Dr. W. A. Criswell
1-29-89 10:50 a.m.
This is the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and I am the pastor, bringing the message entitled Ecce Homo, Latin for “Behold the Man!” [John 19:5]. In our preaching through the Gospel of John, we have come to the last hours of His life. And in chapter 19, beginning at verse 1, we read, “Then Pontius Pilate,” the Roman procurator, the governor of the province of Judea, “took Jesus, and scourged Him” [John 19:1]. That was in preparation for His crucifixion [John 19:17-18]. And I have read in Roman history that many times the prisoner died under that heavy, heavy scourging. Pilate took Jesus and had Him scourged [John 19:1], then turned Him over to the soldiers who “platted a crown of thorns, put it on His head, and they put on Him a purple robe” [John 19:2]. Then they bowed the knee in mockery and contempt saying:
Hail, King of the Jews! and they smote Him with their hands.
Pilate therefore went forward, and saith unto them, Behold, I bring Him forth to you, that you may know that I find no fault in Him.
Four times here does Pilate avow that: “For I find in Him no fault at all” [Luke 23:14; John 18:38, 19:4, 6].
Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe. And Pilate saith unto them—
in the Greek testament idou ho anthropos, in the Latin Vulgate Ecce Homo. In our English language, “Behold the Man!” [John 19: 5].
That scene has captured the imagination of the great artists of the world. And all over Christendom you will find those magnificent portrayals, an Ecce Homo, Jesus standing there, crowned with thorns, with a purple robe and a reed for a scepter in His hand [Matthew 27:29]. That was the purpose of Pilate. Pilate saw in Him no offense and sought to release Him; but being weak and vacillating, finally turned Him over to the Roman soldiers to be nailed to a tree—after they had scourged Him unto death [John 19:13-18].
So when Pilate, having beat Him, turned Him over to the Roman soldiers [Matthew 27:26-27], they saw an opportunity, in their coarse, primitive humor to make fun of the nation to which He belonged and to show their contempt for Judea. So they say to Him: “You are a king. Well, a king must have a crown.” So they platted a crown of thorns, and pressed it on His brow. “And a king must have a robe.” Somewhere in the palace they found a moth eaten, dirty, cast-off purple robe, and they put that on Him. “And a king must have a scepter.” So they found a stick and put it in His hands, and in mockery and contempt bowed down and said, “Hail, King of the Jews!” [John 19:1-3, Matthew 27:29].
At that time, Pilate happened to pass by and saw that innocent figure, covered in blood, crowned with thorns, unresisting, pitiful. And he thought he saw in the figure an opportunity to illicit some kind of a compassionate response from the bloodthirsty, howling mob below. So he brought Him out on the balustrade and set Him there before that great throng crying for His blood. And pointing to Him, that pitiful figure—you read about Him in the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah [Isaiah 53:1-12]—pointing to Him made that exclamation, “Idou ho anthropos,” Ecce Homo, “Behold the Man!” [John 19:5].
As I do that—look at Him, behold Him, I think of our Lord in glory before the world was made. John 1 says: “All things were made by Him; and without Him was not any thing made that was made” [John 1:3]. The whole creation—the work of His omnipotent hands! I think of that marvelous description in the first chapter of Colossians, “He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation [Colossians 1:15] . . . and in Him all things sunestēken, hold together, subsist” [Colossians 1:17]. And I think of that sixth verse, in the first chapter of Hebrews, the old prophet said: “And let all the angels of God worship Him” [Hebrews 1:6]. I think of His life in glory before the foundation of the world [1 Peter 1:20], and now look at Him: “Ecce Homo, idou ho anthropos” [John 19:5].
Paul described it in the second chapter of Philippians:
He, being in the morphē of God—
whatever the morphē of God is—
He, being in the form of God, thought it not a thing to be grasped, to be equal with God:
But poured Himself out . . . and was made in the likeness of a man:
And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
The contrast staggers the human imagination; the great God of the created universe, before whom all of the angels bow in worship and adoration; and now, Ecce Homo—Look at Him [John 19:5].
I think again as I look at the Lord, I think of that first Christmas, the manger in Bethlehem [Luke 2:7], and above it, the great choral throngs of heaven, the angels singing [Luke 2:11-14]. When Christmas time comes in our dear church, we fill this sanctuary with the most beautiful music in the world, praising God for the incarnation, His coming into this earth [Matthew 1:20-25]. And I think of the adoration of the shepherds [Luke 2:8-16], and then of the coming of the magi, the wise men, with their gifts [Matthew 2:1-2, 9-11]; and now “Ecce Homo, behold the Man!” [John 19:5]. The gift God made to us in Bethlehem [Isaiah 9:6; Matthew 1:20-2:1], we handed back on the point of a Roman spear [John 19:34]. The contrast is overwhelming!
I think of our Lord in the days of His beautiful ministry. “No man ever spake like that Man” [John 7:46], said those who heard Him. His words of love and peace and compassion, nothing in all literature like the words of the Lord Jesus [John 7:46]. And now “Behold Him!” [John 19:5]. His words are drowned out by the cries of a blood-thirsty mob. And finally, His lips are sealed in death; Ecce Homo, “Behold the Man!” [John 19:5].
Was anyone more moved in His heart, before the hurts of humanity, as that Man? When the nobleman’s son in Capernaum lay unto death, he sought the Lord Jesus [John 4:46-47]. When the sisters of Lazarus were weeping over their brother who had died, they went and told Jesus [John 11:1-3, 20-22, 32-33]. There was never a sob, or a tear, or a cry that didn’t fall upon the heart of our blessed Savior.
And I can imagine a blind man standing at the foot of the cross that day and his eyes had been opened by that compassionate Savior [Luke 18:35-43]. And he looks, and the Lord’s eyes are now glazed in death. I can imagine a leper that the Lord had cleansed [Mark 1:40-42], and he stands at the foot of the cross and looks at the Lord Jesus crucified as a felon; unclean. I can imagine a Lazarus, whom the Lord had raised from the dead [John 11:43-44], standing at the foot of the cross that day and sees the Lord of life dying. And I can imagine someone who had been so terribly stricken, ill, sick, and on him, the Lord had placed His healing hands [Luke 4:40]. And he stands there and looks at Jesus now, and those hands of healing are nailed to a tree [John 19:18]. Ecce Homo, idou ho anthropos, Behold the Man!” [John 19:5]
Pilate looked at Him! Four times in this one passage avows, “For I find in Him no fault at all” [Luke 23:14; John 18:38, 19:4, 6]. Finally, washed his hands and said, “I am innocent of the blood of this just Man” [Matthew 27:24]. Pilate looked at Him and saw an innocent, humble servant of God. Even those chief priests, and scribes, and Pharisees [Matthew 27:25, 41], who were crying before the cross for His blood [John 18:3], in the next chapter, in the Book of Acts, they are crying now, “What? Would you bring upon us and our children, the blood of this Man?” [Acts 5:28]. Dispersed to the ends of the earth in keeping with the prophecy of God [Deuteronomy 28:64].
And the soldiers stood there and looked; and in their coarse, grimy humor divided His garments among them; but the inner coat was woven without seam, and they gambled at the foot of the cross as to who would possess it [John 19:23-24]. And His mother stood there and looked upon Him; the nineteenth chapter of this Gospel of John says, “And there stood by the cross… His mother…” [John 19:25]. And the Lord looking in compassion on His mother said to John, “John, behold your mother!” And to His mother, “Mother, behold your son!” And John writes, “From that hour John took her to his own home and cared for her” [John 19:26-27].
Ecce Homo, idou ho anthropos, and God looked on Him—made sin for us, Him who knew no sin [2 Corinthians 5:21]—and when God looked on His only begotten Son, He turned His face away, and the sun in the sky forgot to shine. Darkness covered the face of the earth [Matthew 27:45]. And the earth itself trembled and quaked, and the rocks were rent [Matthew 27:51].
Ecce Homo, idou ho anthropos, and I stand there and look at my crucified Lord. And when I do, three things are pressed upon my heart looking at my crucified Lord Jesus, standing at the foot of the cross. One: I feel in my heart a call to confession and conversion. It was my sins that pressed upon His brow the crown of thorns [Matthew 27:29]. It was my sins that nailed His hands to the cross [Isaiah 53:5]. I did it! Had there been no you in earth, had there been no other soul in creation, He would have died for me. O God! And how could I ever be the same again having seen my Lord on the cross?
Dear people, one time I had a deacon who was married to one of the sweetest Christian women you could ever know. And he was a marvelous Sunday school teacher, a glorious Sunday school teacher. I was visiting with him on a day, and I said to him, “How is it that you gave your heart to the Lord and have given your life to teaching the Word of God?”—just a marvelous layman in the church.
“Well,” he said to me, “pastor, it wasn’t always thus. When I was a young man,” he said, “I was a drunkard; and I cursed; and I hated God; and I hated the Bible; and I hated the church; and I hated all the people of the Lord. I hated them all! But, in the providences of the Lord, I married a beautiful, sweet Christian girl, my wife.” He said to me, “Upon a night, in the bedroom, she was seated there reading the Bible.” He said, “It infuriated me!” He told me, “I grabbed that Book out of her hand and with all the strength of my might, I threw it down at her feet.”
And evidently, when he threw it down with all of his strength, the Bible hit on the edge at the end and broke apart. And the leaves were scattered around her on the floor. And when she looked down and saw that blessed Book broken and scattered on the floor, she knelt down and gathered the leaves together; and began to sob unconsolably there on the floor. The man said to me, “I cursed, and damned, and walked out of the room, and out of the house, and into the night.”
And he said, “Preacher, I can’t describe it. As I walked out in the night, under the stars, the sight of that beautiful wife of mine down on her knees, crying her heart out, gathering the leaves of the Word of God,” he said, “it burned in my mind.” And he said, “As I walked in the night, I lifted my hands up to God and said, ‘O Lord God, what of me? Please God, forgive me!'”
And he said, “I had a marvelous conversion experience. God came into my heart! God forgave me!” And he said, “I turned, and walked back to the house, and up to the room. And I fell down at the feet of my darling wife, and confessed my faith in the Lord, asked her forgiveness—that God had forgiven me! And from that day until this, I’ve been a fellow pilgrim, a teacher of the Word.” That is what “a beholding” of the Lord Jesus will do to a man’s heart—if he will just look at Him. Just look at Him! All of that, did God do for us, that we might be saved. Ecce Homo, idou ho anthropos, “Look at the Man, Behold our Lord!” [John 19:5]
A second thing: not only a call to confession and conversion, but a call to service to do something for Him. I suppose all of us are familiar with Count Zinzendorf, the Moravian [who] began that great world-wide missionary ministry that has reached every continent on the face of the globe; Count Zinzendorf, a nobleman. What happened was, he was in the gallery in Düsseldorf, Germany, and there saw one of those Ecce Homos. I have one, a beautiful one, beautiful painting, an Ecce Homo, to the left of my study. I have looked at it a thousand times, a thousand times. He was in the Düsseldorf gallery, and was looking at one of those Ecce Homos. And underneath were the words, written in Latin: “Hoc feci pro te; quid facis pro me? “This have I done for thee; what hast thou done for Me?” And that’s the beginning of the great Moravian missionary movement: the dedication of Count Zinzendorf as he looked upon that Ecce Homo. I feel the same way!
Lord, Lord, for all that You have done for me, and for all that You mean to me, O blessed Savior, what can I do for You? If I can study hard and prepare a message, Lord, by God’s grace I’ll study hard and I’ll prepare the message. And if I can minister to these who are brokenhearted—last week I had three funerals—if I can do anything, Lord, for Thee, here are my hands, and my feet, and my life. They are Yours, Lord. They belong to You.
Number three: when I look at the Lord Jesus, not only a call to confession and conversion and, not only a call to dedicated service—what I can do—but the third one is one that He asked; a call to remembrance and communion [1 Corinthians 11:23-26]. You know, this very moment and all through the Lord’s day there are millions, and millions, and millions of devout Christians who are coming to the altar, up to the altar, to kneel. Practically all of the great communions of the Christian faith do this. They come to the altar to kneel, and there they receive from the hands of a Christian minister a broken bread and a part of a crimson cup.
And when I think of that—I’ve seen that as you have all over this earth—devout communicants coming to the altar at the front, kneeling down, and taking part in that communion service. Did you ever think? Did you ever pause? He did not say, “These are My marvelous words; remember them”; words such as no man ever spake; messages such as even angels could not have thought for; revelations from heaven that mean the saving of our soul. He never said that. He never referred to His marvelous words. Nor did He say, “This do in remembrance of My wonderful works.” It was never so seen in Israel [Matthew 9:33]. He could raise the dead [John 11:43-44], open the eyes of the blind [Matthew 9:27-30], cleanse the leper [Matthew 8:2-3]. He never referred to it.
Well, what did He say? This is what He said, “This do in remembrance of Me. This broken bread will bring back to your heart My broken body. And this crushed red crimson fruit of the vine will bring back to your heart the remembrance of My atoning blood on the cross. This do in remembrance of Me” [1 Corinthians 11:23-26].
Because I couldn’t think of a way that we could come in this large congregation to kneel here at the altar to receive the elements of the Lord’s Supper, what I did was, I put a kneeler in front of each one of these pews. And when we observe that holy ordinance, we kneel and we sing:
Let us break bread together on our knees,
Let us drink the cup together on our knees.
When I fall on my knees with my face toward the throne of grace…
John said: “And I saw a throne and . . . a Lamb as it had been slain . . .” [Revelation 5:6] Jesus, my crucified Lord!
When I fall on my knees
With my face toward the throne of grace,
O Lord, have mercy on me.
[From “Let Us Break Bread Together,” Traditional hymn]
“This do in remembrance of Me”—not His glorious resurrection [Matthew 28:1-7]; not even His incomparable ascension into heaven [Acts 1:9-10]—“This do in remembrance of Me [1 Corinthians 11:23-25]: My death and My atoning life poured out on the cross” [1 Corinthians 11:26].
And my response from my deepest soul, “Ecce Homo!” Yes, but also, Ecce Deus “my God”; also Ecce Soter, “my Savior”; and also Ecce Kurios, “my Lord.” God, what You have done for me! May the issue and the strength of my life flow toward Thee, Lord, in everlasting gratitude and remembrance.
And now you sweet dear people who have listened to this message on television, what a beautiful day and what a precious moment where you are to give your heart and your life to our Lord [Romans 10:9-13]. And some of you along the way, experiencing sorrow and disappointment and depression and hurt, you will find an answer to every problem in life in our Lord Jesus. Just open your heart heavenward and God-ward and look up to Him. And let the Lord come into your heart, into your house, into your home. We have counselors at telephones who will answer this call if you will make it. Say to us, “I have listened today. I have looked at my crucified Lord, and I am accepting Him for all that He promise to be to me and to my sweet family.” God bless you.
And to the great throng in the sanctuary this solemn hour when we sing this hymn of appeal, down one of these stairways, down one of these aisles, “Pastor, today I have decided for God. This is my family. This is my wife.” Or just one somebody you, “Pastor, I have accepted the Lord and here I stand” [Ephesians 2:8-9]. God bless you in the way as you come, while we stand and while we sing.
Dr. W. A. Criswell
A. Scene captured imagination of great artists of the
B. The exact purpose of Pilate
II. Look at
A. In glory before the creation of the world (John
1:1-3, Colossians 1:15, 17, Hebrews 1:6, Philippians 2:6-8)
B. In the manger of the first Christmas (Luke 2:35)
C. In His marvelous teaching (John 7:46)
D. In His saving, healing ministry (John 4:45-54,
A. Pilate (John 18:38, Matthew 27:24)
B. Chief priests, scribes, Pharisees (Acts 5:28)
C. Soldiers (John 19:23)
D. His mother (John 19:25-27)
IV. And I
A. A call to confession and conversion
1. Deacon who threw the Bible
B. A call to service
1. Count Zinzendorf – the Moravian missionary movement
C. A call to remembrance and communion