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The religious leaders who sought their will against Jesus had now fully obtained it; He was dead.  But as C.S. Lewis notes, although everyone ultimately gets what they want, not everyone likes what they get.  For even from the moment that Pilate surrendered Jesus to their will they immediately began to sense that perhaps they weren’t going to like what they got.  It was odd that Pilate used the same words to deflect responsibility for His death that they had used with Judas (“see to that yourselves”), at which the rabble crowd they had incited against Jesus accepted full responsibility, calling down a curse upon themselves and their children for His blood.  Then there was the unnatural darkness that came upon the land as He was raised upon the cross, followed by the charge Pilate had placed upon the cross that insinuated to the many onlookers that He really was a king, just of a sort that they rejected.  And although they had assigned His grave with the wicked to further stigmatize Him and His supporters, one of their own from the Sanhedrin had gone directly to Pilate and obtained the body to dignify His death and honor Him with a decent burial in an expensive tomb.  But it was later that evening at the close of their Passover meal that their eyes were finally opened to the awful truth of what they had done.  For as they sung the last of the traditional Hallel psalms (Psa 118:19-27) they were reminded by it of the culmination of Jesus’ words and teachings against them in the days before (“This is the gate of the Lord; the righteous will enter through it…The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief corner stone.  This is the Lord’s doing, it is marvelous in our eyes…Hosanna…Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord…Bind the festival sacrifice to the horns of the altar.”)  As the words of king Ahasuerus covered the face of Haman so that he knew harm had been determined against him (Est 7:7-8), so would the words Jesus had spoken to them have covered their face at that instant to see Him for who He was: “You shall not see me until you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord’” (Mat 23:39).  Immediately they would also have been reminded of His last words to them as they condemned Him to death: “Hereafter you shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.” (Mat 26:64).  Oops.

At that instant, having their eyes opened to what they had done, especially as teachers of the law who well understood the first man’s transgression, they might have humbly turned their hearts to God in repentance and confessed their sin.  And yet, as we shall see, because their hardened hearts were blind to the true nature of the redemption that He had from the beginning set in motion and that was now coming to pass, they instead followed in the predictable path of sin and tried to cover up their nakedness.  How soon does Matthew say that they went about trying to keep, as it were, the cat in the bag?  See Mat 27:62.  What day does Matthew say it was?  Note that the day after the preparation was the first day of Unleavened Bread, and although it was a sabbath day of rest, he didn’t call it the Sabbath so as to avoid confusion with the seventh day Sabbath which was not until the next day; cf. Exo 12:16, Joh 19:31.  Note also that if Jesus had been crucified on Friday as is commonly taught, then the next day would have been the Sabbath, and Matthew would certainly have described it as such, and not as “the day after the preparation”. 

The religious leaders clearly understood Jesus’ prediction that He would be raised from the dead (Mat 27:63), and if repentant would have rested according to the commandment and done nothing in order to see what might come to pass, knowing that He was dead.  And yet, what does Matthew say the religious leaders did on that high sabbath, and in what way did it exemplify their hypocrisy for having so often criticized Jesus for His works on the Sabbath?  See Mat 27:62-66; cf. Mat 12:2,10, Luk 13:14, 14:1-3, Joh 5:9-10,16, 9:14,16 and note[1].  How did they address Pilate, a Gentile whom they despised in their hearts, compared to Jesus, who was one of their own?  See Mat 27:63 and note[2].  Note also that the NAS sir is the same word usually translated as Lord, so that having disowned Jesus as their Lord who would have delivered them from the Romans, they were left to own Pilate as their lord.  In what regard did they consider Jesus a deceiver?  Cf. Joh 19:21 and recall that king was synonymous to them with messiah.  Note also that the word translates πλάνος from which we get planet, a wandering star that would mislead or deceive in regard to a direction to be taken; hence an imposter.  And yet who were the real imposters?  What does this remind us about the way that the world and its god are able to so completely deceive people as to call evil good and good evil (Isa 5:20)?  Should we suppose it is any different for Christ’s followers than it was for Him?  Cf. 2Co 6:8.  Especially in regard to political leaders, should we imagine that the world will ever accept the true Prince of Peace who conquers through death instead of its warmongers?

[1] They that had so often quarreled with Christ for works of the greatest mercy on that day, were themselves busied in a work of the greatest malice.  Matthew Henry.

[2] The most malicious slanderers of good men are commonly the most sordid flatterers of great men. Matthew Henry.

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