Others in Matthew, class 13: Matthew 27:32, 38-44, 54, 55-56 – An African, outlaws, a Roman officer, a collection of women, and a rich man.
Simon the Cyrene 27:32
Cyrene was a northern African nation. Being “of Cyrene” Simon could have been a settler in Jerusalem originally from Cyrene. One of the Jerusalem synagogues catered to the contingent of Cyreneans, and people from other far flung areas, that lived in Jerusalem. Or, he might have been on a pilgrimage from Cyrene, as there was a significant synagogue there established by Jewish refugees from the inter-testamental Greek persecution. People from Cyrene are among those who heard the gospel in their own language on Pentecost (Acts 2:10).
Roman soldiers often pressed people into short service. See. Mt. 5:41.
We learn a little more about Simon from Mark 15:21. He is identified there as the father of Rufus and Alexander, which leads to a supposed connection to the mention of a Rufus in Rom. 16:13.
A late tradition arose that he is the Simon called Niger in Acts 13:1, because of the African connection.
The Thieves 27:38-44
That Jesus was executed along with thieves, bandits, robbers, or insurrectionists stands in fulfillment of Is. 53:12, “He was numbered with the transgressors.”
One thief joined in with the mockers. Some who practice rebellion against authority and submission to peer pressure do so to the end.
The other thief had a greater respect for his own mortality, his own guilt, the innocence of Jesus, Jesus’ authority, and the specter of hope. To him, Jesus promised paradise. Here was a final example of the Son of Man having power on earth to forgive sins (Mt. 9:6).
As an officer of a contingent of soldiers, the Centurion was just doing his job that day. However, spending a day at the foot of the cross of Jesus, perhaps noting the unfairness of it all and the character of Jesus, and being fearfully impressed with the earthquake, the reports of tombs being opened, and the darkness at midday, he is credited with confessing “Truly this was the Son of God!” It is likely that his confession is to be understood to refer to the various sons of the multiple gods of the Romans and Greeks. Even so, a man of high authority who was in a position to note all the nuances of the day at the cross was aware that something and someone extraordinary was evident.
The Women 27:55-56
There were many, among whom were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph and the mother of the sons of Zebedee. The names Mary, James, and Joseph were such common names, the list of people at the cross, women in particular, can be confusing. Matthew mentions Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph (Mary the mother of Jesus also had children named James and Joseph, but this is likely another Mary), and the mother of the sons of Zebedee. Here is a run-down on all the women at the cross according to all the gospels.
Mary Magdalene. A Galilean woman probably from the town of Magdala (on the west bank of the Sea of Galilee). Jesus delivered her from seven demons (Luke 8:2; Mark 16:9). She became a follower of Jesus (Matt. 27:57), a witness to the crucifixion and burial (Matt. 27:61; 28:1; Mark 15:40, 47; John 19:25), and was among the women who went to the tomb on Sunday (Mark 16:1; John 20:1). She was the first person to see Jesus alive (Mark 16:9) and told the other disciples (Luke 24:10; John 20:18).
Mary (mother of Jesus). She gave birth to Jesus while still a virgin, raised him, was present at his execution and burial, and witnessed his resurrection life. From the cross Jesus entrusted his widowed mother to John’s care, and she went to live in his home (John 19:25-27)—perhaps because Mary’s other sons were not yet believers ( John 7:5; see also Matt. 13:57; Mark 3:21, 31; 6:4). Mary’s other sons were named James (author of the biblical book of James), Joseph/Joses, Simon, Judas/Jude (author of the biblical book of Jude) (Matt. 13:55; Mark 6:2-3; Acts 1:14; 1 Cor. 9:4-5; Gal. 1:19). She also had at least two daughters (Mark 6:3).
Mary (mother of James and Joses/Joseph). A witness of Jesus’s crucifixion, burial, and resurrection appearances. Her sons were named James the Younger (hence her husband must have been named James) and Joses/Joseph. See Matt. 27:61; 27:56; Mark 15:40, 47. The fact that two Marys in the story have sons with the same names (James and Joseph/Joses) shows the commonality of certain surnames in first-century Galilee. The name Mary, in particular, was exceedingly common in first-century Palestine, hence the need to distinguish between different Marys in the Gospels, whether by way of their hometown (Mary Magdalene) or in association with their husband (Mary of Clopas) or sons (Mary mother of James and Joses).
Mary (sister of Martha and Lazarus). Jesus’s friend from Bethany who hosted Jesus during the last week of his earthly life in the home she shared with her siblings Lazarus and Martha (Luke 10:38-42; John 11:1-2; 12:1-8). She anointed Jesus’s head with oil (Matt. 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-9; John 12:1-8; but not Luke 7:36-50, which features another, earlier anointing of Jesus by a “sinful woman”).
Mary (wife of Clopas). A Galilean witness of Jesus’s crucifixion, she may be identified as Jesus’s “mother’s sister” (John 19:25)—though see discussion under Salome below. According to Hegesippus, as quoted by the historian Eusebius, Clopas was the brother of Joseph of Nazareth (Hist. Eccl. 3.11; 3.32.6; 4.22.4). If so, Mary and Clopas were Jesus’s aunt and uncle. Their son Simeon (Jesus’ cousin) became a leader of the Jerusalem church succeeding James the brother of Jesus.
Salome. One of Jesus’s female followers in Galilee, she witnessed the crucifixion and went to the tomb on Sunday (Mark 15:40; 16:1). The parallel passage in Matthew 27:56 makes it likely that she is the mother of the sons of Zebedee (i.e., James and John). Interpreters differ on the number of women represented in the Greek construction in John 19:25 (“his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene”). If “his mother’s sister” is a separate woman, the reference is likely to Salome (which would make James and John the cousins of Jesus). However, it seems slightly more likely that Mary the wife of Clopas is Mary’s sister (or sister-in-law). See the discussion under Mary (wife of Clopas).
Joseph of Arimathea
Joseph of Arimathea. A Pharisee who was a secret disciple but feared what fellow Jews would think of him if they knew his allegiance (John 19:38). He was wealthy (see Matt. 27:57), was a respected member of the Sanhedrin who did not agree with the Council’s treatment of Jesus (see Luke 23:50-51), and was originally from the Jewish town of Arimathea (Luke 23:50). Joseph requested possession of Jesus’s body from Pilate and was granted permission to bury him in a newly hewn rock tomb that he owned near a garden and near Golgotha ( John 19:41).