Catherine Sider Hamilton
2 November 2011
Exploring the Kerygma: Part 2
Four elements of the core kerygma can be clearly seen through a cursory reading of Matthew 27:45-60. Most obviously, Jesus’ death is at the forefront as it is the account of his crucifixion. In addition, there is a statement establishing that Jesus is the Messiah as the centurion utters in amazement: “Truly this was the Son of God!” (27:54, ESV). Also, it is also explicitly stated that several witnesses were “looking from a distance, [witnesses] who had followed Jesus from Galilee” (27:55, ESV). Finally, Jesus’ burial was narrated at the end of the pericope. Of these four elements, Jesus’ death and burial really stand as the main emphases, as this pericope is, after all, an account in which Jesus’ death is central. However, it does seem that the author did take care to mention that certain people were watching from a distance, emphasizing the fact that there are witnesses to this event.
While these four elements can easily be seen, a fifth one may also be discerned through careful reading and reasoning. This element is that these events are accomplished in God’s power. This is evident in the curtain being torn in two, the earth shaking and rocks splitting, and some of the saints coming back to life (27:51-53). Though these events are not explained in the passage, such astonishing events occurring at the moment of Jesus’ death can only suggest that God was supernaturally at work throughout the event.
On the one hand, several elements would seem to be missing from the passage at first reading. Foremost of this is the explanation that all of this had happened for the forgiveness of sin. Any thought of the resurrection is also missing, though to be sure, this will be covered later on in the narrative. Finally, also seemingly absent is any reference to these events fulfilling Old Testament scripture.
On the other hand, we may also see several elements being added in this account. Most curiously, there is the declaration of Jesus as the “Son of God”, which although is one of the elements of the core kerygma, who makes the declaration comes as a surprise. It is a Roman centurion and not one of the disciples, witnesses, or even a Jew who recognizes Jesus as such at the moment of his death. Another added element is in verse 50 where it says that Jesus “yielded up his spirit” at the moment of his death. This seems to suggest that Jesus was in control even of his own death, which shows his willingness to sacrifice himself to death. Finally, as mentioned above, the supernatural events occurring in verses 51-53 are not part of the core kerygma, though it may be seen as an extension of other elements from the core.