As part of the conspiracy to kill Jesus Christ, the Jewish leaders brought Jesus to Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor. Pilate delivered Jesus to be scourged and crucified. Jesus submitted to suffering and death to fulfill the will of His Father.
Ask students to consider the following question:
If you could be an eyewitness to one scriptural event, which one would you choose?
Invite a few students to share their answers. Explain that during the lesson, students will study one of the most significant events in the history of the world. Invite students to imagine being eyewitnesses to what took place.
Write the following incomplete statement on the board: Today I saw and felt …
Refer to the unfinished statement on the board, and explain that students will have an opportunity to complete the statement at the end of the lesson based on what they experience during their study of Matthew 27:1–50.
Remind students that when Jesus was arrested, “all the disciples forsook him, and fled” (Matthew 26:56). The high priest Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin charged Jesus with blasphemy—a crime that was punishable by death under Jewish law; however, under Roman rule, the Jews had no power to put someone to death for blasphemy. Therefore, the Jewish leaders sought to find an offense under Roman law by which Jesus would be punished by death.
Summarize Matthew 27:1–10 by explaining that Jewish leaders delivered Jesus to Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea. When Judas saw this, he regretted his choice to betray Jesus, sought to return the money he had received from the Jewish leaders, and then ended his own life. Because the silver pieces were “the price of blood” (Matthew 27:6) and therefore not lawful to add to the treasury, the Jewish leaders used the money to purchase the potter’s field, where strangers (or foreigners) were to be buried. Matthew cited this event as a fulfillment of a prophecy found in Zechariah 11:12–13.
Invite a few students to take turns reading aloud from Matthew 27:11–14. Ask the class to follow along, looking for the accusation Jewish leaders made about Jesus before Pilate.
According to verse 11, what question did Pilate ask Jesus?
Explain that Jewish leaders accused Jesus of treason, or trying to overthrow the Roman government, and claimed that Jesus declared Himself a king and sought to establish His own kingdom.
According to verse 14, why did Pilate marvel greatly?
Ask students to ponder what they might have said to Pilate in defense of the Savior if they had had an opportunity to speak. Invite a few students to share their thoughts with the class.
Summarize Matthew 27:15–16 by explaining that each year during the Feast of the Passover, it was the custom of the Roman governor to pardon a convicted criminal. The people were permitted to select one prisoner to be released. One notable prisoner at the time of Jesus’s sentencing was a man named Barabbas, who had been convicted as a thief, a rebel against Roman authority, and a murderer.
Invite several students to take turns reading aloud from Matthew 27:17–25. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Pilate asked the multitude of people who had gathered at the palace of the governor.
Ask a student to read Matthew 27:26 aloud, and invite the class to look for what was done to Jesus before He was sent to be crucified.
What does it mean to be scourged? (To be whipped repeatedly.)
You may want to display a small rock with a sharp or jagged edge and explain that a whip used for scourging often had sharp objects (such as pieces of rock, metal, or bone) woven into several of the strands. This kind of punishment was typically reserved for those who were servants, while persons of noble blood or freemen of Rome were beaten with rods. Many people did not survive being scourged because of the severe physical trauma it caused.
Invite several students to take turns reading aloud from Matthew 27:27–32. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Roman soldiers did to Jesus.
What did the Roman soldiers do to mock Jesus?
Why do you think the soldiers found someone to carry Jesus’s cross for him? (Jesus would have been physically exhausted after experiencing unimaginable pain and losing great amounts of blood while suffering in Gethsemane and while being scourged.)
Knowing that Jesus is the Son of God and Savior of the world, how would you have felt if you were compelled to carry Jesus’s cross?
Invite a student to read Matthew 27:33–34 aloud, and ask the class to look for what Jesus refused to do prior to being crucified.
What did Jesus refuse to do? (Drink the substance offered to Him.)
Offering this drink was fulfillment of the prophecy found in Psalm 69:21. You may want to explain that vinegar “mingled with gall” (Matthew 27:34), or as Mark recorded, “wine mingled with myrrh” (Mark 15:23), was customarily offered as an anesthetic to ease the suffering of a person who was dying. By refusing to drink, Jesus deliberately chose not to dull His senses and showed determination to remain conscious through the remainder of His atoning sufferings.
Ask several students to take turns reading aloud from Matthew 27:35–45, and ask the class to look for additional things people did to mock or tempt Jesus.
How did the people mock or tempt Jesus?
Knowing that Jesus had power to deliver Himself, why do you think He did not come down from the cross?
Invite students to read Matthew 27:46 silently, looking for what Jesus said while on the cross.
What did Jesus say? (“My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”)
To help students understand what happened in this moment, invite a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:
“With all the conviction of my soul I testify that … a perfect Father did not forsake His Son in that hour. Indeed, it is my personal belief that in all of Christ’s mortal ministry the Father may never have been closer to His Son than in these agonizing final moments of suffering. Nevertheless, … the Father briefly withdrew from Jesus the comfort of His Spirit, the support of His personal presence” (“None Were with Him,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2009, 87–88).
Why do you think Heavenly Father withdrew His Spirit from Jesus at this moment?
To help students identify a truth from verse 46, read the remainder of Elder Holland’s statement:
“It was required, indeed it was central to the significance of the Atonement, that this perfect Son who had never spoken ill nor done wrong nor touched an unclean thing had to know how the rest of humankind—us, all of us—would feel when we did commit such sins. For His Atonement to be infinite and eternal, He had to feel what it was like to die not only physically but spiritually, to sense what it was like to have the divine Spirit withdraw, leaving one feeling totally, abjectly, hopelessly alone” (“None Were with Him,” 88).
Based on Matthew 27:46 and Elder Holland’s statement, how would you summarize what the Savior experienced as part of the Atonement? (Students may use different words, but make sure they identify the following truth: As part of the Atonement, Jesus Christ felt the withdrawal of Heavenly Father’s Spirit.)
According to Elder Holland, why did Jesus Christ experience a withdrawal of the Spirit? (To feel what it is like to die spiritually.)
Explain that we experience spiritual death, or the withdrawal of Heavenly Father’s Spirit, when we sin. Testify that because Jesus Christ experienced spiritual death in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross, He can help us when we are separated from Heavenly Father’s Spirit because of our poor choices. He can also help us when we feel alone.
Invite students to read silently Matthew 27:50 and the excerpt from Joseph Smith Translation, Matthew 27:54, found in Matthew 27:50, footnote a, looking for what else the Savior said while on the cross.
According to the Joseph Smith Translation of this verse, why did Jesus suffer all that He did? (Students should identify the following truth: Jesus Christ suffered to fulfill the will of Heavenly Father.)
Remind students of the previous lesson, in which they studied Matthew 26 and learned about the Savior’s suffering in Gethsemane and His willingness to submit His will to that of the Father. You may want to suggest that students write Matthew 26:39 as a cross-reference in their scriptures next to Matthew 27:50 to help them remember that Jesus did what He promised to do.
Why was the Father’s will for Jesus to experience the sufferings He did, beginning in Gethsemane and culminating on the cross?
Explain that one of the best ways to show the Lord our gratitude for what He suffered for us is by living righteously. Refer back to the incomplete statement you wrote on the board at the beginning of class: “Today I saw and felt …” Invite students to complete the phrase in their class notebooks or scripture study journals. After sufficient time, you may want to invite a few students share what they wrote.