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GOOD MORNING SIBLINGS!
Mercy do I have a lot to talk about today!
Today’s readings are Matthew 27-28
Grab a drink, take a deep breath, and get ready to dive in. Might want to grab some salt because some of this may temporarily twist your brain into a pretzel!
I’m going to try to keep my focus to a few key points but there is a lot to dig into on this day’s reading. However, I’ll add in more points when we come back around in Mark.
What’s in a name? A LOT
I want to begin with some name confusion which is absent from our reading today but was most assuredly present on the day of the crucifixion.
It was custom to release one prisoner for Passover and the choices given to the people were between Messiah and Barabbas.
Now hang in there with me because we need to take a minute to focus on Barabbas’ name. Barabbas is the greek version of Bar Abba, which is an Aramaic name, meaning “son of the father”. Further, some ancient manuscripts list his full name as Yeshua Bar Abba in Aramaic which translates to “Yeshua, Son Of The Father” and in Greek that name translates to “Jesus Barabbas”. Jesus is the Greek translation of Yeshua.
Please don’t take my word for this, check it out for yourself here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barabbas (this is just one of many sources)
It is thought that the first part of Barabbas’ name was removed by translators later to avoid confusion but I think it is important for us, when considering this, to know what his full name was in order to understand that there would have been confusion.
The best case scenario, according to textual scholars who have studied the ancient manuscripts, is that Pilate asked in Matthew 27:17:
“Who do you want me to release: Yeshua, the son of the Father or Yeshua, whom they call the Messiah?”
But some go so far as to think He may have even said:
“Who do you want me to release: Yeshua, the son of the Father or Yeshua, the son of the Father whom they call the Messiah?
Now this was a crowd of people shouting and getting rowdy, to the extent that Pilate feared a riot (Matthew 27:24). A crowd, a frenzied, shouting, and calling for the release of one of the prisoners. It is possible that some of them could have become confused and, in their minds, chanted for the release of the Messiah, going so far as to thinking the crowd was chanting with them. But think for a moment, what that chant would have sounded like with both prisoners having the same name.
I wanted to give you a little more background and info on the climate of the crowd and the certain confusion of the name issue, which has been erased in our modern texts.
Next up we see two key declarations, one from Pilate and one from the Jews who were present :
So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.” And all the people answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!” Matthew 27:24-25
NOTE that this statement (Matthew 27:25) is found only in Matthew.
Many ill intentioned people have used this to persecute the Jews as cursed for centuries. However, a few Jews could not call down a curse upon them all. Recall that Matthew is a Jew, John is a Jew, Paul is a Jew – all of the apostles with the noted uncertainty of Luke, were Jews. Messiah Himself lived and died – as a Jew. We cannot, at this point, fall to the temptation to cast aside all of the promises YHWH has spoken over His chosen people and all of the covenants which He Himself declared “everlasting” in lieu of this errant teaching.
Instead, let’s expound and look at who was present at this time:
Let’s look to Acts 4:23-30, which condemns Pilate, Herod, the Gentiles, and the nation of Israel for this:
And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit, “‘Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed’— for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.
Pilate washed his hands and declared himself innocent of “this man’s blood”. However, you cannot condemn a man and then declare yourself innocent of doing what you just did.
Even though it was Gentiles that committed the act of crucifying Messiah and a Gentile in power that used the crowd as a scapegoat to condemn him, Christian commentators conveniently shift the blame upon all Jews for this.
Despite the fact that Messiah Himself asked for the forgiveness of everyone present after the Crucifixion had taken place. (Luke 23:34)
So essentially YHWH forgave the Jews and Gentiles, who repented, for their part in this.
Yeshua forgave the Jews and Gentiles for their part in this.
But for centuries Christians (Gentiles) have forgiven themselves and held the Jews accountable (with some exceptions, of course). In the same fashion in which Pilate washed his own hands and declared himself blameless.
“His blood be on us and on our children!”
This statement has been twisted and used to drive a wedge between YHWH’s chosen people and Christians for thousands of years and it is a firmly planted seed of anti-semitism that has flourished in the church for far too long.
Here is just one example that I came across in my normal research:
John Wesley, a respected author of Bible commentary had this to say regarding Matthew 27:25 – His blood be on us and on our children – As this imprecation was dread. fully answered in the ruin so quickly brought on the Jewish nation, and the calamities which have ever since pursued that wretched people…
This is from noted Bible commentator, John Gill:
and to this day, this dreadful wish of the blood of Christ upon them, is to be seen in their miserable, abject, and captive state; and will be, until such time that they look to him whom they have pierced, and mourn.
Joseph Benson has this to say:
As to the imprecation of the Jewish priests and people, His blood be on us and on our children, it is well known, that as it was dreadfully answered in the ruin so quickly brought on the Jewish nation, and the calamities which have since pursued that wretched people in almost all ages and countries; so it was particularly illustrated in the severity with which Titus, merciful as he naturally was, treated the Jews whom he took during the siege of Jerusalem; of whom Josephus himself writes, [Bell. Jud., 50. 5:11, (al. Mat 6:12,) § 1,] that μαστιγουμενοι ανεσταυρουντο, having been scourged, and tortured in a very terrible manner, they were crucified in the view and near the walls of the city; perhaps, among other places, on mount Calvary; and it is very probable, this might be the fate of some of those very persons who now joined in this cry, as it undoubtedly was of many of their children. For Josephus, who was an eye-witness, expressly declares, “that the number of those thus crucified was so great that there was not room for the crosses to stand by each other; and that at last they had not wood enough to make crosses off.” A passage which, especially when compared with the verse before us, must impress and astonish the reader beyond any other in the whole story. If this were not the very finger of God, pointing out their crime in crucifying his Son, it is hard to say what could deserve to be called so.
Did you see where Bensom called Titus merciful for crucifying the Jews? These three noted Bible scholars aren’t even subtle in their anti semitism and they are revered to this day.
It is easier, historically, to blame the Jews because that enforces the doctrines of replacement theology held dear by many churches.
At the end of the day, this is a useless blame game and fruitless to even discuss because regardless of who crucified Messiah, who did He die for?
And that is an eternally somber thought.
Did YHWH forsake Messiah?
YHWH never left Messiah, never turned His back on Him. However, this is a misconception rooted in Marcionist thinking that the God of the OT was mean and vengeful and there was a different god in the NT who was loving and kind.
Let’s look at these verses to see more of the character of YHWH and then I want to show you something else:
The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed,
a stronghold in times of trouble.
And those who know your name put their trust in you,
for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you. Psalm 9:9-10
I have been young, and now am old,
yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken
or his children begging for bread.
But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me;
my Lord has forgotten me.”
“Can a woman forget her nursing child,
that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb?
Even these may forget,
yet I will not forget you.
Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;
your walls are continually before me.
“You will leave me alone; and yet I am never alone because the Father is with me.” (John 16:32)
I would like to submit a paper I came across. I could not find it posted anywhere public online, otherwise I would link to it, so I am posting it as I found it here because I feel it makes a valid and Biblically backed case. It presents the argument so well that I see no need to add my words in place of these.
JESUS WAS NOT FORSAKEN!
George M. Lamsa, New York, NY
As published in THE DEFENDER, April 1960.
“At about the ninth hour, Jesus cried out with a loud voice and said, Eli, Eli lemana shabakthani! which means, My God, My God, for this I was kept! (This was my destiny for which I was born.)” Matthew 27:46
ELI, ELI, lemana shabakthani! which means, My God, My God, for this I was spared. It was a feeble cry which came from the lips of a dying Man.
The heavy punishment inflicted on Jesus, the thirst and loss of blood had weakened the strong and healthy body which for years had withstood the rigor of climate, hunger, thirst, and other difficulties.
In this last hour of agony, intense thirst and suffering, Jesus words were so weak that the people who stood near the cross could hardly understand them.
And even His enemies, who stood close to Him, thought He was calling on the Prophet Elijah for help. This is because the name of Elijah, Aramaic Elia, is close to Eli, My God. They said let us see if Elijah will come to save Him.
None of the men who stood near the cross watching Jesus dying ever said that his cry was one of despair; nor the cry of a man who had been deserted and betrayed; nor the cry of a man who had lost faith in the cause for which he had dedicated his life.
No, no one who was standing on the historic hill of Golgotha accused Jesus of weakening. No one said, at last God has deserted Him. But they said He has trusted in God, let Him deliver Him.
Had Jesus in this last hour said that God had forsaken Him, the Jews would have used this saying against Him. They would have taken it as a confession that He was a blasphemer and therefore God had deserted Him in His darkest hour; because God never forsakes the righteous, but He may forsake the sinners.
A PROPHESIED EVENT
This is not all. Had Jesus’ cry meant forsaking, He not only would have destroyed the faith of his disciples and followers, but would have contradicted His own teaching, the very assurance which He had given to His disciples, and the very cause for which He was dying.
On the other hand, judgement and death on the cross did not come upon Jesus suddenly. On many occasions He had told his disciples that He would die on the cross and rise again; they had heard him saying, “You will leave me alone; and yet I am never alone because the Father is with me.” (John 16:32)
They had heard Him saying that He and God were One. Moreover, the Jews had heard him telling Pilate, “For this I was born.” Which means I came to die for the sake of the truth; so that the world may know God and walk in his way.
How is it that the European translators of the Bible in the 17th Century A.D. who were thousands of miles from Palestine, and who could not speak Aramaic, knew more about Jesus’ cry on the cross than the Jews who spoke Aramaic and stood near the cross watching Him die?
And how is it that Peter, John, and other disciples and follows of Jesus never commented on these ominous words? Indeed, if Jesus had meant desertion they would have commented on it, because such a statement, or even such a thought was contrary to all Jesus had preached and taught.
The apostles did not comment on these last words simply because they knew what Jesus meant in their Galilean dialect, or northern Aramaic.
Jesus’ disciples and His followers knew that these precious words were uttered for them in order to strengthen their faith in Him and remind them that He had to die on the cross and that the prophecies had to be fulfilled.
Moreover, they knew had He meant forsaken, He would have used the Aramaic word taa tani, which means forsaken.
Indeed, Jesus could have asked a legion of angels to come down from heaven to deliver Him; but He wanted to drink from the bitter cup so that He might fulfill the prophecies and trod a new way of meekness, gentleness, and forgiveness, and to redeem mankind with His precious blood which poured on the cross and on the green grass.
A STUDY IN ARAMAIC
The Aramaic word shabakthani is derived from shabak which means to keep, to allow, to spare, to leave, and to forgive. The meaning of this word, like the meanings of many other Aramaic words, is determined by the context.
For example, shabak li, which means allow me. Saul killed all males, but he shabak, spared the women, shabaklan khoben, forgive us our trespasses.
Shabak li lakhma, keep me some bread. Even today in Aramaic we say God has kept us, or spared us for this cause, or for this mission, or for this destiny.
The Aramaic text reads lemana, which in the vernacular speech is lemodi, that is, for what a thing, or for this thing. When we use the word meaning why, we add another word, mitol, mitol lemana, which would mean why.
The Gospels tell us that in Gethsemane Jesus placed His life in His future in the hands of God His Father, with secure confidence of ultimate victory over death, the cross and sin.
During that crucial hour of prayer and decision, He was willing to drink the bitter cup because it was the will of God. In those dark hours He said, “O my Father, if this cup cannot pass and I must drink it, let it be according to thy will.” (Matthew 26:42)
In other words, Jesus surrendered His will to do the will of God, with ultimate confidence of victory.
Paul says, “Even when He was clothed in flesh, he offered prayers and supplications with vehement cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death; and verily he was heard.” (Hebrews 5:7)
After His resurrection, Jesus upbraided the two disciples who were on their way to Emmaus, saying, “O dull-minded and heavy-hearted, slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken; did not Christ have to suffer all these things in order to enter into his glory?” (Luke 24:25-26)
Indeed Jesus’ rejection, judgement, and death on the cross were foretold by Isaiah centuries ago. Death on the cross was the only means of salvation and the only way to reveal God’s love towards His children.
“For God so loved the world that he even gave his only begotten Son, so that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
In the East from the time of the inception of Christianity to the present day, we believe that God was with Jesus in the womb, on the cross, and in the grave. Jesus’ deity and His humanity were inseparable.
Of course, we believe God let Jesus suffer on the cross and die the death of a malefactor for the sake of our sins. That is to say, God did not interfere with the punishment and suffering which were inflicted on the humanity of Jesus.
No, God was with Him on the cross and even nature shared in this great human tragedy, the sun and stars refused to shine.
The Eastern Christians have always believed that Jesus suffered as a man and died as a man, and God was with Him, but God neither suffered nor died nor was buried nor deserted Him.
As we have said, Jesus knew that God was with Him, and that is why in His last cry He said, “O my Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit.” The scriptures tell us that God does not forsake the righteous nor does He forsake those who trust in Him.
Indeed, Jesus died with the secure confidence that He was to rise again triumphantly. This is because he knew God was with Him, and His suffering and death were not in vain, but the only means of salvation of the world from sin and evil forces.
Invariably, every man and every woman has a destiny in this life. We all suffer, but we suffer for a cause; for a new lesson in life and for rich experiences which guide us in the future.
Jesus’ suffering was not in vain; it was a victory over death and evil forces; the sinister death which every Jew dreaded.
Jesus, with His death on the cross, was to demonstrate once for all that life is eternal and indestructible, because God is indestructible; and that man is a child of God created in His own image and likeness.
Prior to Jesus’ death, death was looked upon as the end. All those who died were cut off from God forever. Jesus had to prove that this ancient concept was wrong, and therefore He had to become an example of a new life — life eternal.
THE TRIUMPHANT CHRIST
As we have said, Jesus’ cry was not a cry of despair but a triumphant cry, because He had fulfilled His mission with positive faith in God His Father, and had triumphed over death and the grave.
The grave of Jesus is the only empty grave, and His body did not see corruption, because God was with him.
Millions of Christians in the western world are disappointed and bewildered on Good Friday when they are told that Jesus was forsaken on the cross. They are confused because during the whole year they are taught that Jesus in the Son of God and that He and God are One.
Moreover, in the mission field, Moslems, Hindus and people of other faiths have used this verse against the divinity of Jesus. I remember Moslems telling the European missionary that, “Your Bible itself states that God forsook Him.” If He was God, how could He have forsaken Himself?
I pray God that the new rendition of the words on the cross will help the Christians to have faith in the divinity of Jesus, His Messiahship and the triumphant victory He won on the cross.
Such a belief will give us more strength during our trials and sufferings and will bring God closer to our hearts in the time when we need Him most.
While we are not able to know for certain which translation is correct, it is my hope that we all use this as one more example as to why it is important to read the Scriptures from start to finish and search them diligently, testing everything, to see if it lines up with the straight edge of the word of YHWH. We are not seeking to be right, but seeking what is right, with YHWH’s truth as the standard in all things.
I didn’t mean to present so much new information today but I think this is all vital as we search Scriptures. Test it all. Research for yourself. None of these points I’ve illuminated are salvation issues and that is why I am comfortable introducing food for thought and sending you off on rabbit trails of your own.
And with that, we have completed another book. Rak Chazak!
For additional thought, we think you will enjoy this Sidebar:
In Defense Of The Traditional Reading Of Matthew 27:46
Focus Sheets: We look forward to sharing Focus Sheets for the Newer Testament books in the next reading cycle.
Test everything, hold tight to what is good.~ 1 Thess 5:21
We are saved by Grace alone: Obedience is not the root of our salvation, it is the fruit!
May YHWH bless the reading of His Word!