Treasure God’s Love: Behold the Man
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The painting on the screen is one of my favorites as I ponder Jesus’ suffering. It is call Ecce Homo – Latin for “Behold the Man” – and was painted by Antonio Ciseri in 1871. I love the colors, the crispness of the image, the vantage point, and the drama in the scene. You can almost imagine the crowds in the courtyard beyond Pilate replying, yelling, “Crucify Him!” However, this painting isn’t quite accurate, is it?
Jesus looks awfully clean and neat for everything he has been through. He should be bruised, beaten, and bleeding.
Pilate might protest that Jesus was not guilty, but he had no problem having Jesus punished with a beating. His wife may have suffered much in a dream about Jesus, but Pilate had no issue with having Jesus flogged. Jesus would have been in much worse shape than Ciseri depicted Him here.
Frankly, Jesus would have been in worse condition than any artist that painted a version of Ecce Homo portrayed Him. This moment where Jesus stands with the crown of thorns on His head has been depicted in Christian art sins the 800’s A.D. None of them approach a realistic depiction of this moment – probably because – who would want to look at it?
Isaiah says, “he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. 3 He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. 4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.” (Isa. 53:2-4 ESV)
We esteemed him stricken, smitten and afflicted by God because He was. Nevertheless, it is important to look at Jesus in this moment. He stands silent and strong. He is the king who bears witness to the truth. And Pilate might say, “Quid est veritas?” What is truth? But we know the truth is that Jesus was bearing our griefs, carrying our sorrows. “He was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. (by his blessed wounds!) 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned-- every one-- to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isa. 53:5-6 ESV) That’s the truth!
You see, this is love. Love that bears all things, hopes all things, and endures all things for the sake of our salvation.
To treasure this love, we look at this moment – even if we sanitize it a bit for public consumption. We look and see the love that moved God to give his Son to be pierced and crushed for us. We behold the love that kept Jesus standing regally and firmly even as He was crushed, chastised, and wounded for us. It was love that moved Jesus to accept this burden for us.
We know where this is headed. If you’ve thought ahead, you know that next week we will read about Jesus’ crucifixion and His death.
In John 15:13 Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”
There is more to the laying down of Jesus’ life than the nails and the spear. He also endured the beatings, the mockery, the embarrassment, and the rejection that is all summed up in the moment when Pilate says, “Behold the Man,” and crowds cried, “Crucify Him!”
But we behold the man differently, don’t we. Behold you Savior! Behold His love! Treasure it. And as he laid down His life for you, we now are privileged to live our lives for Him. And as we live our lives for Jesus we lay down our lives as we love God and love our neighbors. We live in service of our Savior, sharing the love He has shown us by talking about Him, conforming our lives to His will, confessing our sins, and joyfully receiving His forgiveness. We live lives that display our faith and hope so that our children, our grandchildren, our neighbors, and even our enemies might behold the man – Jesus Christ – in us. Amen.