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The Synoptics on Christ's Death

Matt 27:
31  When they had mocked him, they took the robe off of him, and put his clothes on him, and led him away to crucify him.  
32  As they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name, and they compelled him to go with them, that he might carry his cross. 


Isaiah describes Christ's death as a lamb being led to the slaughter.
Isa 53:7  He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.
Jesus was so weaken at this point from the scourging that someone else had to carry the cross for him. In John's account Jesus carried the cross (John 19:17). However it is apparent that this is referring only to the start of his journey. After discovering how weak he was and that he was not able to bear the cross, they gave it to another man. Jesus bore the sins of the world, while Simon bore a piece of wood.

We are reminded also of Isaac who carried the wood up the mountain where Abraham planned to sacrifice him. But upon arriving he was given a substitute. Christ is that substitute. Thoughout our lives we carry the burden of our inevitable death, which subjects us to slavery. But Christ died to "free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death."Heb 2:15

Jesus also said, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me." Luke 9:23 While Jesus paid for sin, we must follow him to the cross in carrying out the ministry and as Pauls says to "fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ's afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church." Col 1:24  What is lacking in the sufferings of Christ? The context in Colossians would indicate this simply to be the work of the ministry which he left for us to do. Of course such lacking has nothing to do with our justification, which was obtained completely through the atoning work on the cross. Rather it has to do with bringing others to faith in Christ and edifying the Church. Perhaps just by coincidence that just as this man Simon was from Cyrene, so also that the first major movement within the Church to preach to the Gentiles was done in part by men from Cyrene.

Ac 11:20  Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus.
In fact Simon himself could have very well have become one of these Cyrenian Christians. For Mark records this Simon being the father of Alexander and Rufus (Mark 15:21), who were apparently known in the church, and this Rufus may be the same as in Romans 16:13.
Luke 23:
27  A great multitude of the people followed him,
including women who also mourned and lamented him.  
28  But Jesus, turning to them, said, "Daughters of Jerusalem, 
don’t weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.  
29  For behold, the days are coming in which they will say, 
‘Blessed are the barren, the wombs that never bore, 
and the breasts that never nursed.’ (Matt 24:19) 
30  Then they will begin to tell the mountains, 
‘Fall on us!’ and tell the hills, ‘Cover us.’  
31  For if they do these things in the green tree, 
what will be done in the dry?" (Hos 10:8) 
Just as in the Triumphal Entry so also as Jesus departs, there are two groups of people surrounding him. One group is sympathetic towards him and the other mocks him. You would think that Jesus would have shown some appreciation at this point for those who were showing sympathy to him, instead he speaks of impending judgment. His words are not meant to invoke relief or joy, but grief and a conviction of sin that leads to repentance. 

Among the sympathizers I would imagine there were those who didn't believe, but were nonetheless grieved at the injustice being done, who saw him as a "good" man, but just a bit eccentric. The message of the cross is one of impending doom and judgment both upon the mocker and even upon those who merely sympathize with his suffering, but don't accept Him as the Messiah, who view  him as an innocent victim, but not as Lord. 

Then I would imagine that this crowd included believers like the women at the end of the section in Matt 27:55 who served in his ministry. His message to them is a warning of the persecution that they have yet to face. Simply stated - "You think this is bad? You ain't seen nothin yet!"

Matt 27:
33  They came to a place called "Golgotha,"
that is to say, "The place of a skull."  
In the picture of the crucifixion we see a sort of metaphoric fulfillment of the prophecy of Genesis 3:15 "he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel." For the cross plunged into "The Place of the Skull" illustrated the crushing of the head of the Serpent, who is Satan, while on the cross we see Jesus being wounded in his hands and feet. The crushing of the head is a mortal blow, while the wounding of the feet is not a mortal blow. And indeed Jesus rises from the dead in his ultimate victory.  And as I quoted previously, "he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death-- that is, the devil--  and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death." Heb 2:14,15
6You will strike his hea
You will strike his heal
He will crush your headl
34  They gave him sour wine to drink mixed with gall. 
When he had tasted it, he would not drink.  
At the Last Supper Jesus told his disciples, "I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father's kingdom." Matt 26:29 But in addition to this the drink offered to him was really wine vinegar mixed with wormwood - or possibly myrrh. It was a very bitter drink, and also was used as a narcotic. It may have been offered to the crucified as a sort of pain-killer. So another reason he refused was possibly that he wanted to fully embrace the crucifixion as a willing sacrifice and not avoid the pain. But the prophecy in Psalm 69 does not view giving this drink as a sympathetic act, but as a mocking. "Scorn has broken my heart and has left me helpless; I looked for sympathy, but there was none, for comforters, but I found none. They put gall in my food and gave me vinegar for my thirst." Ps 69:20,21
35  When they had crucified him,
they divided his clothing among them, casting lots,
Here we see the fulfillment of Psalm 22:18 "They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing." And indeed it appears that this Psalm, though written 1000 years before the crucifixion, is not only a description of Christ's suffering on the cross, but also appears to be a Psalm that Jesus was meditating upon while on the cross, as we will see further on.

At times when children receive gifts they amusingly turn out to be more interested in the wrapping than in its content. There is also an expression - "Don't throw out the baby with the bath water". But here it seems that the world threw out the baby and kept the bath water - and even fought over who was going to get the bath water. Historically the Church has not been above this either as it divides over "clothing" type of issues.

36  and they sat and watched him there.  
37  They set up over his head the accusation against him written, 
The Jews asked for a "sign" and God gave it to them. There is was in black and white right above Jesus' head. It was in keeping with the Roman judicial system to place such a notice of the charges against the condemned at the site of execution. From a Roman perspective this charge of treason was the strongest justification for such a penalty.
Luke 23:
34  Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing."
In most of Jesus' teaching concerning forgiveness repentance is required as a prerequisite. But here we see Jesus forgiving a particular type of sin without requiring such repentance. This is a sin of ignorance. This is not to say that they were completely ignorant of sinning. For Jesus himself said, "If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains." Joh 9:41 And thus complete ignorance of sin makes one not guilty of sin, and thus not having need of being forgiven. But the more you know, the more you will be held responsible for. 

But if we are to consider the range of possible interpretations of this verse, who is the "them" that he is referring to? Is it the Roman guards who were actually carrying out his sentence? Does include Pilate? Is it the Jewish religious leaders who condemned him in the farce of a trial they put him through? Was it the crowds of Jews who rejected him? Or was it all of the above? You would think that if it excludes anyone, it would exclude the religious leaders. But it appears to me that the early Christians probably interpreted this as all of the above. For when the first Christian martyr was killed he had been tried by the Sanhedrin in a similar fashion.  But rather than pass him on to the Romans, they killed him by their own hands. But his last words were, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." (Acts 7:60)

Matt 27:
38  Then there were two robbers crucified with him,
one on his right hand and one on the left.  
39  Those who passed by blasphemed him, wagging their heads,  
40  and saying, "You who destroy the temple, and build it in three days,
save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross!"  
41  Likewise the chief priests also mocking, with the scribes, 
the Pharisees, and the elders, said,  
42  "He saved others, but he can’t save himself. 
If he is the King of Israel, let him come down from the cross now,
and we will believe in him.  
43  He trusts in God. Let God deliver him now, if he wants him; 
for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’" 
44  The robbers also who were crucified with him cast on him the same reproach.  
About 700 years before this Isaiah writes, "He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not." Is 53:3

Here we see the classical adding of insult to injury. For it is quite common when people are injured for their enemies to add insults.

And once again we see correlations with the Messianic Psalm 22
All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads: "He trusts in the LORD; let the LORD rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him." Ps 22:7,8 And we see similar things in other Psalms:

Ps 3:2  Many are saying of me, "God will not deliver him."
Ps 71:11 They say, "God has forsaken him; pursue him and seize him, 
for no one will rescue him."
Those who don't know God, or who hold a worldly concept of God, often presume that if things don't appear to go well for a person, therefore God hates that person. Yet we find that when it comes to the God of the Bible the truth is quite different. For viritually every godly man  goes through difficult times, and most commonly suffer persecution.. This is true thoughout the Old Testament and the New. Jesus and the Apostle Paul are a couple of examples. But many are simply too worldly in their thinking to understand this concept.  The book of Job deals more extensively with this contrast.

In verse 42 the religious leaders propose, "Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him." Do you think they would have? No! This was the theme of the parable of Lazarus and the rich man which concludes, "'If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.'" Luke 16:31

Luke 23:
39  One of the criminals who was hanged insulted him, saying, 
"If you are the Christ, save yourself and us!"  
40  But the other answered, and rebuking him said, 
"Don’t you even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation?  
41  And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward for our deeds,
but this man has done nothing wrong."  
42  He said to Jesus, "Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom."  
43  Jesus said to him,
"Assuredly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise."  
 Notice that some time prior to this both criminals were heaping insults on him. Yet it appears here that one had a change of heart. I suspect that he had certainly known of Christ and heard good things about him. He knew that Jesus tried to target people like himself. But he probably had been avoiding him so as to hide his conscience from further conviction of sin because he wanted to carry on his life of crime. But if God is seeking you, He may just nail you to a tree to get you to meet His Son. And so he became quite literally a captive audience to the death of the Son of God, which at first was rather irritating. But finally his conscience broke through and in faith he confessed what he knew to be true in all humilty. I wonder if perhaps his guilty conscience had made him careless and led him to be caught. For he acknowledges that "We are punished justly,  for we are getting what our deeds deserve." 

What about yourself? Are you getting what your deeds deserve?

Here's a picture of God's grace and here is picture of a saint. For despite his admitted sinfulness yet he was promised to end up in paradise. What did he do to qualify himself for such a destiny? He repented of his sins, acknowledging wrong doing and God's just punishment,  and he acknoweldged Christ as Lord. Furthermore, though not stating it directly, he was asking for ultimate salvation. We notice that the other thief also asked for salvation but in a mocking manner, it was simply a worldly requestion concerning salvation from the present circumstances, not acknowledging his sins nor the just punishment he was suffering. Perhaps he had an experimental sort of faith, as many have, asking with the attitude "Let me try this out and see what happens", but such is not the quality of faith that saves. 

Which of these two criminals reflects the quality of your faith?
Where did he go when he died that day? Jesus says here that both He and the thief would be in paradise that very day. This is not to say that they would be in heaven. For Jesus did not ascend to heaven until after he rose from the dead. For the time he was dead, he was in Sheol - the place of the dead. Jesus describes this place most clearly in the parable of Lazarus and the rich man. It has two sections separated by an impassable gap. On one side is hell in which the unrighteous are tormented in something analogous to fire. And on the other side is paradise. People are not only consciously aware on both sides, but can also carry on conversations across the gap. This explains the statement Peter makes concerning Christ after his death preaching to the disobedient spirits in prison. Christ was in paradise speaking across the gap to those in hell.
Matt 27:
44  The robbers also who were crucified with him cast on him the same reproach.  
45  Now from the sixth hour there was 
darkness over all the land until the ninth hour.  
46  About the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, "Eli, Eli, lima sabachthani?" That is, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"  
47  Some of them who stood there,
when they heard it, said, "This man is calling Elijah."  
48  Immediately one of them ran, and took a sponge, and filled it with vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave him a drink.  
49  The rest said, "Let him be. Let’s see whether Elijah comes to save him."  
 Had Jesus lost his faith? Had he given up hope at this point? Certainly not! He was simply quoting scripture. It is apparent to me that Psalm 22 was written for Jesus to meditate on while on the cross. It is the scripture that Jesus pointed to on the cross so as to point out who He really was. And how does Psalm 22 start off? "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Ps 22:1 And throughout the Psalm we find exact parallels with the events surrounding his death. This is not a coincidence.

But the man standing there didn't listen carefully, which is a particularly common attribute of unbelievers, and he thought he was calling on Elijah. So quite literally he put Elijah in the place of God. The transfiguration taught the disciples the proper perspective of Moses and the Prophets. 

Then there was the guy who ran to get some insurance just in case Jesus got saved. Then he could boast - "See I was on your side. I gave you a drink!" But wine vinegar is the poorest of drinks. So also there are people today who boast in their works, thinking they will win favor with God with wine vinegar. But Isaiah says, "All our righteous acts are like filthy rags." Is 64:6 But the rest wouldn't even do that for him. 

From their viewpoint they were offering help so as to allow Jesus to prove himself if indeed he was the Messiah. But proofs had already been given and more would be given in his resurrection. But the unbelievers had their own concepts as to what constitutes "proof" from their point of view. What is the answer to those who claim "If God doesn't do such and such a miracle then I won't believe in him"? Simply that God is not your slave that he would do whatever you tell him to do. God provides his own proofs. If they are not sufficient for you, then you can try to explain that to Him on judgement day. Have you no fear of God? If not, you will.

Luke 23:
46  Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!" Having said this, he breathed his last.  
Jesus says concerning his life, "No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again." Joh 10:18 We notice also a similar prayer when the first Christian martyr was killed. While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." Ac 7:59
Matt 27:
50  Jesus cried again with a loud voice, and yielded up his spirit.  
51  Behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from the top to the bottom. The earth quaked and the rocks were split.  
52  The tombs were opened,
and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised;  
53  and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection, 
they entered into the holy city and appeared to many.  
54  Now the centurion, and those who were with him watching Jesus, 
when they saw the earthquake, and the things that were done, 
feared exceedingly, saying, "Truly this was the Son of God." 
There is a  curtain in the temple which separates the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place. (Exodus 26:33) It represents the body of Christ. This being torn the way to God is open.
"Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus,  by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body." Hebrews 10:19,20
There is some speculation that the ark of the covenant is hidden in a cave beneath Golgotha, access available through a secret chamber in the temple. The ark was normally located in the Most Holy Place upon which sacrifices were made, but its whereabouts is unknown presently. It would be interesting that if the ark was indeed under Golgotha whether the splitting of the ground open was for the purpose of Christ's shed blood to fall upon the ark! Speculation of course. Or could it simply be referring to this resurrection. For we see a precursor to the final resurrection in the raise of a number of holy people. Or perhaps both for notice the parallel with the 7th trumpet of Revelations of which Paul associates with both the return of Christ and the Resurrection. (1Cor 15:51,52) But Revelation also associates it with the revealing of the ark.
Rev 11:19  Then God's temple in heaven was opened, and within his temple was seen the ark of his covenant. And there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake and a great hailstorm.
Such events as these affirm Jesus to be the Son of God. But how do we know these events took place? It would have been public knowledge if they did or didn't. And if they didn't, then no one would have believed. For they would knowingly be believing a lie and subjected to persecution for it. The church would have never gotten off the ground.
Luke 23:
48  All the multitudes that came together to see this, when they saw the things that were done, returned home beating their breasts.
Both Jew and Gentile were affected by the cross. Some took it to heart and were prepared for Peter's message at Pentecost. Others would forget about it. So also in hearing the gospel of Christ's death. It is not meant to bring joy, but an attitude of repentance and faith. 
Matt 27:
55  Many women were there watching from afar,
who had followed Jesus from Galilee, serving him.  
56  Among them were Mary Magdalene, 
Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee. 
The situation was probably too emotionally intense for these women to observe his dying up close. They cared for his needs in the past, but now they could do nothing until the burial.

NIV & WEB  used in comments
The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources Jan 29,2022