Pilate weakly condemned Jesus to death, though convinced of his innocence. Go along to get along. The governor and the Temple authorities had a strange alliance, held together but the avoidance of trouble.
Matthew’s account of the crucifixion focuses more on the mockery Jesus endured than on the execution itself. There are a number of oblique and more obvious reflection of material from the Psalms throughout the description. The Roman mockery focuses on the supposed royal claims of Jesus put forward by the priests to bring about his execution. The Jewish mockery focuses more on the power that a messiah should have.
There is also more focus on those who were near Jesus than on Jesus himself. The soldiers, Simon, the mockers, the robbers, the women. The scene is built with Jesus in the background of all this activity. There is little in the way of theology. Jesus said in chapter 20 that “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many”, but we are not reminded of that here.
The two thieves stand in for James and John, who wanted to be at Jesus right and left hands when he came into his kingdom. And their mother, who pushed them to ask, watches. James and John have abandoned Jesus along with the rest of the men. Only the women are left to watch. Their discipleship proved more steadfast than that of the men. Even the thieves mock Jesus, along with the passersby, the priests, and the soldiers.
The soldiers guard against a rescue attempt. Jesus cries out, seeming to say that even God has abandoned him. There will be no rescue.
Matthew even downplays the death of Jesus. He cried out and died.
But there are apocalyptic, eschatological signs accompanying his death. God had not abandoned Jesus, because we now see his hand in the tearing of the Temple curtain, an earthquake, and some kind of resurrection of saints that must prefigure the resurrection of Jesus, yet to come. I suppose these signs also prefigure the coming destruction of Jerusalem to come in 35 years or so.
The soldiers are impressed enough by these signs to proclaim that he is indeed God’s Son. They may not know what they are saying, but Matthew does and so do we.
And the women watch it all. Their value as witnesses in immense.