Dr. W. A. Criswell
John 19: 1-7
11-13-66 10:50 a.m.
You who listen on radio and share the service on television, turn to the Gospel of John chapter 19; and with us in the First Baptist Church in Dallas, follow the text of the message this morning hour. The title of the sermon is Behold the Man, and the reading of the passage is John chapter 19:
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.
This exclamation of Pontius Pilate has captured the imagination of the world. There is no more dramatic scene in all literature, nor one more sorrowful in the Word of God, than the scene depicted here in the Passion, the suffering of our Lord. “And Pilate said unto them,” in the Greek language as John wrote it, Idou ho anthropos, translated into the Latin Vulgate Ecce homo; and in our English language, “Behold the Man!” [John 19:5]. So powerfully vivid has this scene impressed itself upon the mind and imagination of the world of painting and artistic sensitivity, that a picture of the suffering of our Lord, crowned with thorns [John 19:5], and blood streaming down His back where He had been scourged [John 19:1], and His face where He had been buffeted [Luke 22:64], and finally nailed to the cross [John 19:16-18], that kind of a picture is called an Ecce homo. And what has captured the imagination of our finest and greatest painters—a Raphael, a Leonardo da Vinci—was the purpose of Pilate as he led forth the rejected and suffering Lord and presented Him to the howling, rioting, bloodthirsty mob below [John 19:5]. For Pilate had delivered the Lord to be scourged [John 19:1], preceding His execution, and if you will read those old Roman methods of execution [John 19:16-30], you will find that the scourging, so severe and so drastic, was a part of the death of the criminal.
So Pontius Pilate, the governor, the procurator of the Roman province of Judea, in turning over the Lord Jesus to the Roman soldiers to be crucified [John 19:16], the soldiers immediately took Him and started that process that ended in death [John 19:16-30]. But being a Jew, why, our Lord being a Jew, and the scribes and Pharisees and the leaders saying that He made Himself a King, the Messiah, the Anointed One, the Son of God [John 19:7], those same soldiers so eager to take advantage of any opportunity to show their contempt for despised Israel, in their coarse and blatant and rude, crude humor, after they had scourged the Lord, beat Him, why, they said, “So He is a king, a king, a king. Well, a king must have a crown,” and they made Him a crown. They wove it out of thorns and pressed it on His head. “A king? A king must have a robe,” and somewhere in the palace they found a dirty, worn out, moth-eaten, discarded purple robe; and they put it around His shoulders [John 19:2]. “A king? A king must have a scepter,” and someone of their number found a reed and put it in His hand for a scepter [Matthew 27:29]. Then they bowed the knee in contemptuous mockery before Him and said, “Hail, King of the Jews!” [John 19:2-3; Matthew 27:28-29]. And in the midst of their crude and coarse and cruel sport, Pilate seemingly happened to pass by. And looking into the pavilion occupied by those legionnaires, he saw the pitiful figure of the Prophet of Nazareth, with blood streaming down His back from the cruel scourging, with blood drops flowing down from the thorns pressed on His brow, with His face buffeted by the coarse fists, iron-mailed, that had smote Him, inoffensive, unobtrusive, unresisting, so plainly, humbly innocent. As Pilate looked upon that sorrowing figure, he thought within himself, yet once again, “Will I try to make appeal for His release? Surely, surely, even a bloodthirsty mob would not cry for the execution of a man like this.” So on the balcony of his palace, above the street where the clamoring mob had gathered together, Pilate came forth leading the Son of glory; and standing there above that riotous mob, he turned to the Lord Jesus and made that explanation: Idou ho anthropos, Ecce homo, “Behold the Man!” [John 19:5].
We shall do that today. As the Holy Spirit shall give us insight, may we look, may we behold the Prince of glory, the Man Christ Jesus.
First, may we look upon Him in heaven, before the world was made, before the morning stars sang together? [Job 38:7]. And how much in the Bible is a portrayal, a presentation of the glory of the Prince of heaven; He who was the express image of the invisible God, sustaining all things by the word of His power [Hebrews 1:3], before whom all the angels bow in loving adoration, God manifest [1 Timothy 3:16]. Christ Jesus, ordained from the foundation of the world to be that One [1 Peter 1:20] before whom “every knee should bow, and every tongue should confess” [Philippians 2:10-11]; think of His majesty, think of the deity “Who, being in the form of God, thought it not a thing to be grasped to be equal with God” [Philippians 2:6]; the crown Prince of heaven, with the multitude and the myriads and the uncounted, innumerable hosts of angels who followed Him and adored Him; think of the majesty and the glory of God’s only begotten Son before the world was made [John 17:5], think of it. And now, look upon Him: crowned with thorns, blood streaming from His wounds [John 19:1-2]. Is this the world’s reception of God? What has happened? It is beyond imagination. Idou ho anthropos, Ecce homo, “Behold the Man!” [John 19:5].
Look upon Him that first Christmas, when the Prince was made flesh and dwelt among us; born of a virgin, in the city of David [Matthew 1:20-2:1]. What happiness, what promise, what glory, what celestial, that first Christmas night! And upon the startled watchers, the shepherds keeping watch over their flock by night, there appeared a harbinger angel, suddenly, gloriously, out of the courts of heaven itself [Luke 2:8-9]. And he said,
Behold, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
And this shall be a sign unto you: Ye shall find the Child wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
Gloria in excelsis!
Think of it, think of it! Idou ho anthropos, that first Christmas night. And the shepherds said one to another, “Let us go to the city of David, and let us behold this marvelous thing, this wondrous thing which has been revealed to us by the angels from heaven” [Luke 2:15]. And wise men in the East saw His star [Matthew 2:1-2], shining above the manger in the city of David. And they laid before Him gifts: gold for His deity, frankincense for His mediatorial intercession, and myrrh for His atoning grace [Matthew 2:9-11]. And now look upon Him; what has happened? Idou ho anthropos [John 19:5]. Is this the prophecy of Simeon when the Child was taken to the temple? “This Child,” he said, “is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign that shall be spoken against.” And then, turning to His mother, Simeon added, “Yea, and a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also” [Luke 2:34-35]. “Behold the Man!” [John 19:5].
Or think again, look upon Him in the ministry of the days of His flesh, going about doing good [Acts 10:38]: the gentle and lowly and humble and precious Lord Jesus [Matthew 11:29], with His hands touching the lepers, and they were cleansed [Mark 1:40-42]; touching the eyes of the blind, and they could see [Matthew 9:27-30]; touching the ears of the deaf, and they could hear [Mark 7:31-35]; speaking, and by the glory of His power raising the very dead [John 11:43-44]; think of the beauty, the perfection, the purity, the virtue of the life of the Son of God [Luke 6:19, 8:46-47]. And now, look upon Him [John 19:5]. And listen to that howling mob as they cry on the pavement beneath: “Crucify Him, crucify Him” [John 19:6, 15; Mark 15:12-14; Luke 23:13, 20-21]. You know I can easily imagine as that crowd cried for His blood and for His death, I can easily imagine in that throng would be a leper the Lord had cleansed, and he’d say, “Crucify Him? Why, He made me whole!” I can easily imagine a cripple: “Crucify Him? Why, He made me to walk!” A blind man: “Crucify Him? Why, He opened mine eyes, and I can see! Crucify Him? Crucify Him?” Surely in the story of mankind and in all of the history of the human race was there ever aught like this: Idou ho anthropos, Ecce homo, “Behold the Man!” [John 19:5].
Who did that? Whose fault is that? Who pressed on His brow that crown of thorns? [Matthew 27:29]. Who smote Him in the face? [Luke 22:64]. Who drove through His hands those nails? [Luke 24:38-40]. Who crucified the Prince of glory? Who did that? Oh, there are many answers. How many of us would say, “God did that. God did that, God! It is God’s fault! Why doesn’t God stop these wars? Why doesn’t God stop this sin? Why doesn’t God stop this suffering? God did it. It is God’s fault, God.” When Job the ancient patriarch fell upon his evil days, his wife said to him, “Curse God, and commit suicide” [Job 2:9]…”God did it, He did it, God did it.”
No, there are those who say, “It’s His own fault, He did it to Himself. He made His bed, let Him lie in it.” How common is an answer like that. “They fall into this misery and agony and suffering because of their own mismanagement. He should have been a better and a more astute arranger of the providences of life. It’s His fault, He did it.” This great philanthropist, Dr. Albert Schweitzer, who died recently in Africa, one of the great heroes of the world—and I don’t deny him those marvelous tributes—but he’s certainly not a Christian as I think of a man being a Christian. Albert Schweitzer wrote a great theological tome entitled The Quest for the Historical Jesus. And in that theological volume Albert Schweitzer presents the persuasion that the Lord Jesus was looking for an apocalyptic descent of the kingdom of God from heaven, and when it didn’t come and when it didn’t arrive, He died in frustration and defeat and despair. “It’s His own fault, He should have known better and arranged things better. He did it. It’s His fault.”
Then, of course, for these two thousand years, all over the world there has been that anti-Semitic answer: “It’s the Jews’ fault. They rejected Him, they rejected Him, they delivered Him to death, they crucified Him. The Jews did it, it’s their fault” [Matthew 27:1-2].
Then, of course, there are those who would say it was Pilate’s fault. Was he not the Roman procurator? Could he not have delivered Him from death? He said that he could: “Your life is in my hands” [John 19:10]. And the reason He was crucified was because of the weak, vacillating course of the Roman judge. Pilate delivered Him to death [John 19:16], and it’s Pilate’s fault!
Then, of course, there are those who would say Judas did it. Judas delivered Him, Judas betrayed Him [Matthew 26:14-16]. Judas is the treacherous squealer that pointed Him out [Matthew 26:47-50]. Judas’ fault: Judas did it!
Then there are those who would say it was the fault and guilt of the Roman soldiers. After all, who pressed on His brow the crown of thorns, who made it? [John 19:2]. Who drove those nails through His hand and through His feet? [John 19:18, 20:25-27]. Who was it kneeled down and in buffoonery and ridiculous mockery said, “Hail, King of the Jews,” and smote Him with their fists? [John 19:3]. The soldiers did it; they did it.
And I can hear the answering cries of these who are accused of executing the Son of God; I can hear the cry of the Roman procurator Pontius Pilate: “Oh, no, not I, not I.” And he took water and washed his hands [Matthew 27:24]; “Not I, it is not my fault, it is not my guilt. I did it not. I did it not.”
If any of you have been to Lucerne, Switzerland, right by Lucerne is a mount, Mt. Pilatus, Mt. Pilate. And I asked a citizen, “This is an astonishing thing! That right here at Lucerne, Switzerland, this beautiful little city on a beautiful glorious Lake Lucerne, should have a mountain here that you named Mt. Pilate; why such a thing?” And then he called to my memory the story of Pontius Pilate. Because of misadministration and misgovernment, the Roman senate recalled him, and he was banished, and he committed suicide, and his body was finally thrown into Lake Lucerne. And those old peasants who walk by that beautiful lake in the late evening and twilight say that through the mist they can see Pontius Pilate rise from the bottom of the lake and wash his hands, wash his hands in the clear blue water of Lake Lucerne, crying, “I did it not, it is not my fault, I am not guilty!”
And I can hear the Jews for two thousand years and to this present day as they cry, “It is not our fault! Would you bring the blood of this Man upon us and upon our children? [Matthew 27:5]. We did it not, it is not our fault!”
And I can hear the Roman soldiers as they would reply, “We are men under authority. We were executing the orders of the Roman government. It is not our fault, we are not accountable!”
Then who did it? It must have been we all had a part in it; the whole human family. It must have been we did it. My sins pressed upon His brow the crown of thorns. My sins drove those cruel nails through His hands and His feet. It must have been that our sins crucified the Prince of glory [Isaiah 53:5]. We all had a part. And as we come to the realization of our guilt and the cost of our sins, who among us but could bow in humble contrition and confession: “O Lord, O God, is this the cost, the penalty of my sins, that God should come down from glory and, made in the fashion of a man, become obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross? [Philippians 2:6-8].
Was it for crimes that I have done
He groaned upon the tree?
Amazing pity, grace unknown,
And love beyond degree!
But drops of grief can 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]
Just one glimpse, Idou ho anthropos, Ecce homo: look, look! Just one glimpse in the teaching and appealing of the Holy Spirit will change a man’s life forever; never the same again, couldn’t be. “This is what God has done for me, what shall I do for God?”
In the long ago, in Moravia, in 1700, was a brilliant, trained, educated, affluent nobleman by the name of Count von Zinzendorf: a gifted, a handsome and an affluent young man, and as most noblemen were, have been, seemingly always are, living in the glitter of the court and in the tinsel and tinfoil of a cheap social world; that was Count Zinzendorf. But the Holy Spirit had a great message for his life, and a great purpose. And upon a day, when the young count was walking through the gallery, the art gallery of Düsseldorf, Germany, he was attracted by a glorious picture, an Ecce homo. And as he looked upon it, the crown of thorns, the suffering Savior, he read the inscription underneath: Hoc feci pro te, quid facis pro me? “This have I done for thee, what hast thou done for Me?” The young nobleman bowed, he knelt; and there in that holy place he made an altar unto God and gave to the Lord his life, his estate, every dream and vision of his soul. He arose from that dedication, and, as you well know in history, out of that Moravian missionary, evangelistic passion led by Zinzendorf, they faced a dark and pagan world. In their ministry, those Moravians won John Wesley and Charles Wesley to Jesus. And in the preaching of John Wesley and in the singing of Charles Wesley, they brought revival and evangelism to the English speaking world. And out of that great Moravian dedication of Count Zinzendorf, they touched that little Baptist band in Nottingham, led by William Carey and by Andrew Fuller, and away to India they scattered the good news of the light of the knowledge of God in the face of Jesus Christ [2 Corinthians 4:6]; and finally, to America. All in a look.
There is life for a look at the Crucified One,
There is life at this moment for thee
Then look, sinner friend, look and be saved
Unto Him who was nailed to the tree.
[from “There is Life for a Look,” Amelia M. Hull, 1832]
Idou ho anthropos, Ecce homo, “Behold the Man!” [John 19:5]. Hoc feci pro te, “This have I done for thee,” quid facis pro me, “what hast thou done for Me?”
Lord, if I know my life and my heart and my soul, all that I have and am or could ever dream to be, Lord, this I do for Thee: I dedicate it in Thy name. Bless it, Lord, under Thy hands and mine.
Would you do that today? Would you? Would you? In a moment when we sing our hymn of appeal, would you get out of your seat? Up there in that balcony, would you come down one of these stairways and stand by me here at the front of this great auditorium? “Pastor, today, today, I give my life and heart to the Lord Jesus, and here I am” [Romans 10:8-13]. In the press of people on this lower floor, into the aisle and down here to the front, “Here I am, pastor, here I come. Today, I take the Lord as my Savior, and here I stand, here I stand” [Ephesians 2:8-10]. A couple you, one somebody you, a family you, putting your life in the church with us [Hebrews 10:24-25], taking the Lord as your Savior, dedicating your life to an especial appeal from God, however the Lord shall press the appeal to your heart, make it today. “Here I am, preacher, and here I come.” In a moment when we stand, come on the first verse, the first syllable; when you stand up, stand up coming. “Here I am, pastor, I give you my hand, I give my heart to God,” or “This is my family; we are all coming today.” As the Spirit shall say the word of appeal, and while all of us stand in prayerful appeal and intercession, sharing in the hymn, come, make it today, make it now. “This hour shall be God’s hour for me and mine, and here I come”; do it, do it now, while we stand and while we sing.