Two Kingdoms—Matthew 27
Read Chapter 27
The vivid portrayal of Jesus’ death on the cross serves as a reminder that the fully divine Jesus is also fully human. He struggles with the fear of death and abandonment. And yet the story of Jesus’ suffering and death is something that the Gospel of Matthew portrays as a crucial victory, the triumph of the Kingdom of God. Throughout the gospel—starting at the very beginning with a family tree that shows Jesus to be a descendant of King David (Matt. 1:1-17)—the author is persuading his largely Jewish audience that the man, Jesus of Nazareth, is God’s long-promised Messiah.
And here as Jesus’ time on earth comes to an end, the crucifixion of the royal Son of God shows us that in the act of execution, it is God who suffers most grievously, completely reframing what it means to be a king: not one who orders bloodshed and vengeance, but one who takes to himself the troubles of his children.
It is perhaps because Jesus in Matthew repeatedly redefines kingship and kingdom that this chapter shows us the stark contrast between the world and its ways and the Kingdom of God. People in positions of power and influence, those with education, wealth, and authority—they are the ones who jeer, question, and ultimately condemn Jesus to death. The crowds of ordinary people are the ones who choose the release of Barabbas over Jesus and the ones who call for Jesus to be crucified.
These contrasts provide sobering reflections for us today. How often are we beguiled and enthralled by people and institutions of the world that point away from the Kingdom of God, while rejecting—even unwittingly—a kingdom where love for one another, obedience to the will of God, and humble service prevail.
- Do you find yourself inspired or bothered by Jesus’ cry to God, “Why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46) Have you ever felt forsaken by God? How does your faith help you at such times?
- It is tempting to think that we would not have joined those calling for Jesus to be crucified – yet we all have said hurtful things while caught up in our emotions. Can you think of a time when you did something even though you know you should not have?
Ever-living God, so often we turn from the love you want to share with us to the bright things of this world. When we are led astray, guide our hearts back to you. Remind us of your abiding presence and help us to look to your Son, our Savior, in whose name we pray, today and always. Amen.
The Rev. Beth Woodard is the chaplain at Trinity Elms, a senior-living campus of Lutheran Services Carolinas, in Clemmons, NC, and the part-time interim pastor of St. Michael Lutheran Church in High Point. She lives in High Point, with her husband, son, miniature dachshunds, and cat. Pastor Beth knows she is not the boss of anyone in that household.