Matthew 27:45-66 Part 3


I still don’t feel like we’ve done nearly enough with the “forsaking” of the Christ during this three hours of “darkness” on the cross.  And His great cry to God at the end of that darkness is sufficient to frighten the greatest of Theologians.

We aren’t privileged to pass over difficult, or incomprehensible, words or events in Scripture because they’re too hard; we can’t remain “speechless”.  Nonetheless, I think we’ve done all we can do.  And having said all we can, we have to admit inadequacies; pray for wisdom and light; and repent and come under the authority of the One Who has “created” the great salvation to which we’ve been made witnesses!

And one word of warning to any who might have heard it all and remain cold and unmoved… there were some standing there that day who saw the phenomena accompanying the suffering and death of Messiah.  They hardened their hearts in unbelief; they continued in unbelief!

And, as the apostle Peter later said, the Word of God is “more sure” than sight and experience.  The inspired Word has been read and preached; and it is “better” than having been there.  That being the case, if all of this is still falling on a “stony place” (i.e. the unmoved, unchanged human heart) then that is a very “fearsome” state to be in!  In other words, having heard the suffering and abandonment of Jesus Christ (for the sin of the world) preached (even with all the inadequacy), a “wanting” of sufficient response leaves one in a “worse” condition than that of those who were “mocking” our Lord at the foot of His cross!

That being said, we continue now with God’s redemption of the world in the sacrifice of our Lord (verse forty-seven).


“When they had heard, some of those who had been standing there said, ‘This fellow is calling Elias!’  And immediately one of them, having run and gotten a sponge and filled it with vinegar and affixed it around a reed, was giving Him to drink.  But the rest said, ‘Let Him alone.  We will see if Elias comes – saving him.’”


So, “some” of those who were there (and who heard Jesus’ great cry to God) answered Him.  And their response is bald mockery!  The Roman soldiers who were there wouldn’t be answering this way (with reference to Elijah… they didn’t know anything about Elijah and the Jew’s expectations about him).  So Matthew’s reference is to the Jews (some of them) – the priests, pharisees and elders who were there.  They’re the ones who knew about Elijah.  They’re the ones who had this “developed” expectation of the appearance of Elijah.  They’re the ones who responded to Him!

But I suspect that these learned Jews knew exactly what Jesus said… it was a GREAT cry – and very audible to all.  And He said “ELI….”  If Jesus had called for Elijah, it would have been “Elijahu”, or “Elias”.  So they heard… and they knew.

They say “this fellow”….  That’s a term of contempt.  “This fellow is calling for Elias!”  And it looks as if they were making a big joke here about Jesus’ crying out to “Eli”!  It was at the end of three hours of pitch darkness during which our Lord was “forsaken” by God.  And having experienced the “hell” of abandonment for the sin of the world, Jesus cries out in anguish.

The Jewish leadership must have been frightened to the tips of their toes; and they must have made the “darkness” connection to those portions of the prophetic Scriptures to which we’ve already made reference.  (That’s a good and necessary deduction here.)

And yet they continue in their blindness and hardness of heart by “shoring up” their courage.  There’s a “group” of them here; and they could “look/feel courageous” together.  And in the midst of fear they “save face” by continuing to mock Him and shame Him – twisting His words (which were QUOTED from Psalm twenty-two… just as they had twisted them before for three years!

Their eschatology included this “resurrection of Elijah” as a precursor of Messiah.  And in that system of belief, Elijah would come and live alongside Messiah and introduce Him to Israel; and the Sanhedrin would “judge” as to His authenticity!

So they look upon this poor creature nailed to the stake by Roman soldiers… in a pitiable condition – ready to die; and, with the “fear” of the darkness phenomena just passed, they mockingly bring up the “Elijah” connection!  They use the “sound” of the ELI cry of Jesus (verse twenty-two) and pervert it to be “Elijah” to come (at the last minute) to “save” Him and introduce Him to Israel!

This has been a practice of self-deluded pharisaism, hasn’t it… to pervert the Scriptures and then use the perversion as a “spring-board” to scurrilous ridicule of Jesus.  And even in this situation where there is “experienced phenomena” – in which the pharisees saw and felt what was happening all around them – the ridicule continued.

And I’m constrained to make the comparison to what’s going on all around us now.  There are “evidences” everywhere as to “spiritual decline” in our time – just as have happened numerous times in the two thousand year history since the crucifixion.

The nation seems to be “shocked” at the savagery of boys aged six and eight in the beating of a four-week old baby.  There have been thousands of other instances of felonies and savagery as well.  And people everywhere are asking questions as to the reasons why this would happen.  They’re probing into families to find instances of abuse; they’re looking at poverty; they’re wondering about psychological problems and discrimination and disadvantages….

And the “evidences” are all around them!  The “phenomena” of “unleashed depravity” are right before them in living color!  They tremble at the sights and sounds of it all as they “see” and “feel” and “experience” the tragedies of “unconstrained” sin!  The “dark clouds” of the curse upon man-at-enmity-with-God are settling in upon us, and there is fear and dismay and wonder.

But, you see, the “perversions” of reality (just like the pharisees at Golgotha) cause them to mock and ridicule the Truth!  From top to bottom the national “psyche” will scoff at any suggestion as to what the real problem is; and the mockery of the Christ of God continues.

The “darkness” is there; the phenomena are there; the evidences and experiences are there, the shock and fear and dismay is there… but where is the repentance and faith in God’s Messiah?  Uh Uh… Only ridicule!

You see, evidences and experience and phenomena are not grounds for belief!  If the increasing darkness and “savagery” in our streets and cities and towns hasn’t already driven the nation to its knees before God, why should the beating of a three, or four-week old baby?  All that does is bring more shock and fear and recognition of the darkness!!  Along with the fear comes more repudiation of the Truth and more mockery!  Every instance of depraved savagery brings more mockery!

And that’s exactly what’s going on here in the text – as all the prophecies of the Older Scriptures are being fulfilled; as the Christ of God is crucified; as the signs and figures of impending judgment are all around them… fear and ridicule.

Now.  Some would have the tendency (from reading verse forty-eight) that there is an act of “kindness’ being accomplished here for Jesus.  As the darkness disappears, and while the Jews are mocking Jesus in connection with Elijah, Matthew says “one of them” (i.e. one of these Jews) “immediately, having run and gotten a sponge and filled it with vinegar and affixed it around a reed, was giving Him to drink.”

As we’ve seen so many times, Matthew has his own, special way of doing things.  The occurrences that have particular significance to him are those that are specifically connected to prophetic utterances.  And when things happen, or (as noted on many occasions) when Jesus speaks, and there is a clear relationship to Old Testament prophecy, Matthew will take note of it with either the word “lo”, or (as it is here in verse forty-eight) the word “immediately”.  (And sometimes he will even insert these events into the text although they may be out of historical sequence.  That happens again in verse fifty-three… which we’ll get to shortly – maybe.  But historical sequence isn’t always “vital” to him.)

But as you can see from verses forty-seven, forty-eight, and forty-nine, in the middle of two verses in which the pharisees are mocking Jesus’ cry to Eli, Matthew inserts an “immediate” procuring of a “drink” for Jesus.  And since it IS in the middle of those two verses of the mockery, then it is obvious that it is connected.  The context is one of mocking and ridicule; and one of them (i.e. one of the Jews), while the mocking is going on, runs to get the drink!  So what’s going on here?  What has happened to generate that act?  Is this an act of sympathy and kindness on the part of one of these men?  Rather than concluding that it is an act of kindness (because it looks like kindness) we have to go to two places in Scripture to get our answers.  And the first one is to John’s Gospel, chapter nineteen, and verses twenty-eight and twenty-nine:


“And after this, Jesus knowing that all things were accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled said, ‘I thirst.’”


So we gather that, after the tree hours of darkness was over, and Jesus having cried out in anguish to Eli, and during the mockery of the Jews… Jesus, exhausted and near death, cried out in need of a drink.  (We’ll try to say as much as we can about that in a minute.)  But His request for the drink came in the midst of the mockery; and Matthew inserts his word “immediately” in between the two verses about the mockery.

Now, in order for us to get the full significance of this whole scene here, we have to go back to Psalm sixty-nine, where we find the prophetic utterance to which Matthew is referring.  So let’s listen to that now.  The Psalm is entitled “Prayer out of the depth of affliction borne for the sake of the Truth”.  I won’t read it all… but just certain sections:


“Save Me, Elohim, for the waters press upon My life.  I have sunk in the mud of the abyss, and there is no standing.  I am fallen into the depths of the waters and a flood overfloweth Me.  I am wearied by My calling, My throat is parched, Mine eyes have failed, I who wait for My God….  Rescue Me out of the mud, that I sink not; let Me be rescued from My haters and out of the depths of the waters.  Let not the flood of waters overflow Me, and let not the abyss swallow Me up, and let not the well close its mouth upon Me….  Thou knowest My reproach, and My shame, and My dishonor; Present to Thee are all mine adversaries.  Reproach hath broken My heart, and I became sick unto death….  I hoped for pity, but in vain; and for comforters – finding none.

They gave Me gall for My meat; and for My thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.  Let their table before them become a snare, and to the unconcerned a trap.  Let their eyes be darkened that they see not, and make the loins continually to shake.  Pour out upon them Thine indignation, and let the burning of Thine anger seize them….”


Now, as you can see, in Psalm sixty-nine the presentation of vinegar to assuage the raging thirst of God’s Messiah is a prophesied act of enmity – with the evil intent!  And we must carry that forward to the text!  Verse forty-eight has to be considered a part of the context of the two verses surrounding it, as well as verse forty-nine.  This was the mockery men made of the Savior in that terrible hour when He was drinking the bitter cup of anguish for the sin and guilt of the world.

He was forsaken by God, and He went “under” the flood of the curse; and there was no one to comfort Him.  And in the midst of shame and derision and ridicule, one of the Jews, upon hearing Him cry out for a drink, ran and got Him vinegar!  And even though the rest of the Jews (as verse forty-nine says) urged him to “let Him alone”, the text says “he was giving Him to drink”.

Matthew says he immediately ran and did that….  It was a “scurrilous” act; an act of enmity – in order to fulfill the Scriptures.  Matthew places it here because of Psalm sixty-nine; and he places it between the two other verses concerning the mockery – just for the purpose that is now so evident.  And he introduces it with “immediately” so all will know that it is an important event in the completion of all prophetic Scripture!!

As I mentioned, the text says “he was giving Him to drink”.  The verb there is a tense which indicates “continuation”.  So from that we understand that Jesus was drinking.

To a reed (about eighteen inches long) he had affixed a sponge.  And having saturated the sponge with the sour and bitter vinegar, he put it up to the parched mouth; and Jesus sucked the vinegar out of that sponge.

Now, it comes up here as to why our Lord Jesus, knowing He was about to expire, cried out for a drink.  And why, knowing that it was mockery and blasphemous enmity on the part of the Jew who have it to Him, why He gladly received it and drank it?

As far as “fulfilling the prophetic Scriptures” is concerned (certainly true), as we learned last Lord’s Day this isn’t a “mechanical” fulfillment of the prophecy in Psalm sixty-nine… but our Lord is suffering His Own Words; he is fulfilling His Own testimony; the Author if Psalm sixty-nine is now receiving His Own prophecy!

The Son of David is David’s Lord!  He is the Word of God made flesh; and in the flesh He receives the anguish which He, Himself, inspired through His Father David.

And the darkness had sent Him into the worst of the devastation.  And upon its receding there was that testimony that all had been satisfactorily completed:  “It is finished.”  Justice had been accomplished.  The wrath of Almighty God had been poured out upon the Substitute!  And the “light” returned…. The dark was decreated.

The Light was an advent from the “hell” of forsakenness.  He had been “loosed” from hell; the second death had been suffered by the Son of God!... and now there was but one thing to do.  Prepare to suffer the first death… prepare to die.

Jesus Christ is using the prophetic Scriptures and the evil intent of the blasphemous Jews to “orient” Himself and prepare Himself for the death of the Sacrifice!  He is, you see, the One Who offers the Sacrifice; He is, Himself, the Sacrifice; He is, Himself the High Priest Who makes the Sacrifice!  He is the One Who presents the Gift… and slaughters the Gift!  He is the One Who makes the cut and sheds the blood!  There is no perfect gift unless He makes the Gift!

He now must perform His Own death as a deed!  It must not be “fate”; it must not be a “natural” event; it must not be that He dies of exhaustion and dehydration.  Nothing must take His life!  He must give it!  The High Priest must make the Gift!

The “Light” has not returned here for “no reason”.  He has emerged from hell.  He has “come up from the flood.”  He has suffered repudiation and wrath and justice for the sin of the world!

And now it’s time for the High Priest to make the “priestly donation”.  “I thirst.”  And He receives, gladly, a drink in order to “shore up” His life… for the – GIFT!  He prepares His life – to give His life.  He prepares His life – for death.  He adapts His life – for the purpose of dying.  He exerts Himself; He initiates His Own preparation, and He initiates His Own death.  Nothing takes His life from Him.  He gives it of His Own accord.

“It is finished.”  The suffering of the penalty for the sin of the world is finished.  The shame and humiliation is finished.  The mockery is finished.  The wrath and judgment and pain is finished.  The forsakenness is finished.


“And Jesus having cried again in a loud voice yielded the spirit.”


He yielded His spirit.  His life was not taken from Him; His spirit was not separated from His body; His death was not an imposition.  There was no victory here for death; nor was there victory for Satan….  He, Jesus Christ, yielded His spirit.

Luke uses words and tenses which let us know that Jesus committed His Own spirit into the hands of the Father.  And He expired.

There is so much more to say about this… and so little time.  We’ll come back, right here, next Lord’s Day.  And we’ll see also the numerous “phenomena” that occurred at His death and at His resurrection.  And I say phenomena because that’s descriptive from our viewpoint.

But shortly we’ll engage in the covenantal sign and seal that signifies all these things and reminds us of them.  And in doing so let me urge you once again, as I always do, that unbelief and hardness of heart is an insufferable and fearsome state!

It’s not necessary for you to have been there offering Him vinegar to engage in mockery!  It isn’t necessary for you to look to psychological and environmental solutions to the depravity of man to engage in mockery.  For apathy is also mockery!

Our Lord was cut off – and abandoned – that you might have life, and that abundantly.  Receive it now with joy and thanksgiving.