediately quoted from Micah 5:2 and answered Herod in Matthew 2:6,
And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, art not the least among the princes of Judah: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.
Who does God call “My people Israel”?
Is it perhaps the nation of Israel?
Now, let’s read Romans 9:6,
Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel:
What does that mean: “they are not all Israel, which are of Israel”
It means that not all those who are blood descendants of Jacob are in God’s terminology called Israel. God defines His own terms. Then God continues in verse 7,
Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called.
In other words, God says that not all those who are the seed of Abraham are called children of
Abraham. Jesus said to the Jews around Him: “If ye were Abraham’s children, ye would do the works of Abraham. Ye are of your father the devil.” These were people who definitely were descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
But why does Jesus deny that they are children of Abraham?
God continues in Romans 9:8,
That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.
And who are the children of the promise?
In Romans 9 God gives four examples who the children of the promise are. They are those who have been chosen by God to receive mercy and become saved and be a vessel unto honor. These are the people for whose sins Christ suffered and died.
God says it again in Galatians 3:27-29,
For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.
And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
They Were Mocking God (Matthew 27:38-44)
The Lord Jesus was crucified. The soldiers had cast lots for His coat. And sitting down they watched Him there. Now the focus shifts to the people around Jesus. We read in verses 38-44 of Matthew 27:
Then were there two thieves crucified with him, one on the right hand, and another on the left.
And they that passed by reviled him, wagging their heads,
And saying, Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself. If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross.
Likewise also the chief priests mocking him, with the scribes and elders, said,
He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him.
He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he will have him: for he said, I am the Son of God.
The thieves also, which were crucified with him, cast the same in his teeth (which means that the two thieves also reviled Him.)
They that passed by reviled the Lord Jesus Christ.
What did they see there in the bright sunlight of that Friday morning on that hill of Golgotha?
They saw three crosses. On the middle cross they saw Jesus, stripped from all His clothes, nailed to a cruel cross, with a crown of thorns on His head, bleeding from His hands and from His feet and from His head and from His back, from the Roman whips.
Did He deserve that?
Was He such a great criminal that He needed to be executed this way?
He had been doing good for 3½ years. He had healed thousands from their diseases. When He preached the people were silent. They loved to hear Him preach.
So, what was His crime?
The only accusation written above His head was: “This is Jesus the King of the Jews”. None of the blood descendants of Jacob would object to that. Five days earlier they hailed Him as the King of Israel. They considered it high time that the Romans were driven out into the sea. The Roman Governor did not consider this accusation a crime.
Pilate did not believe it and was willing to release Him.
So who wanted Jesus crucified?
It was the chief priests and the Pharisees and the Sadducees and all the other leaders of the Jews who wanted Him killed.
Because of envy!
That is all.
Because of envy!
The Pharisees said among themselves: “Behold, the world is gone after Him”. (John 12:19)
Now He hung on a cross, dying, and all the passers by reviled Him. There was not a grain of compassion in them for this bleeding, dying man. They were mocking Him. This is awful.
How is it that humanity could have sunk this low?
Who were the ones who were mocking Him?
Not His disciples, and not the women who followed Him. But all those who did not believe that He was the Messiah, all those who did not believe that His miracles proved He was sent from God, and all those who lived a godless life, like the Roman soldiers and the two thieves on the crosses next to Him, they all mocked Him. THEY WERE MOCKING GOD.
And is it not true today, that all those who lead a godless life, and all those who claim to be religious but do not believe the Word of God, and all those who worship another Jesus, they ALL are mocking God. But, let’s face it. We ALL were in those categories before we were saved. We ALL came into the world in rebellion against God.
Just watch how our dear little children are sometimes in rebellion against their parents, and does that not prove that they are rebelling against God?
Just watch how our dear teenagers are sometimes in rebellion against their parents, and does that not prove that they are rebelling against God?
That seed of rebellion is present within us until we die. But before we were saved it was all rebellion. God was not in the picture, at least not the God of the Bible. We were ALL MOCKING GOD before we were saved. We ALL deserved to go to Hell, and that is where we would have ended up, if God did not interfere. You see, it takes an act of God; it takes a miracle from God to make us turn around and see who we really are. God has to take the initiative. God has to decide to give us a new heart, because with the heart that we received from our father Adam we also would walk past that cross on Golgotha MOCKING GOD. And since God has to make that decision, there is no reason to assume that God makes that decision at the spur of the moment. There is no reason to assume that God will wait until we react in a certain way. God did not do that with Saul of Tarsus. God turned him around on the road to Damascus, because that was the moment that it pleased God to reveal Himself to Saul. And that is how it happens to anyone who becomes saved. At a certain time in our life God reveals Himself to us, and makes us hear the message of the Gospel. Saul of Tarsus heard Christ speak, but none of the others with him understood what He said.
Therefore, if God does not take the initiative, we are dead meat. Please consider each one your own life, and see if God has taken the initiative to save you. It would be better for you to discover that now, than to discover that later before the Judgment throne. We turn now to the Gospel according to Mark chapter 15, where we have some more information about these first three hours that the Lord Jesus Christ hung on the cross.
We read there:
He Was Numbered With the Transgressors (Mark 15:25-28)
The Gospel of Mark was probably the first of the four Gospels to have appeared in print.
We read in Mark 15:25,
And it was the third hour, and they crucified him.
And the superscription of his accusation was written over, THE KING OF THE JEWS.
And with him they crucify two thieves; the one on his right hand, and the other on his left.
And the scripture was fulfilled, which saith, And he was numbered with the transgressors.
And He was numbered with the transgressors.
Who is God referring to?
God is referring to the two thieves who were crucified next to Jesus. From the Gospel of Luke we know that one of the two thieves became saved in the nick of time. But initially they were both reviling Jesus. One was crucified on His right hand and one on His left.
This was the first Judgment Day. It was Judgment Day for Jesus and for all those who were in Him. We can’t help but think of the parable that Jesus told about the second Judgment Day, where He is separating the sheep from the goats. The sheep on His right hand, and the goats on His left. In the Old Testament both sheep and goats were clean animals; both sheep and goats were used for sacrifices. To begin with, there is no difference between them until Judgment Day has arrived.
This is not the actual scenario of Judgment Day, but it is only a parable.
Who do the sheep and the goats represent?
Saved and unsaved people.
Who do the two thieves represent?
Saved and unsaved people. To begin with, there is no difference between them until Judgment Day has arrived. These two thieves represent saved and unsaved people in the church. No matter if you have been attending church all your life, you can still be represented by the thief who remained unsaved. He heard Christ speak. He witnessed Christ crucified. He witnessed the other thief pleading for mercy. He read the accusation: “This is Jesus the King of the Jews”. He witnessed the mourning of the women. But none of it moved him. He remained unsaved. And here is the lesson for us: He remained unsaved because he had no love for Jesus. God had not given him a new heart.
Let us now consider our own heart.
Do we have a love for Jesus?
Is He our King?
Do we trust in Him alone for our salvation?
By Alfred J. Chompff