27When morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people conferred together against Jesus in order to bring about his death. 2They bound him, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate the governor.
3 When Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he repented and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. 4He said, ‘I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.’ But they said, ‘What is that to us? See to it yourself.’ 5Throwing down the pieces of silver in the temple, he departed; and he went and hanged himself. 6But the chief priests, taking the pieces of silver, said, ‘It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, since they are blood money.’ 7After conferring together, they used them to buy the potter’s field as a place to bury foreigners. 8For this reason that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day. 9Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah, ‘And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of the one on whom a price had been set, on whom some of the people of Israel had set a price, 10and they gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord commanded me.’
11 Now Jesus stood before the governor; and the governor asked him, ‘Are you the King of the Jews?’ Jesus said, ‘You say so.’ 12But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he did not answer. 13Then Pilate said to him, ‘Do you not hear how many accusations they make against you?’ 14But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed.
15 Now at the festival the governor was accustomed to release a prisoner for the crowd, anyone whom they wanted. 16At that time they had a notorious prisoner, called Jesus Barabbas. 17So after they had gathered, Pilate said to them, ‘Whom do you want me to release for you, Jesus Barabbas or Jesus who is called the Messiah?’ 18For he realized that it was out of jealousy that they had handed him over. 19While he was sitting on the judgement seat, his wife sent word to him, ‘Have nothing to do with that innocent man, for today I have suffered a great deal because of a dream about him.’ 20Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus killed. 21The governor again said to them, ‘Which of the two do you want me to release for you?’ And they said, ‘Barabbas.’ 22Pilate said to them, ‘Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?’ All of them said, ‘Let him be crucified!’ 23Then he asked, ‘Why, what evil has he done?’ But they shouted all the more, ‘Let him be crucified!’
24 So when Pilate saw that he could do nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took some water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, ‘I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.’ 25Then the people as a whole answered, ‘His blood be on us and on our children!’ 26So he released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.
"New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved."
Matthew follows Mark’s basic structure, though he includes the additional episodes of Judas’ suicide and a warning being sent to Pilate by his wife on the basis of a dream. Most importantly, he expands upon the exchange between Pilate and the crowd. Although as in Mark, the chief priests induce the crowd to insist on Jesus’ crucifixion, the Matthean Pilate takes the dramatic step of washing his hands of the affair. The crowd then takes the responsibility for the shedding of Jesus’ blood upon themselves and on their children.
Over the centuries, Christians claimed that all Jews in all times and places were thus placed under a divine curse. Such a construal has been rejected in Catholic teaching. As Nostra Aetate states, “Jews should not be spoken of as rejected or accursed as if this followed from Holy Scripture.” But what argument was Matthew making in presenting the scene in this way? Two parables told a little earlier by the Matthean Jesus while teaching in the Temple are important.
In the parable of the guests invited to a wedding feast, the messengers are ultimately killed. In Matthew’s version of this parable, unlike Luke’s, the king sends his troops and destroys the city of the murderers. Clearly, Matthew, writing after the event, is alluding here to the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in the year 70. In the parable of the Wicked Tenants, the Matthean Jesus directly warns the chief priests that their leadership of the people of Israel is going to be taken from them because they have not produced the fruits desired by God. Instead, leadership of Israel will be transferred to other Jews who shall do God’s will. These others are Jews who follow the teaching of Jesus, the members of the Matthean church.
Considering all these passages together, it should be noted that the destruction of the Temple, about forty years after Jesus’ crucifixion, was a traumatic event for Jews, including the members of Matthew’s church. After the Temple was destroyed, different Jewish groups blamed one another for the calamity. Matthew does the same thing, but, of course, his explanation focuses on Jesus. He shows the chief priests as leading the people astray by persuading them to demand Jesus’ death. Matthew argues that that generation of Jerusalemites and the next one, their children, was therefore punished by the Roman devastation of the city.
Matthew contends that the leadership of Israel now belongs to those Jews who follow the Torah given by Jesus, in other words, leadership now belongs to the Jewish churches. In Matthew’s view, the Jewish churches are now living the way God wants Jews to live in a world with a Temple. As part of the competition for leadership, Matthew warns his fellow Jews not to follow the emerging leadership of the Pharisees. Comparing them to the corrupt chief priests of Jesus’ time, Matthew warns that following them will also bring disaster. Matthew’s presentation of the scene of Jesus before the Roman prefect, then, is shaped according to the particular situation of Matthew’s Jewish church in the aftermath of the Temple’s destruction.