Ecce Homo, Behold The Man
May 26th, 1963 @ 7:30 PM
ECCE HOMO, BEHOLD THE MAN
Dr. W. A. Criswell
5-26-63 7:30 p.m.
On the radio, as here in this vast congregation, turn in your Bible to the Fourth Gospel, the Gospel of John, chapter 19; we shall read the first seven verses together. You are listening to the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the evening message entitled Ecce Homo, Ecce Homo, Behold the Man, idou ho anthropos. It is a text you will find in John 19:5; we read together the first seven verses of the nineteenth chapter of the Gospel of John. If your neighbor does not have his Bible, share it with him; and all of us read it out loud together, the first seven verses of the nineteenth chapter of John. Now together:
Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged Him.
And the soldiers plaited a crown of thorns, and put it on His head, and they put on Him a purple robe,
And said, Hail, King of the Jews! and they smote Him with their hands.
Pilate therefore went forth again, and saith unto them, Behold, I bring Him forth to you, that ye may know that I find no fault in Him.
Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe. And Pilate saith unto them, Behold the Man!
When the chief priests therefore and officers saw Him, they cried out, saying, Crucify Him, crucify Him. Pilate saith unto them, Take ye Him, and crucify Him: but I find no fault in Him.
The Jews answered him, We have a law, and by our law He ought to die, because He made Himself the Son of God.
The thing that happened was this. When Pilate found that there was no other alternative but to give up the life of Jesus if he was to secure his own throne, these Jews over whom he was a Roman procurator were threatening to carry their cause to the imperial Caesar himself, and Pontius Pilate had fallen into disfavor with the Roman court. His throne was tottering, and just one more such accusation would be the end of Pontius Pilate and his appointed governorship over Judea. And when those Jewish people who were clamoring for the life and the blood of our Lord threatened to go to the Caesar himself, it scared, it frightened Pontius Pilate; and he placed his position and his appointment above the life of this innocent and godly Man. So Pontius Pilate, against every sense of justice and against Roman law and against everything he’d been taught as a Roman citizen, Pontius Pilate turned the Lord Jesus over to the Roman soldiers for scourging and for crucifixion.
It delighted the Roman soldiers to have an opportunity to make fun of and to ridicule those despised Jews; and this One they had heard claimed to be the King of the Jews. So in keeping with their buffoonery and their contempt for the Jewish nation, the soldiers took Jesus and acclaimed Him as the King of the Jews. Somewhere in the palace, they found a cast-off purple royal robe that a former governor apparently had worn; and they took that dirty, filthy, cast-off purple robe and put it around His shoulders. And somebody thought upon the inspired idea of weaving a crown out of thorns, and he placed it on His head. And they put a reed, a stick, in His hand, for a mock scepter. And there He was, after they had buffeted Him, and beat Him, and He looked like a piece of blood itself, crowned with thorns, with that mock purple robe and that scepter made out of a stick in His hand, and they bowed down and said, "Hail You, beat, bloody, thorn-crowned, You King of the Jews."
A Roman scourging was a horrible thing. There were many strong men who were put to death just by the harsh cruelty of that Roman scourge. Well, in the midst of that, in the midst of the blood of it, and the beating of it, and the scourging of it, and the buffoonery of it, and the brutality of it, in the midst of that, why, Pilate happened to walk by, and he looked at that Prophet of Nazareth in the hands of those cruel and merciless Roman soldiers: bloody, beat, scourged, with a crown of thorns, with a purple robe, with a stick in His hand for a scepter and a sign of authority. Pilate looked at Him. It was a pitiful sight.
And seeking one last appeal to liberate the Lord Jesus, and not to have the blood of an innocent and righteous man crucified by Roman law on his hands, there came to his mind, his heart, the idea that maybe if he brought Him forth and showed Him to that maddened crowd, such a pitiful creature, maybe they’d relent; and having scourged Him, having mocked Him, why, they’d let Him go. That’s why Pilate took Jesus and brought Him on the balcony above those yelling, maddened throngs in the street below, and having taken Him out where the soldiers were buffeting Him, and beating Him, and scourging Him, and mocking Him, Pilate brought Him out, and there at the balcony stood by His side, and said, "idou ho Anthropos," in Latin, "Ecce Homo," in our language, "Behold the Man! Behold the Man!" So unresisting, so humble, without answer – look, look!
He failed in his purpose. That blood thirsty throng cried out just all the more, "Take Him away; crucify Him. Put Him to death, nail Him to a tree." But that scene of the Lord Jesus standing there in that balcony, above the street, crowned with thorns, His face covered in blood, His back beat into a pulp, with a purple robe of indignity and a stick of mockery and ridicule, that sight, that scene has been one of the most startling that the world has ever looked upon! There are artists by the uncounted hundreds who have painted that picture, an "Ecce Homo." And there are men by the uncounted millions who have read that story and have paused in the presence of the sufferings and the indignities and the humiliation of the Son of God. And who wouldn’t pause if he had a heart to care, and an eye to see, and an ear to hear, and a mind to comprehend? That, that is one of the most colossal representations of the outpouring of the love and mercy of God for us that this world has ever heard of or could imagine or conceive! Look at Him.
Look at Him as He was in glory, before the world began. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" [John 1:1]. He was the express image, said Paul, "of the invisible God" [Colossians 1:15], the majesty and beauty and glory of heaven rested upon Him. He was the great crown Prince of all creation. Angels adored Him, and day and night sang, "Holy, holy, holy," to Him. Isaiah saw Him in the temple, "high and lifted up; and His glory filled the earth!" [Isaiah 6:1-3]. Look at Him now. Look at Him now. Beat, suffering, with the blood streaming from His face – idou ho anthropos; ecce homo, "Behold the Man!"
Look at Him in His incarnation, born a Babe in Bethlehem. The angels sang, and the wise men came, and the shepherds bowed, and the whole earth was filled with the song of the gladness of God. He was born; the Messiah had come. Look at Him now: crowned with thorns, with a stick in His hand for a scepter, blood pouring off of His face, with a mock purple robe, bowed in humiliation and in shame. "Ecce Homo, idou ho Anthropos, Behold the Man!"
Think of Him in His ministry, going about doing good. Was anybody ever hurt or harmed by the ministries of the lovely, gentle Jesus? Just healing the sick, opening the eyes of the blind, raising up the crippled, cleansing the leper, speaking words of salvation to the poor, the ministry of the gentle Jesus. "He will not lift up His voice, bruised reed, He would not break; smoking flax, He did not quench" [Isaiah 42:2-3; Matthew 12:19-20]. The tender ministries of the Son of God, going about loving the lost, ministering to the poor, healing the sick; now look at Him. This is the reward of His life of love and mercy and ministry – ecce homo, idou ho anthropos, "Behold the Man!"
How could a thing like that ever have come to pass? That’s the greatest tragedy in all history. That’s the most startling development in human story. How could such a thing as that ever have happened in the history and the story and the annals of mankind? How could it have been? Well, there are a lot of reasons. We say, "God did it. God did it. That’s why that came to pass. God did it. God runs this universe. It’s God’s fault. God wanted to change things, God could do it. God wanted to do things differently, He could do it. That’s God’s fault! That’s why that’s done, that’s God!"
Well, somebody else says, "That’s His own fault; that’s His own fault. He ought to have been a better manager. That’s the bed He made, let Him lie in it. It’s His own fault! He engineered that and got Himself into that kind of a shape. It’s His fault. He did it."
Then there are others who say, "No, that’s Pontius Pilate’s fault. He did it. Pontius Pilate, he was the governor of the kingdom and the ruler of the Jews. Why didn’t he stand up for Him? That’s Pontius Pilate’s fault! That’s why."
And other people, "No, that’s the Jews’ fault. They killed Him. Those Jews did it. Those Sadducees, those Pharisees, those scribes, those elders, those rulers of the temple, the Jews, they crucified Him. They did it."
And then somebody else says, "No, no, no. It was the soldiers that did that. The soldiers did that. Who wove that crown of thorns? They did it. Who put on Him that purple robe? They did it. Who scourged Him? They did it. Who finally nailed Him to the tree? The soldiers did it! It’s their fault. The soldiers did it."
I can hear to this day the cry of those whom we accuse. I can see Pontius Pilate rise from the depths of the waters of Lake Lucerne in which he was buried after he’d committed suicide, and wash his hands in the clear blue water of that lake, crying, "The blood of that Man is not on my hands [Matthew 27:24]. I didn’t do it. I didn’t do it. I didn’t do it. I didn’t do it." I can hear those Jews as they say, "Nor did we do it. Would you bring the blood of that Man upon us and our hands? [Acts 5:28] No, we didn’t do it. We didn’t do it." I can hear the soldiers as they cry, "We didn’t do it. We were men under authority, acting under the orders of those who are superiors above us. We were just carrying out the order. We didn’t do it. It’s not our fault." I can hear everyone rise up disowning and disavowing such a sad, indescribable tragedy as the humiliation and death of the Son of God.
Well, who did that, then? Who did that? Who pressed on His brow the crown of thorns? Who scourged and beat until the blood fell down on the pavement below? Who was it that mocked and ridiculed the Son of God? Who was it that brought rejection and agony and despair to the Prince of Glory? Who did that? I’ll tell you who did it. We all had our part, all of us. Our sins pressed on His brow the crown of thorns. Our sins nailed Him to the tree. Our sins brought the sobs and the tears and the drops of blood that fell to the ground below. We did it. We did it.
If I had time, I’d expatiate on that truth. It’s the same kind of a thing as our Lord said to the scribes and the Pharisees when He said to them that, "On you, that on you may be all of the blood from righteous Abel to Zechariah the prophet, who was killed between the altar and the door of the temple, on you, on you" [Matthew 23:35]. Why, had they slain Abel? Had they killed Zechariah? Yet the Lord says on them all of the blood of all the prophets of all time. What He meant was a very simple thing. They were the children of the fathers who had slain the prophets, and the spirit of that rejection and of that sin and of that refusal was in them. And that same rejection and sin is in us.
If there’s a man here that hasn’t driven a nail in the hands of the Lord, let him stand up and say, "I’m pure." If there’s a soul in the divine presence of God tonight who hasn’t had a part in pressing on the brow of our Savior the crown of thorns, let him stand up and say, "I’ve never done wrong. I’m not guilty." All of us are condemned in the presence of the holy and righteous God. We all have had a part in the slaying, and in the humiliation, and in the crucifixion, and in the death of the Son of God, all of us, all of us. Our sins nailed Him to the cross. Ecce homo, idou ho anthropos, "Behold the Man!" It is our sins who nailed Him to the tree.
Well, as I look, behold, as I look, O God, some of these things enter my soul like fire and like burning fury. This is one. This is one. Lord, having seen, having paused, having looked, O Lord, I can’t go on this way alien. Lord, it’s an impossible thing. It’s an impossible thing, this rejection and this sin, O God, and I can’t, and I can’t, those tears, those drops of blood, O God, O God!
I was pastor of two churches, and one large family was in both of them. Some of the boys were in this one, my half-time church; and some of the boys were in this one, the half-time church. And their children had just almost filled the community, those two half-time churches, and that one family, large family, and so marvelously saved, they were God’s people. One day I asked one of the members of that family, who was a leader in one of those churches, I said, "How is it that you all found the Lord? How were you saved? How were you saved?" And he said, "Well, I’ll tell you how." He said, "When we were growing up as boys, this was a wide open country. And on Saturday night we’d get a bottle of whiskey and put it in one pocket, and we’d take out our six shooters in the belts and buckle them around them, and we’d go to the dance and to the party. Oh!" he said, "our godly mother begged us boys not to do that, not to do that. And we just laughed and scoffed, ‘Oh, Mother! We’re going to have a big time. Oh, Mother! We’re going to have big time.’"
One of them was killed. One of them was killed in one of those drunken orgies of one of those parties. And you know he said to me? He said, "Mother told us. Since we wouldn’t listen to her cries, and wouldn’t listen to her words, and wouldn’t look upon her tears and her broken heart, she said, ‘The minute you boys leave with your flask and with your guns, the minute you leave, I’m going to my place of prayer, and I’m going to pray and cry to God until you come back. And if it’s all night long, I’ll be up there praying all night long.’"
"Oh," he said, "Mother! You don’t need to worry about us. We can take care of ourselves." Well, he said, "We’d get our flasks, we’d get our guns, we’d ride away to those dances and those parties; come back in the wee hours of the morning, put up our horses in the corral, and then the trail – from the corral up to the house – went by a little thicket." And he said, "Walking by that thicket, we’d hear somebody talking, stop, go over there and look. And there’s that dear, old, blessed mother of ours, down on her knees, weeping and crying unto God for her recalcitrant, and prodigal, and wayward boys. Then we would go over there and pick her up, take her into the house with us, ‘Now Mother, you cut that out! We’re all right. We can take care of ourselves.’
"’No,’ she said, ‘No, every time you leave!’"
He said to me, he said, "Young man, she kept that up. Every Saturday night when we got our flask, when we got our gun, and when we left for the dance, that dear old mother would go out to that little thicket and her place of prayer; and when we’d come back in the wee hours of the morning and put up our horses in the corral and start walking up the trail up to the house, there would always be that crying unto God." He said, "Preacher, the day came when I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t stand it. It broke my spirit. It broke my heart. It broke the wildness in my soul." He said, "I got to where I couldn’t walk up that road and listen to that dear old mother of mine pray in the wee hours of the morning." So he said, "Upon a time, coming back: stop, that old mother of ours in that thicket a’praying, we picked her up, carried her to the house, sat her down, and we all gathered round her, all of us boys. We said, ‘All right, Mother, this is the last time. We can’t stand this. You’ve broken our hearts. Now Mother, teach us what it is you want us to do.’" And he said, "That dear old mother took the Book, and taught us wayward prodigal boys how to be saved." And he said, "That night we all gave our hearts to Jesus. And that’s why we are all saved; and that is why we are all Christians."
That is an identical thing of a man as he looks at the Son of God: how can you be filled with recalcitrance, and with rejection, and with obstinancy, and with hard unrepentance, and listen to the drops of blood that fall from His face to the ground, listen to the tears as they stream down His cheeks? How can you do it? Ecce Homo! idou ho anthropos, "Behold the Man!"
Oh, it changes a man to get a good look at the Lord Jesus and His sufferings and His death for us. It changes a man. I haven’t time here for it’s gone, I haven’t time to describe the incomparable blessing that came to this world through Count Zinzendorf. Passing through the DÃ¼sseldorf Gallery in Germany, he looked upon an Ecce Homo, transfigured by it, and underneath the caption, in Latin, "Hoc feci prote; quid facis pro me? This have I done for thee; what hast thou done for Me?" And the young nobleman, rich, with great and broad estates, transfixed, looking upon that Ecce Homo, bowed his head, knelt down, gave himself and his life and his fortune to the Lord Jesus. I could not know the millions and the millions in these centuries since who have been brought to Jesus by the love and devotion and consecration of that rich young nobleman who died with not enough to bury him, having devoted himself and all that he had to the great missionary outreach of the saving grace of the Son of God. "Hoc feci pro te; quid facis pro me? This have I done for thee; what hast thou done for Me?"
"Ecce Homo! idou ho anthropos, "Behold the Man!" makes a Christian out of you, humbles you, makes you feel so unworthy. Lord, hast Thou done this for me? Lord, for me? For me? Feel like Simon Peter, "Lord, You will never wash my feet!" [John 13:8]. You will never wash my feet! How much more Lord, that You die for me? Oh, no wonder they sing songs:
Was it for crimes – was it for sins – that I have done, He groaned upon the tree?
Amazing, amazing pity, grace unknown, and love beyond degree.
But drops of grief could ne’er repay the debt of love I owe:
Here Lord, I give myself away; ‘Tis all that I can do.
["At the Cross"; Isaac Watts]
Would you tonight? Would you tonight? Would you tonight? In this balcony round, you on this lower floor, you coming down these stairways, coming into these aisles, down here to the front, "Preacher, here I am, I give you my hand. I give my heart to Jesus. He shall not die in vain, not for me. I’ll give Him my soul, my life, my destiny, my all in all; and here I come, here I am." There will be others whom God calls tonight, to put your life, to pray with us, to serve God with us in the presence of this blessed congregation. You come. A couple, a family, one somebody you, as the Spirit of the Lord shall lead in the way, shall open the door, would you make it tonight? Would you make it now? On the first note of the first stanza, "Here I come, preacher, and here I am. I make it tonight." While we stand and while we sing.
BEHOLD THE MAN
his sense of justice, Pilate turns Jesus over to the soldiers
looking upon the bloodied Jesus had pity
II. Look at our Lord in startling contrast
In glory before the creation of the world (John 1:1, Colossians 1:15, Isaiah
In the manger of the first Christmas
His saving and healing ministry (Isaiah 42:2-3, Matthew 12:19-20)
III. Who is guilty?
A. God’s fault
B. His own fault
C. Pilate’s fault
D. The Jews’ fault
E. Soldiers’ fault
G. Each would claim
innocence (Matthew 27:24, Acts 5:28)
H. We all had a part
IV. My repentance
A. If my sins do that,
I disown, repudiate them
1. Conversion of
B. I love the Savior
who suffered so for me
Zinzendorf – "What hast thou done for Me?"