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Bailey Sadler Class

SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON STUDY GUIDE – 2015

 

Study Theme: Life Like No Other: The Life Of Christ

What This Study Is About:

Week of:

Lesson Title:

This 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.

 

Mar. 01

Promised Like No Other

 

Mar. 08

A Birth Like No Other

 

Mar. 15

Power Like No Other

 

Mar. 22

Teaching Like No Other

X

Mar. 29

 Death Like No Other

 

April 5

Resurrected Like No Other

 

LIFE IMPACT:

Jesus’ death is the heart of the gospel.

FOCAL PASSAGE:

Matthew 27:28-31,45-50,54

LESSON OUTLINE:

I.    

II.

III.  

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. 27:54)

OVERVIEW OF BACKGROUND PASSAGE:  

Jesus 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, TN.

INTRODUCTION:

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.

I.

Jesus 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1.   What is the setting for this week’s study?  (See Matt. 26:47—27:27.)

2.   What is the role of Jesus’ death as it relates to the gospel?

3.   Who are the “They” in verse 28? (See verse 27.)

4.   Based on verse 28, what did the soldiers do to Jesus?

5.   What do you think motivated the actions of the soldiers in verses 28-30?

6.   What was the basis of the soldiers mocking Jesus as “King of the Jews!”?  (See Matt. 27:11.)

7.   Based on the actions of the soldiers in verse 30, how would you describe their attitude toward Jesus?

8.   What does “mocking” mean to you?  How would you describe the attitude of a “mocker”?

9.   What does verse 31 tell you about the soldiers?

10.   Do you think Jesus’ treatment at the hands of the soldiers was a surprise to Him?  Why, or why not?  (See Matt. 20:17-19.)

11.   Why do you think Jesus did not resist the ridicule and abuse?

12.   How do you think Jesus felt toward these soldiers?  Why?

13.   How do you think you would have felt toward them?  Why?

14.   Do you think there is a difference between being tormented by those you loved and total strangers? 

15.   If so, how would you describe that difference?

16.   What does Jesus reveal about Himself in this passage?

17.   What are some ways we mistreat Jesus today?

18.   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.

 

Lasting Lessons in Matt. 27:28-31:

1.  Even in their cruelty and insincerity of their mockery, the soldiers unintentionally demonstrated an eternal truth—Jesus was and is the King who deserves our worship and submission.

2.  Neither Matthew nor any other Gospel writer gave us any suggestions that Jesus did anything other than patiently endure the abuse heaped on Him.

3.  People may mock Jesus today as they did then, or they might direct their animosity toward us as His followers, but He already has laid out for us the model for our response.

 

II.

Jesus 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.

1.   What happened between verses 31 and 45?

2.   How would you summarize the events in this passage?

3.   What does the 3-hour period of darkness tell you about the events in this passage?

4.   What do you think Jesus meant by what He cried out in verse 46? 

5.   Why do you think Jesus felt abandoned by God (v. 46)?

6.   Based on this passage, what do you think made Jesus’ suffering so agonizing and painful for Him?

7.   We know the kind of pain that comes from physical suffering, but how does one suffer spiritually?

8.   How would you describe this “darkness” that overcame Jesus at this time?

9.   Why do you think some of the witnesses thought Jesus was calling out to Elijah (v. 47)? 

10.   Do 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.)

11.   How would you explain the conflict between the truth of God’s love and the events in these verses?

12.   Why is it important that Jesus actually died?

13.   What does John 10:17,18 tell you about Jesus’ death? 

14.   How would you summarize John 10:17-18?

 

Lasting Lessons in Matt. 27:45-50:

1.  Taking our sin upon Himself cost Jesus much more than His physical life.

2.  Even 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.

 

III.

Jesus 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!”

1.   What happened between verses 50 and 54?

2.   What things caused the centurion and soldiers to tremble and profess Jesus?

3.   How would you describe their state of mind at this time?

4.   What did they mean by their statement regarding Jesus?

5.   How would you summarize the occurrences that made Jesus’ crucifixion turn from being an ordinary execution to a moment of extraordinary divine revelation?

6.   What declaration did the centurion and the soldiers with him make?

7.   Aside from the disciples, what “first” can we give credit to the Roman soldiers?

8.   What is the significance of this “first” credited to the Roman soldiers?

9.   How would you describe the irony contained in this verse?  (See verses 27-31.)

10.   What emotions do you think these soldiers experienced while participating in Jesus’ death?

11.   How would you describe the centurion as a soldier? a person?   

12.   What emotions do you experience when you think about what Jesus went through for your salvation?

13.   What do you think gave creditability to the centurion’s change of attitude toward Jesus? 

14.   When in your own life did you encounter the truth that Jesus is God’s Son?

15.   The centurion concluded that Jesus is the Son of God.  What are some other conclusions people make?

16.   Why do you think they come to those conclusions?

 

Lasting Lessons in Matt. 27:54:

1.  Even before Jesus’ resurrection we learn that His death was not in vain.

2.  The only proper response to Jesus and His cross is to confess Jesus for who He is and for what He has done for mankind!

 

CONCLUSION:

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? 

What 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:

SOURCE: Life Ventures-Bible Studies for Life; Leader Guide; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN.

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.

SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.

 

FOCAL PASSAGE:  Matthew 27:28-31,45-50,54

Focal 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. (KJV)

New International 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 him.


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 God!”  (NIV)

New Living Translation: Matthew 27:28-31,45-50,54:

 28 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!”   (NLT)

 

Lesson Outline — “Death Like No Other” — Matt. 27:28-31,45-50,54

I.

II.

III.

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. 27:54)

COMMENTARY:

(NOTE:  Commentary for the focal passage comes from three sources: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary Old Testament,Believer's Bible Commentary,” andThe Complete Biblical Library Commentary,” and is provided for your study.)

The Expositor’s Bible Commentary New Testament; Matt. 27:28-31,45-50,54

27:28-31.  Here 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 mocking (27:32-44)

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; 21:38-42; 26:26-29).

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 Jesus (27:45-50)

27:45.  The 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.

27:46.  The “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.

27:47.  According 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).

27:48-49.  The 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.

27:50.  This 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.”


27:54.  Despite 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

 

Believer's 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 universal dominion.

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).

27:31.  Finally they put His own clothes back on Him, and led Him away to be crucified.


Three Hours of Darkness (27:45-50)

27:45.  All 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.

27:46.  At 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 orphaned cry":

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.

27:49.  The 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.

27:50.  When 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)

27:51.  At 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 many graves.

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.

27:54.  The 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.

SOURCE: Believer's Bible Commentary; by William MacDonald; Copyright © 1995, 1992, 1990, 1989 by William McDonald. Database © 2014 WORDsearch.

 

The Complete Biblical Library Commentary: Matt. 27:28-31,45-50, (51-53),54

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, 4:2:769-771).

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' death.

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 again later.

27:54.  The 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.

SOURCE: The Complete Biblical Library Commentary – Acts.  Database © 2009 WORDsearch Corp.; World Library Press, Inc.

 

DIGGING DEEPER:

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 8:34).
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.


 

Mock; Mocker; Mocking mok, mok’ẽr, mok´ing (הָרַלhāthalלָעַגlāʽaghἐμπαίζωempaı́zō)

To mock 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); muktḗzo, “to sneer at,” “mock,” literally, “to turn up the nose” (Gal 6:7, “God is not mocked,” “will not let himself be mocked”); ἐπιγελάωepigeláō, “laugh” (Job 2:8; 1 Macc 7:34; compare 2 Macc 7:39; 8:17).

Mockerhăthū̄m, “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).

Mocking 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 mocking-stock” (empaizō)); of μῶκοςmṓkos (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.

 

ADDITIONAL BACKGROUND READING:

The Roman Death Penalty

By Bobby Kelly

Bobby Kelly is the Ruth Dickinson professor of Bible at Oklahoma Baptist University, Shawnee, Oklahoma.

T

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 men.2  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.

Warranting 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

The upper 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 location.  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 magistrates.”7  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

The central 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 

The governors 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 word.”12  Cicero, 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:

[The] 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 (Andrew’s cross);18 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 Christ suffered.

Regardless of 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 cross!20

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 fear.”21  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)?                                                                                                                             Bi

1.    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).

2.    Herodotus The Persian Wars 3.159.

3.    Curtius, History of Alexander, Books I-V, The Loeb Classical Library, trans. Rolfe (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press, 1946 ), 4.4.17 (p. 205).

4.    Crook, Law and Life of Rome (London: Thames and Hudson, 1967), 12.

5.    Laurence, A History of Capital Punishment (New York: The Citadel Press, 1960), 3.

6.    Crook, Law and Life of Rome, 272-73.

7.    Loewenstein, The Governance of Rome (The Haque: Martinus Nijhoff, 1973), 184.

8.    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, 1963), 6-8.

9.    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), 61-62.

10.   Wansink, “Roman Law,” 986.

11.   Laurence, A History of Capital Punishment, 3.

12.   Hengel, Crucifixion (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1977), 22.

13.   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.

14.   Cicero Pro Rabirio 5.16 in The Speeches, The Loeb Classical Library ( Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 1927), 467.

15.   See Plutarch On the Delays of the Divine Vengeance, 9.

16.   Hengel, Crucifixion, 25.

17.   See the Apocryphal Acts of Peter, 37.

18.   According to tradition dating from the 7th century, Andrew died on a cross of that form.

19.   Seneca, Moral Essays: To Marcia on Consolation, 20.3.

20.   Seneca, On the Futility of Planning Ahead in Ad Luicilium Epistulae Morales, trans. Gummere, The Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 1926), 167.

21.   Quintillian, The Lesser Declamations, vol. 1, The Loeb Classical Library, ed. and trans. Bailey (Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 2006), 259.

SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Spring 2012.

Jesus Last 40 Days

By Paul Jackson

Paul Jackson is associate professor of Christian studies, Union University, Jackson, Tennessee.

T

HEORIES 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 followers.”1  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

After 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

Luke 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.

The 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.

This 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

Occasionally, 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 Jerusalem church.9

 Forty 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.                                                                                Bi

1.    Blomberg, Jesus and the Gospels: An Introduction and Survey (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1997), 352.

2.    Hughes, Luke, vol. 2, in the Preaching the Word series (Wheaton: Crossway, 1998), 405.

3.    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.

4.    Compare Acts 2:22-24 with Peter’s bewilderment at Jesus’ tomb.

5.    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).

6.    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), 553.

7.    Ibid., 553-554.

8.    See Luke 14:14 and John 5:28-29.

9.    Bruce, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, Word Biblical Commentary (Waco: Word Books, 1982), 98-99.

10.   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.

SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Spring 2004.

The Roman Centurion

By Timothy L. Noel

Tim Noel is pastor, Hillcrest Baptist Church, Mobile, AL.

W

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 remarkable.

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 arrest.

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.

1.  A. N. Sherwin-White, Roman Society and Roman Law in the New Testament  (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1963), 156.

2.  Ramsay MacMullen,  Soldier and Civilian in the Later Roman Empire (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1963).

3.  Michael Grant, The Army of the Caesars  (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1974), xxxiii.

4.  F. D. Gealy, “Centurions,” The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible,  5 vols. (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1962-76), 1:548.

5.  Alfred Plummer, An Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel According to St. Matthew  (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1915), 404.

6.  William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark  (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 576.

SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Spring 1992.

 

BIBLE CHARACTER TRIVIA

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 reign?

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.