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Christogenea on Talkshoe – September 9th, 2011 – Matthew Chapter 27
Last week, among many other things that were evidenced while discussing Matthew chapter 26, we saw from the prophecy in Zechariah chapter 11 a direct connection between the thirty silver pieces for which Christ was betrayed to His enemies and the breaking of the Covenant which Yahweh made with the people, meaning of course the people of Israel. This is found at Zechariah 11:10-13, where it says: “10 And I took my staff, even Beauty, and cut it asunder, that I might break my covenant which I had made with all the people. 11 And it was broken in that day: and so the poor of the flock that waited upon me knew that it was the word of the LORD. 12 And I said unto them, If ye think good, give me my price; and if not, forbear. So they weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver. 13 And the LORD said unto me, Cast it unto the potter: a goodly price that I was prised at of them. And I took the thirty pieces of silver, and cast them to the potter in the house of the LORD.” While it was discussed in brief here last week, Zechariah chapter 11 itself requires a full study (which shall not be done here presently), because of ambiguities, and because of differences in the Masoretic text as it compares with the Septuagint version. Furthermore, the Brenton translation of the Septuagint Greek of this chapter is also wanting – or can at least be contested - in various places. Yet all of the versions agree on this one thing: that the covenant was broken, and the thirty pieces of silver are connected to that act.
Now it can be asserted and proven, that the old covenant which Yahweh made with the children of Israel at Mount Sinai beginning with Exodus chapter 19 was a covenant equivalent to a marriage contract between Yahweh and Israel, with God as the Husband and the entire nation of the body of Israel as the Bride. That this is a proper interpretation is evidenced in Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea, the epistles of Paul, and many other places. That old covenant being eternal, and within the laws of marriage set forth by God, the only way that it could be broken was with the death of either the Husband or the Bride. Since Yahweh promised that a new covenant would be made with Israel and Judah, for instance in Jeremiah chapter 31 and Ezekiel chapters 34 and 37, that would also necessitate the breaking of the old covenant, as Paul explains in Hebrews chapter 8, where he also quotes from Jeremiah. So we see that the fulfillment of the old covenant, its completion (which is the meaning of the Greek word which the King James Version often translates as fulfillment), took place on the cross of Christ as Paul explains in Romans chapter 7.
Before we begin with Matthew chapter 27, let's recall the words of Matthew which he attributed to the Judaeans in chapter 26, where he wrote “3 At that time the high priests and the elders of the people gathered together in the court of the high priest who is called Kaïaphas, 4 and they took counsel that with guile they shall seize and kill Yahshua. 5 But they said: 'Not on the feast, in order that there would not be a tumult among the people!'” However we will see later, when Christ stood before Pilate, that Pilate feared a tumult of the Judaeans if they were not able to crucify Him, quite the exact opposite of the sentiment that Matthew attributes to the Judaeans! The population of Jerusalem at this time, which we can glean from information in Josephus, must have been around two million people. Yet even if it were half that, this was the Passover, and as we can see at Acts chapter 2 and elsewhere, there were “men from every nation” gathered at Jerusalem for the Pentecost. They would also have been there for the Passover, and perhaps in even greater numbers. For the Law required all those who kept it to appear at Jerusalem at the temple three times a year: at Passover, at Pentecost, and again at the Day of Atonement. This meant that a considerable amount of people were gathered in Jerusalem from the surrounding regions. These would consist of the dispersed Judaeans of contemporary times, and also of the descendants of some of the people of the much earlier Assyrian and Babylonian deportations of Israel and Judah, some of whom never left Mesopotamia in the early centuries of that original Israelite dispersion, and who continued in the ancient faith. Therefore, even tens of thousands of the followers of Christ, and it appears that He indeed had that many at this time, still would have been obscured by the great throngs of people gathered in Jerusalem for the Passover festivities, many of them from outside of Judaea who would have never have heard of Christ. Like New York City on a holiday, the jews could have gotten away with practically anything in such a circus-like atmosphere, but they were still concerned with a “tumult among the people”, which shows that their deeds were unrighteous. As we shall also see here, Pilate thought that it was they who would actually cause a tumult, if they were not allowed to perpetrate their crime.
XXVII 1 And it being early morning, all the high priests and the elders of the people had taken counsel against Yahshua for how to kill Him, 2 and having bound Him they led Him away and handed Him over to Pilatos the governor.
With the rise of that Herod the Edomite, whom the jews like to call “the Great”, Judaea was a kingdom over which the Romans had appointed Herod as king. A king, while still subservient to Rome, had the power of life and death over his own subjects. Herod had used that power quite liberally, as the historian Josephus attests. After Herod the Great died his son Herod Archelaus was very cruel, and eventually the Romans had deposed him, banishing him and reducing Judaea to the status of a province, setting tetrarchs over it. The word tetrarch is Greek and means ruler of a quarter. The tetrarchs each ruled a portion of the first Herod's former kingdom. Upon Judaea's losing its status as a kingdom, however, the Romans also placed a procurator (or a prefect) over the province, and that official was responsible for trying capital offenses, since the leaders of a province did not have that same right which kings had. By law, Roman citizens could only be punished for crimes after they exhausted their right of appeal to the emperor. Paul was able to appeal to Caesar because he was a Roman citizen, having been born in Tarsus in Kilikia. Christ, being born in Judaea and not being a Roman citizen, had no such right of appeal under Roman law, and therefore He was at the mercy of the Roman governor and whatever influence the leaders and people of the province had with him. For this reason, the jews of today try to persuade us that Rome was responsible for the death of Christ. However this is not true, and both the Judaeans of the time, and the apostles, laid the blame on certain elements among the Judaeans. Peter is recorded at Acts 2:23 as having said: “He [meaning Christ] by the appointed will and foreknowledge of Yahweh was surrendered, who crucifying through lawless hands you have slain! ” The people of Judaea as a whole were responsible for the slaying, but the slaying was executed “through lawless hands”, meaning those of the leaders who had plotted against Christ. It is clear from the Gospel accounts that Pilate did not want to see Christ executed, but in his official capacity and due to the political pressure of the jews, he had little choice but to accede to the desires of the leaders of the Judaeans.
3 Then Ioudas, His betrayer, seeing that He had been condemned, feeling regret turned the thirty silver pieces over to the high priests and elders 4 saying “I have erred, having betrayed innocent blood!” But they said: “What is it to us? You’ll see!” 5 And casting the silver pieces into the temple he departed, and having gone off he hanged himself.
We are told that Judas was a devil by Christ Himself, at John 6:70 where it says “70 Yahshua replied to them: “Have I not chosen you twelve? Yet one from among you is a false accuser!” 71 (Now He spoke about Ioudas the son of Simon Iskarioth, for he was going to betray Him, being one of the twelve.)” But people often ask “How could a devil feel regret?” James tells us in chapter 2 of his epistle that “You believe that there is one God, you do well; even the demons believe it, and they shudder!” Even Judas must have heard Deuteronomy 27:25, which says: “Cursed is he whosoever shall have taken a bribe to slay an innocent man.” Therefore it is very likely that Judas felt not as much regret for Christ as he did for himself, and how he may be punished in this life after it became known by all of the followers of Christ that he was indeed the betrayer of Christ. For Judas was certainly a witness of the adulation for Christ which was held by many of the common people, such as that which had transpired when Christ rode into Jerusalem on an ass only a few days before this time, and many of the people sought to make Christ their King at that moment (which was an act of sedition against Rome if indeed Christ had gone along with it).
A lot of commentators see conflict between this account in Matthew, that Judas had hung himself, and where it says in Acts that “he [meaning Judas] acquired a field from the wages of unrighteousness, and having been crashed face-down in the midst then all of his bowels had spilled out. ” The jews and other disputers and false accusers love to make a sport out of using passages such as these to prey on the minds of the weak and the innocent. Yet there is no conflict here if we see the testimony of the Gospel for what it is: various writers recording only certain parts of a much larger account: those parts which each of them as individuals had either witnessed or heard, and later recalled and thought worthy of mention when they wrote. If Judas hung himself, which he must have done according to Matthew, then later on his body could easily have been dumped into that same field which the money of his betrayal had bought. So both accounts may easily be accepted as truth, and there is no reason to doubt either of them.
6 But the high priests taking the silver-pieces said “It is not lawful to cast these into the temple offering, since it is the payment for blood!” 7 Then taking counsel they bought with them the field of the potter, for a burial-place for visitors, 8 on which account that field is called “field of blood” unto this day.
Likewise, Acts 1:19, the verse following that which described Judas' being cast into the field, says of that same field, “And it became known to all those dwelling in Jerusalem, so as that field is called in their language ‘Akeldamach’, which is ‘Field of Blood’.” Luke being a Greek, the words “in their language” are natural to him, since Acts was written in Greek.
[There is one difference in perspective here between Matthew's account and the account in Acts which was recorded by Luke. Here the field is called “field of blood” because it was bought with the silver which had betrayed the blood of Christ. In Acts, the field is called so because the blood of Judas was spilled out upon it.]
There is a Greek word here which in the Christogenea New Testament is translated visitor. That word is ξένος (xenos). In the King James Version it is always translated stranger. But the word does not refer to a stranger, as an alien or someone of another race, as we perceive it to mean and where it is used as a prefix in English words such as xenophobia that indicate as much. Rather, a ξένος is an outsider who has the expectation of hospitality by law or treaty. Therefore David Kovacs, a professional academic from Virginia, when he translated the writings of Euripides for the Loeb Classical Library at Harvard University, translated the same word ξένος, which appears quite often in Euripides' works, as “guest-friend”. Liddell & Scott define the word, at least primarily, in this manner: “a guest-friend, i.e. any citizen of a foreign state, with whom one has a treaty of hospitality for self and heirs, confirmed by mutual presents.... of one of the parties bound by ties of hospitality, i.e. either the guest … or the host … any one entitled to hospitality, a stranger, refugee....” So it is visitor here. As it has already been explained, the city being visited by multitudes of people from all over the empire and beyond, and with the laws of the Judaeans requiring a quick burial for the dead regardless of where they were from, it is evident that there would always be a use for such a field.
9 Then that which was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled, saying: “And they took the thirty silver pieces, the value of He being valued, which was valued by the sons of Israel, 10 and they gave them for the field of the potter, just as Yahweh prescribed for me.”
Why Matthew attributes to Jeremiah a statement made in Zechariah cannot be explained convincingly with the copies of Scripture that we have presently. It is always possible that there are missing or corrupt passages of Scripture which are common to both the Septuagint and the Masoretic text, and the Dead Sea Scrolls are wanting most of Jeremiah. Jeremiah bought a field, which is recorded in Jeremiah chapter 32, but these words which Matthew quotes clearly belong to a later time, as can be told where they appear in Zechariah chapter 11, and not in Jeremiah. Furthermore, the field which Jeremiah bought was priced at seventeen shekels, and not at thirty as we see in the passage from Zechariah. In the Septuagint (where chapter 32 appears at 39, the order of the chapters for this book being quite different in that version) the Greek says “seven shekels and ten of silver”, which definitely means “seventeen shekels of silver”, and which is very difficult to confuse for thirty because of the way in which it was written.
Many commentators also link this passage to Jeremiah chapter 19, where the prophet is told to take an earthen bottle from a potter, and smash it in front of the people of Jerusalem as a sign that the city would be destroyed and, like the bottle, never made whole again. Then they refer to verses 11 and 12, which state: “11 And [you, Jeremiah] shalt say unto them, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Even so will I break this people and this city, as one breaketh a potter's vessel, that cannot be made whole again: and they shall bury them in Tophet, till there be no place to bury. 12 Thus will I do unto this place, saith the LORD, and to the inhabitants thereof, and even make this city as Tophet”. Josephus describes the slaughter of people at Jerusalem, by the time the city fell in 70 AD to the Romans, as being well over a million, who died either of disease, from their own violence, or at the hands of the Romans. Nearly a hundred thousand survivors were taken captive. So surely many fields around the city must have been used as burial places. Yet it seems that this Scripture must draw our attention to the field which Jeremiah bought at Anathoth, and therefore we will read and comment on Jeremiah chapter 32:
KJV Jeremiah 32:1 The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD in the tenth year of Zedekiah king of Judah, which was the eighteenth year of Nebuchadrezzar. 2 For then the king of Babylon's army besieged Jerusalem: and Jeremiah the prophet was shut up in the court of the prison, which was in the king of Judah's house. [Perhaps this was sort of like a castle dungeon.] 3 For Zedekiah king of Judah had shut him up, saying, Wherefore dost thou prophesy, and say, Thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will give this city into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall take it; 4 And Zedekiah king of Judah shall not escape out of the hand of the Chaldeans, but shall surely be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon, and shall speak with him mouth to mouth, and his eyes shall behold his eyes; 5 And he shall lead Zedekiah to Babylon, and there shall he be until I visit him, saith the LORD: though ye fight with the Chaldeans, ye shall not prosper. 6 And Jeremiah said, The word of the LORD came unto me, saying, 7 Behold, Hanameel the son of Shallum thine uncle shall come unto thee, saying, Buy thee my field that is in Anathoth: for the right of redemption is thine to buy it. [It should be mentioned, that Shallum means retribution and Hanameel means God is gracious.] 8 So Hanameel mine uncle's son came to me in the court of the prison according to the word of the LORD, and said unto me, Buy my field, I pray thee, that is in Anathoth, which is in the country of Benjamin: for the right of inheritance is thine, and the redemption is thine; buy it for thyself. Then I knew that this was the word of the LORD. [When we see something ahead of time and it happens, we know that it is from God. We also see an example of kinsman redemption here, and perhaps our attention is also being drawn to that. The redemption in Christ is only a kinsman redemption, according to the law, and that can include only the genetic children of Israel.] 9 And I bought the field of Hanameel my uncle's son, that was in Anathoth, and weighed him the money, even seventeen shekels of silver. [Seventeen shekels, rather than the thirty which would make interpretations of this passage much easier, to connect it with the crucifixion and the thirty silver pieces which bought the potter's field.] 10 And I subscribed the evidence, and sealed it, and took witnesses, and weighed him the money in the balances. 11 So I took the evidence of the purchase, both that which was sealed according to the law and custom, and that which was open: 12 And I gave the evidence of the purchase unto Baruch the son of Neriah, the son of Maaseiah, in the sight of Hanameel mine uncle's son, and in the presence of the witnesses that subscribed the book of the purchase [properly the scroll of the purchase, the deed] , before all the Jews [Judaeans] that sat in the court of the prison. 13 And I charged Baruch before them, saying, 14 Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Take these evidences, this evidence of the purchase, both which is sealed, and this evidence which is open; and put them in an earthen vessel, that they may continue many days. [Pottery jars were used to preserve paper, as the Dead Sea Scrolls were also found in pottery jars.] 15 For thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Houses and fields and vineyards shall be possessed again in this land. [A promise of future deliverance and an ultimate return of the people of Israel to the favor of Yahweh.] 16 Now when I had delivered the evidence of the purchase unto Baruch the son of Neriah, I prayed unto the LORD, saying, 17 Ah Lord GOD! behold, thou hast made the heaven and the earth by thy great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for thee: 18 Thou shewest lovingkindness unto thousands, and recompensest the iniquity of the fathers into the bosom of their children after them: the Great, the Mighty God, the LORD of hosts, is his name, 19 Great in counsel, and mighty in work: for thine eyes are open upon all the ways of the sons of men: to give every one according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings: 20 Which hast set signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, even unto this day, and in Israel, and among other men; and hast made thee a name, as at this day; 21 And hast brought forth thy people Israel out of the land of Egypt with signs, and with wonders, and with a strong hand, and with a stretched out arm, and with great terror; 22 And hast given them this land, which thou didst swear to their fathers to give them, a land flowing with milk and honey; 23 And they came in, and possessed it; but they obeyed not thy voice, neither walked in thy law; they have done nothing of all that thou commandedst them to do: therefore thou hast caused all this evil to come upon them: 24 Behold the mounts, they are come unto the city to take it; and the city is given into the hand of the Chaldeans, that fight against it, because of the sword, and of the famine, and of the pestilence: and what thou hast spoken is come to pass; and, behold, thou seest it. 25 And thou hast said unto me, O Lord GOD, Buy thee the field for money, and take witnesses; for the city is given into the hand of the Chaldeans. 26 Then came the word of the LORD unto Jeremiah, saying, 27 Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh: is there any thing too hard for me? 28 Therefore thus saith the LORD; Behold, I will give this city into the hand of the Chaldeans, and into the hand of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon, and he shall take it: 29 And the Chaldeans, that fight against this city, shall come and set fire on this city, and burn it with the houses, upon whose roofs they have offered incense unto Baal, and poured out drink offerings unto other gods, to provoke me to anger. 30 For the children of Israel and the children of Judah have only done evil before me from their youth: for the children of Israel have only provoked me to anger with the work of their hands, saith the LORD. 31 For this city hath been to me as a provocation of mine anger and of my fury from the day that they built it even unto this day; that I should remove it from before my face, 32 Because of all the evil of the children of Israel and of the children of Judah, which they have done to provoke me to anger, they, their kings, their princes, their priests, and their prophets, and the men of Judah, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 33 And they have turned unto me the back, and not the face: though I taught them, rising up early and teaching them, yet they have not hearkened to receive instruction. 34 But they set their abominations in the house, which is called by my name, to defile it. 35 And they built the high places of Baal, which are in the valley of the son of Hinnom [source of the name “Gehenna” in the New Testament, from the Greek words meaning “land of Hinnom”], to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire unto Molech; which I commanded them not, neither came it into my mind, that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin. 36 And now therefore thus saith the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning this city, whereof ye say, It shall be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon by the sword, and by the famine, and by the pestilence; 37 Behold, I will gather them out of all countries, whither I have driven them in mine anger, and in my fury, and in great wrath; and I will bring them again unto this place, and I will cause them to dwell safely: 38 And they shall be my people, and I will be their God: 39 And I will give them one heart, and one way, that they may fear me for ever, for the good of them, and of their children after them: 40 And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me. 41 Yea, I will rejoice over them to do them good, and I will plant them in this land assuredly with my whole heart and with my whole soul. 42 For thus saith the LORD; Like as I have brought all this great evil upon this people, so will I bring upon them all the good that I have promised them. 43 And fields shall be bought in this land, whereof ye say, It is desolate without man or beast; it is given into the hand of the Chaldeans. 44 Men shall buy fields for money, and subscribe evidences, and seal them, and take witnesses in the land of Benjamin, and in the places about Jerusalem, and in the cities of Judah, and in the cities of the mountains, and in the cities of the valley, and in the cities of the south: for I will cause their captivity to return, saith the LORD.
I believe that the lesson in Jeremiah's being told to buy the field, is revealed in the last verses of this chapter. The fields that men buy with their money, and all of the plans that they have for them, cannot endure outside of the will of God. Jeremiah was told to buy the field, even though the land was clearly going to be delivered to the Babylonians and most of the inhabitants taken away or driven off from it. So Jeremiah's purchase of the land was in vain, as an example for us. Yet the closing verses of Jeremiah chapter 32 show that the children of Israel do have a promise that they will indeed possess that land, a promise assured but not yet fulfilled, and here in the Gospel we see that the blood money for Christ also bought a field in Jerusalem. The blood of Judas His enemy was then spilled on that field, and the day comes when the promises of Obadiah 18 and Malachi 1:4 shall be fulfilled, and all of the blood of all of His enemies shall be spilled on that field, because they possess it, but he owns it, and He is coming to take it back.
So Jeremiah bought a field in Jerusalem and was its rightful owner, even though it was destined for the hands of his enemies. And the blood money for Christ bought a field, and He was the rightful King, but Jerusalem was also destined to be delivered into the hands of His enemies. Christ suffered many things that the children of Israel over their history also endured for their disobedience, a token that He was indeed the bearer of their sin. This is the only correlation that I can see in these two passages, but it does give us something to consider.
11 Then Yahshua stood before the governor, and the governor questioned Him, saying: “Are You the King of the Judaeans?” And Yahshua said to him: “You say.” 12 And to that which had been brought as an accusation against Him by the high priests and the elders He answered nothing. 13 Then Pilatos says to Him: “Do You not hear how many things they testify against You?” 14 And He did not reply to him with even one word, so for the governor to wonder exceedingly.
As it is written in Isaiah 53:7: “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.”
When we compare the Gospel accounts of the trials of Christ, we see that the Judaeans did not enter into the Praetorium, or “judgement hall” as it is called in the King James Version. Rather the Judaeans remained outside. John 18:28 says “Then they brought Yahshua from Kaiaphas to the Praetorium, and it was early morning, and they did not enter into the Praetorium, that they would not be defiled but may eat the Passover.” As He would not answer the high priests concerning the charges against Him, as it is described in Matthew chapter 26, once again Christ made no reply before Pilate concerning the charges made against Him by the Judaeans, in fulfillment of Isaiah 53:7. Yet He did converse with Pilate, as John describes, when Pilate took him away from His accusers into the Praetorium (a Latin word used of a governor's residence, or also of the residence of the emperor in Rome).
The Gospel accounts all tell different aspects of the trials and crucifixion of Christ, and we must bear in mind that the disciples were scattered at this time. We read at Matthew 26:56, of the events the night before this, that “the students all leaving Him fled.” Peter followed along, as it is recorded in Matthew and elsewhere, and we learn from John's gospel that he also was with Peter. In John, we have a more complete account of what transpired between Christ and Pilate. In Luke alone, we learn that Pilate had sent Christ to Herod, and did not surrender Him to the desires of the jews until Herod had sent Him back again. So from each writer we see differing aspects of the events of that day, and surely because no writer recorded those events completely, and each had different perspectives on the events formed from the things that they both saw for themselves, and heard from others. None of the accounts conflict, and none of them can be proven to be false. They are all merely different, because each writer had a different knowledge or placed a different emphasis on the various things which occurred that day.
15 And each feast the governor was accustomed to release one prisoner for the crowd, whom they desired. 16 And they had at that time a notorious prisoner called Barabbas. 17 Therefore upon their convening Pilatos said to them: “Whom do you wish that I shall release for you, Barabbas, or Yahshua who is called Christ?”
“Therefore upon their convening”: these words prove one thing, that here there was a break in the meeting. The King James Version has “Therefore when they were gathered together” yet they were already gathered together. So why did Matthew again write “therefore when they were gathered together”? Because there was a break in the narrative, and it was during this break that Pilate had his private conversation with Christ in the Praetorium, and it was also during this break that Christ had been sent to Herod, who only returned him to Pilate. After these things, which Matthew did not record, there was this second gathering of the Judaeans, the accused Christ, and Pilate, and therefore Matthew writes here “therefore upon their convening”.
“Yahshua who is called Christ”: the disciples of Christ knew right from the beginning that Yahshua was the promised Messiah, as we see at John 1:41 where Andrew exclaims as much without having ever been told, and also in several other places in Scripture, such as at John chapter 4 where the woman at the well exclaims that the Messiah was to come, and Yahshua admitted to being that Messiah, or as we see the exclamation of Peter which first appears in Matthew chapter 16. These reports and many others must have been extant throughout Judaea, and Pilate was fully informed of them, and that they concerned this Yahshua Christ who was brought before him.
That Barabbas was released to the people as their own wish is mentioned in all four gospels. It is evident in Mark 15:6, and explained more fully in John 18:39, that on account of a custom in Judaea, one criminal was granted release and a stay of execution in this manner each year. It must be said here, that Wesley Swift wrote a lot of strange things about Barabbas, and I have no idea where he may have gotten them from. It is clear in the gospel account that Barabbas was a robber (John 18:40) being held in prison for sedition and murder (Mark 15:4 , Luke 23:18). Yet contrary to the plain statements in the Gospel, Swift made him out to be the captain of some great Essene army, a military leader and a servant of Christ, and I think that this is one of Wesley Swift's greatest lapses, and I will leave it at that, along with the comment that none of Swift's statements concerning Barabbas can be substantiated from any true history that I am aware of. Swift even dressed Barabbas' supposed army in blue tunics decorated with golden fishes. Barabbas was a thief and a robber as the Gospel clearly states, and this too is symbolic of the children of Israel: that Christ died on behalf of a sinful people, so that those sinful people may live.
18 (For he knew that on account of jealousy they handed Him over.)
This statement is corroborated in Mark 15:11. Their envy for Christ is expressed in John chapter 11:47-48: “47 Then the high priests and the Pharisees gathered a council and said 'What do we do, seeing that this man makes many signs? 48 If we should leave Him thusly, they shall all believe in Him, and the Romans shall come and they shall take both our place and our nation!' ”
Evidently Pilate knew that Yahshua was called “Christ”, “the Anointed One”, and so he must have also known that He had a great following, and that the high priests and others were envious of Him for that reason. Yet it is also evident that Pilate himself never openly perceived Yahshua Christ as a threat to Roman governance, and therefore even sought to release Him.
At Luke 23:2 we see this: “2 Then they began accusing Him saying 'We have found Him perverting our nation and preventing giving tribute tax to Caesar, and saying of Himself to be the anointed king.' 3 Then Pilatos asked Him, saying 'Are You the King of the Judaeans?' And replying He said to him 'So you say.' 4 Then Pilatos said to the high priests and the crowds 'I find not any guilt in this man.' 5 But they were more strongly saying that 'He agitates the people teaching throughout all of Judaea, even beginning from Galilaia as far as here.'”
As it was also evident in Matthew chapter 26, Yahshua had Pilate state that He was King of the Judaeans, where He replied “So you say” to a question, and Pilate certainly would have realized that, but he was evidently not threatened or offended by it so he did not see it as a direct challenge to Roman authority.
19 Then with his sitting upon the step, his wife sent to him saying: “Nothing with you and that righteous man! For today I experienced many things in a dream on account of Him!”
This account appears only here in Matthew. “Nothing with you and that righteous man”: my translation is plainly literal and there is not a word added to the Greek, which admittedly is clumsy at times. The meaning is “You must have nothing to do with that righteous man”. In other words, Pilate's wife had a dream, and due to the dream had attempted to persuade him to release Yahshua.
20 But the high priests and the elders persuaded the crowds that they should request Barabbas, and that they should destroy Yahshua.
So we see that the Sadducees, which is the sect that the high priests belonged to, had agitated for the death of Christ when Pilate sought to release Him. This guilt upon the Judaeans is compounded in Matthew chapter 27:25 where it says “His blood is upon us, and upon our children!” As we have seen in the parable of the fig tree as it was told in Luke chapter 13, where the fig tree clearly represents Jerusalem in the ministry of Christ, and as we have seen with the cursing of the fig tree described in Matthew chapter 21, there can never again be any good fruit from the people of Jerusalem, which also represents all of those in Judaea who never converted to Christianity, those who rejected Christ. And here they admit full guilt for His death.
Here I would like to read from Luke chapter 19: “11 Then adding a parable He spoke for those hearing these things, because He was near to Jerusalem and they were supposing that immediately the Kingdom of Yahweh was going to appear. 12 Therefore He said: “A certain man of noble birth had gone to a distant land, to receive for himself a kingdom and to return. 13 And calling ten of his servants he gave to them ten minas and said to them ‘Engage yourselves in business while I go.’ 14 And his citizens hated him and they sent ambassadors after him saying ‘We do not want him to rule over us!’ 15 Then it came to pass upon his return from receiving the kingdom that he said to call for him the servants, those to whom he gave the money, that he would know what they did while engaged in business. 16 And the first came saying ‘Master, your mina has earned ten minas!’ 17 And he said to him ‘Very well, good servant. Because you have been faithful with the least, you must have authority over ten cities.’ 18 And the second had come saying ‘Your mina, master, has made five minas!’ 19 So he then said to him ‘And you must be over five cities.’ 20 And another had come saying ‘Master, behold, your mina which was kept hidden in a handkerchief. 21 For I was in fear of you, because you are a harsh man. You take that which you have not laid up, and you harvest that which you have not sown.’ 22 He said to him ‘From your mouth I shall judge you, wicked servant! Because you had known that I am a harsh man, taking that which I have not laid up, and harvesting that which I have not sown! 23 Yet for what reason did you not give my money to the bank, that I coming would exact it with interest?’ 24 And to those present he said ‘Take the mina from him and give it to him having the ten minas!’ 25 And they said to him ‘Master, he has ten minas!’ 26 ‘I say to you that to all having shall be given, but from he not having even that which he has shall be taken! 27 But my enemies, those who do not want me to rule over them, you bring them here and slay them before me!’ 28 And speaking these things He went forward, going up to Jerusalem.”
Now there are several things going on in this parable, yet it is clear that of those who are the servants of Christ, some will do well and receive great rewards, and some will not do so well and receive little or no reward. This idea is commensurate with Daniel chapter 12:2 where it says “And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” Yet those who rejected Christ altogether, it is too late for them. They are already appointed to die, having rejected Him as King. Therefore He says “But my enemies, those who do not want me to rule over them, you bring them here and slay them before me!” Such is the ultimate fate of the jews.
21 And replying the governor said to them: “Which from the two do you wish that I shall release for you?” Then they said “Barabbas!” 22 Pilatos says to them: “Then what shall I do with Yahshua who is called Christ?” They all say “He must be crucified!” 23 Then he said: “For what evil has He done?” But they cried out excessively, saying: “He must be crucified!”
So John recorded their words in his Gospel, at John 19:15: “15 Then they cried out 'Kill! Kill! Crucify Him!' Pilatos says to them: 'Shall I crucify your king?' The high priests replied: 'We have no king except Caesar!'” Christ Himself never directly claimed to be King, and even though He could claim the title by birthright He did not. However the Judaeans accused Him of claiming it, which would be an act of sedition against Rome. Here Pilate apparently mocks the Judaeans, seemingly accepting their claim that Christ was indeed their King. We saw above at verse 11 that the Judaeans had made this accusation, that Christ claimed to be King of Judaea, but that Pilate understood it to be a false charge. Again, there can be no good fruit from Jerusalem, ever. The people known as jews today, they all have the blood of the Christ upon them. By the declaration of their own fathers, they all bear the guilt of Deicide: the murder of God.
24 And Pilatos, seeing that nothing helps, but rather a tumult arises, taking water washed the hands before the crowd, saying “I am innocent from the blood of this man! You see to it!” 25 And responding all the people said: “His blood is upon us, and upon our children!” 26 Then he released Barabbas for them, but having scourged Yahshua he handed Him over in order that He would be crucified.
If Pilate had not relented, and a riot had happened in the city, where tens of thousands of outsiders were also gathered for the feast, then he himself would have had to answer to Caesar against all of the accusations of the jews. That would have been a situation he could not have won, since the life of one man – a man who was not a Roman – was simply not esteemed in contrast to the peace imposed by Roman tyranny.
John 19:12 records a threat which the Judaeans made against Pilate, if he did not accede to their wishes, as follows: “From this point Pilatos sought to release Him. But the Judaeans cried out, saying 'If you should release this man, you are no friend of Caesar! Anyone making Himself king speaks in opposition to Caesar!'”
Except for the ten Senatorial provinces of the empire, all of the other provinces were considered to be Imperial provinces. The governors of these provinces were appointed directly by the emperor, who at this time was Tiberius Caesar. The phrase “friend of Caesar” represented a political designation in Rome, and the emperors gave their friends such appointments as governorships of provinces, which were often very lucrative. The Judaeans here are actually making a veiled threat, that if Pilate did not accede to their wishes, that they would begin to accuse him before the emperor of being a traitor.
In fact, this same thing did indeed happen to Pilate a short time later, as Josephus describes in the 18th book of his Antiquities. However it was due to an embassy of the Samaritans, and not of the Judaeans. Pilate was ordered to go to Rome to face Tiberius for certain accusations arising from when he put down a sedition of Samaritans, but never had to face charges because Tiberius died shortly before Pilate arrived in Rome. According to Josephus, Pilate had been in Judaea for ten years. Reading Josephus' Antiquities, it was constant among the Judaeans, to send embassies to Rome to complain about their rulers. The sons of Herod even went to Caesar in Rome in order to complain about their own father. So the threat to Pilate was very real, that “If you should release this man, you are no friend of Caesar! Anyone making Himself king speaks in opposition to Caesar!” Looking at one's own career, and comparing it to the cost of one life that is seemingly only incidental, what is it to a governor to let one man go to his death at the wishes of his own countrymen, and to spare oneself the political troubles gained by upsetting them?
Nearly 30 years later another procurator of Judaea, Felix, “desiring to bestow a favor upon the Judaeans” as it says at Acts 24:27, left Paul in bonds when he left office. He evidently did so because he was leaving Judaea for reason of the Judaeans of Caesareia, who had an accusation against him that he had to answer before Caesar Nero. According to Josephus, in Book 20 of his Antiquities, Felix only escaped punishment because of the influence that his brother, Pallas, had with the emperor.