The Matthew Series - A field and a curse
Matthew 27:1-26 English Standard Version (ESV)
Jesus Delivered to Pilate
27 When morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death. 2 And they bound him and led him away and delivered him over to Pilate the governor.
Judas Hangs Himself
3 Then when Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus[a] was condemned, he changed his mind and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, 4 saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” They said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.” 5 And throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, he departed, and he went and hanged himself. 6 But the chief priests, taking the pieces of silver, said, “It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, since it is blood money.” 7 So they took counsel and bought with them the potter's field as a burial place for strangers. 8 Therefore that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day. 9 Then was fulfilled what had been spoken by the prophet Jeremiah, saying, “And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him on whom a price had been set by some of the sons of Israel, 10 and they gave them for the potter's field, as the Lord directed me.”
Jesus Before Pilate
11 Now Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus said, “You have said so.” 12 But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he gave no answer. 13 Then Pilate said to him, “Do you not hear how many things they testify against you?” 14 But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed.
The Crowd Chooses Barabbas
15 Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to release for the crowd any one prisoner whom they wanted. 16 And they had then a notorious prisoner called Barabbas. 17 So when they had gathered, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?” 18 For he knew that it was out of envy that they had delivered him up. 19 Besides, while he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I have suffered much because of him today in a dream.”20 Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus. 21 The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” 22 Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all said, “Let him be crucified!” 23 And he said, “Why? What evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!”
Pilate Delivers Jesus to Be Crucified
24 So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man's blood;[b] see to it yourselves.” 25 And all the people answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!” 26 Then he released for them Barabbas, and having scourged[c] Jesus, delivered him to be crucified.
When Matthew penned the words of his gospel he often saw the theological connection to the life reality of Christ. He saw how God had orchestrated events to the event of the death and resurrection of Christ.
All of history repeats this pattern. Christ is the centre of history, no matter how much people try and scrub Him from it. Our reference to time is centred on the Christ event. What used to be called BC and AD (before Christ and Anno Domini) which meant before Christ and "in the year of the Lord" which was a shorthand of the original term "anno Domini nostri Jesu Christi" – in the year of our Lord Jesus Christ. Today this has fallen out of vogue and it is now BCE and CE before common era and common era. The question remains what event is the at the centre of this change between BCE and CE? It is still Christ.
Likewise in Matthew tonight we see three events, connected by a profound theological implications that all point to the inevitability of Christ’s death. Everything was lead along and almost planned.
So let’s look at these three events tonight starting with:
The Field of blood and a testimony of guilt
The first thing Matthew describes here is the guilt that Judas feels and his attempt at atonement. What is interesting in this part of the story is how the leading priest (those who just a chapter before had torn their clothes in despair at Christ’s apparent “blasphemy”) were acknowledging their own guilt. In accepting the money back they make the claim that we cannot put it into the coffers because it is blood money. So they bought a field; which has been called “the field of blood to this day.”
Their evil betrays them. They are trying to be noble – “oh we cant put this back into the temple coffers.” But they still take the money and purchase the field. This act becomes a testimony against them. People could then go to Jerusalem and see the place that was bought with the blood-money that betrayed Jesus – the saviour.
Now, this needs to be said here. Matthew’s gospel was written before AD 70 some scholars argue as early as AD50 that is 20 years or so after this event. If this was a myth, why would Matthew put a physical marker that people could easily go see and check out for themselves. Matthew wrote to Jews who could have easily gone to “this field of blood” and found out the story surrounding it.
This field purchased, on some level to cover the crime of the priest, becomes a testimony used by the Apostles and church to confirm the reality of Christ and his message.
In this we see even this evil intent of the Priest’s was used by God for His work of salvation.
Next we see the releasing of Barabbas. This has even deeper theological implications.
Barabbas and the true Son of the Father
Our next, scene (for lack of a better word) come to Jesus, Pilate and Barabbas. Pilate is warned by his wife not to have anything to do with Christ and this trial. Jesus confirms, in an interview with Pilate that he is King of the Jews, which was a hope of the Jews, that God would rule through Messiah from Jerusalem.
But everything turns when the Priest (who have already been shown to be wicked) stir up the crowd to make sure that Jesus is crucified. Interestingly, Pilate offers to release Jesus on a pardon; yet ever the Politian he offers another man as well. A notorious killer and robber named Barabbas. A man who deserves to die, next to a man who does not.
And Pilate says; who do you want. The crowd shouts “Barabbas”. There is such theological beauty in this.
You see Barabbas is an Aramaic compound word – it is a name made up of two Aramaic words “Bar” and “Abba”. Bar is the Aramaic word for “son of” kind of like the Scottish Mac. So like MacDonald, means “son of Donald”. Bar means “son of” in the same way. “Abba” is the Aramaic term for daddy, or father. Barabbas literally means “son of the father”.
Now, note the theological implication here. And see how God is in control of all the events and everything that is happening. The crowd is shouting to Pilate to give them the “son of the father”. Who was the true Son of the Father there? Jesus. Jesus is the only Son of the true Father. The crowd is ironically shouting, even crying, to be given the son of the father and crucify Jesus. Not knowing that the only way they can truly have the Son and the Father is by Jesus being crucified.
The crowd was in crucifying Christ crying out for their own salvation, and they could not see it. Matthew did!
This happens again in the third “scene”.
His blood was really upon us all.
The third and final “scene” that we will be looking at tonight is when Pilate states to the crowd that he refuses to take responsibility for the death of an innocent man. And the crowd shouts back, let his blood be upon us and our Children. Again another brilliant theological implication is at play in this statement.
Unfortunately, historically – under a misunderstanding of the implication of what is being said here – many have used this verse to justify anti-Semitism. However, in doing this they completely miss the implication of what is being said.
The crowd is shouting let his blood be on our heads and the heads of our children. Meaning that they want to be held responsible for the death of Jesus. But the theological implication of the cross is that His blood is on all of our heads.
Why did Jesus have to go to the cross? Because the Priests had riled up the crowd? Because Pilate allowed this to happen? No. Jesus had to go to the cross because of all of our sins; His blood is upon all of our heads.
The theological wonder of all this is that this then becomes a good thing. We have to go back a chapter to the last supper. In Matthew 26:27 we read;
27 Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28 This is my blood of the[a] covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.
The crowd, again ironically, in calling for the death of Jesus was crying out for their own salvation and the means of that salvation. The only way the crowd would be saved would be that the blood of Jesus be pour out for them; because of them.
We have pictured here, by Matthew, the historicity of the cross, the inevitability of the cross, and the reason for the cross, all through the circumstances of what surrounded the cross.
Now, there are a number of ways we can respond to this. The first is scepticism. Here we will say, you see it is far to coincidental to be truth; these are obviously made up stories trying to push a myth. To this I can say, that is fine you can believe this; however, you are doing it the expense of a lot of facts and information. This account was written far too close (less than 20 years) to the actual event.
Matthew tells the stories with a huge number of historically realities that people would be able to simply dismiss him if they were false. I’ll give you an example. If I said 200 years ago there was this guy who did all these amazing things and all there completely coincidental things happened to him. You might be sceptical however, you could never prove it. But if I said; last week, or even last year, or in fact even 10 years ago. And told you the same stories. You could simply ask around to find out if I was telling the truth. The gospel’s were written down far too early for this to be myth. People were there. People were still alive when Matthew’s gospel circulated for the first time. The places still existed. There were people who could verify all these events. So you can be sceptical but be honest in your scepticism.
The second response is to see this and say; wow Jesus was a special guy and then walk away like you have just watched an interesting movie. Again you can do that but you are missing the wood from the trees.
The third way, and the way I am hoping that you walk away from it tonight – because I believe it is the way that Matthew hope that you would see it – is to look into the story and to see the absolute wonder of how all these things came together for the inevitability of the cross. And see that we cannot escape this. We cannot help be confronted by this reality. And I believe God has ensured that. We either have to embrace or reject it. we reject it at our own peril.
God lead all of history up to the point of the cross and all of history will flow out of the implication of the cross and will be consummated in the light of the cross. You can either look deeply into it and see your need; or be like the characters in this story and wilfully ignore it at your own expense.
I pray you would embrace it and see the wonder of how God pull all things together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purposes.