Life-Study of Matthewby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
In this message we come to chapter twenty-seven of Matthew. Apparently, this chapter is not related to the kingdom of the heavens. Actually, it is very much related to it. If we do not read this chapter in the light of the kingdom of the heavens, we shall not be able to understand it adequately.
The first verse of chapter twenty-seven begins with the word “Now.” This word indicates that one thing has been completed and that another is about to take place. We may think that chapter twenty-seven is merely a continuation of chapter twenty-six. But in spiritual significance, chapter twenty-seven is much different from chapter twenty-six. The spiritual significance of chapter twenty-six is that it reveals the life that can succeed in being for the kingdom and exposes the life that cannot succeed. The spiritual significance of chapter twenty-seven is that it is related to righteousness. In 27:19 Pilate’s wife referred to the Lord Jesus as a righteous man, and in verse 24 Pilate himself called Him a righteous man. In this chapter the Lord Jesus was treated in a very unrighteous manner.
Verses 1 and 2 reveal that it was the Jewish religious leaders who delivered the Lord Jesus to Pilate. Pilate was a Roman procurator, an agent of Caesar Tiberius in Judea (Palestine), A.D. 26-35. Not long after he unjustly delivered the Lord Jesus up to be crucified, his government ended abruptly. He was banished and committed suicide. In their evil conspiracy, the Jewish religionists persuaded the heathen politician to collaborate with them to kill the Lord Jesus.
In verses 3 through 10 we read of the destiny of Judas. When I was young, I was troubled by the fact that this record of Pilate’s judgment upon Christ speaks of the destiny of Judas. I could not see the relationship between these two things. Verses 1 and 2 speak of the delivering up of the Lord Jesus to Pilate by the religious leaders. Then verse 3 begins the account of Judas’ hanging himself. Verses 3 and 4 say that Judas “repented and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders,” saying that he had “sinned in delivering up innocent blood.” Then Judas threw the pieces of silver into the temple, departed, and hanged himself. The chief priests took the pieces of silver and, knowing that it was not lawful to put them into the temple treasury because they were the price of blood, used them to buy a field as a burial place for strangers (vv. 6-7). They would not receive back the price of blood. Actually, what they did to the Lord Jesus was more evil than Judas’ deed. After giving us an account of all this, in verse 11 Matthew resumes his record of the judgment of Christ by Pilate.
It is very meaningful that Matthew inserted the record of the destiny of Judas into his account of Pilate’s judgment of Christ. The record of Judas testifies of righteousness. Even the betrayer of the Lord Jesus eventually realized that He was a righteous man and that what had been done to Him was altogether unrighteous. In an attempt to be righteous, he threw away the thirty pieces of silver, for his conscience did not allow him to keep them. This is righteousness. When Judas returned the money, the religious leaders seemed to say, “We cannot keep this money, the price of blood, for the service of God. It is better that we use it to buy a parcel of land for burying strangers.” This shows that even the religious leaders had a formal righteousness. Thus, the concept here was that of righteousness.
The kingdom of the heavens is built upon righteousness. In 5:10 the Lord said, “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of the heavens,” and in 5:20 He said, “For I say to you, that unless your righteousness surpass that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall by no means enter into the kingdom of the heavens.” In 6:33 the Lord said to seek first the kingdom and God’s righteousness. These verses reveal that righteousness is related to the kingdom and that the kingdom is built upon righteousness. We need to be clear about this if we are to get into the depth of chapter twentyseven.
At the time Christ was crucified, the Jews had no legal right to judge Him or to sentence Him. Although they could spy on the Lord Jesus regarding certain things, they did not have the governmental position to judge anyone. They were simply a religious group, and government was not under their control. Therefore, the Jewish Sanhedrin had no governmental authority, and it could not pronounce judgment regarding justice or injustice, righteousness or unrighteousness. It could only express religious opinion. Hence, the actual judgment of the Lord Jesus did not take place in chapter twenty-six, but in chapter twenty-seven.
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