July 23rd, 1972 @ 7:30 PM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
John 19: 5
7-23-72 7:30 p.m.
On the radio of the city of Dallas you are sharing with us the services of the First Baptist Church. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled Ecce Homo. Turn with me, all of us, and let us read out loud together the Gospel of John, chapter 19, the first seven verses. And if on the radio you are listening and can, get a Bible. Open it to the nineteenth chapter of John and read it out loud with us. You will see the text, “Behold the Man!” [John 19:5]. John 19: 1-7; all of us, out loud, reading it 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 you 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 exclamation of Pontius Pilate, the Roman procurator, as he brought Jesus out of the judgment hall and set Him on a balcony above the people, where the maddening crowd could see Him, the exclamation of Pontius Pilate is a theme of artistry, and poetry, and sermon in itself.
Translated here, “Behold the Man!” [John 19:5]; in Greek, idou ho anthropos; in old Latin, ecce homo; in the Vulgate Latin, ecce homo—behold the Man! The scene of the Lord standing there, having been scourged—and any history will say that no small part of the means and reason for the death of one who is crucified lies in the scourging, for those Roman soldiers, before the victim was nailed to the tree, almost beat life out of the one who was to be executed—and the first verse here says that Pilate took Jesus and scourged Him [John 19:1]—that is, had Him scourged—so he was a bloody mess. With the crown of thorns pressed on His brow and the blood coming down on His face, with the castoff purple robe placed around His shoulders, the soldiers, somewhere in the palace, had found some garment—some regal garment—that had been worn out, used, thrown away; they picked that up and put it around the shoulders of the Lord [John 19:2]. And for a scepter, they placed in His hand some kind of a sorry-looking reed, and bowing down before Him, cried, “Hail, King of the Jews!” [John 19:1-5, Matthew 27:28-29]; anything on the part of a Roman to show contemptuous ridicule for the hated and despised Jew.
Now it was while the Roman soldiers were mocking and ridiculing the Lord—having beat Him, and bowing down before Him in scoffing ridicule [John 19:1-3]—it was while that was going on, that, apparently, Pontius Pilate happened to walk through the judgment hall again and looked upon the innocent Man, covered in blood—an object of contempt and ridicule. And Pontius Pilate, seeking to release the Lord—somehow the Roman governor was moved with pity and compassion by the spectacle of the suffering Christ—seeing Him, thus bruised and mutilated, and beat, and ridiculed—an object of scorn and contempt—Pilate thought that the same feeling of pity and compassion that had moved his heart would also move the heart of that throng on the pavement below.
So he took the Lord and stood Him there—placed Him there at the front of the balcony—and said those famous words, Idou ho anthropos; ecce homo. “Behold the Man!” [John 19:5]. So full of seizing meaning and pity has been that sight that artists for centuries have painted that picture; Christ with the crown of thorns, bloody and beat, suffering, preparing now for His crucifixion—His execution—standing there before the crying throng who are asking Pilate for His blood—His life, His crucifixion [John 19:6].
As we ourselves look upon that scene, it is startling in the extreme. It is astonishing beyond measure! Behold the Man! [John 19:5]. Look at Him, the crowned Prince of glory, in heaven before the walls were made. For this is none other than the manifestation of God in the flesh! [1 Timothy 3:16].
The Scriptures expressly state that:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
All things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was made.
And the Word was made flesh, and we looked upon Him, full of grace and truth.
[John 1:1, 3, 14]
This is God manifest in the flesh.
The apostle Paul said, “For in Him all the fullness of the Godhead dwells” [Colossians 2:9]. The author of the Hebrew said, “He is the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person” [Hebrews 1:3]. This is the Creator of all the universe, and of all of the worlds, “who being,” as Paul said—in the morphos of God—“in the form of God, thought it not a thing to be seized or be held onto, to be equal with God: but poured Himself out and became a man, and as a man, subject unto death, even the death of the cross” [Philippians 2:6-8], the death of a slave, of a malefactor.
“Behold the Man!” [John 19:5]. Think of Him in glory, the Prince of heaven, God Himself [John 1:1-3]. And look at Him. The contrast is unbelievable. It is astonishing; beat, bloody, crowned with thorns, prepared for execution and death [John 19:5]. Idou ho anthropos. Ecce homo. “Behold the Man!” [John 1:1-3].
Look at Him again in a startling contrast. Think of the nativity and the incarnation in Bethlehem [Matthew 1:20-2:1]. The first Christmas night, how the angels sang [Luke 2:13-14], and how the wise men came [Matthew 2:1-11], and how the shepherds adored and worshiped [Luke 2:8-16]. What a beautiful, glorious night of nights, when the heavens turned to the praise and glory of God [Luke 2:13]. For the Word had become flesh and God had appeared in human form [Matthew 1:23]. And the pre-incarnate, theophanic Christ [Exodus 3:2] now is in the earth. And Bethlehem’s manger holds the Christ-child, the Son of God [Luke 2:11-16]. Ah! What a night of nights. What a happiness. What a glory. What a gladness. And now, “Behold the Man!” Bloody, beat, crowned with thorns, ridiculed, despised, and scorned [John 19:1-5].
Ah! When He was brought to the temple as a child, Simeon, the aged prophet said to His mother, Mary, “Yea, and a sword shall pierce thine own soul also” [Luke 2:35]. And standing at the foot of the cross was His mother, watching Him crucified [John 19:25-26]. Behold the Man! What a startling, astonishing contrast!
Just once again, think of Him in His ministry, the lowly, humble Jesus, going about, preaching the gospel to the poor [Matthew 11:5], doing good [Acts 10:38], healing the sick [Luke 4:40], opening the eyes of the blind [Matthew 9:27-30], unstopping the ears of the deaf [Mark 7:32-35], cleansing the lepers [Mark 1:40-42], raising the dead [John 11:43-44]—the sweet and gentle and lowly Jesus. Now look at Him. Idou ho anthropos. Ecce homo. Behold the Man: bloody and beat, outcast and despised, rejected [John 19:1-5], and now prepared for crucifixion and death [Matthew 27:26-31]. Ah! What a contrast, that so lovely and beautiful a life should issue in such suffering and death [Matthew 27:32-50].
Raised beneath the sky and above the earth, I can just imagine a leper standing there watching Christ crucified [Matthew 27:32-35]—a man who had been cleansed by the word and compassionate Lord—a leper, who had been cleansed standing [Mark 1:40-42], looking up at Jesus, nailed to a tree. I can imagine a blind man, whose eyes had been opened [Matthew 9:27-30], standing at the cross, looking out of those eyes upon Him who in pity and mercy had made him to see. I can even imagine one raised from the dead like Lazarus, standing there, seeing Jesus die—and he, himself, having died, brought to life in the love and mercy of Christ [John 11:43-44]. Ecce homo. Behold the Man! [John 19:5]. What a startling contrast!
I need not point out to you that there has never been a tragedy in human history like that tragedy. There has never been such an indictment and a judgment upon the fallen human race such as that! What God gave to us in Bethlehem [Matthew 1:20–2:2], we handed back to Him on the point of a Roman spear [John 19:34], crucified like a malefactor, like a criminal [John 19:16-30]. How could such a thing be?
Where did such a tragedy come from? Who did it? Whose guilt is this? The innocent, and lowly, and precious, gentle Jesus, beat, thorn-crowned, crucified and dying, who did that? [Matthew 27:26-50]. Whose guilt is that? Who nailed Him to the cross? Who pressed on His brow that crown of thorns? Who scourged Him unto death? Who did that?
Well, there are a lot of answers. There are those who would say, God did it. He did it. Isn’t He responsible for all things in the earth? Doesn’t He reign King over all heaven and earth? God did it. That’s the thing that Job’s wife said to Job when he fell into such sorrow and distress. Job’s wife said to him, “Curse God, and commit suicide!” [Job 2:9] God did it. All of these things that happen ultimately come from God. God did it. He could change it if He wanted to. He could take away sin, and war, and death, and suffering if He wanted to. God did it. It’s His fault.
There are those looking at the Man saying, He did it Himself. It’s His own fault. He got Himself into that trap. He maneuvered Himself into that corner. The reason He is in this come to pass, He did it. He made His own bed, let Him lie in it! He did it. It’s His fault. He should have been smarter and shrewder. He did it.
There are those who say, Pontius Pilate did it. He crucified Him [John 19:16]. Pontius Pilate could have liberated Him, but Pontius Pilate was a spineless critter who represents a judge with no courage and no character. Pontius Pilate did it. He did it.
There are those who say, No. The Jews did it. They delivered Him to crucifixion and to death. They’re the ones that accused Him. They’re the ones that brought Him to the judgment [Matthew 27:1-2] The Jews did it. He is crucified because they did it.
There are those who say, No. Judas did it. He’s the one that sold Him for thirty pieces of silver [Matthew 26:14-15]. He’s the one that brought the soldiers and the temple officers to arrest Him that night [Matthew 26:47-50]. It’s Judas’ fault. He did it, the son of perdition [John 17:12].
And there are those who say, “The Roman soldiers did it. Crucifixion was a Roman institution. Who drove those nails in His hands? The Roman soldiers did it. Who pierced Him with a spear? [John 19:34]. The Roman centurion did it. Who gambled for His garment? [John 19:23-24]. The Roman soldiers did it [Mark 15:16-24]. It’s the Roman soldiers who crucified Jesus. They did it.” You know I can hear each one of those, standing before the judgment bar of God and saying, “We did it not. It is not our fault.”
If you’ve ever been to Lucerne, Switzerland—one of the beautiful little cities of the world—and Lucerne Lake—one of the most beautiful lakes of the world—if you’ve ever been there, right across from Lucerne, is Mt. Pilatus, Mt. Pilate. When I was there the first time, I said, “Why would they name that Mt. Pilate? This is Mt. Pilate, Mt. Pilatus. Why would they name that mount after Pilate?” And the answer is very plain and much in tradition. When Pontius Pilate was dismissed from his procuratorship, his governorship, he was sent into exile. He committed suicide, and they buried his body in Lake Lucerne. And tradition has it through the centuries that Pontius Pilate, in the twilight of every evening, rises from the bottom of the lake and washes his hands in the pure, blue waters of Lake Lucerne and cries, saying, “I am innocent of the blood of this Man [Matthew 27:24]. I did it not. I wash my hands. It is not my fault.”
The Jews, to the last one of them, would say, “We are innocent of the blood of this Man. Don’t bring His blood upon our heads and upon the heads of our children. We did it not. We did it not.”
And the Roman soldiers, without fail, would stand and say, “We were but men under authority. We were executing the commandments of our centurion and of the Roman procurator. We did it not. It is not our fault. It is not chargeable to us.”
Well, who did it? Who is responsible for the death of the Son of God? Who crucified Him? Who’s guilty? At the judgment bar of Almighty God, I think we’ll all stand, and confess, and admit, and truthfully avow, “We all did it! We all did it! Our hands pressed upon His brow the crown of thorns! Our hands nailed Him to the tree! Our hands thrust into His side that iron spear. Our sins encompassed, brought about, the death of the Son of God. We all did it!” [Isaiah 53:6].
And what is the effect? For a lot of us, it’s like this. There has never been a movement of missionaries like the Moravians. It was the Moravians who brought John Wesley to the saving knowledge of Christ. It was the Moravians who inspired our Baptist missionaries, beginning with William Carey. It was the Moravians who were the frontiersmen to the ends of the earth, unto the Arctic Circle in the north, unto the steaming jungle sun in the south, to the ends of the continents and the isles of the sea. There, did the Moravians bring the gospel of the Son of God. Where did they come from?
It was like this. In Germany—in southern Germany—there was a young nobleman who reigned over a large kingdom. His name was Count Zinzendorf. He was a good looking, swashbuckling, happy-go-lucky young man—a noble man, a rich man, a handsome man—and he was living it up! And upon a day—upon a day—walking through the art gallery in Dusseldorf, he suddenly stood transfixed. This young man-of-the-world, he stood, riveted at attention. What had caught his eye? An ecce homo; a picture of the Son of God, standing before a blood-thirsty throng, crowned with thorns, the blood flowing from His face and His back, sorrowfully looking down upon those who stood in front of that picture.
And underneath was the caption in Latin, Quo facis pro tea. Quid facis pro mea. “This have I done for thee. What hast thou done for Me?” And the young count turned, walked out of that Dusseldorf gallery, back to his palace, and gave himself, and his kingdom, and his life, and his wealth, at Herrnhut for the evangelization of the world. That’s where it all came from, an ecce homo. “This have I done for thee. What hast thou done for Me?” “Behold, the Man!” [John 19:5].
Do you feel like that when you see the Son of God dying? Does the Holy Spirit take the message of His love and grace and mercy and press its appeal to your heart? Does He? I have felt that since a child. Nor could I tell you the number of times that I have sat as a boy in a congregation and listened to the preacher tell about the death of Jesus, and as a lad, cry—just sit there and cry—moved by the love of God in the Lord. I still am so moved. It would be very difficult for me to listen to a man preach about the death of Christ and it not do something to my soul. Quo facis pro tea. Quid facis pro mea. “This have I done for you. What hast thou done for Me?”
In this moment, we stand and sing our hymn of appeal. And you, if the Holy Spirit of God presses that appeal upon you, would you answer with your life? “This will I do for Thee, Lord. I’ll bring Thee my heart and my soul, my every vision and dream and hope of a tomorrow, and I place me and all that I am in Thy gracious and merciful hands. I’m coming, Lord, and here I am.” In that balcony round, you, on this lower floor, you, a family you, “Pastor, this is my wife and these are our children. All of us are coming tonight.” Or just you, as God shall say the word to your heart, as the Spirit of Jesus shall press the appeal, come now, make it now, do it now, while we stand and while we sing.
Dr. W. A. Criswell
A. Exclamation of Pilate a theme of artistry, poetry, sermon
B. Pilate looking upon the bloodied JesusII. Look at our Lord in startling contrast
A. In glory before the creation of the world (John 1:1-3, 14, Colossians 2:9, Hebrews 1:3, Philippians 2:6-8)
B. In the manger of the first Christmas (Luke 2:35)
C. In His saving and healing ministryIII. Who is guilty?
A. God’s fault (Job 2:9)
B. His own fault
C. Pilate’s fault
D. The Jews’ fault
E. Judas’ fault
F. Soldiers’ fault
G. Each would claim innocence (Matthew 27:24, Acts 5:28)
H. We all had a partIV. Our response
A. A call to commitment
1. Count Zinzendorf – Moravian missionary movement