Matthew 27:27-44 Part 5


We had finished commenting on the “lot” in verse thirty-five; so now, this morning, we move on to verse thirty-six and beyond.


“And being seated, they were guarding Him there.”


All that remained now for the Roman soldiers was to guard Jesus from those who might interfere in His execution.  This was thought to be a rather “volatile” situation because His followers were many; and they had been suspected of being ready to overthrow the government and make Jesus King of Israel.

So here (at about nine o’clock in the morning on Friday), with (more than likely) a detachment of troops at the “ready”, the crucifixion/execution of Jesus Christ was carried out… the execution squad had finished and sat down.  And they were “guarding Him there”.


“And over His head they put His indictment, which having been written:  ‘This is Jesus the King of the Jews’”. (verse thirty-seven)


The “charge”, or the “accusation”, or the “indictment”, having already been written and placed around His neck, the soldiers, having crucified Him, placed that written placard at the top of the cross over His head.

Now, regarding the “shape” of the cross (let me spend a couple of minutes with you on this), if the “beam”, or “stake” to which Jesus’ hands were nailed had been set on the top of the one which was set in the ground (which is, more than likely, the way it was done), it would have looked like the letter “T”.  But once the “placard” upon which was written His indictment was placed over His head, the shape of the cross would possibly have resembled what we normally think of when we think of a “cross” (that would be especially so from a distance).

But let me, once again, dispel any ideas that there might be some sacred “symbology” inherent in the shape of a “cross”.  Or that there might be some “power” inherent in that shape.  Or that the wood itself carried with it some “vestiges” of His power.  (And, just as a mundane, historical note, the soldiers, after Jesus was removed, dead, from the cross, probably took the horizontal stake down and put it back in stock for the next crucifixion.  So, later on, there wouldn’t have been any “pieces” of the cross available for the sale of indulgences.)

The shape of a “cross” has no power in it!  The shape, as an object of reverence, around which has been built centuries of awe and fear and mysticism, is a man-made conception; and it’s an idol!  If there were a “shape” of such consequential importance to Christianity, then, historically maybe it ought to be the shape of a “T”!

We’re all familiar with the many ways that the “cross” has been used and feared and revered in history.  It has been bowed-down to, and worshipped, and kissed; it has led “holy” armies; it is a man-made object which has received prayer; it’s used to drive away evil (such as in vampire movies); it has been an object in cultic rituals; it is carried around by popes and bishops and priests as a symbol of their power; it adorns the tops of countless Churches, and on pulpits and stained-glass windows….

And so much more.  But, really, the “shape” (and I’m not attempting to denigrate how Jesus was executed here) the shape ought to be viewed as an “incidental” of history!  And I know, and you know, that nothing is incidental in God’s creation; but in order for the Romans to carry out their own “mode” of execution, and in order to fulfill God’s prophetic Word – that “cursed is one who hangs on a tree” – a horizontal stake set on a vertical stake is about as “practical” a way to do it as one can think of!

I’m not trying to agitate here, or split hairs, or to hurt anyone’s “feelings”; but I’m trying to expose idolatry!  Every thought must be brought captive to Christ.  We need nothing to “help” us worship the Christ!  We need nothing to remind us of Him and what He did… other than the Lord’s Table:  “Do this in remembrance of Me”.  We need nothing else but the Word to stir us to holy thought and deed!

The man-made cross, or the man-conceived “shape” of a cross, has no power.  And it has no power because God did not invest it with power!  And, in His Commandment, He told us not to make anything “by which” or “through which” we might worship Him….  He said, “You saw nothing on the mountain… you heard My Words!”

The pieces of wood that have been sold down through the history as having come from Jesus’ cross… if they were assembled in one place they would probably be sufficient to build many Churches!  But the wood upon which Jesus was crucified was a created thing – not the Creator!  And in our deep depravity man wishes to hold the creation in reverence – rather than the Creator! (Romans one)

The wood has no power.  The shape has no power.  It’s created by God and “incidental” to Jesus’ crucifixion!  And if “adornment” is the goal of wearing the shape of a “cross”, then why not a “T”?  The Word of God commands Christ’s people to adorn themselves with good works and speech laced with grace!  So, since that’s the case, why adorn yourself with a symbol of idolatry?  If we’re “free” unto liberty under Christ, then we’re free to adorn ourselves in the way Scripture commands us!!!

If we’re free in Christ (having been freed from the condemnation and power of sin and the curse)… if we’ve been freed by rebirth into Him, why would we want to, or be drawn, to wearing a symbol of idolatry?  Formerly, in our sin, we were not free to adorn ourselves with the character of Christ.  But now we are!

The shape of a cross, or the actual wood from a cross, has no power whatever.  It can’t see.  It can’t speak.  It has no thought process.  It can’t protect anyone – it doesn’t “radiate” anything.  Evil doesn’t “cringe in fear” from any man-made object.

When God said “cursed is he who hangs on a tree”, He wasn’t speaking about the “shape” of the wood!  It was a foreshadowing of the One man Who would receive the “Curse of God” as a substitute for His people!  It was a prophecy of the Christ, Who would be nailed to a stake, outside the camp, and left there – abandoned and accursed of God!

So, when we consider the crucifixion, let’s be reminded of the curse of God upon sin… and that Jesus Christ became the accursed One – in our place.  And when we remember all that He suffered for us, let’s do so by means of the Lord’s Table – which was specifically given to us “in remembrance of Him”!  That’s so much better as a reminder than is the “shape” of a cross… because God the Son said it.

Now.  As to the “superscription” – or the placard that was put over Jesus’ head – the apostle John tells the full story of it.  Pilate wrote, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews”.  He had picked that out as being central to the trial, hadn’t he?  The Jews, all through the trial, had violently reacted to the claim that Jesus was their king!! And they finally stated, vehemently and openly, that they had no king but Caesar!

Remember that, in Israel’s beginnings in Canaan, they had cried out for a king… one like all the surrounding nations had.  And all the kings of Israel, down through the centuries, in some way prefigured the coming of God’s King – Jesus Christ.

But in the end God gave them a king just like those of the nations….  In fact, it was the same king.  It was Caesar!  They had demanded a king, and God gave them Caesar; and they had rejected the One Who had been prefigured and foreshadowed by their own entire history.

The leadership of Israel forced Pilate to condemn this man Jesus.  It was Jesus Christ King of the Jews that he was forced to condemn.  So in the end Pilate had his little ironic revenge.  And that’s what he wrote on the placard:  “This is Jesus Christ the King of the Jews”.  Their king would be crucified just as they required.

John says that the Jews objected strenuously; but Pilate wouldn’t change it.  That’s the way it stood.  The King of the Jews was to be executed by Pilate – in the name of Caesar.  And the Jews swore allegiance to Caesar – in place of Jesus.  So in the end the Jews got what they cried out for.  They desperately needed the real King Who had been prophesied.  And they killed Him….  But what they got was a king just like all the other nations.

Now.  Here’s the point I want to make with all of this… and I want to spend a little time on it with you….  It’s important.  It’s important for our Theology; it’s important to the way we think; it’s important to the way we live….

Remember that when King David was anointed and installed as Israel’s king, all of those who rebelled against God’s chosen king were killed.  David killed many of them himself.  As sinful as David was (on occasion), he was God’s chosen and anointed king.  And any who rejected him, or murmured against him, or rebelled against him, or conspired against him were eliminated!  They were cut off!  Israel – the whole of the nation – was to honor God’s king!

When Jesus Christ (the One Who was foreshadowed in David’s kingship) was manifested to Israel by the Father, the entire nation was cut off.  The anointed King of Israel was presented to Israel by God; and they rejected Him, conspired against Him, rebelled against Him, bore false witness against Him in an international court of law; and they had Him cast outside the city and hung on a tree to be accursed of God.  (And Pilate wrote the Truth on His indictment.)  Jesus was indicted and executed for being Israel’s true King!  Israel rejected, rebelled against, God’s King!

And, as was promised by God and prophesied by His prophets, all according to God’s holy Law, Israel was cut off and eliminated.  God’s covenant promises included sanctions for disobedience.  And just as David eliminated those who rebelled against his kingship, so all Israel was to be eliminated for rebelling against Jesus’ Kingship!

So the Covenant nation was terminated!

But God had promised His Covenant to the thousandth generation, hadn’t He?  “…to the thousandth generation of those loving Me and keeping My Commandments”!

If Israel was cut off and terminated for rebelling against God’s King (Jesus Christ), how then is the Covenant of God continued?  How are the promises fulfilled “to the thousandth generation”?

Jesus said that God could raise up some of Abraham from “stones”!  The covenant was made with Abraham, and sons of Abraham are sons of the Covenant.  So who are the “stones” that will be made sons of the Covenant?  “The people who are no people will be made sons of the Living God”!  Gentiles!  Pagan “stones” will be raised up as sons of Abraham – sons of God.  According to Jeremiah God would put His Law into their hearts (where there was only stone), and they would be His people, and He would be their God.  And they would honor His King – Jesus Christ!

And the generations would continue….  The promises of God would continue through the generations of the true sons of Abraham – passed on from family to family in all the Gentile nations.  Fathers would teach their sons; and their sons would teach their sons; and the grandsons would teach their sons – and the blessings of the Covenant would flow to thousands of generations.

Godly marriages (a part of the covenant) would bring forth faithful children (according to the election of God) – through godly, faithful, effective parental works.  Parents who honor the King believe the promises and keep the covenant.


“Therefore know that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God Who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His Commandments.” (Deuteronomy seven, verse nine)

To Abraham, He says, “And I will establish My Covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting Covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you.”  (Genesis seventeen, verse seventeen)


And now, since Israel rejected its King, the Christian age has received those same promises as sons of the Covenant.  Listen to Ezekiel prophesy that Christian era – with Christ as its “Prince” or King:


“David My servant shall be king over them, and they shall all have one shepherd; they shall also walk in My judgments and observe My statutes, and do them… and they shall dwell there… they, their children, and their children’s children, forever; and My Servant David shall be their Prince forever.  Moreover I will make a Covenant of peace with them, and it shall be an everlasting Covenant with them; I will establish them and multiply them, and I will set My sanctuary in their midst forever more.”  (Ezekiel thirty-seven, verses twenty-four through twenty-six)


That’s a prophecy of a great expansion of Covenantal blessings through generations!  When Christ the Prince rules, who shall He rule?  Us, and our children, and our children’s children.  And it’s not something that might or might not happen.  We aren’t talking about God’s “abilities” to do something… this has to do with God’s promise to do something.  He is faithful, and He delights to keep Covenant with families through generations of generations.

Now, as if the Older Testament promises weren’t enough, where does it say these things in the New Testament?  The Church today thinks and acts as if salvation (since Christ) is completely individualized, and it’s “every man for himself”!

But that’s just not the case.  God is the same – yesterday, today and forever.  And His Covenant is the same.  And the arrival of Messiah is not the point at which He abandons families and generations of families in His holy Covenant!  The coming of the King is that point at which God demonstrates His faithfulness to His Covenant promises.  It’s not a new approach, it’s the fullness of the One approach to the generations of God’s people.

Paul says in Ephesians chapter five, at verse thirty-one:


“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.  Honor your father and mother, which is the first Commandment with promise; that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.”


See, Paul is writing to the Church, which has Gentiles in it.  He’s writing to Gentile parents and Gentile children; and he’s referring them to the promise made by God to the Jews at Mt. Sinai.  The promise of God now includes the Gentiles, and it encompasses the whole earth!

At Pentecost, at the beginning of the Acts, we find the first apostolic sermon concerning the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  And in that sermon, not only does Peter not abandon the generational, Covenantal promises of God, but he emphasizes them as now coming into their fullness!  “…for the promises are for you and for your children,” he says… emphasizing the whole of Older Testament prophecy!


“This is Jesus Christ, the King of the Jews”, Pilate wrote.  And the Jews dishonored Him, and rebelled against Him, and killed Him.  And they were cut off of God’s Covenant – and their generations.  A few, the remnant, were kept.

Isaiah, in chapter sixty-five (in the middle of his great millennial prophecy), writes what will happen then with the nations of the earth:


“…they shall not labor in vain, nor bring forth children for trouble; for they shall be the descendants of the blessed of the Lord, and their offspring with them.”


This isn’t later in heaven… for there are no offspring in heaven.  This is for now, and the great generational expansion of the Gospel into every nation of the earth.  It is accomplished by the preaching of the Gospel, and by Covenant families rearing Covenant families – to the thousandth generation!  It is accomplished by families honoring and obeying the King.

But the Church today is geared up for ministering to individuals.  Children are separated out from their parents; wives are separated from their husbands and their children; kids are put in “peer groups” so they can all descend to the lowest common denominator (and share dishonoring complaints about their parents); women are chosen to teach children who are broken up into age groups.  Men are put over to the side where they can talk about “men stuff”.  And Christian counselors are in a room – one on one with an individual with “spiritual problems”.

And the family has been “atomized”.  It is no longer a covenantal unit under Christ the King.  It has been separated out and split apart and decentralized into individual religious parts.  It’s the Church that’s done that!  And it’s because there’s no concept of God’s promises to generations of Covenant families!

And many are searching out those Churches with the most wide-ranging programs for their children!

But now the best men (the ones who have seen the problem) are leaving the institutionalized Church and worshipping in house Churches!  This is happening more and more.  They want to worship as families; they want to be taught as families; they want to take dominion as families – and they want to receive all the blessings of God to their children and their children’s children – to the thousandth generation.  And the institutionalized Church is missing it and going in a different direction – and all the best men honoring the King by remembering the Father’s promises to their children.  And when the best men leave, the Church becomes feminized – or at best “neutered” and impotent.

I thank God this morning for His grace, in that He has raised up sons of Abraham out of the nations.  By the power of the resurrected Christ He has made “sons” from “stones”.  And I certainly don’t think it inappropriate that they are establishing house Churches.

“This is Jesus Christ, the King of the Jews”.  What irony in the writing of Pilate.

Next Lord’s Day the crucifixion of two robbers, the blaspheming of passersby, and the mocking of the priests and elders of the people.