Ecce Homo

Text: John 19:1-16

Proposition: When Pilate presented Jesus saying, ‘Behold the Man’, he had no idea of how profound or prophetic a statement it was.

Introduction: Let me begin with a couple of quotes from C.S. Lewis, "God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing. (“Mere Christianity”, 1952)  “Joy is the serious business of heaven.”
(“Letters to Malcolm”, 1964). To these let me add a passage from Hebrews 12:1b -2, “… let us run with endurance the race that is set before us looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” The serious business of heaven was the joy set before Jesus that equipped Him to endure the cross to gain for us the happiness and peace that reside in God alone. It was about the fifth hour after sunrise, close to 11 am on a Friday. The last interrogation of Jesus is about to begin. Pilate now seeks to use brutality as a tool to produce empathy. Turn with me to John 19: 1-16.

I. The Scourging of Jesus… a Shame Despised.

It’s such a simple verse, brutal in it’s brevity, “So then Pilate took Jesus and scourged Him.” Pilate attempts to humiliate and debase Jesus by having Him scourged to such a degree that he thought the Jews would no longer consider Jesus a threat. But the Romans had turned flogging into a vicious sport that was capable of death. A Roman scourging did not stop at 39 strikes, it could up to 110 or more.  The scourge had bits of bone and lead balls attached to the ends of the whip. The lead would cause bruising and the bits of bone would embed themselves and then rip open the flesh. The lacerations would be from the backs of the legs, buttocks, upper back and even on the chest as the whip wrapped itself around them creating an incapacitating agony and shock. Because of the title King of the Jews the soldiers mock Jesus with the crown woven from the Jerusalem thorn. Known as the Arabian Nebulae, the thorns were 4 inches long and as sharp as a needle. The sharp points were driven into His scalp with blows from a rod. All this plus the cursing and mocking was meant to shame Jesus. Yet know this, Jesus had told His disciples that this would happen (Mk 10:34; Matt. 20:19). Jesus knew the Scriptures that said, “The plowers plowed on my back; They made their furrows long.” (Psalm 129:3) Jesus knew Isaiah 53:5, “But He was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.” Jesus knew the intensity of what was going to take place and He despised the shame that had been engineered into it because of the greater plan of redemption it would achieve. “Who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame…”.

II. Ecce Homo… Behold the Man!

The High Priests and the Elders stood on the pavement outside the Praetorium while all this was done to Jesus inside. Verses 4 says, “Pilate then went out again, and said to them, “Behold, I am bringing Him out to you, that you may know that I find no fault in Him.” The shock value of a person being scourged, a crown of thorns rammed into their scalp, face and body bleeding from three beatings was sure to make the Jews satisfied Pilate thought. He has Jesus brought out and says, ‘Behold the man!’. In Latin it is Ecce Homo, meant to be a statement about Jesus beaten state but it has now become a cry of the church. Behold the Man who stood in our place! Behold the Man upon whom the judgment of God fell! Behold the Man, the image of the invisible God! Behold the Man tempted in all things as we are yet without sin! Behold the Who knew no sin to be sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in Him! Behold the Man, the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world! Behold the Man, Christ our King, seated at the right hand of the Father on high!                                                                                   

Robert Murray M’Cheyne wrote a song in the 1880’s that had these thoughts, “When I stand before the throne, Dressed in beauty not my own, When I see Thee as Thou art, Love Thee with un-sinning heart, Then, Lord, shall I fully know, Not till then, how much I owe”.  We will behold the man!                                                                                                

“Behold the man!” No sooner had Pilate said those words than the chief priests called out the demand to crucify Jesus. Pilate again protests Jesus innocence and then something happens that rattles him. The Jews cry out,  (vs 7) “We have a law, and according to our law He ought to die, because He made Himself the Son of God.” Pilate leaves the crowd and takes Jesus with him back into the Praetorium. The question he asks Jesus is revealing, “Where are you from?”, for this is no longer a case about a rival to Rome, it is about the claim to deity. Pilates question is the question each one of us needs to ask and answer. Where do you say Jesus is from, from Whom and where did He come? Jesus remains silent so Pilate threatens Him with the power to crucify or to release. Look at Jesus’ answer, (vs 11)  “You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above. Therefore the one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.”  It’s a reply to the question of Where, but it’s also a statement about Why. The power to do anything at all to the Son comes only through the permissive hand of the Father as the plan of redemption unfolds. Then there is that last part of Jesus reply, it has a hint of forgiveness in it, for Pilate had tried to release Jesus but was afraid to do what was right. The one who had delivered Jesus to Pilate could be either Judas or Caiaphas or… me … you. It was ultimately our sin that caused Jesus to be presented before Pilate, to be bloodied and then crucified. Behold the man upon Whom the Lord has laid the iniquity of us all, for all we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, everyone, to his own way. Ohh, behold the Man!

III. The Sixth Trial Ends… Behold Your King!                                                            

When Pilate yet again tries to release Jesus the Jews threatened Pilate with being an opposition to Caesar. So Pilate brings Jesus out of the Praetorium and has a chair placed on the Gabbatha, the pavement in front of the Praetorium. He sits down, a posture of judgment, and says, “Behold your King!” It is the sixth hour, about noon, and Pilate sentences Jesus to death by crucifixion as the Jews cry out, ‘We have no king but Caesar.’ The description of what happens next is extremely brief, “And He, bearing His cross, went out to a place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha, where they crucified Him, and two others with Him, one on either side, and Jesus in the center.”                                          

The trial and death of Jesus were bloody, but it was not blood that was without purpose. Let me share this quote from the site.

“Blood in the sacrificial system of the Old Testament had a two-fold aspect, the shedding of blood was death, the sprinkling of blood was life. …The blood shed in sacrifice, is always treated as living and active even after the death of the animal sacrificed. For example, on the day of atonement the blood was active in its sprinkling of the mercy seat after its shedding at the altar.

The Blood of Christ shed in death was the release of the divine Life of Christ and the making available of that Life for the sinner. In the shedding of His Blood Christ offered up His Life to God as an all-sufficient sacrifice for sin. In the sprinkling of His Blood Christ offered His life to men as salvation from sin. The Blood shed is the sacrificed Life of Christ propitiating Deity. The Blood sprinkled is the saving Life of Christ regenerating humanity.                                                                

This divine paradox, life issuing from death, is emphasized by the Apostle Paul. Writing to the believers in Rome he says,
“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” Romans 5:8-10”

Behold the Man, Behold your KING!

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