Day 24—Jesus, the King of the Jews
Read Matthew 27:27–56
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. Then they 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 rebels 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 rebels who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him.
From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema 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 staff, 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.
At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.
When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”
Many women were there, watching from a distance. They had followed Jesus from Galilee to care for his needs. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons.
Jesus spent three years teaching, healing, and making His identity clear to those whose eyes and ears were open. He showed anyone watching Him how to love. He spoke truth to the religious and political authorities who wielded power and influence. He guided and taught His disciples how to live in the world and shared with them what the kingdom of God was like by using parables and stories. He ate with outcasts, called sinners to repent, and healed every kind of ailment. He even raised the dead to life. But Jesus’ ministry life was short. As the prophet Isaiah predicted hundreds of years earlier, and as Jesus Himself made clear to His disciples, the Messiah would suffer and be put to death, bearing the sins of the world to save the world. He would not be the only one to suffer, though. Jesus told His disciples that they too would suffer for their loyalty to Him. To follow the way of Jesus was and is to follow the way of the cross—not necessarily the physical cross (although for some this was the way), but a metaphorical one—anything from ridicule and social exclusion to torture.
In today’s passage, we read about Jesus’ suffering and crucifixion—the horrible torture He experienced in His body, mind, and spirit at the hands of those who feared His powerful influence and subversive message. We know from the writings of the prophets and the apostles that by His death, Jesus—God in the flesh—saved humankind and all of creation from sin and made a way for Jews and Gentiles alike to be in intimate relationship with God once again. Indeed, the curtain that separated the section of the temple where God’s presence resided from the rest of the temple was torn in two when Jesus gave up His spirit, opening the way to God’s presence.
• Today’s passage is likely one you have read before, but what stood out to you this time? Why do you think that is?
• As best you can, imagine being a bystander as Jesus was so gruesomely killed, when He gave up His spirit, and when the temple curtain split in two and dead bodies were raised to life. What would that have been like? What do you think the women watching from a distance would have been feeling?
• Knowing that Jesus’ death opened a way for you to be in relationship with God, what thoughts or emotions stir in you as you read about His crucifixion? What prayers arise in you?
• What does today’s passage reveal to you about God?
My God and Savior, I am at once heartbroken and grateful as I read this passage. My heart breaks over my own sin and waywardness and over the sin of the world. And my heart rejoices because of Your love expressed through Jesus. I can’t grasp the anguish Jesus experienced as He suffered or the love that could have compelled You to save us in this way. I am in awe and stand before You in humility and gratitude. Amen