New Testament in 6 months – day 23

24 Apr

Matthew 27:1-50
Early in the morning, all the chief priests and the elders of the people came to the decision to put Jesus to death. They bound him, led him away and handed him over to Pilate, the governor. When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty silver coins to the chief priests and the elders. “I have sinned, ” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.”“What is that to us?” they replied. “That’s your responsibility.” So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself. The chief priests picked up the coins and said, “It is against the law to put this into the treasury, since it is blood money.” So they decided to use the money to buy the potter’s field as a burial place for foreigners. That is why it has been called the Field of Blood to this day. Then what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: “They took the thirty silver coins, the price set on him by the people of Israel, and they used them to buy the potter’s field, as the Lord commanded me.” Meanwhile Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” “Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus replied. When he was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he gave no answer. Then Pilate asked him, “Don’t you hear the testimony they are bringing against you?” But Jesus made no reply, not even to a single charge–to the great amazement of the governor. Now it was the governor’s custom at the Feast to release a prisoner chosen by the crowd. At that time they had a notorious prisoner, called Barabbas. So when the crowd had gathered, Pilate asked them, “Which one do you want me to release to you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?” For he knew it was out of envy that they had handed Jesus over to him. While Pilate was sitting on the judge’s seat, his wife sent him this message: “Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him.” But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed. “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” asked the governor. “Barabbas,” they answered. “What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called Christ?” Pilate asked.They all answered, “Crucify him!” “Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate. But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!” When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!” All the people answered, “Let his blood be on us and on our children!” Then he released Barabbas to them. But he had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified. Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around him. They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand and knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said. They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him. As they were going out, they met a man from Cyrene, named Simon, and they forced him to carry the cross. They came to a place called Golgotha (which means The Place of the Skull). There they offered Jesus wine to drink, mixed with gall; but after tasting it, he refused to drink it. When they had crucified him, they divided up his clothes by casting lots. And sitting down, they kept watch over him there. Above his head they placed the written charge against him: ‘this is jesus, the king of the jews.’ Two robbers were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!” In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the King of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’ ” In the same way the robbers who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him. From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”–which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.” Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a stick, and offered it to Jesus to drink. The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.” And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.

Two things I want to note from this.

First is the comment by the crowd that Jesus’ blood be on them and their children. This is an often avoided verse as it has been used so often to excuse the mistreatment of Jews, even to the point of claiming it gives a reason why the Holocaust was God’s judgement on the Jews. For me this is just plain bad theology. For starters, the only people to who there is any form of promise of their words being validated by God forever were the apostles. So the fact that a crowd of Jews baying for Jesus to be killed declare something does not make it eternally valid. Secondly, God is Love. A such He forgives. There are times where prohibitions have been put on people for the sins of their ancestors, but even if this were to remain true under the new covenant the longest any prohibition lasted (at least as far as I can find) is to the tenth generation and so clearly no longer than 1200 years (if we use the limits upon human life set by God in Genesis 6:3) which means all done from the 13th century inwards has no “Biblical support”. Of course, the reason I use parentheses around the term “Biblical support” is because the treatment if Jews went well beyond a prohibition. And it is a sad thing that the Church was at least in part, if not fully, responsible for the creation of antisemitism in Europe. It is nothing short of theological abuse to take this one verse out of context, and yet people still do so today.

My second though is in relation to verses 47 and 49. Jesus cries out to God, using the term “Eloi” and the crowd who are watching Him die (who probably were also part of the crowd that called for His death) think Jesus is calling to Elijah. This in and of itself might not be particularly weird, after all, Jesus had spoken of Elijah in the past. But the follow up to this assumption, in verse 49, is that they want to wait around to see if Elijah turns up. It is almost as though there is still some desire within these people to see that Jesus’ claims are true and that He will become the Messiah they have been waiting for. It is a bizarre blend of bloodlust and wonder that we see in the crowd, as Jesus finally gives up His spirit and dies.

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