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Bailey Sadler Class
SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON STUDY GUIDE – 2015
Theme: Life Like No Other: The Life Of Christ
What This Study Is About:
week’s study is focused on the fact that Jesus’ death was like no
other. Why? Because He gave
himself willingly so that all who have faith in Him can live forever.
Promised Like No Other
A Birth Like No Other
Power Like No Other
Teaching Like No Other
Like No Other
Resurrected Like No Other
death is the heart of the gospel.
Jesus Was Mocked By The People (Matt. 27:28-37)
Was Abandoned By God (Matt. 27:45-50)
Was Acknowledged As God’s Son (Matt. 27:54)
OF BACKGROUND PASSAGE:
had completed His earthly ministry, save His justifying death and
victorious resurrection. He had been arrested in Gethsemane, railroaded
through a sham trial by the Sanhedrin, falsely accused before Pilate, and
rejected by the crowd in favor of the notorious prisoner Barabbas. At that
point, Pilate released Barabbas, had Jesus flogged, and turned Him over to
the soldiers to be crucified.
SOURCE: Life Ventures-Bible Studies for Life; Leader
Guide; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville,
Many of us hurt when we see or experience
injustice. Many of us do what
we can to rescue a victim of injustice. But
what do we do when an innocent person willingly accepts injustice and
undeserved punishment … and does so for those who deserve it? This
is a perfect description of Jesus, because this is the very reason for
which He came to earth. We are
still left with the question to answer: What
do we do in response?
SOURCE: The Herschel Hobbs
Commentary; Family Bible Study; by Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern
Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.
Was Mocked By The People (Matt. 27:28-31)
28 They stripped Him and
dressed Him in a scarlet military robe. 29 They twisted
together a crown of thorns, put it on His head, and placed a reed in His
right hand. And they knelt down before Him and mocked Him: “Hail, King
of the Jews!” 30 Then they spit on Him, took the reed,
and kept hitting Him on the head. 31 When they had
mocked Him, they stripped Him of the robe, put His clothes on Him, and led
Him away to crucify Him.
is the setting for this week’s study? (See
What is the role of Jesus’ death as it relates
to the gospel?
are the “They” in verse 28? (See verse 27.)
on verse 28, what did the soldiers do to Jesus?
do you think motivated the actions of the soldiers in verses 28-30?
was the basis of the soldiers mocking Jesus as “King of the Jews!”?
(See Matt. 27:11.)
on the actions of the soldiers in verse 30, how would you describe their
attitude toward Jesus?
What does “mocking” mean to you?
How would you describe the attitude of a “mocker”?
does verse 31 tell you about the soldiers?
you think Jesus’ treatment at the hands of the soldiers was a surprise to Him?
Why, or why not? (See Matt.
do you think Jesus did not resist the ridicule and abuse?
do you think Jesus felt toward these soldiers?
do you think you would have felt toward them?
you think there is a difference between being tormented by those you loved and
so, how would you describe that difference?
What does Jesus reveal about Himself in this passage?
What are some ways we
mistreat Jesus today?
What do you think would hurt the most, the mocking
and abuse of the Jewish religious leaders, the Roman soldiers, or the people?
Explain your answer.
Was Abandoned By God (Matt. 27:45-50)
45 From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over the whole
land. 46 About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out
with a loud voice, “Elí, Elí, lemá sabachtháni?” that is, “My God, My
God, why have You forsaken Me?” 47 When some of those
standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling for Elijah!” 48
Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge, filled it with sour wine,
fixed it on a reed, and offered Him a drink. 49 But the
rest said, “Let’s see if Elijah comes to save Him!” 50 Jesus shouted again with a loud voice and gave up His spirit.
happened between verses 31 and 45?
would you summarize the events in this passage?
does the 3-hour period of darkness tell you about the events in this passage?
do you think Jesus meant by what He cried out in verse 46?
do you think Jesus felt abandoned by God (v. 46)?
on this passage, what do you think made Jesus’ suffering so agonizing and
painful for Him?
know the kind of pain that comes from physical suffering, but how does one
would you describe this “darkness” that overcame Jesus at this time?
do you think some of the witnesses thought Jesus was calling out to Elijah (v.
you think the actions of the person in verse 48 was an act of kindness or was an
act of mockery? (See Ps. 69:21.)
How would you explain the conflict between the truth
of God’s love and the events in these verses?
Why is it important that
Jesus actually died?
What does John 10:17,18
tell you about Jesus’ death?
How would you summarize
Lessons in Matt. 27:45-50:
our sin upon Himself cost Jesus much more than His physical life.
in death, Jesus was not at the mercy of those who believed they were in
control. He willingly suffered
and gave His life for us on the cross—His life was not taken from Him.
Was Acknowledged As God’s Son (Matt. 27:54)
54 When the centurion and those with him, who were guarding Jesus, saw the
earthquake and the things that had happened, they were terrified and said,
“This man really was God’s Son!”
happened between verses 50 and 54?
things caused the centurion and soldiers to tremble and profess Jesus?
would you describe their state of mind at this time?
did they mean by their statement regarding Jesus?
would you summarize the occurrences that made Jesus’ crucifixion turn from
being an ordinary execution to a moment of extraordinary divine revelation?
declaration did the centurion and the soldiers with him make?
Aside from the disciples,
what “first” can we give credit to the Roman soldiers?
is the significance of this “first” credited to the Roman soldiers?
would you describe the irony contained in this verse?
(See verses 27-31.)
What emotions do you think these soldiers experienced
while participating in Jesus’ death?
How would you describe the centurion as a soldier? a
What emotions do you experience when you think about
what Jesus went through for your salvation?
What do you think gave creditability to the
centurion’s change of attitude toward Jesus?
When in your own life did you encounter the truth
that Jesus is God’s Son?
The centurion concluded
that Jesus is the Son of God. What
are some other conclusions people make?
Why do you think they come
to those conclusions?
Lessons in Matt. 27:54:
Jesus’ resurrection we learn that His death was not in vain.
proper response to Jesus and His cross is to confess Jesus for who He is
and for what He has done for mankind!
For many people who have a history of Bible study, the events
surrounding Jesus’ death are familiar.
Even so, we must not allow familiarity to lead us to lose focus on
their significance. One fact
is clear: Jesus gave Himself willingly to suffer and die for our sin.
Without His death, we have no means of forgiveness; we have no hope
of eternal life.
The passages in this session
may be very familiar to you. You
may have heard about Jesus’ death to pay for your sins for as long as
you can remember. So, how will
you respond this week as you consider the great sacrifice He and only He
has made for you? Have you
decided to make Jesus Christ your personal Savior?
Or have you just put it off again?
What keeps you from having a personal relationship with Jesus?
are the implications of these truths for your life?
THE CHOICE IS YOURS, ISN’T IT!
REMEMBER, the safest place for a believer is in the
center of God’s will.
Lesson Outline, Introduction,
Discussion Questions, and Conclusion adapted from the following sources:
Ventures-Bible Studies for Life; Leader Guide; LifeWay Christian Resources
of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN.
Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by
Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian
Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville,
Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist
Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.
Passage from three different translations of God’s Word:
King James Version: Matthew 27:28-31,45-50,54:
28 And they stripped him, and
put on him a scarlet robe. 29 And
when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed
the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews! 30
And they spit upon him, and took the reed, and smote him on the head. 31
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.
45 Now from the sixth hour
there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour. 46
And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli,
Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou
forsaken me? 47 Some of them
that stood there, when they heard that,
said, This man calleth for
Elias. 48 And straightway one
of them ran, and took a sponge, and filled it with vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave him to drink. 49
The rest said, Let be, let us see whether Elias will come to save him. 50
Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost.
54 Now when the centurion, and
they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things
that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God.
Version: Matthew 27:28-31,45-50,54:
28 They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on
him, 29 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. 30
They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and
again. 31 After they had mocked him, they took
off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify
45 From the sixth hour until
the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. 46 About
the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “EloiEloi, EloiEloi, £ lama sabachthanisabachthani?”—which
means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 47
When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling
Elijah.” 48 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. 49 The rest said, “Now leave
him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.” 50
And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.
54 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
New Living Translation: Matthew 27:28-31,45-50,54:
They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him. 29
They wove thorn branches into a crown and put it on his head, and they
placed a reed stick in his right hand as a scepter. Then they knelt before him
in mockery and taunted, “Hail! King of the Jews!” 30
And they spit on him and grabbed the stick and struck him on the head with
it. 31 When they were finally
tired of mocking him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him
again. Then they led him away to be crucified.
45 At noon, darkness fell
across the whole land until three o’clock. 46
At about three o’clock, Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Eli,
Eli, lema sabachthani?”
which means “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” 47
Some of the bystanders misunderstood and thought he was calling for the
prophet Elijah. 48 One of
them ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, holding it up to him on a reed
stick so he could drink. 49 But
the rest said, “Wait! Let’s see whether Elijah comes to save him.” 50
Then Jesus shouted out again, and he released his spirit.
54 The Roman officer and the
other soldiers at the crucifixion were terrified by the earthquake and all that
had happened. They said, “This man truly was the Son of God!”
Outline — “Death Like No Other” — Matt.
Jesus Was Mocked By
The People (Matt. 27:28-37)
Jesus Was Abandoned By God (Matt. 27:45-50)
Jesus Was Acknowledged As God’s Son (Matt.
Commentary for the focal passage comes from three sources: “The Expositor’s Bible Commentary Old
“Believer's Bible Commentary,” and “The Complete Biblical Library Commentary,” and is provided for your study.)
The Expositor’s Bible Commentary New Testament; Matt.
we have humanity at its worst—a scene of vicious mockery. The Jews have mocked
Jesus as Messiah (26:67-68); here the Roman soldiers ridicule him as king.
Matthew’s readers recognize that the soldiers speak more truly than they know,
for Jesus is both King and Suffering Servant. The “robe” (chlamys, in
the NT only here and in v. 31) is probably the short red cloak worn by
Roman military and civilian officials (v. 28). Mark and John describe it as
“purple,” Matthew as “scarlet.” Commentators have speculated that this
editorial change serves to symbolize blood and its concomitant suffering. Such
efforts are strained. The ancients did not discriminate among colors as closely
as we do, and BAGD adduces a reference in which a Roman soldier’s cloak is
said to be “purple.” The “purple” (Mark; John) calls to mind the robes
worn by vassal kings, and the “scarlet” (Matthew) shows what the garment
probably was—a trooper’s cloak.
For a crown (v. 29) the soldiers plaited a
wreath of thorns from palm spines or acanthus and crushed it down on Jesus’
head in imitation of the circlet on the coins of Tiberius Caesar. The staff they
put in his hand stood for a royal scepter; and the mocking “Hail, King of the
Jews!” corresponded to the Roman acclamation “Ave, Caesar!” and capped the
flamboyant kneeling. Not content with the ridicule and the torture of the
thorns, they spat on him (v. 30) and used the staff, the symbol of his
kingly authority, to hit him on the head “again and again” (cf. the
imperfect tense of the verb).
“After they had mocked him” (v. 31,
they dressed him again in his own clothes and led him off to be crucified.
Normally a prisoner went naked to his place of execution and was scourged along
the route. That this custom was not followed with Jesus may be because he had
already been flogged and more flogging might have killed him. Or it may reflect
an attempt not to offend too many Jewish sensibilities during a feast time.
Jesus was led away by the execution squad of four soldiers, dragging the
crosspiece to which his hands would be nailed (John 19:17, 23).
The Crucifixion and
Two thousand years of pious Christian tradition
have largely domesticated the cross, making it hard for us to realize how it was
viewed in Jesus’ time. Two excellent recent studies discuss the relevant
evidence Crucifixion was unspeakably
painful and degrading. Whether tied or nailed to the cross, the victim endured
countless paroxysms as he pulled with his arms and pushed with his legs to keep
his chest cavity open for breathing and then collapsed in exhaustion until the
demand for oxygen demanded renewed paroxysms. The scourging, the loss of blood,
the shock from the pain, all produced agony that could go on for days, ending at
last by suffocation, cardiac arrest, or loss of blood. When there was reason to
hasten death the execution squad would smash the victim’s legs. Death followed
almost immediately, either from shock or from collapse that cut off breathing.
Beyond the pain was the shame. The later rabbis
excluded crucifixion as a form of capital punishment for just this reason,
though there is some evidence that the Pharisees, their probable predecessors,
did not oppose it in principle In
ancient sources crucifixion was universally viewed with horror. In Roman law it
was reserved only for the worst criminals and lowest classes. No Roman citizen
could be crucified without a direct edict from Caesar.
Among Jews the horror of the cross was greater
still because of Deuteronomy 21:23: “Anyone who is hanged on a tree is
under God’s curse.” In Israelite law this meant the corpse of a judicially
executed criminal was hung up for public exposure that branded him as cursed by
God. The words were also applied in Jesus’ day to anyone crucified; and
therefore the Jews’ demand that Jesus be crucified rather than banished was
aimed at arousing maximum public revulsion toward him. But in Christian
perspective the curse on Jesus at the cross fulfills all OT sacrifices: it is a
curse that removes the curse from believers—the fusion of divine, royal
prerogative and Suffering Servant, the heart of the gospel, the inauguration of
a new humanity, the supreme model for Christian ethics, the ratification of the
new covenant, and the power of God (1Cor 1:23-24; Gal 3:13; Rom 5:12-21; Col
2:14; Hebrews; 1 Peter 2:18-25, cf. Matt 3:17; 8:17; 16:21; 24-25; 20:25-28;
All four Gospels record the Crucifixion. No
Gospel says much about the Crucifixion itself, the details were all too well
known, and theological interest does not lie so much in crucifixion per se as in
the attendant circumstances and their significance. Each evangelist gives his
narrative an independent cast by what he includes or omits, though these
differences are often exaggerated. Matthew largely follows Mark; but whereas
Mark alludes to the OT, Matthew tends to be somewhat more explicit (v. 34,
Ps 69:21; v. 35, Ps 22:18; v. 39, Ps 22:7; v. 43, Ps 22:8). The dominant note of
the pericope is the continuing mockery; but the mockery by an awful irony
reveals more than the mocker thinks, for Jesus is indeed King of the Jews (v.
37), the new meeting place with God (v. 40), the Savior of men (v. 42), the King
of Israel (v. 42), and the Son of God (v. 43).
The date is 15 Nisan A.D. 30 or 33, and the time
fairly early in the morning, as the interchanges with Pilate and Herod and the
scourging and the mocking need not have consumed more than two to three hours.
The death of
darkness that “came over all the land” from noon till 3:00 P.M. (that is
what “sixth hour” and “ninth hour” refer to) was a sign of judgment
and/or tragedy. The Greek ge means “land” rather than
“earth,” since the darkness was meant to he a sign relating both to Jesus’
death and to the Jewish people; and beyond the borders of Israel the darkness
would lose this significance. SBK (1:1040-42) gives numerous rabbinic parallels,
and Wettstein an array of Greek and Latin authors. But the most-telling
background is Amos 8:9-10, and to a lesser extent Exodus 10:21-22.
Both passages portray darkness as a sign of judgment; but Amos mentions noon,
the turning of religious feasts into mourning, and says, “I will make that
time like mourning for an only son” (Amos 8:10; see also on Matt 2:15).
The judgment is therefore a judgment on the land and its people (cf. Best, pp.
98f.). But it is also a judgment on Jesus; for out of this darkness comes his
cry of desolation (v. 46). The cosmic blackness hints at the deep judgment
that was taking place (20:28; 26:26-29; Gal 3:13).
It is futile to argue whether the darkness was
caused by an eclipse of three hours(!) or by atmospheric conditions caused by a
sirocco or something else, not because it did not happen, but because we do not
know how it happened, anymore than we know how Jesus walked on the water or
multiplied the loaves. The evangelists are chiefly interested in the theological
implications that rise out of the historical phenomena.
“cry of desolation” raises two important questions.
1. In what language did Jesus utter it? Almost
all recognize that the words echo Psalm 22:1 (for a list of exceptions, cf.
Moo, “Use of OT,” pp. 264f.). But among the variant readings of a confused
textual history (cf. Notes), Matthew keeps “Eli, Eli” (NIV, “Eloi,
Eloi”), representing a Hebrew original, and Mark “Eloi, Eloi,”
representing an Aramaic original. The remaining words, “lama sabachthani,”
are Aramaic. Many suggest that Jesus quoted Psalm 22:1 in Hebrew, reverting
to the ancient language of Scripture in his hour of utmost agony. Only this, it
is argued, accounts for the confusion with “Elijah” in v. 47 and
provides a plausible explanation for the rendering “my power” in the
apocryphal Gospel of Peter. In this view Mark, or an early copyist of Mark, has
turned Jesus’ words into Aramaic, recognizing that Jesus more commonly spoke
Aramaic than Hebrew.
However, though Jesus was probably at least
trilingual (Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek—with perhaps some Latin), the overwhelming
textual evidence for the rest of the cry supports an Aramaic original. Even
Matthews Hebraic-sounding “Eli” may in fact support an Aramaic original,
because the Targum (written in Aramaic) to Psalm 22:1 has eli.
Apparently some Aramaic speakers preserved the Hebrew name for God in the same
way some English speakers sometimes refer to him as Yahweh. The evidence of the
Gospel of Peter is not decisive because “my power” may not rest on a Semitic
original but may be an independent periphrasis for God, akin to 26:64.
Moreover on the lips of a dying man crying out in agony, “Eloi” could
as easily be mistaken for Elijah as “Eli.” Jesus cry was most
probably in Aramaic; and at least some of the variants stem from the difficulty
of transliterating a Semitic language into Greek and others from the influence
of the OT.
2. What does this psalm quotation signify? A
large number of recent interpreters have interpreted the cry against the
background of the whole of Psalm 22, which begins with this
sense of desolation but ends with the triumphant vindication of the righteous
sufferer. The chief difficulty with this is that though OT texts are frequently
cited with their full contexts in mind, they are never cited in such a way that
the OT context effectively annuls what the text itself affirms. If the context
of Psalm 22 is carried along with the actual reference to Psalm 22:1,
the reader of the Gospel is to understand that the vindication comes with the
Resurrection in Matthew 28, not that Jesus’ cry reflects full confidence
instead of black despair.
Equally futile is the
suggestion of Schweizer and others that these words constitute a more or less
standard cry of a pious man dying with the words of a psalm on his lips. But why this
psalm when others would be more suitable? Evidence for such a use of Psalm
22 is sparse and late. It is better to take the words at face value: Jesus is
conscious of being abandoned by his Father. For one who knew the intimacy of Matthew
11:27, such abandonment must have been agony and for the same reason it is
inadequate to hypothesize that Jesus felt abandoned but was not truly abandoned,
because “it seems difficult to understand how Jesus, who had lived in the
closest possible fellowship with the Father, could have been unaware whether he
had, in fact, been abandoned.”
If we ask in what ontological sense the Father
and the Son are here divided, the answer must be that we do not know because we
are not told. If we ask for what purpose they are divided, the ultimate answer
must be tied in with Gethsemane, the Last Supper, passion passages such as 1:21; 20:28
(see also 26:26-29, 39-44), and the theological interpretation
articulated by Paul (e.g., Rom 3:21-26). In this cry of dereliction, the
horror of the world’s sin and the cost of our salvation are revealed.
to 2 Kings 2:1-12, Elijah did not die but was taken alive to heaven in a
whirlwind. Some Jewish tradition, perhaps as old as the first century, held that
he would come and rescue the righteous in their distress (cf. Jeremiah TDNT,
2:930-31; SBK, 4:769-771).
allusion is again to Psalm 69:21. What is not clear is whether the offer of
a drink is meant as a gesture of mercy or as mockery (v. 48). The Gospel
parallels are somewhat ambiguous. The best explanation is that of mockery. Oxos
(lit., “vinegar”) probably refers to “wine vinegar” (NIV), sour wine
diluted with vinegar drunk by foot soldiers; but this does not make the offer a
compassionate act, since its purpose may have been to prolong life and agony,
while with false piety the onlookers say they will wait for Elijah to rescue him
(v. 49). But if the Father has abandoned Jesus, will Elijah save him? The
offer of a drink not only fulfills Scripture but makes the cry of dereliction
(v. 46) all the bleaker.
In this interpretation NIV’s “But” (v. 49)
is too adversative a rendering of de, and “Leave him alone”
should be taken to suggest (as in NIV on Mark 15:36) “Leave him alone
now”—i.e., the proffered drink provides the context for more mocking. It is
not clear whether Luke 23:36, where mockery is clearly intended, properly
parallels Matthew 27:34 or 27:48-49. John’s Gospel (19:28-29) is
interested only in the fact of Scripture fulfillment, not the question of
whether mockery is intended.
loud cry reminds us once more of Jesus’ hideous agony. Matthew’s “he gave
up his spirit” (“spirit” here is equivalent to “life”) suggests
Jesus’ sovereignty over the exact time of his own death. It was at this
moment, when he was experiencing the abyss of his alienation from the Father and
was being cruelly mocked by those he came to serve, that he chose to yield up
his life a “ransom for many.”
the fact that “Son of God” is one of several major christological titles in
Matthew, it also appears in Mark as the climax of the Passion (Mark 15:38-39).
What is not certain is exactly what the soldiers meant by “Son of God.” They
may have used the term in a Hellenistic sense, “a son of God” referring to a
divine being in a pagan sense. But the governor’s soldiers were probably
non-Jewish natives of the land. If so, or even if they were Romans who had been
assigned to Palestine for some time, they may well have understood “Son of
God” in a messianic sense. Certainly the anarthrous noun “Son” can mean
“the Son” instead of “a Son” in this construction.
The darkness, the
earthquake, and the cry of dereliction convinced the soldiers that this was no
ordinary execution. The portents terrified them and probably led them to believe
that these things testified to heaven’s wrath at the perpetration of such a
crime, in which the soldiers had participated. But this confession tells us
something more: Jesus as the promised Messiah and unique Son of God is seen most
clearly in his passion and death; but again the Jewish religious establishment,
mistaking the nature of his messiahship, mocked him with the very title (vv. 41-44)
by which the pagans now confessed him (see also on 8:5-13; 15:21-28).
SOURCE: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary New
Testament; Frank E. Gaebelein; General Editor;
Zondervan Publishing House; A Division of Harper Collins Publishers
Bible Commentary – Matt. 27:28-31,45-50, (51-53),54
The Soldiers Mock Jesus (27:27-31)
27:27, 28. The soldiers of the
governor took Jesus into the governor's palace and
gathered the whole garrison around Him—probably several hundred men. What
followed is hard to imagine! The Creator and Sustainer of the universe suffered
unspeakable indignities from cruel, vulgar soldiers—His unworthy, sinful
creatures. They stripped Him and put a scarlet robe on Him, in imitation
of a king's robe. But that robe has a message for us. Since scarlet is
associated with sin (Isa. 1:18), I like to think that the robe pictures my sins
being placed on Jesus so that God's robe of righteousness might be placed on me
(2 Cor. 5:21).
27:29, 30. They
twisted a crown of thorns and pressed it down on His head. But
beyond their crude jest, we understand that He wore a crown of thorns
that we might wear a crown of glory. They mocked Him as the King of Sin;
we worship Him as the Savior of sinners.
They also gave Him a reed—a mock
scepter. They didn't know that the hand that held that reed is the hand that
rules the world. That nail-scarred hand of Jesus now holds the scepter of
They knelt before Him and addressed Him
as King of the Jews. Not content with that, they spat on the face
of the only perfect Man who ever lived, then took the reed and struck Him on
the head with it.
Jesus bore it all patiently; He didn't say a
word. "For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against
Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls" (Heb. 12:3).
they put His own clothes back on Him, and led Him away to be crucified.
Three Hours of Darkness (27:45-50)
the sufferings and indignities which He bore at the hands of men were minor
compared to what He now faced. From the sixth hour (noon) until the
ninth hour (3:00 p.m.), there was darkness not only over all the
land of Palestine but in His holy soul as well. It was during that time that
He bore the indescribable curse of our sins. In those three hours were
compressed the hell which we deserved, the wrath of God against all our
transgressions. We see it only dimly; we simply cannot know what it meant for
Him to satisfy all God's righteous claims against sin. We only know that in
those three hours He paid the price, settled the debt, and finished the work
necessary for man's redemption.
about 3:00 p.m., He cried out with a loud voice, saying, "My God,
My God, why have You forsaken Me?" The answer is found in Psalm 22:3,
" .... You are holy, enthroned in the praises of Israel." Because God
is holy, He cannot overlook sin. On the contrary, He must punish it. The Lord
Jesus had no sin of His own, but He took the guilt of our sins upon Himself.
When God, as Judge, looked down and saw our sins upon the sinless Substitute, He
withdrew from the Son of His love. It was this separation that wrung from the
heart of Jesus what Mrs. Browning so beautifully called "Immanuel's
Deserted! God could
separate from His own essence rather;
And Adam's sins have
swept between the righteous Son and Father:
Yea, once, Immanuel's
orphaned cry His universe hath shaken—
It went up single,
echoless, "My God, I am forsaken!"
—Elizabeth Barrett Browning
27:47, 48. When Jesus cried, "Eli, Eli...,"
some of those who stood by said He was calling for Elijah.
Whether they actually confused the names or were simply mocking is not clear.
One used a long reed to lift a sponge soaked with sour wine
to His lips. Judging from Psalm 69:21, this was not intended as an act of mercy
but as an added form of suffering.
general attitude was to wait and see if Elijah would fulfill the role
Jewish tradition assigned to him—coming to the aid of the righteous. But it
was not time for Elijah to come (Mal. 4:5); it was time for Jesus to die.
He had cried out again with a loud voice, He yielded up His spirit.
The loud cry demonstrates that He died in strength, not in weakness. The
fact that He yielded up His spirit distinguished His death from all
others. We die because we have to; He died because He chose to. Had He not said,
"I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but
I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take
it again" (John 10:17, 18)?
The Torn Veil (27:51-54)
the time He expired, the heavy, woven curtain separating the two main rooms of
the temple was torn by an Unseen Hand from top to bottom. Up to then that
veil had kept everyone except the high priest from the Holiest Place
where God dwelt. Only one man could enter the inner sanctuary, and he could
enter on only one day of the year.
In the book of Hebrews we learn that the veil
represented the body of Jesus. Its rending pictured the giving of His body in
death. Through His death, we have "boldness to enter the Holiest by the
blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the
veil, that is, His flesh" (Heb. 10:19, 20). Now the humblest believer can
enter God's presence in prayer and praise at any time. But let us never forget
that the privilege was purchased for us at tremendous cost—the blood of Jesus.
The death of God's Son also produced tremendous
upheavals in nature—as if there was an empathy between inanimate creation and
its Creator. There was an earthquake which split great rocks and opened
27:52, 53. But
notice that it was not until after the resurrection of Jesus that
the occupants of these tombs were raised and went into Jerusalem
where they appeared to many. The Bible does not say whether these risen
saints died again or went to heaven with the Lord Jesus.
strange convulsions of nature convinced the Roman centurion and
his men that Jesus was the Son of God (while there is no definite article
in the Greek before Son of God, the word order does make it definite ). What did
the centurion mean? Was this a full confession of Jesus Christ as Lord
and Savior, or an acknowledgment that Jesus was more than man? We cannot be
sure. It does indicate a sense of awe, and a realization that the disturbances
of nature were somehow connected with the death of Jesus, and not with the death
of those who were crucified with Him.
Believer's Bible Commentary; by William
MacDonald; Copyright © 1995, 1992, 1990, 1989 by William McDonald.
Database © 2014 WORDsearch.
Complete Biblical Library Commentary: Matt.
27:27. Jesus, the crowd, and the soldiers were still
outside the front of the judgment seat on which Pilate had been sitting (see
verse 19). His soldiers now took Jesus away with them to the praetorium, the
praetor's (the governor's) palace, where the rest of their unit was. Apparently
this refers to the former palace of Herod in the west of the city, where Pilate
resided in Jerusalem during the days of the feast, and not to the fortress of
Antonia to the north of the temple, although a cohort of soldiers was
permanently stationed there. The cohort mentioned in this verse consisted of
Pilate's own soldiers, a unit which had escorted the governor on his journey
from Caesarea (his permanent residence) to Jerusalem. A speiran was a
Roman cohort, the 10th of a legion, and comprised several hundred men. No
genuine Roman soldiers were in fact stationed in Palestine, only auxiliaries
recruited in that country from among the non-Jewish population. This sort of
cohort had a paper strength of 1,000 men. The torture by the soldiers (verses
28-31) did not take place on Pilate's orders but on their own initiative. By
this mockery they were expressing their contempt of the Jewish people.
27:28. In the palace Jesus was again stripped (after the
scourging, verse 26) by the soldiers and dressed in a scarlet robe, a Roman
soldier's red cloak that would have been obtainable without difficulty.
Considering the other items (verse 29) it is clear that this was done as a
caricature of the royal purple (cf. Mark 15:17). It was an act of ridicule.
27:29. The "crown of thorns" meant a wreath from
weeds, which in the south usually bore thorns. This had to represent the golden
wreath worn in former times by the Maccabean vassal princes, as was also the
purple robe (1 Maccabees 10:20). So the crown of thorns was intended in the
first place as a caricature of kingly worth, although striking it (verse 30) was
soldierly cruelty and must have been extremely painful. The reed in His right
hand had to serve as a royal scepter, the symbol of ruling. The soldiers now
fell on their knees before Him in mockery and gave Him the royal greeting. From
first to last they wanted to make a mockery of Jesus' kingship.
Their greeting in today's language might be a sneering, "Hello,
Jew's king!" They probably did not understand the charges against Jesus.
But they had had a great deal of trouble with Jews like Barabbas and with
Zealots bent on overthrowing Rome's power. All they saw was an opportunity to
vent all the scorn they felt for Jewish hopes to see Rome's power overthrown.
27:30. The climax of the mockery was the spitting, and
with striking Jesus' head with the reed it became torture.
The Greek imperfect tense may mean they kept striking Him. Mark 15:19
seems to mean also that each soldier took his turn at hitting Jesus over the
head, driving the crown of thorns, the very symbol of the curse on mankind
(Genesis 3:18), deeper and deeper into His head. Yet Jesus was so full of the
Calvary love that sent Him to the cross that He showed no sign of resentment.
His love reached out and included all of these soldiers. No wonder it is
impossible to describe the breadth and length and height and depth of the love
of Christ (Ephesians 3:17-19).
27:31. The mock homage was over. The robe was taken off,
Jesus' own clothes were put back on Him, and He was led outside to be crucified.
In Caiaphas' hall, Jesus had been mocked as a prophet (26:68), in Pilate's
(temporary) residence He had to undergo scorn and mockery of His kingship. A
king like Jesus was a cause of mockery to the people.
After the mockery, they took Jesus out to be crucified. His body was a
mass of bleeding welts and bruises. Crucifixion was done on several types of
crosses, some shaped like an X; some shaped like a T; but more often with
the familiar shape usually portrayed by Christian artists. The usual form fits
the conditions described in the Gospels. The hands and usually the feet were
nailed to the cross, with the feet not more than two feet above the ground.
Romans actually drove the nails through the wrist rather than through the palms
of the hands.
27:45. In the Jewish system of horology, the period from
the 6th to the 9th hour meant noon to 3 p.m. Because no contrast between heaven
and earth is involved, gen must mean the land of Israel (as also 2:6, 20,
21; 4:15; 10:15; 11:24; 14:34). (Some students of history claim to have found
evidence of such an eclipse in Gentile lands.) The darkening of the sun (Luke
23:45), which lasted for 3 hours, must have been an exceptional intervention by
God into the natural order of events and not a normal eclipse, for the Jewish
Passover was celebrated when the moon was full. Darkness was termed a sign of
God's wrath when it occurred in the daytime (Amos 8:9) and a foretoken of the
Day of the Lord (Joel 2:31; Matthew 24:29). This 3-hour period of darkness was a
visible sign of the judgment that Jesus had taken vicariously (20:28; 26:28) on
himself (cf. verse 46). At the same time it bore witness to the eschatological
significance of Jesus' suffering and death (see also verse 52). The last days
began with the cross of Jesus Christ (cf. Acts 2:16, 17).
27:46. There was a close link between the darkness in
verse 45 and this exclamation. The first was an outward sign of the second.
Jesus uttered these words at about the time when the darkness was passing away,
at 3 p.m. He spoke in a loud voice, evidencing an overwhelming emotion. Matthew
gives the Hebrew words Eli, Eli, instead of (the Aramaic) Eloi, Eloi
in Mark 15:34, apparently to make the people's distortion of the facts (verse
47) comprehensible to Greek readers. At the deepest point of the way He had to
take, Jesus expressed His suffering with the opening words of Psalm 22:1. It was
not an exclamation of despair, but the words of someone suffering though
innocent and still trusting in God for protection ("My God, my God")
and expecting salvation (Psalm 22:14, 16, 18).
27:47. If "some of them that stood there" were
Jews, they could not have considered "Eli, Eli" to mean "Elijah,
Elijah." Some scholars therefore believe the response was a deliberate play
on words and scornful mockery. Even at the last moments of Jesus' life they were
still taunting Him.
Elijah, of course, did not die but was taken alive into heaven (2 Kings
2:9-12), and the Jews had a tradition that he might come at any time to help the
righteous, as angels would (Strack-Billerbeck, Kommentar zum Neuen Testament,
27:48. Someone, probably a soldier, soaked a sponge in
sour wine and gave it to Jesus to drink. Some have thought this giving of sour
wine to drink was an act of kindness, but the context indicates that more likely
it was another part of the soldiers' mockery and play (see Luke 23:34). It was a
well-known means of torture among the Romans and was employed in various ways.
The sour wine was mixed with salt or gall and the mixture given as a drink, or
poured over the wounds. In the Old Testament the painful and harmful nature of
sour wine is indicated (Proverbs 10:26; 25:20). At the same time it is quite
possible that they wanted to prolong Jesus' life (and His sufferings) with this
strong stimulant. Certainly this occurrence is a fulfillment of Psalm 69:21
("They gave me also gall for my meat; and in my thirst they gave me vinegar
to drink"), only in this mocking sense.
27:49. But others said to the man with the sponge,
"Let be" ("Stop," "Don't do it"). The ones
speaking must have been the mockers of verse 47, continuing their reference to
the tradition about Elijah. They were not really expecting Elijah to appear, for
they considered Jesus a criminal, and the prophet would not have come to help a
sinner. They were continuing to ridicule the dying Saviour. Such callousness in
the presence of such suffering is difficult to believe.
27:50. The plans of the mockers (verses 48, 49) could not
of course alter the plans of God. Jesus would die NOW. "(He) yielded up the
ghost" means "He breathed his last" and emphasizes the voluntary
nature of His death (cf. John 10:17, 18). Expelling the last breath of His life
was coupled with a loud cry. This is the second ("again") and last
time that Matthew mentions Jesus' words on the cross (cf. verse 46). No less
than in verse 46 is an inarticulate scream of dying meant here. Luke 23:46
records what Jesus cried out: "Father, into thy hands I commend my
spirit." John 19:30 records a further word, "It is finished." The
commission Jesus had received from the Father was completed. In His death He
"finished" the most important part of His calling, "to give his
life a ransom for many" (20:28).
27:51. In verses 51-53 Matthew records some of the
signs that took place at the end of the 3-hour period of darkness (verse 45) at
the moment of and immediately after Jesus' death (verse 50). In the first place
the veil of the temple was split from the top to the bottom. In
view of the minor importance of the first curtain between the entry and the Holy
Place and the major importance of the second curtain between the Holy Place and
the Holy of Holies (Exodus 26:31-33), the latter must be meant. From 21:12
onward Matthew pointed ever more urgently to the destruction of the temple, and
in 23:38, 39; 26:61; and 27:40 it was closely linked to Jesus' death. At the
same time the rending of the veil before the Holy of Holies was a symbolic sign
of the new way into God's presence, which had now been opened for everyone
(Hebrews 10:19, 20; it had previously been a privilege only of the high priest).
27:52. The opening of the graves
was closely connected to, and must probably be considered a consequence of, the
earthquake. At the same time Matthew relates that many believers were awakened
too. It was a consequence of the shocking occurrence on Golgotha (verse 50). The
resurrection of these believers was a fulfillment of and a prelude to the
resurrection of the righteous (saints) during the last days, of which the Old
Testament prophesies (Daniel 12:2).
27:53. Verse 52 does not necessarily mean that the resurrection of the saints who
had fallen asleep took place immediately after Jesus' death on the cross. This
verse indicates they emerged from their graves "after his
resurrection." It appears here that the resurrection of these believers
took place just after Jesus' own resurrection. That Matthew relates this
occurrence here is due on the one hand to the inseparable bonds between Jesus'
death and resurrection and on the other hand to the signs accompanying Jesus'
Enephanisthēsan means literally "they become
visible." This indicates that there is no question of a return to natural
earthly life, as with Lazarus or Jairus' daughter, nor yet of any normal contact
with the inhabitants of Jerusalem. This deals with a reviving of believers in
glorified bodies and as such they appeared to many people in Jerusalem, as Jesus
did after His resurrection. They did not come to live with them and did not die
centurion and the soldiers who with him guarded Jesus (verse 36) were seized
with great fear when they observed the earthquake and everything that happened
(verses 45-52, especially 51, 52). It was all so overwhelming that the Roman
officer realized this was no ordinary crucifixion. He had seen many executions
but never one like this.
The gracious words, the unprecedented darkness, the violent earthquake,
and the final cry of Jesus somehow combined to make the Roman officer believe
that Jesus was the One He claimed to be and brought a confession of faith,
"Truly this was the Son of God." "Son of God" in the Greek
does not have the article and spoken by a Gentile means "a divine
person." No more is known about this man, but if the thief on the cross
could find salvation, could not this Roman centurion have become a follower of
Jesus Christ? Like the other centurions in the Gospels and in the Book of Acts,
this Roman must have known something about what the Jews believed. All the
centurions in the New Testament are presented in a good light.
Complete Biblical Library Commentary – Acts. Database ©
2009 WORDsearch Corp.; World Library Press, Inc.
CROSS, CRUCIFIXION: The
method the Romans used to execute Jesus Christ. The most painful and
degrading form of capital punishment in the ancient world, the cross became
also the means by which Jesus became the atoning sacrifice for the sins
of all mankind. It also became a symbol for the sacrifice of self in
discipleship (Rom. 12:1) and for the death of self to the world (Mark
Historical Development: Originally a cross was a wooden pointed stake used to build a wall or to erect fortifications around a town. Beginning with the Assyrians and Persians, it began to be used to display the heads of captured foes or of particularly heinous criminals on the palisades above the gateway into a city. Later crucifixion developed into a form of capital punishment, as enemies of the state were impaled on the stake itself. The Greeks and Romans at first reserved the punishment only for slaves, saying it was too barbaric for freeborn or citizens. By the first century, however, it was used for any enemy of the state, though citizens could only be crucified by direct edict of Caesar. As time went on, the Romans began to use crucifixion more and more as a deterrent to criminal activity, so that by Jesus’ time it was a common sight. The eastern form of crucifixion was practiced in the Old Testament. Saul was decapitated and his body displayed on a wall by the Philistines (1 Sam. 31:9-10), and the “hanging” of Esther 2:23; 5:14 may mean impalement (compare Ezra 6:11). According to Jewish law (Deut. 21:22-23) the offenders were “hung on a tree,” which meant they were “accursed of God” and outside the covenant people. Such criminals were to be removed from the cross before nightfall lest they “defile the land.” During the intertestamental period the western form was borrowed when Alexander Janneus crucified 800 Pharisees (76 B.C.), but on the whole the Jews condemned and seldom used the method. Even Herod the Great refused to crucify his enemies. The practice was abolished after the “conversion” of the emperor of Constantine to Christianity.
A person crucified in Jesus’ day was first of all scourged (beaten with
a whip consisting of thongs with pieces of metal or bone attached to the
end) or at least flogged until the blood flowed. This was not just done out
of cruelty but was designed to hasten death and lessen the terrible ordeal.
After the beating, the victim was forced to bear the crossbeam to the
execution site in order to signify that life was already over and to break
the will to live. A tablet detailing the crime(s) was often placed around
the criminal’s neck and then fastened to the cross. At the site the
prisoner was often tied (the normal method) or nailed (if a quicker death was
desired) to the crossbeam. The nail would be driven through the wrist
rather than the palm, since the smaller bones of the hand could not support
the weight of the body. The beam with the body was then lifted and tied to the
already affixed upright pole. Pins or a small wooden block were placed halfway
up to provide a seat for the body lest the nails tear open the wounds or the
ropes force the arms from their sockets. Finally the feet were tied or nailed to
the post. Death was caused by the loss of blood circulation and coronary
failure. Especially if the victims were tied, it could take days of hideous pain
as the extremities turned slowly gangrenous; so often the soldiers would
break the victims legs with a club, causing massive shock and a quick
death. Such deaths were usually done in public places, and the body was left to
rot for days, with carrion birds allowed to degrade the corpse further.
Four types of crosses were used: 1) The Latin cross has the crossbeam
about two-thirds of the way up the upright pole; 2) St. Anthony’s cross
(probably due to its similarity to his famous crutch) had the beam at the top of
the upright pole like a T. 3) St. Andrew’s cross (supposedly the form used to
crucify Andrew) had the shape of the letter X; 4) the Greek cross has both beams
equal in the shape of a plus sign.
SOURCE: Holman Bible Dictionary; General Editor, David S.
Dockery; Holman Bible Publishers; Nashville, Tennessee.
mok, mok’ẽr, mok´ing (הָרַל, hāthal, לָעַג, lāʽagh, ἐμπαίζω, empaı́zō):
is the translation of hāthal,
“to play upon,” “mock,” “deride” (Jdg 16:10, 13, 15; 1
Ki 18:27, “Elijah mocked them”; Job 13:9 twice, the Revised Version
(British and American) “deceiveth,” “deceive,” margin “mocketh,”
“mock”); of lāʽagh,
“to stammer” or “babble in mimicry,” “to mock” or “scorn” (2 Ch
30:10; Neh 4:1; Job 11:3; 21:3; Prov 1:26; 17:5; 30:17; Jer
20:7). Other words are cāḥaḳ,
“to laugh,” etc. (Gen 19:14; 21:9;, 39:14, 17); ḳālaṣ,
“to call out,” or “cry after,” “to scoff” or “mock at” (2 Ki
2:23; Ezek 22:5); s̄aḥaḳ,
“to laugh,” “mock” (Job 39:22; Lam 1:7); lūc,
“to scorn” (Prov 14:9); seḥōḳ,
“laughter,” “derision” (Job 12:4); empaizō,
“to treat as a child,” “mock” (Mt 2:16; 20:19; 27:29, 31, 41; Lk
14:29, etc.); diachleuázō,
“to mock,” “laugh,” etc. (Acts 2:13; 17:32); muktērı́zo,
“to sneer at,” “mock,” literally, “to turn up the nose” (Gal 6:7,
“God is not mocked,” “will not let himself be mocked”); ἐπιγελάω, epigeláō,
“laugh” (Job 2:8; 1 Macc 7:34; compare 2 Macc 7:39; 8:17).
“deceivers,” “mockers” (Job 17:2); lūc
(Prov 20:1; Isa 28:22 the King James Version); lāʽēgh,
“stammering,” “mocking” (Ps 35:16; compare Isa 28:11); s̄aḥaḳ
(Jer 15:17); empaı́ktēs,
“a mocker,” “scoffer,” literally, “sporting as children” (Jude 1:18;
compare 2 Pet 3:3).
is the translation of ḳallāṣāh
“mocking,” “derision” (Ezek 22:4); of empaigmós the
Septuagint for ḳallāṣāh)
(Heb 11:36; The Wisdom of Solomon 12:25; Ecclesiasticus 27:28,
“mockery”; 2 Macc 7:7, “mocking-stock,” the Revised Version
(British and American) “the mocking”; 2 Macc 7:10, “made a
of μῶκος, mṓkos
(Ecclesiasticus 33:6). For “mocked of” (Job 12:4) the Revised Version
(British and American) has “a laughing-stock to”; for “mockers” (Isa
28:22), the English Revised Version “scorner,” the American Standard Revised
Version “scoffer”; for “the mockers” (Jer 15:17), “them that made
merry”; for “scorneth” (Prov 19:28), “mocketh at”; for “As one man
mocketh another, do ye so mock him?” (Job 13:9), “As one deceiveth a man
will ye deceive him?” (margin, “mocketh,” “mock”); “mock” for
“laugh” (Job 9:23); for “There shall come in the last days scoffers” (2
Pet 3:3), “In the last days (margin, “Greek in the last of the days”)
mockers shall come with mockery” (empaigmonḗ empaı́ktai).
SOURCE: International Standard Bible Encyclopedia; James
Orr, M.A., D. D., General Editor; Parsons Technology, Inc.; Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
The Roman Death Penalty
is the Ruth Dickinson professor of Bible at Oklahoma Baptist University,
HE USE OF THE DEATH PENALTY as a punishment for crime began with the
ancient law of China; the Babylonian Code of Hammurabi contained it in the
eighteenth century BC, as did the Egyptians in the sixteenth century, the Torah
in the fifteenth century, and the Hittite Code in the fourteenth century.1
The seventh-century Draconian Code of Athens, named for Draco, the
Athenian statesman and lawmaker, prescribed death for most every offense,
including stealing cabbage. According
to Herodotus, the Greek historian, the Persians employed the death penalty.
Some historians believe the Persians were the first to utilize
crucifixion. In about 520 BC,
Persian’s Emperor Darius destroyed the walls of Babylon and crucified 3,000
About 200 years later, Alexander the Great taught the inhabitants of Tyre
a lesson for their resistance by butchering 6,000 men and “after that the
king’s [Alexander] wrath furnished the victors with an awful spectacle; 2,000
men . . . hung nailed to crosses along a great stretch of the shore.”3
Given this history, we should not be surprised that the Roman Law of the
Twelve Tablets in the fifth century BC followed suit by delineating and indexing
guidelines related to implementing the death penalty.
Nailing down with
precision what crimes were punishable by death and which ones might have
received a less severe punishment, such as flogging, in the first-century Roman
Empire is difficult. The Twelve
Tables, a code of laws the Romans established in 450 BC, formed the basis for
their legal system.4
In any culture, however, laws exist on the books that one generation
enforces, but not another. I am
aware that transporting an ice cream cone in your pocket is illegal in Kentucky.
A friend of mine swears that in Texas shooting a buffalo from the second
story of a hotel is against the law. But
even in the occurrence of crimes punishable by death in the first century, the
Romans adjudicated the death penalty differently according to class, whether
nobility, freeman, or slave.
Roman law at times employed the
death penalty for everything from printing slander, destroying a farmer’s
crops, burning a house or a stack of corn near a house, a patron cheating his
client, committing robbery, perjury, raising disturbances at night, to the
willful murder of a freeman or a parent.5
classes ( senatorial or equestrian class), however, controlled the criminal
courts and typically received lenient treatment.
As a result, officials rarely imposed the death penalty on them.
The most common penalty for the nobility in the case of a capital crime
was exile, which existed in two forms. A
person could be expelled from Rome for a period or, in more severe cases,
deported, which involved loss of citizenship and expulsion to some remote
For the lower classes hard labor was
the more likely alternative to the death penalty.
The least severe version involved a temporary sentence to the public
works or mines. The more ruthless
version involved sentence to gladiatorial school where the convicted would
receive training in how to fight well and, if defeated, how to offer his body
for the most gripping death blow. Beyond
these possibilities, however, lay the death penalty.6
By the time of Jesus, the death
penalty for most Roman citizens was limited to “massive violations of the
public order,” such as “treason” or “grave acts of disobedience against
For non-citizens such as foreigners, freedmen, and slaves, however, the
government could prescribe the death penalty for any number of crimes.
Above all, Rome was concerned with order, loyalty, and taxes.
If a non-citizen stirred up the populace, acted in a disloyal manner, or
challenged payment of Roman taxes, the death penalty would surely result.
Pronouncing the Death Penalty
question is who wielded the power to punish criminals and, most importantly, who
could impose the death penalty? Certainly
the emperor had the absolute right of life or death over all inhabitants of
Rome. However, from the time of
Augustus, the government delegated these powers to the regional governors,
procurators, and prefects.8
tended to come from the aristocracy. The
procurators and perfects, however, served smaller and more challenging provinces
and were not from the nobility. Pilate
himself, as perfect, would have come from the equestrian rank.
These Roman administrators had two basic responsibilities: to collect
taxes and keep the peace. The
emperor typically had little concern for how the procurators and perfects
carried out these responsibilities. In
the name of keeping the peace, the provincial ruler exercised the power of life
and death. It a gathering of
subversives threatened to revolt, he could send out the troops.
If several hundred died in the process, this would serve as a lesson to
others who might disturb the peace. If
someone charged that an individual was a rabble rouser, particularly if the
accused was a non-citizen, the local governor could listen to the charges and
free him on the spot. On the other
hand, the governor could decide the person presented a genuine threat and have
him executed. If execution was the
verdict, it would be carried out immediately.9
Persons in Rome set punishments according to a compilation of statutes.
In the provinces, however, local governors exercised exclusive authority
concerning charges, procedures, penalties and punishments.10
Knowing that the emperor had the
authority to impose the death penalty and could, by extension, grant that
authority to one of his governmental appointees (such as Pontius Pilate), and
knowing that Jesus was a non-Roman citizen from the peasant class, the account
of Jesus’ death in the Gospels gains credibility.
The charges the Sanhedrin brought against Jesus were well designed to
bring about Jesus’ death given Rome’s concerns in a province like Judea:
“We found this man subverting our nation, opposing payment of taxes to Caesar,
and saying that He Himself is the Messiah, a King” (Luke 23:2, HCSB).
Some 30 years later Paul would have more options due to his Roman
citizenship. As a citizen he had the
right to due process and ultimately the right to appeal to the emperor (Acts
24—25, especially 25:10-12).
Carrying Out the Death Penalty
The lack of
information Roman authors gave about the details of crucifixion seems surprising
on the surface. Historically,
though, persons and nations who have tortured or executed others have not left
behind copious details about their actions.
When Romans prescribed the death penalty, in the case of heinous acts of
treason by a Roman citizen, or for crimes by a foreigner, freedman, or slave,
they carried it out in the most brutal and vicious manner.
Methods of execution included strangulation; beating to death;
impalement; decapitation with the sword; burning; throwing the victim to the
beasts; “bleeding,” which consisted of the guilty party cutting his or her
wrists; and crucifixion. The Romans
had a curious punishment for murdering a parent: they submersed the condemned
person in water in a cloth sack that also contained a dog, a rooster, a viper,
and an ape.11
For Romans as well as Greeks and Jews, however, no method of execution
caused offense like crucifixion. It
was “an utterly offensive affair, ‘obscene’ in the original sense of the
the first-century Roman philosopher and politician, asserted that crucifixion
was a “cruel and disgusting penalty.”13
In fact, citizens did not even like to speak about the act.
Cicero stated explicitly:
executioner, the veiling of the head, and the very word “cross” should be
far removed not only from the person of a Roman citizen but from his thoughts,
his eyes and his ears. For it is not
only the actual occurrence of these things or the endurance of them, but
liability to them, the expectation, nay, the mere mention of them, that is
unworthy of a Roman citizen.14
Compiling information from the
meager sources available, we know crucifixion would have looked something like
the following. The victim, in
conjunction with the pronouncement of the sentence, endured scourging or
flogging (Mark 15:15; John 19:1). Then,
the person carried the beam to the place of execution, a custom Plutarch and the
Gospels mentioned (Luke 23:26; John 19:16-17).15 The
executioner stripped the criminal of his clothes before tying or nailing him to
the wooden cross with arms outstretched. The
condemned sat on a small wooden peg.16 The Romans
used a variety of positions for crucifying offenders: some were hung head
downward, the traditional method of Peter’s execution;17 others were hung on a cross shaped like the letter X,
often referred to as crux Andreana
others had a stake impale their genitals; while others had their arms stretched
out on a crossbeam formed like the letter T.19 This last
type was common and according to the Gospels was the kind of cross on which
the type of cross or whether nailed or tied to it, crucifixion was a protracted
ordeal that might last a number of days. The
gradual nature of the death satisfied the primal hunger for revenge.
Seneca captured the chilling nature of crucifixion as follows:
Can anyone be found who would prefer wasting away in pain, dying limb by
limb, or letting out his life drop by drop, rather than expiring once for all?
Can any man be found willing to be fastened to the accursed tree, long
sickly, already deformed, swelling with ugly tumours on chest and shoulders, and
draw the breath of life amid long-drawn-out agony?
I think he would have many excuses for dying even before mounting the
Furthermore, death by crucifixion
served as a deterrent to those who would threaten Roman rule or peace.
It did so by the physical deprivation and psychological shame the
offender experienced. In the case of
a Jew, the shame was further heightened by the belief that “anyone hung on a
tree is under God’s curse” (Deut. 21:23, HCSB), a curse Paul cited in
relation to Jesus’ crucifixion (Gal. 3:13).
In order to enhance the event as
deterrent, crucifixions did not take place in isolated areas but on
well-traveled routes. Pseudo-Quintillian
asserts that “when we [Romans] crucify criminals the most frequented roads are
chosen, when the greatest number of people can look and be seized by this
The public display of the naked victim was all about pain and shame.
This is the death Jesus died, the
death of God’s own Son on a tree of shame.
Sobering indeed. Is there any
wonder that Paul spoke of the foolishness of the message of a crucified Messiah
(1 Cor. 1:21)?
This introduction is a summary of Michael H. Reggio, “History of the
Death Penalty,” from Laura Randa, ed., Society’s
Final Solution: A History and Discussion of the Death Penalty (Landham, MD:
University Press of America, 1997).
Herodotus The Persian Wars 3.159.
Curtius, History of Alexander, Books
I-V, The Loeb Classical Library, trans. Rolfe (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ.
Press, 1946 ), 4.4.17 (p. 205).
Crook, Law and Life of Rome
(London: Thames and Hudson, 1967), 12.
Laurence, A History of Capital
Punishment (New York: The Citadel Press, 1960), 3.
Crook, Law and Life of Rome, 272-73.
Loewenstein, The Governance of Rome
(The Haque: Martinus Nijhoff, 1973), 184.
Wansink, “Roman Law and Legal System” in Dictionary of New Testament Background, ed. Evans and Porter
(Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 986; Sherwin-White, Roman
Society and Roman Law in the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House,
Jolowicz and Nicholas, Historical
Introduction to the Study of Roman Law, 3rd ed. (Cambridge: Univ.
Press, 1972), 445-47; Ferguson, Backgrounds
of Early Christianity, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993),
Wansink, “Roman Law,” 986.
Laurence, A History of Capital
Hengel, Crucifixion (Philadelphia:
Fortress, 1977), 22.
Cicero, Against Verres 2.5.64
in Cicero in Twenty-Eight Volumes, vol.
8, The Verrine Orations, The Loeb
Classical Library, trans. Greenwood (Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 1935), 651.
Cicero Pro Rabirio 5.16 in The
Speeches, The Loeb Classical Library ( Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press,
See Plutarch On the Delays of the
Divine Vengeance, 9.
Hengel, Crucifixion, 25.
See the Apocryphal Acts of Peter, 37.
According to tradition dating from the 7th century, Andrew
died on a cross of that form.
Seneca, Moral Essays: To Marcia on
Seneca, On the Futility of Planning
Ahead in Ad Luicilium Epistulae
Morales, trans. Gummere, The Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge: Harvard
Univ. Press, 1926), 167.
Quintillian, The Lesser
Declamations, vol. 1, The Loeb Classical Library, ed. and trans. Bailey
(Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 2006), 259.
Jesus Last 40 Days
is associate professor of Christian studies, Union University, Jackson,
ADVANCING THE IDEA of spiritual resurrection, such as the
“Living Presence” or “Telegram” models, need not bother with any bodily
pre-ascension manifestations of Jesus or their relative significance.
“Many posit that the disciples had some kind of spiritual experience of
God in which they became convinced that the cause of Christ lived on.
A number [of interpreters] are willing to grant that Jesus’ immortal
spirit did continue to live and may even have been experienced by his
This view produces strange images of Jesus sending His followers some
kind a telepathic message or heavenly e-mail informing them of His whereabouts.
These theories are categorically dismissed because of the clear witness
of the New Testament to the frequent, powerful, and certain accounts of the
bodily Christ interacting with certain individuals and groups of believers for a
period of 40 days preceding His ascension (Acts 1:3).
Jesus’ final 40 days on earth took place during the 50-day span between
Passover and Pentecost. The
resurrected Christ ascended to heaven 10 days before the Holy Spirit descended
upon the church at Pentecost (Acts 2; see Joel 2:28-32).
In a sense, the resurrection signaled a new beginning basically because
all of Jesus’ followers demonstrated total disillusion at His death.
R. Kent Hughes depicted this post-crucifixion mood well: “As those who
had hoped in Jesus slowly trudged away from the scene, the icy fingers of death
tightened about their hearts in chilling, numbing grief.”2
The disciples had their glorious “kingdom building” hopes dashed when
Jesus died. This
is why Jesus’ death and resurrection functioned as a preface as much as it did
a conclusion. Jesus’ objections
during this interim period underscored themes of reunion, revelation,
fulfillment, instruction, encouragement, equipping, transition, and restoration.
At the Sea of Tiberias
seeing Jesus’ empty linen wrappings in the empty tomb, Peter returned home
“wondering what had happened.”3
This reaction is still miles away from the rock-solid Easter faith that
this disciple preached at Pentecost.4
We must attribute Peter’s transformation to the reality of the
resurrection and a key conversation Jesus later had with him one morning on the
shore of the Sea of Tiberias. The
“Fish Fry Chapter” (John 21) contains a final appearance of Jesus, a
miraculous catch of fish, and a wonderful illustration of the renovating power
of the resurrected Christ.5
Jesus knew Peter’s unraveled state would completely prevent him from
carrying on the mission; he simply needed to be confronted, retrieved, and
equipped. We should not interpret
the disciples’ fishing at Tiberias, however, as their unequivocally abandoning
their new role and casually blending back into their former lifestyles.
I believe they were still contemplating the meaning of the empty tomb.
The way Jesus reeled Peter in again is a beautiful example of Jesus’
mastery of verbal communication. Too
much paper and ink have been wasted discussing the theological significance
between the two Greek words for “love” used in this conversation.6
Besides, no underlying distinction existed in the original Aramaic
dialogue. What is the main point
then? I think Peter heard the
haunting echo of a rooster crowing in his mind when Jesus asked him the third
time, “Do you love me?” Peter’s
resultant grief is recorded in verse 17 as he relived the bitter denial of his
Lord. Jesus’ commissioning words
were given in synonymous, threefold succession to Peter’s replies with the
goal of restoring him to pastoral ministry: feed my lambs, take care of my
sheep, and feed my sheep.7
Was Jesus successful? Several
missionary speeches in Acts, two New Testament documents bearing the
disciple’s name, and the existence of the church today all indicate Jesus made
the difference that day.
On the Road to Emmaus
24:13-35 provides a unique post-resurrection conversation.
The cloaked appearance to the two on the road to Emmaus provides another
window into the pre-ascension intentions of the resurrected Christ.
Jesus appeared incognito to two disciples on the road to Emmaus,
interestingly in proximity to where Judas Maccabeus supposedly attacked the
Syrian forces some two hundred years before and reestablished the temple for
Jewish worship. The image of Judas
Maccabeus, using force and might, became the image-standard for the anticipated
Messiah, and image that Jesus’ disciples (including these two on the road to
Emmaus) were unable to correct until after they met the resurrected Lord.
dialogue that Luke recorded showcases opposite interpretation of Jesus’ death.
Once again the narrative couched extreme despair as Jesus playfully
quizzed the two about their intense conversation.
In disbelief, Cleopas replied, “You must be the only person in
Jerusalem who hasn’t heard about all the things that have happened there the
last few days” (Luke 24:18). What
could reverse their hopelessness? What
could ever restore their joy again and dislodge them from the death grip of
utter defeat? Nothing short of a
miracle, something extraordinary, and something totally unexpected—the
clarifying instruction of the One who defeated death!
What the disciples perceived to be a tragedy Jesus interpreted as a
necessity. After a mild rebuke for
their disbelief (see v. 25), Jesus took some time to teach them of the
transformational power of the resurrection and of the trustworthiness of the Old
Testament Scriptures. Jesus clinched
the purpose of His encounter by breaking bread with them.
“Suddenly, their eyes were opened, and they recognized him.
And at that moment he disappeared” (24:31, NLT).
Mission accomplished! Jesus
provided a bodily revelation, biblical instruction, and spiritual encouragement.
moment of instruction sparks another puzzling question: Can we know anything
else Jesus taught not recorede in the Gospels or in the epistles before He
returned to the Father?
Purpose of the Appearances
Paul included references to the Lord’s teaching that serve to add some
authority to his own words (1 Thess. 4:15) or simply to provide the Lord’s
lone voice of authority on an issue (1 Cor. 7:10).
As Paul attempted to comfort the Thessalonians concerning the plight of
departed believers, he targeted the resurrection of the Lord as the chief reason
Christians should not grieve hopelessly in the face of death.
Paul referred to Jesus’ own words in 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17—although
the Gospel writers do not actually record them.8
Of course, not everything Jesus said is recorded (John 20:30-31)—only
that which fit into the theological framework of each evangelist’s report or
design. Teaching about the truth and
the importance of His death and resurrection served as one of Jesus’ most
critical goals before He returned to heaven.
Paul may have learned of these words from the treasured tradition of the
days is not a long period of time. But
what Jesus accomplished during that span proved to be instrumental in equipping
first-century church leaders with a resurrection-proving power that provided the
first church with the directional energy it needed.
Those forty days also set the trajectory for Jesus’ continued influence
in the world through the church even to this day.
The capstone of all the interim-period teaching is summed up in Jesus’
final “marching orders”: the Great Commission.10
While all that Jesus said is significant, His last words deserve special
merit. With this command to teach,
preach, baptize, and equip, Jesus brought His “living will and testament” to
a fitting conclusion. With this in
mind, we can see a literary contrast between these final 40 days of dispensing
the “bread of instruction” to the disciples with another 40-day period Jesus
spent “without bread” as He prepared for His temptation experience and the
inauguration of His public ministry.
Blomberg, Jesus and the Gospels: An Introduction and Survey (Nashville:
Broadman & Holman, 1997), 352.
Hughes, Luke, vol. 2, in the Preaching
the Word series (Wheaton: Crossway, 1998), 405.
The phrase is “qaumazun to gegono” in Luke 24:12.
Some extrabiblical texts translate this same phrase as “wishing to
learn what had happened.” Unless otherwise noted, all quotes or translations
will come from the New Living Translation.
Compare Acts 2:22-24 with
Peter’s bewilderment at Jesus’ tomb.
The New Testament appears
to record eleven separate appearances. See Harris, From
Grave to Glory: Resurrection in the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan
Publishing House, 1990), 133-34. The
New Testament also includes three postascension appearances: to Stephen (Acts
7:55-56); to Paul on the Damascus Road (9:3-7); and to the John of the
Apocalypse (Rev. 1:12-20).
Three times Jesus asked
Peter if he loved Him, twice using agapaw,
and once using filew.
Peter responded each time with filew.
See Bock, Jesus According to Scripture (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002),
See Luke 14:14 and John
Bruce, 1 & 2
Thessalonians, Word Biblical Commentary
(Waco: Word Books, 1982), 98-99.
See Matthew 28:18-20; Mark
16:14-20 (within the disputed longer ending, vv. 9-20); Luke 22:44-49, compare.
Acts 1:8-11. John’s
commissioning episode is the conversation between Jesus and Peter we have
already discussed above. It is also
interesting that for Luke, the Great Commission was the linchpin fastening his
gospel account to his story of the “unpacking” of that commission in Acts.
The Roman Centurion
By Timothy L. Noel
Noel is pastor, Hillcrest Baptist Church, Mobile, AL.
HO CAN COUNT up the rewards of a successful Army career?
If you do well during your service, the sky’s the limit, there’s
nothing you can’t hope for. Find
me a lucky star to watch over my enlistment and I’d join up myself, walk in
through those barrack-gates as a humble recruit . . .” (Juvenal, xvi.1-4).
As with today’s United States Marines, the Roman army looked for a
few good men to lead their troops. When
they found them, men of good character and leadership ability, they marked them
for promotion to the rank of centurion.
The centurion was the commander of one hundred foot soldiers, a group
that was called a century. Ten
centuries constituted a cohort, and six cohorts made up one legion.
Thus, each legion consisted of about six thousand men.
Twenty-eight legions comprised the standing Roman army.
Soldiers usually were promoted to the rank of centurion from among the
legions. Others, however, were
people of some status in society who were appointed as centurions because of
their previous careers in public service. For
those who moved up through the ranks, the promotions were recommended by the
legionary legates and approved by the provincial governor.
The centurions who appear in the New Testament may or may not have been
Roman citizens. Some would have been
promoted through the ranks, and therefore would have been provincial natives.
Others would have been transferred in from other legions, and therefore
might have been Roman.1
The rank of centurion carried with it considerable benefits as compared
to the lower ranks within the legions. While
the lower ranking officers were non-commissioned, a centurion was a commissioned
officer. The pay was better.
A centurion made as much as five times what a praetorian soldier made,
and the highest ranking centurions could make even more.
After 20 years of service a centurion could retire (although many did
not). The retirement benefits of a
centurion were generous; either a cash bonus or an allotment of land.
The centurion would be promoted from rank to rank, usually being
transferred from legion to legion in the process.
Centurions, therefore, were well-educated and well-traveled.
The highest rank available to the centurion was that of primus
pilus. The fact is, however,
that the chances of attaining that rank were slim for the ordinary centurion who
had risen through the ranks. It
required a level of education and administrative ability that most common
recruits did not have.
Being promoted to the rank of centurion was less dependent on fighting
ability than on ability to work with people.
The centurions were people of solid character who could keep cool under
adverse situations. They were
cautious men who would advance slowly in battle, but also men of bravery who
would not retreat except under direct orders.
During the first half of the first century AD few Roman soldiers saw
any real action. Ramsay MacMullen
comments, “Many a recruit need never have struck a blow in anger, outside a
tavern.”2 Only in a few remote areas of the Roman Empire was any
real fighting taking place. During
peacetime the army was used for duties other than external security. It
provided internal security, built roads and bridges, and escorted prisoners.
All of these activities were supervised by centurions.
As an officer, the centurion was accustomed to responsibility.
While the centurion technically was under one of the six legionary
tribunes, for all practical purposes the centurions were the commanders of the
legions. In reality, “these
formidable men combined the functions and prestige of a modern company commander
and sergeant-major or top sergeant.”3
The authority of the centurion is reflected in Matthew 8:9, where a
centurion told Jesus, “I am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and
I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes,
and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and he does it” (RSV).
Obviously, centurions were used to giving orders and having them obeyed
to the letter. However, here in
Matthew (compare Luke 7:6) we see a picture of a centurion who was wealthy (he
owned slaves) and in a position of great authority, but who nevertheless
exhibited humility nd respect in his dealing with Jesus.
The particular responsibilities of the centurion included maintaining
discipline, such as the supervision of scourging and even executions; drilling
and inspecting the troops; quartermaster duties; and commanding the troops in
the field.4 The
centurion also evidently received and held in trust monies from their recruits,
money perhaps left unspent from the men’s bonus for enlisting.
As far as religion is concerned, centurions usually were pagans.
The primary religion of the Roman army was allegiance to the standards of
the army. Tertullian maintained that
“the religious system of the Roman Army is entirely devoted to the worship of
the standards; oaths are sworn by the standards, and the standards are preferred
to all deities” (Apologies, 16).
This cult provided for the army its esprit
de corps. Christianity had
little success relative to conversions in the Roman army.
What does this paganism say about the confessions of the Roman
centurions in the New Testament? We
must read these confessioins in light of this paganism.
Some scholars suggest that when the centurion at Jesus’ crucifixion
confessed, “Truly this was the Son of God,” he meant something entirely
different than the modern Christian means, or even what Matthew meant.
Alfred Plummer comments that the centurion “cannot have meant very much
by ‘son of God.’”5 William Lane adds,
By “Son of God” the centurion presumably
meant that Jesus was a divine man or deified hero who accepted humiliation and
death as an act of obedience to a higher mandate.
It can be expected that his words reflect a religious point of view
shaped by popular Hellenism.6
Obviously one cannot be dogmatic about the
nature of the centurion’s confession. If
in fact the centurion was moved to a genuine confession about the deity of
Christ, the paganism of his background made that confession all the more
In Mark 15:39 and in Matthew 27:54, the
centurion made his confession that Jesus is the Son of God.
In Luke 23:47 the confession reads, “Certainly this man was
innocent!” (RSV). In Mark’s
Gospel, this is a singular confession. God
twice pronounced that Jesus was His Son (Mark 1:11; 9:7).
The demons knew that Jesus was the Son of God, but in the entire Gospel,
the centurion is the only human to make this confession.
What ever this confession might have meant to that particular centurion
(see above), for Mark this was an important event.
The other centurions appear in Acts.
Cornelius was presented as a centurion who feared God and became a
Christian (see Acts 10). In Acts
22:25,26 a centurion was about to scourge Paul, but deferred when he learned of
Paul’s Roman citizenship. Paul was
placed in the custody of a centurion in Acts 24:23, and a centurion took Paul to
Rome (Acts 27). Acts 27:43 shows
that this centurion was a man of courage and devotion to duty.
In Acts 28:16 a centurion guarded Paul while the apostle was under house
Obviously the centurions in the New Testament
were presented in a very positive light. They
were people of wealth and authority, yet they had respect for the authority of
Jesus and for the status of Paul. One
centurion confessed that Jesus was the Son of God, and another, Cornelius,
became a Christian. The conversion
of these centurions stands in stark contrast to the unbelief of Jesus’ own
people, and symbolized for the early community of faith the coming conversion of
the Gentile nations.
A. N. Sherwin-White, Roman Society
and Roman Law in the New Testament (Grand
Rapids: Baker Book House, 1963), 156.
Ramsay MacMullen, Soldier
and Civilian in the Later Roman Empire (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University
Michael Grant, The Army of the
Caesars (New York: Charles
Scribner’s Sons, 1974), xxxiii.
F. D. Gealy, “Centurions,” The
Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, 5
vols. (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1962-76), 1:548.
Alfred Plummer, An Exegetical
Commentary on the Gospel According to St. Matthew (Grand
Rapids: Baker Book House, 1915), 404.
William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark
(Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 576.
Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention;
Nashville, TN 37234; Spring 1992.
298. What Is The
Answer To & Where In The Bible Is This Week’s Trivia Question Found? (03/29/15)
Three-part question: (1) Who was the youngest king of Judea , (2) how old was he
when he gained the throne?; (3) How long did he reign?
Answer Next Week? (1) Who? (2) How old was he? (3) Length of
The answer to last
week’s trivia question: (03/22/15) After the
Babylonian exile, the Jews sought wealth and possessions for themselves instead
of doing what? Answer?
Building the temple; Hag. 1:2-6.