CHRIST, THE MAN OF GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
4-12-74 12:00 p.m.
The title of the theme this year has been “Christ, the Savior of the World.” On Monday, Christ, the Power of God; and on Tuesday, Christ, the Gift of God; and on Wednesday, Christ, the Word of God; and yesterday, Christ, the Way to God; and today, Friday’s day, the day He was crucified, Christ, the Man of God.
It is from an exclamation of a Roman procurator, Pontius Pilate, before whom He was tried and condemned to death. And the apostle John, writing in the nineteenth chapter of his Gospel, has this verse, number 5:
Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe. And Pilate saith unto them, idou ho anthropos—the Latin, ecce homo –the English, Behold the Man!
He had delivered the Lord to be crucified, to be crucified, but first as a prelude, which was the Roman habit, to be scourged, and from what I can read, the scourging was as contributory to the death as the nailing to the cross. It was so tragically awesome and harsh.
So in this story told by the apostle John, Pilate delivered the Lord to the soldiers to be scourged [John 19:1]. And after they had beaten Him, they mockingly put on Him a purple robe, some cast off regal garment found in the palace [John 19:2]. And they plaited a crown of thorns, and pressed it on His brow [John 19:2]. And they put a reed, a mock scepter, in His hand, all out of chief buffoonery and ridicule [Matthew 27:29].
And while they were in their Roman antics of playing and insult, Pilate happened to walk by [John 19:4]. And he saw the Lord standing there, the blood from His back staining the floor, His face covered in blood from the tearing thorns of the mocking crown, and that cheap, moth eaten, cast-off purple robe, and that reed, some kind of a papyrus in His hand for a scepter, He looked so pitiful. And as you know, Pilate had sought to release Him. “I find no fault in Him at all” [John 18:38]. Absolutely innocent! Pilate felt it, and after the legal interrogation and consideration of the charges brought against Him, could see that just out of sheer envy had they brought Him to this judgment [Matthew 27:18]. So, Pilate seeking to release Him, as he passed by and saw the pitiful, forlorn figure so beaten and so bloody and so mocked, and yet like a sheep without a reply, just standing there, the procurator thought the pity that it excites in my heart maybe would excite pity in the heart of this bloodthirsty throng [John 19:4]. And that’s why he brought Him forth, set Him on the edge of the balcony, that the crowd below might look upon as gentle, as unreplying, as humble a man as mind could imagine.
So, standing Him there with His crown of thorns, and His bloody face, and the purple robe, and the reed in His hand, Pilate made that world famous exclamation, idou ho anthropos, ecce homo. “Look at the Man!” [John 19:5].
That sight and that scene has captured the imagination of the artists of the centuries. There is no counting how many Ecce Homos have been drawn. They are in the great museums of the whole world; that figure of Jesus standing with a crown of thorns and a purple robe, insulted, abused, debased, bloody, rejected, cast down. So we look at it this solemn morning, idou ho anthropos. “Look at the Man!”
First of all, I want us to look at it in an astonishing, overwhelming contrast. Look at Him first as He was in glory before the world was made. “For in the beginning was the Lord, and the Lord was with God, and the Lord was God. All things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was made” [John 1:1, 3]. He is the Lord of all creation, the Prince of the hosts of heaven, the crowned jewel of glory. And think of the adoration of the angels. All Christ was, pre-incarnate, the glory He shared with the Father before the world was [John 17:5], and now look at Him, crowned with thorns, bloody face and back, with a purple robe in mockery and a reed in disdain [John 19:1-3; Matthew 27:29-30].
The contrast staggers the imagination. “For Christ, who was in the form of God, thought it not a thing to be grasped to be equal with God: but poured Himself out, and made Himself of no reputation, and was found in the likeness of a man. And being made in the fashion of a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” [Philippians 2:6-8]. From the heights of glory, down and down and down and down and down He came, the Lord God of the universe, unto finally there He stands with a mock purple robe and a bitter crown of thorns [John 19:2].
I want you to look at Him again; idou ho anthropos. Think of Him in His nativity, in His incarnation, in the story of Bethlehem [Matthew 1:20-2:1]. When He became flesh, what a beautiful and happy night [Luke 2:1-20]; we call it Christmas, and Christmas is the gladdest season of the year. In honor of our blessed Lord and His incarnation, we decorate the whole world. We sing songs.
There is not an infidel or an agnostic or an unbeliever or a Christ-hater or a God-rejecter but that could be conscious of the spirit of Christmas. It’s one of infinite gratitude to God, and when He was born the angels sang [Luke 2:13], and the stars lowered their lights like golden lamps, and the whole universe was resonant with infinite harmonies. It was a beautiful and glorious night. The pastoral shepherds came to worship. And the wise men came from the East to bring gifts [Matthew 2:1-2, 9-11]. It was everything beautiful and glorious when the Lord was born.
Now look at Him. This is the end of His life on earth, crowned with thorns, covered in blood, wearing a purple robe [John 19:2]. Idou ho anthropos. The gift of God in Bethlehem [Matthew 1:20-2:1]—humanity gave back to God on the point of a Roman spear [John 19:31-34]. Ecce homo! “Look at the Man!” [John 19:5].
Think of Him in His ministry. Was there ever a man so sweet and so gentle, so kind and so good as the loving Jesus? With His hands He could touch the eyes of the blind, and they saw [Matthew 20:30-34]. He could touch the ears of the deaf, and they heard [Mark 7:32-35]. He could touch the leprous sore, and it would be healed [Mark 1:40-42]. He could raise the dead [John 11:43-44]. And the ministries of the gentle Jesus were like balm of Gilead, like a breath of heaven, like the presence of glory. Was ever alive, so beautiful, or so beautifully lived, as the life of Jesus; read it in the Book.
Now look at Him, covered in blood, crowned with thorns and mocked and ridiculed by the coarse Roman soldiers [John 19:1-3; Matthew 27:29-30]. You know, when He was raised above the earth and beneath the sky and nailed to a cross [John 19:16-18], I have often thought of a man who was blind and whose eyes the Lord had opened as he looked at Christ dying on the cross. I wonder what he thought. I thought of the lepers that He cleansed, and the souls that He brought hope and life to, and the sinners that He had forgiven, and the people that He had blessed, standing there in the presence of the cross and wondering why. What is this? “Behold the Man!” [John 19:5].
What is it? What would you say? Is this story some dramatic play like the Agamemnon of Aeschylus, or like Shakespeare’s King Lear or Macbeth, or like Eugene O’Neill’s Strange Interlude? What is this? Is this some historical tragedy like Socrates drinking the hemlock, or like Julius Caesar murdered at the statue of Pompey, or like Abraham Lincoln assassinated in the Ford Theater? What is this? And who did this, whose fault is this? Who mocked the Lord? Who plaited that crown of thorns and pressed it on His brow? Who ridiculed Him and scorned Him and abused Him? And finally, who nailed Him to the tree? Whose fault is that? Who did that? World without end there are those that would say God did it. God did it. They’d charge God with all that you see of hurt, and scorn, and blood, and death in human life.
The wife of Job said to him in his sorrow and suffering, “Curse God, and commit suicide” [Job 2:9]. It’s God’s fault. He did it. There are those by multiplied millions who through the centuries would say, “He did it Himself. He made His own bed. Let Him lie in it. It’s His fault.”
For example, there was a great philanthropist, and theologian, and musician, and doctor named Albert Schweitzer. Albert Schweitzer spent the last many years of his life in the French Cameroons in a hospital. Albert Schweitzer wrote one of the great theological books of the world. It is entitled The Quest for the Historical Jesus. And the thesis of the book of Dr. Albert Schweitzer is this: that the Lord Jesus expected the apocalyptic descent of the kingdom of heaven from the hands of God, and when it didn’t happen, that Christ died in defeat, and in despair, and in disappointment, and in abject failure. That is the thesis of the great theological book of Albert Schweitzer. It’s His own fault; He did it.
There are those that would say it is the Jew’s fault: they delivered Him [Acts 2:23, 36]. There are others who would say it is Pontius Pilate’s fault, the weak, vacillating Roman procurator; he condemned Him to death. There are those who would say it is Judas’ fault; he sold Him for thirty pieces of silver [Matthew 26:14-16]. There are those who would say it is the Roman soldiers fault; they crowned Him with thorns, they mocked and ridiculed Him [John 19:2-3]. They drove the nails in His hands and in His feet, they crucified Him, they did it [John 19:16-18].
I can see Pontius Pilate calling for that bowl of water and washing his hands. “I am innocent of the blood of this just Man [Matthew 27:24]. I did not do it.” If you’ve ever been to Lucerne, Switzerland, that beautiful resort town is right by the side of a tall mountain called Mount Pilatus, Mount Pilate. I asked while I was there, “That’s a strange thing that you’d call this mountain Mount Pilatus. Why?” And then I remembered and was so told to remember. When Pilate finally committed suicide, they buried his body in Lake Lucerne. And that’s why they call that Mount Pilate, Mount Pilatus. And the legend says that in the evening time, to this day, the peasants walking by the lake can see Pilate rise from the bottom of the sea and wash his hands in the clear blue waters of the lake, crying, “I am innocent of the blood of this just Man. I did not do it” [Matthew 27:24].
And I can hear the Jews through the centuries and the centuries say, “Would you bring the blood of this Man on our heads? We did not do it. We did it not. We are not chargeable for His death.” And I can hear the Roman soldier reply, “Sir, I am a man under authority. I do but the bidding of the Roman government. I was but carrying out the orders of the Roman procurator. We did it not.” Well, who did it? Who crucified the Son of God? Who is chargeable for His death?
If we listen to the voice of the Spirit of God, we all did it. Our hands pressed on His brow the crown of thorns. Our hands placed around His shoulders that purple robe of mockery. And we nailed Him to the cross. Our sins did it [2 Corinthians 5:21]. All of us had a part. And in the presence of the great Majesty on high, we all are guilty alike. “I did it, Lord. I did it.”
One of the most poignant stories I ever heard in my life, a minister was recounting a dream in which he was watching a Roman soldier flog the back of Jesus, scourge Him. And as he brought down with all of his strength that cat- o’-nine-tails, it cut into the flesh and blood flowed out. And he brought down that thong again, and blood ran out. And finally the man said in his dream, “I could stand it no longer, and I seized his hand when he sought to bring it down again. And the man turned in astonishment and looked at me, and I looked at myself! It was I who was doing it!” That dream is a spiritual parable. It’s not he, nor is it she, nor is it they. It is I, O Lord, for whose sins Christ suffered and died. We did it. We did it. And He bore our sins in His own body on the tree [1 Peter 2:24].
May I take just a moment more to point out to us another deep meaning in that exclamation of Pontius Pilate? Idou ho anthropos. Ecce homo. “Look at the Man!” “Behold the Man!” [John 19:5]. What is it in the life of our Lord that He asks us especially to remember? Oh, I can think of a thousand things that we ought not to forget. But He chose one. And when I speak of it, immediately it comes to heart.
This is My body which is broken for you; take, eat in remembrance of Me.
[1 Corinthians 11:24]
And this is My blood of the new covenant which is shed for
the remission of sins.
Drink in remembrance of Me.
[1 Corinthians 11:25]
For as often as you eat this bread, and drink this cup, you do
show the Lord’s death till He come.
[1 Corinthians 11:26]
It was that He asks us to remember. Behold the Man suffering and dying [John 19:5]. And our forgetfulness and indifference and unconcern would be all that would break His heart.
Studdert Kennedy, the great English divine, wrote a poem entitled “When Jesus Came to Birmingham.” I want to change just one word in it, and you will see it when I change it.
The poem is this:
When Jesus came to Golgotha,
They hanged Him on a tree,
They drove great nails through hands and feet,
And made a Calvary.
They crowned Him with the crown of thorns,
Red were His wounds and deep,
For those were crude and cruel days,
And human flesh was cheap.
But when Jesus came to Dallas town,
They simply passed Him by.
They hurt not a hair of His head;
They only let Him die.
For men had grown more tender,
They would not cause Him pain,
They simply passed on down th,e street
And left Him in the rain.
Still, Jesus cried “Forgive them,
They know not what they do.”
And still it rained that bitter rain
That drenched Him through and through.
The crowds went home and left the streets
Without a soul to see,
And Jesus crouched against the wall
And cried for Calvary.
[“Indifference,” G. Studdert Kennedy]
Anything but to forget, to pass it by, to be indifferent, not to care. Idou ho anthropos. Look, look. A call to remembrance. Once again a call to commitment, to consecration, a repercussion, a response. Idou ho anthropos, “Behold the Man!” [John 19:5].
The beginning of the great, vast, modern missionary movement can be found in the Moravians. And the leader of that Moravian movement that ensued into the great modern evangelization of the world was in the conversion of a young count, a debonair playboy by the name of Zinzendorf. He owned the vast estate, and these were his peasants, serfs who worked for him.
Upon a day the young count was walking through the art gallery in Dusseldorf. And as he walked through the gallery, he saw a painting, and he stood transfixed before it, as he looked and as he looked and as he looked. It was one of those famous Ecce homo! “Behold the Man!” [John 19:5], the suffering Christ. And as the young count looked and looked, he read underneath the caption written in Latin, Hoc feci pro te; quid facis pro me? “This have I done for thee; what hast thou done for Me?” And standing there in the presence of the Lord that looked out upon him from that artist’s painting of Ecce homo, the young count bowed in consecration and dedicated there to Christ his fortune, his life, his testimony. And out of that consecration came the conversion of John Wesley by a Moravian; the birth of the great missionary movement among our Baptist people in William Carey; the sending out of the missionaries from America in Adoniram Judson, Anne Hasseltine, and Luther Rice; and to this day, the vast effort to make Christ known in the world. You know where it came from? Fom the young count looking at the suffering Christ.
We are like that too. I don’t believe there is a man unhardened who can look upon the face of the gentle Jesus, suffering and dying for us, without feeling in his heart, “I must do something. I just must. I can’t live like this any longer, indifferently, selfishly, worldly. I must do something for God.” And that’s why in the convocation of His people, when the Spirit moves, all of us have that deep longing in our souls; “Lord, Lord, my hands, my feet, my tongue, my heart, my life. God, use me, send me, bless me.”
And our Savior, in that spirit of consecration, looking upon Thy dear face, O Lord, make us instruments of blessing in Thy gracious hands. To Thee, Lord, flows the whole issue of love and praise from our souls. In Thy grace, in Thy Spirit, and in Thy dear name, amen.