Matthew 27:27-44 Part 2


It is truly a mind-staggering scene; the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, having been scourged, now being mocked by the soldiers of the Roman army… mocked as “King of the Jews”.  There is cutting sarcasm in the mock adoration.

And it is so ironic that it was a staged mocking in order to placate, or propitiate, the Jewish leadership.  And the irony is made complete when it is considered that all the Gentile nations of the earth are prophesied to worship and adore Him!

And they spat on Him… the most disgusting insult humanity can offer.  And the “mock” crown with the thorns… it was driven deeper and deeper into His head by being struck with the rod.  The apostle John reports that they also struck Him repeatedly with their hands.

No one reports how long all of this went on; but when they were through they brought Jesus back down into the courtyard… the clotting blood from His backside sticking to the “kingly” robe that had been placed on Him.  And they stripped it off and put His Own clothes back on.

There is no comfort from any direction or from any thing.  He is completely abandoned to shame and humiliation and pain; no law; no relief; even the words of Pilate and his wife are blows to Him – there could be no joy in their attempts to save Him; for Almighty God the Son, Yahveh Creator of heaven and earth, the Giver of the Law and the Judge of men and angels was being separated out to abandonment and death!

And the words then rolled out of Pilate’s mouth as the order came for His crucifixion.  And they led Him off.  No waiting.  No appeal, no delay.  The order came from Pilate… and they led Him off to be crucified (verse thirty-one).

A small number of soldiers (probably a squad which was on duty as the “execution squad”) led Jesus from the praetorium courtyard.  Pilate would have written down the indictment; and it would somehow have been hung around Jesus’ neck.  And you remember there was some dispute between the Jews and Pilate about what that indictment said.  The Jews wanted it to read, “he said he was king of the Jews”.  But Pilate wrote “King of the Jews”.  That indictment would later be posted on the cross.

Now, since the cohort was garrisoned close by, we can presume that there was a place near the barracks where they kept such things as wooden stakes… used over and over again for executions.  Two more crucifixions were to follow, so there were probably several there from which to choose.  There are several variations of opinions about what these “stakes” looked like, and I’ll try to give you some ideas about it in a few minutes.

But having chosen one, the soldiers loaded it onto Jesus’ shoulder (or back) for Him to carry.  No self-respecting Roman soldier would lower himself to carry the stake for a condemned Jew!  And it certainly didn’t matter to them what condition the man was in!  And I’ll let your knowledge of all that Jesus had suffered to this point be your guide as you imagine what that condition was.

Now.  Looking at verse thirty-three for a moment (we’ll be back shortly to thirty-two), you see that they were going to a place called Golgotha (or Skull’s Place).  That means that somewhere close by, there was a hill that looked like the top of a man’s head.  Don’t get the idea (from artists’ renditions) that there was something out there resembling death – with the eye sockets and teeth, and so forth.

Not the case!  From a little distance away this “rise” in the earth looked like a cranium, or top of a head.  And somebody had named it so.  And it was right up close to a major highway leading to and from the city (which was perfect for the Romans because they liked to use the public crucifixions to keep the people in fear).

Now, nobody knows at this time, where that hill is.  There could be a mall on it.  Or a bank.  Or an old, run-down neighborhood.  People have built sepulchers and churches where they thought it might be; but nobody knows.

We can assume, with some certainty, that the Romans would have selected the best location for its executions based on at least two things:  One, to make the best impression on those coming in and out of the city; and, two, a spot closest to the nearest gate.

Now, the Roman governor made his judgments at the praetorium (when he was in town); and the soldiers’ barracks were someplace close by, as I said – perhaps even in the praetorium complex.  So when the execution squad left the praetorium, it would have made its way to the closest gate out of the city… and winding down the side of the mountain.

Now, a lot has been made, through the years, of the route that would have been taken through the city.  Every year on “good Friday” there’s a big procession of bishops and priests and men carrying “crosses” and pilgrims… and people who just want to experience “walking the way that Jesus walked”.  It’s called the “via dolorosa” – the “way of the cross”.

I haven’t been there, of course, but that seems to me to be “stretching it a bit”.  You know already how I feel about the bishops and priests and the “crosses”, and the pomp and regalia of the Roman Church; so I won’t say anything more about that.  But in order to “walk the walk that Jesus walked”, you wouldn’t be setting a course all through the streets of the city; you’d be starting at the Praetorium and going to the nearest gate.

And, in order to do that, in 1996, you would have to dig down forty to eighty feet to get to the street!  Remember, the city was burned and leveled nineteen hundred and thirty-six years ago; and it’s been destroyed several times since then.  The old city of Jerusalem doesn’t exist!  And what ever is still there lies under layers and layers of civilizations – cities built and destroyed, and rebuilt and destroyed again!

Archaeologists have spent years and years excavating, way down under the existing city, just in order to find portions of the old foundations.  The “old city” (that is, the “newest” old city) up on the dome looks old; but it was built by a conglomerate of peoples – Turks and Arabs and Spaniards and others – representing the cultures of many nations that have conquered and taken the mountain.

So the city of Jerusalem bears no resemblance at all to the city in Jesus’ time.  And the culture of the city is completely different (there’s a mosque now on the temple mount – which is way higher than the temple mount used to be).  Jerusalem is spread out all over the mountain, and the valleys, and up the surrounding hills.  And it looks, from pictures and maps, that highways and super-highways run to and fro all over the place, with airports and hotels and all the other things you would expect to find in a “modern day” mid-eastern city.

So, with all of that in mind, it seems a bit of a “sham” to have a “good Friday” procession through the streets of Jerusalem in order to experience the walk that Jesus walked on the way to His crucifixion.

And all of that was just to get to that point, I guess.

I want to get to the real history.  I think we desperately need the real history.  This was an actual historical event… recorded by the Word of God.  It is objective Truth.  And we don’t need to “mysticize” the place – as if it’s something holy… as if it still holds some special place in the heart of God.  And we don’t need to “pretend” that we’re doing something in the same way that Jesus did it.  And we certainly don’t need to lift a “pope” or a bishop up on a high chair (with a cross in his lap) and walk him through the city singing “hallelujah”!  We already have the real history!

I’d love to go there.  And if I ever do, I’m sure that I’ll have to “restrain” my emotions and thoughts.  The temptation would be very strong to “feel closer to God” up on the dome of Mt. Zion, or on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee, or in the “commercialized” and “gaudy” suburb of Jerusalem called “Bethlehem” (which also bears no resemblance to the place where Jesus was born!).

But, you see, the “special place” in the heart of God is the congregation of the saints (called the Church) in public worship!  Where we are right now, and what we’re doing right now, is the reason why Jesus went through all of this agony!  The streets where He walked (which no longer exist) and the wooden stake on which He was crucified (which no long exists) have no power at all.  They’re man-made, hand-made idols in the minds and hands of men!

The dome of the rock and the temple, which once represented the firmament and the judgment seat of God, no longer exist.  Even if you someday find yourself up at the top of Mt. Zion, you would have to mortify any idolatrous “feelings” of special closeness to God due to being at the “place”, because those things are no longer there!  Jesus Christ was crucified and was resurrected; and He is the Rock upon which His Church is built.  And He is the new Temple in which His Spirit dwells.  And the congregation of the saints in worship are the very ones for whom His blood was spilled!

And since we all still retain in our flesh the vestiges of sin and the curse, and since we receive in our bodies the blame and the humiliation and persecution of the ungodly, we are continually “taking up our crosses to follow Christ”; and therefore we don’t even need the hand-made “representations” of the stake upon which He was crucified!

Oh, God, that we might come to see the Truth here of the historic crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ!  All the dark sayings, and signs, and symbols, and representations are gone!  The temple is gone; the streets are gone; the city is gone!  All the idols and hand-made places-and-things are defeated, and death has been swallowed up in victory!  The “mystery” is over.  Nothing is shrouded or concealed or hidden or mysterious… even the spirit-world (the angels of God) have been subjected to Him!

The “Light of the word is Jesus.”  By His crucifixion and death, and by His coming up out of there (defeating its hold on us), all things are made manifest to us; everything is now out in the Light.  And, therefore, we need no places and things and symbols and representations and mystical encounters.  Paul said, “I only preach Christ and Him crucified”.  There is no other Gospel by which man must be saved.

Now.  Verse thirty-two.


“And coming out they found a Cyrenian man by name of Simon.  This one they compelled to bear His stake.”


Jesus was in great pain and exhausted; and He could go no further with the load.  But there was a Jew named Simon coming toward the gate.  He was originally from Cyrene, which was in northern Africa (near Libya).  This was not a black man as some have surmised, but a Jew.  Many Jews had been dispersed all over the world, as we’ve heard previously, and many had come to Jerusalem for Passover.  This man now lived in Jerusalem.  Nothing is said about a wife, but he had two sons, Alexander and Rufus, who appear again in the narrative of the Acts of the Apostles.  As a matter of fact they were said to be prominent in the Church in Jerusalem.

Like most people who show up at critical events in the Gospel text, Simon has been elevated (by portions of the Church) to greater status than others… canonized, if you will.  And only because he was forced to carry Jesus’ stake.  As a Jew he would never have touched the accursed thing otherwise; but he was (shall we say) “pressed into service” (a good euphemistic way of putting it).  And Luke says he walked behind Jesus carrying it for Him.

I’ll say something about the “stake”, or the cross, and the fact that it was “accursed” in a minute; but, first, there’s a very important issue that we must cover before we do that.

The first word in verse thirty-two is a present participle which is translated “upon coming out”, or “as they were coming out”.  The reference here is to the gate in the wall.  As I’ve mentioned before, Jesus is submitting to the eternal Justice of God the Father.  Although there is nothing from men but injustice, the Justice of God is Perfect; and it must be satisfied!

First, Christ is condemned (although He is condemned completely outside the pale of legality); and now Christ is accursed… which means that He is now transferred to the Lord to be dealt with in hell.  “Accursed is one who hangs on a tree.”  Let the birds of prey and the wild animals feed on His corpse, for we are through with Him; and the perfect Justice of the Lord will deal with Him.

Outside the camp with Him!  Outside the gate!  Let Him be accursed from the city; let Him be accursed from the temple… from the priesthood… from the Law; let Him be accursed from all the people of God and cast outside to hang on a tree!

There is a “stench” to the “way of the cross”… to the road leading to the gate!  It is the “stench” of the accursed.  Everything in the city that was accursed was taken outside the gate.  All things accursed were taken “outside the camp” in order to rid the people of that accursed thing.  The entrails and the hides of the sacrifices were taken outside the gates to be burned; the sins of the people were laid on the goat; and it was turned loose outside the camp to rid the people of the curse of sin; the excrement from inside the city was taken outside the gate to be disposed of in the valley of Hinnon (Gehenna) where there was the perpetual fire of destruction.  There was this “stench”, you see, to the way of the cross.  All things accursed were taken outside the gate.

And the Lord Jesus Christ was taken outside the gate; and He was hung on a tree… exlex.  Outside the Law.  Outside the camp; outside the city; turned over to God for His wrath and fury and destruction.  He was the accursed thing.

And since the “accursed” was condemned to die, it was fitting that God’s Holy Law-word be fulfilled in full.  It said that “accursed is he who hangs on a tree”.

Condemned to die in the city of God, Jesus was taken outside to hang on a tree… to be left there in the hand of God, to be dealt with outside the realm of grace; to be forfeited; to be remanded to hell.

The stake was a “tree”.  Cut, and pointed at one end (in order to fit down into a hole in the ground).  And there was also a beam (also called a stake) about the same size to go across the top or intersecting somewhere down from the top.  Possibly originating with the Persians, the Romans took it up; and they were the first to call it the “crux” (a stake in the ground and a stake as a crossbeam).  Therefore the Greek word “stauros” (or stake) is usually translated “cross”.

The Romans called it “the supreme capital punishment”; and they used it extensively to control the populations that they had conquered.  There is one account of eight hundred being crucified at the same time.

In Israel a condemned man would carry the crossbeam (the patibulum) to the place of execution.  As I said, it was about the same size as the upright stake, which was already in the ground at the site of crucifixion.

As Jesus is led outside the gate, and as Simon the Cyrenian man was coming toward the gate, the Roman soldiers seize him and force him to carry the stake for Jesus.  And as I said there is no compassion shown for Jesus here… it’s just that the Roman soldiers would not carry it for a Jew – much less for a condemned Jew!  And they wouldn’t have gotten to Golgotha without somebody carrying it!

Then they continued down the side of the mountain.  And not far away, after the highway leveled off, was Golgotha.  It was about this time, according to Luke, that a crowd began gathering and following them… many of whom were those who had followed Jesus to Jerusalem.  The word had gotten to some, even though it was still early to mid-morning on Friday, that Jesus was about to be crucified.  And there were others traveling on the highways around Jerusalem during the festival as well.

Next Lord’s Day I’ll mention this crowd again – especially the women and Jesus’ prophetic utterance to them, which is almost always interpreted falsely.  And then we’ll proceed to the crucifixion itself… what we know about it.

Let’s pray together now.