PARADE OF MOCKERS CAST TAUNTS AND SCORN AT THE CRUCIFIED CHRIST
David Turner: The focus turns from the soldiers’ actions (27:27–37) to the mockery by other observers of the crucifixion. This section is an inclusio framed by references to the two revolutionaries crucified with Jesus (27:38, 44). Jesus is successively mocked by people passing by (27:39–40), by the religious leaders (27:41–43), and by the two revolutionaries (27:44). The taunting drips with sarcasm that leverages the incongruity between Jesus’s present plight and his lofty claims into a satirical slander of Jesus that emphatically denies his claims. A paraphrase would go something like this: “Surely someone who could destroy and rebuild the temple, someone who was the Son of God, could come down from the cross and save himself! How sad the one who would save others cannot save himself! If only he would come down from the cross, we would believe in him! Wouldn’t God come down now and and save his own Son who trusts in him?” . . .
The taunts emphasize the incompatibility between Jesus’s purported power and his actual weakness (cf. Matt. 4:3, 6). Someone of his supposed stature could surely save his own life. The taunt to demonstrate divine sonship by coming down from the cross (27:40, 42, 44) is especially perverse, since Jesus endures the cross as the obedient Son of God (cf. 26:39, 42, 44). If Jesus comes down from the cross to save himself, he will not save his people from their sins (1:21; 10:38–39; 16:24–26; 20:28; 26:28).
R. T. France: We have already seen Jesus mocked by the Sanhedrin members immediately after they have convicted him of blasphemy (26:67–68). Now, with Jesus duly secured on the cross, they return to the attack, but this time supported by other Jews, the general public (v. 39) and the men on the other crosses. This is then a Jewish counterpart to the mockery by the Gentile soldiers in vv. 27–31; each ethnic group makes fun of Jesus’ alleged claims, focusing on the terms to which they more naturally relate, the soldiers on the political claim to kingship, the Jews on the religious issues of temple-building and of being God’s son. This combination of representatives of the Jewish people at several different levels (Sanhedrin members, ordinary passers-by and failed insurrectionists) provides a poignant picture of the rejection of Jesus by his own people.
Donald Hagner: The taunting of Jesus on the cross is the last human indignity he must face. In this pericope the motif of sarcastic unbelief continues. Perhaps the taunts and challenges also presented Jesus with his last hour of testing. A line of continuity runs from the testing of Jesus in the wilderness (4:1–11) through the rebuke of Peter (16:22–23) and the experience in Gethsemane (26:36–56) to the present narrative. Jesus could at any moment have refused to go on the path God had predetermined for him. He could have come down from the cross and thus at the last instant avoided his fate. Still, ironically, his opponents have no idea who he really is and that he could have come down from the cross. . .
Throughout this pericope, as in the preceding pericopes, the underlying paradox cannot be missed. What these mockers scornfully ridicule, what they regard as impossible, what they look upon as the wild claim of a charlatan is paradoxically the truth. The words with which they so confidently taunt Jesus, “Son of God,” “king of Israel,” are fully true, as the original readers of Matthew knew well. The key piece of information unknown to the mockers is that Jesus undergoes in his humiliation and crucifixion nothing other than the intended will of God. Their notion of the Son of God, the messianic king of Israel, as a triumphant, self-assertive, and powerful figure was mistaken—or at least partially so since he will ultimately appear as such in his future parousia. They cannot guess that they are speaking the truth about Jesus. In their blind opposition to the truth, they but accomplish the will of God.
Walter Wilson: The three segments of the unit (27:39–40, 41–43, 44) are distinguished by three different groups (those passing by, the chief priests and elders, and the two brigands), to which are assigned three different verbs of insult: βλασφημέω (“to blaspheme”), ἐμπαίζω (“to mock”), and ὀνειδίζω (“to taunt”).
Stu Weber: In the midst of this physical torture, the king was immersed in the emotional strain of incessant verbal abuse. Only the sovereign king of the universe could have kept himself on the cross. Truly, he was the Almighty.
(:38) PROLOGUE — JESUS CRUCIFIED BETWEEN TWO INSURRECTIONISTS
“At that time two robbers were crucified with Him, one on the right and one on the left.”
Robert Gundry: The crucifixion of two bandits with Jesus heaps a further indignity on him (compare 26:55), and the present tense of “crucify” underscores this indignity. But “one on [his] right an one on [his] left” echoes 20:21, where the expression was associated with Jesus’ kingdom, so that the present echo may imply that despite appearances to the contrary, the crucifixion of two unnamed bandits on either side of Jesus previews the sitting of two unnamed disciples on either side of him when he comes in glory.
Grant Osborne: Ironically, the right and the left of Jesus is where James and John wished to be (20:20–23), but there is no glory or authority in those positions now (Davies and Allison).
Donald Hagner: The incongruity of this righteous man crucified between two nefarious criminals is striking.
I. (:39-40) JESUS MOCKED BY JEWS PASSING BY
“And those passing by were hurling abuse at Him, wagging their heads, 40 and saying, ‘You who are going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross.’”
Grant Osborne: especially those coming by the major road into Jerusalem (see on v. 33).
R. T. France: “If you are the Son of God” echoes the preamble to two of the devil’s temptations in 4:3, 6; here again Jesus must have felt the force of the temptation to exploit his special relationship with God in order to escape physical suffering. But that temptation had already been faced and overcome in Gethsemane (and cf. 26:53–54). Indeed it is that very relationship as “Son of God” which paradoxically requires Jesus to go through with his Father’s purpose on the cross. In some sense even the Gentile soldiers will see the truth of this in v. 54.
Leon Morris: The passersby were people who had no business at the place of the crucifixion but who saw what was going on and joined in the general abuse of the man on the central cross. It is possible that Matthew’s choice of the term is reminiscent of Lamentations 1:12: “Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by? Look and see if there is any sorrow like my sorrow….” Probably many of these people had been in the crowds that clamored for Jesus’ death; having done what they could to bring about his crucifixion, it is not likely that they would pass by the spectacle of the execution. . .
It is indeed blasphemy when mortals in this way dictate to the Son of God how he should exercise his divine sonship.
II. (:41-43) JESUS MOCKED BY THE JEWISH RELIGIOUS LEADERS
“In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes and elders, were mocking Him, and saying, 42 ‘He saved others; He cannot save Himself. He is the King of Israel; let Him now come down from the cross, and we shall believe in Him. 43 He trusts in God; let Him deliver Him now, if He takes pleasure in Him; for He said, ‘I am the Son of God.’”
D. A. Carson: Matthew understands that, morally speaking, he can’t save himself precisely because he came to do his Father’s will, not because the nails hold him in place—and the Father’s will is that by Jesus’ not saving himself he will save others.
J. Ligon Duncan: Jesus Mocked (By Gentiles, Jews and Thieves)
They are saying that Jesus’ Father does not delight in Him. Now our Lord Jesus had suffered many things. A disciple had betrayed him. His best friends had deserted him. Roman soldiers had scourged him. He had been unjustly treated by a Roman court and by a Jewish court. He had been led to the cross with hurling of abuse. He had faced the mocking of the multitude. But I want to suggest to you that hearing from the leaders, the spiritual leaders of His own people, the people who were vested with the responsibility to teach the people of God, the way of God, and to teach them the law of God, to hear from their lips the charge that His Father doesn’t delight in Him, you and I have no idea how that impacted the Lord Jesus Christ. We were told by the Lord Jesus Himself that His delight was to do the will of God. That it was His meat to do the will of God. And now He is on a cross dying in excruciating pain, and He hears the religious leaders of His people say, “God does not delight in Him. The Father does not delight in Him.” You and I will never know, even in glory, we’ll never know what that did to our Lord.
Matthew is saying, but look even as these men insult Him and question who He is, they’re actually proving who He is. Because as they question whether He is the Messiah, they are actually proving that He is the Messiah by fulfilling Scripture. Because in Psalm 22, verse 8, God said that the enemies of His Messiah would mock Him and would question whether He delighted in Him. And so by their very taunting, they are proving that He is who they say He is not. And so Matthew is saying, oh yes, He is the Messiah and the Savior. And even though these religious men don’t think they need grace, He is the King of grace and the Savior.
David Thompson: The religious leadership of Israel was all there at Calvary–the chief priest, the scribes and the elders were all there and they, too, were mocking Him.
1) They mocked Him as our Savior. 27:42a They challenge His ability to save others by His apparent inability to save Himself. Truth is had He saved Himself, He could not have saved others.
2) They mocked Him as Israel’s King. 27:42b Their thinking was Israel’s King could not be put to death by Roman power. The leaders say if He will come down off that cross and save Himself, they would believe in Him.
3) They mocked Him as God’s Son. 27:43 You are always saying you are the Son of God. Let’s see God your Father get you out of this dilemma. The truth is it was God the Father who orchestrated this dilemma. In all reality, the fact that He stayed on that cross proves His Sonship.
III. (:44) JESUS MOCKED BY THE TWO REVOLUTIONARIES ON EITHER SIDE
“And the robbers also who had been crucified with Him
were casting the same insult at Him.”
David Thompson: Why did Jesus allow these terrible things happen to Him?
- I Pet. 2:24 says this: “and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness for by His wounds you were healed.”
- John said, “He laid down His life for us” (I John 3:16).
- Paul said, “He was made sin for us” (II Cor. 5:21)
- and “He was made a curse for us” (Gal. 3:13).