And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull), they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall, but when he tasted it, he would not drink it. And when they had crucified him, they divided his garments among them by casting lots. Then they sat down and kept watch over him there. And over his head they put the charge against him, which read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” Then two robbers were crucified with him, one on the right and one on the left. And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” And the robbers who were crucified with him also reviled him in the same way.
(Matthew 27:33-44 ESV)
It’s very interesting that Matthew does not provide any details about Jesus’ crucifixion beyond stating that they crucified Him. Of course, Matthew’s contemporaries would not need to be told about the crucifixion process or about the physical and mental anguish that a crucifixion victim experienced; they would have been very familiar with such things as documents show that the Romans publicly crucified tens of thousands of people in Israel during their occupation.
Instead Matthew, writing under the influence of the Holy Spirit, wrote about things happening around Jesus – things that were prophesied hundreds of years before. As we learned in our introduction to Matthew’s gospel, Matthew’s goal was to prove that Jesus fulfilled all these Old Testament prophecies.
These include being offered gall to drink [Psalm 69:21], his garments being divided among the soldiers by the casting of lots [Psalm 22:18], and Jesus’ being an associate with criminals [Isaiah 53:12]. In fact, there are over a dozen prophecies in the Old Testament about Jesus’ crucifixion alone – all of which came true. The odds of them all coming true are astronomical, leaving no room for doubt that the Bible was authored by God.
Notice that Jesus was crucified at a place called Golgotha, which in Aramaic means Place of a Skull. This was a hill outside the city of Jerusalem (known today as Gordon’s Calvary – “Calvary” being the Latin translation of “Golgotha”). Just like the sacrificial animals were burned on wood outside the camp [Leviticus 4:11-12], Jesus’ body was taken outside of Jerusalem. Symbolically, God calls upon His adopted children – Christians – to live “outside” of our culture. By doing so we, too, will be reproached. But that is no matter as nothing on earth is worth having compared to what awaits us in heaven [Hebrews 13:11-14].
As part of the crucifixion process, victims were given a drink that would stupefy them. As we learned yesterday, the Romans did nothing out of compassion. They gave their crucifixion victims this drink not to alleviate their pain, but to prevent them from struggling violently as the nails were driven through their flesh.
Jesus would not drink the wine, mixed with gall, that He was offered because He was committed to drinking the cup God wanted Him to drink [Matthew 26:39]. As our substitute, Jesus had to experience the full wrath of God – as we would have if we were to pay the penalty for our own sins. Our penalty would not have been diluted; neither was Jesus’.
While Jesus was hanging on the cross the soldiers decided which of them would get His garments. Before being nailed to the cross, Jesus would have been stripped naked. That would be humiliating enough. But to hang there in incredible pain while those around you showed no compassion would have been extra demoralizing.
But Jesus was committed to doing the Father’s will – no matter the cost to Himself – for the sake of reconciling sinful men to God. There was no other way [Matthew 26:39, 42; John 14:6]
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