“Behold the man!” That’s what Pilate says in John 19. And strangely enough, we ought to obey Pilate this week. We ought to stop and stare at the Man he is pointing to.
It’s funny to think that Pilate has no authority over you or me today. Truth be told, he didn’t have ultimate authority over Jesus either. But he somehow thought he did.
The only reason we would obey the words of Pilate this week is because John took these words and under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit placed them in His Gospel. Why? So that we would not only hear Pilate’s words in their original context, but also look through these words to their meaning for all people at all times.
Behold the Man!
Then Pilate took Jesus and flogged him. And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe. They came up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and struck him with their hands. Pilate went out again and said to them, “See, I am bringing him out to you that you may know that I find no guilt in him.” So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Behold the man!” When the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out, “Crucify him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him, forI find no guilt in him.” The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has made himself the Son of God.” When Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid. He entered his headquarters again and said to Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. So Pilate said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.” (John 19:1-11)
Put yourself in the sandals of a first-century Jew. There you are in the throng of people outside the palace. It’s Passover. You’re celebrating the deliverance of your forefathers from Egyptian oppression. You’ve been hearing about this Jesus, the One everyone says is the Messiah.
But it appears to you that He’s just a man. You’re disappointed. He’s a man of skin and blood. (And you see a lot more blood than you do skin now that He’s been flogged!)
The soldiers have whipped Him and lacerated His skin. They’ve mocked Him by placing on his head a crown of thorns. They’ve put him in a purple robe. And now He stands before you, before Pilate, before the crowd, and Pilate says those three words: “Behold the man!” Look at Him. Here’s the guy!
Hold that picture in your mind for a moment, and then go back to the beginning of the Bible. It’s where John wanted us to start.
After all, John began his Gospel with the opening words of the Old Testament. “In the beginning.” Only this time, the story that John is telling us is the story of new creation. It begins with “The Word” who was with God and was God. The light and life of men. We know from the beginning of John’s Gospel that he wants us to go all the way back to the beginning, right? So that’s where we head.
God is the Creator who makes the sun, moon and stars, the birds and fish, the plants and land animals. On the sixth day of creation, God made man in His image. He created Adam, named him, and commanded him to rule wisely over the rest of creation. He breathed into Adam’s nostrils the breath of life, and Adam became a living being. Here he was! The glorious fulfillment of all God’s creative plans and activities. A real, live human being!
You can imagine God stepping back on that Friday, admiring His handiwork. This was the first day He saw that it was not just good, but very good. Something about the creation of humanity changes the description from a good world to a great world. “Behold the man!” The masterpiece of God’s creative work.
Not long after, God speaks again. “Adam, where are you?”
God’s question in the Garden of Eden resounds throughout the pages of Scripture.
The Father looking for His most precious creation.
The God of the universe seeking to be present with His people again.
The God who pursues men and women while we were still sinners.
God found Adam, and Adam found God – as Judge. He was hiding because he was naked. “Who told you you were naked?” God asks. “What have you done?”
Adam was ashamed of himself. And the result of his sin and guilt and shame would be the thorn-infested ground that would make his work toilsome. He was created the crown of all life – the pinnacle of God’s creation, the only creature to bear God’s image. But as a result of sin, he would be cursed to till the ground and endure the weather and fight the thorns.
The good news is the story of God’s redemption doesn’t end there! It is only beginning. Because even there in the Garden, God promised to Eve a son – a man, a true human being, who would come to crush the head of that crafty serpent. A second Adam would come to put right what went wrong.
The Word would take on human flesh and dwell among us. Live like us. Live with us. All His life would be preparation for His death. He entered this world with the express purpose of one day leaving it, so that in leaving this world, we could enter His.
On a Friday morning, two thousand years ago, Jesus stood before the people, and Pilate declared, “Behold the man!” It was the sixth day of the week, the day God created man. And now the second Adam was undoing the first Adam’s sin.
Adam was always meant to wear a crown. Now Jesus would wear one.
Adam had been sentenced to toil among the thorns. Now Jesus would have those thorns twisted into His brow.
Adam was ashamed of his failure and sought to hide behind fig leaves. Now Jesus would wear the purple robe and hear the taunts of the mockers.
The hands of humanity that reached out for the forbidden fruit were the fists that beat the face of the precious Savior.
“Behold the man!” Pilate didn’t know what he was saying, but John the apostle did. Jesus is the perfect man. The image of the invisible God, the beginning and the end, the One in whom all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell. The one who shows us what God always intended humanity to be like. He is the One who takes the shame of our sin and bears the mockery of evil.
As the second Adam, Jesus fulfills our purpose. Just look at how the Jewish leaders seek to crucify Him according to their law. God sentenced to death the sons of Adam for believing the lie of the serpent. But here the sons of Adam sentence to death the Son of God who tells the truth. They had it backwards. This is not just a man who has made Himself to be the Son of God. This is the Son of God who has made Himself man.
Behold the Man!