We find ourselves on a Friday morning, on the sixth day of the week, looking at the Roman governor and his peculiar new prisoner. This prisoner has been scourged. He lets the soldiers dress him up as a king—of sorts: the crown of thorns, and the slapping about the face, tell you what they thought about such a claim. And Pilate says the words that still haunt us: ‘Behold the man!’ Pilate is not saying this to the scribes, the Pharisees, the chief priests and rulers of Israel. Pilate is saying “Behold the man” to you, to me. Pilate is asking us what we will do with this Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews. The same Jesus who was displayed by Pilate to the people of Jerusalem is set before us who hear his gospel, and these words are addressed to all to whom the Word is preached: “Behold the Man!” This morning, on the Friday we have called “Good,” we will behold the man.
Behold His Suffering
I want you to pause for a moment and consider Jesus in this specific moment, almost as if we had hit pause on our TV remote. Behold the man. Before he dies on the cross, right in the middle of his suffering and rejection. This is a part of Christ’s passion. This is a part of his atonement. He had to experience this moment. Behold the man.
Behold him as he is scourged. There are two words in the gospels that describe the scourging of Jesus. One word emphasizes the many pronged whip that was used, with bones and metal tied to the tips of the leather thongs. These thongs sliced through his flesh. The other emphasizes how the whip tore and chewed through his flesh. This scourging was for the purposes of torture, and the Romans were very good at it. Its goal was to inflict excruciating pain but still leave the subject alive so that he could be crucified. If this scourging itself would not have been limited, it would have killed him. Behold the man.
Behold him as the Roman soldiers take thorns and twist them and make them into a crown of mockery. Behold him as they cruelly force the thorny crown onto his brow. Behold the blood as it begins to pour. Behold the man.
Behold him as the soldiers mock him and strike him. Behold him as they take a purple robe and place it on him, mocking his kingship. Behold him as he is mocked and beaten by the very ones whom he carefully and wonderfully knitted together in their mothers’ wombs. Behold the man.
Behold him now as he is brought out again before you. Behold him as Pilate presents him to you again. Behold him stricken, smitten, and afflicted. Behold the sacred head now wounded, with grief and shame weighed down. Behold him despised and rejected. Behold him acquainted with grief. Behold the man.
Behold the man! Here is the true image of the true God. Here is the man who has brought God’s wisdom into the world. Here is the living embodiment of God, the one who has made the invisible God visible. Here is the king. And all his rebel subjects can do is mock, and slap, and scream for his blood.
When the living, loving God comes, in person, to live among us rebels, in the world he made and still loves, the appropriate form for him to take is not the super-hero, sweeping through the rebel state with horses and chariots, defeating the rebellion in a blaze of glory. The appropriate form for him to take is the form Jesus has now taken. The king of the Jews, crowned with thorns. The innocent king, the true man, the one who told the truth and was accused of blasphemy. ‘Behold the man!’ Look at this man, and you’ll see your living, loving, bruised and bleeding God.
Behold Your Saviour
You want to look away, don’t you. We can’t bear to look, can we? It is too awful, too gruesome. But ultimately, we are too ashamed. We cannot look because we know what he endures is because of our sin.
When you behold the beatings and suffering of Jesus on Good Friday, don’t blame the Roman government or the Jewish religious leaders. These are but the instruments. The cause is your sin – your thoughts, your words, your actions. Your sin is why Jesus had to suffer as He did. Even if you were the only human being on this earth, Jesus would still have had to suffer and die to save you. That’s what the Law of God calls for: the wages of sin is death.
Behold the suffering servant. He was wounded for our transgression; He was bruised for our iniquities. Those were your hands beating Jesus as they lash out against your fellow man. Those were your words uttered in scorn. The lashes he endured were yours; the death He died was yours. In the very wounds that were inflicted upon Jesus on Good Friday, there is the ultimate and final cure to what truly afflicts us. His wounded head is the healing of your mind. His wounded back is the healing of your strength. He received blows so you may be healed of all the blows you have endured at the hands of others. He received insults so you may find healing for all the insults you have received. His wounded hands are the healing of your work. His wounded feet are the healing of your walk. His wounded side the healing of your hearts turned away from God and against one another.
Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Nowhere is this more true than with Jesus hanging dead on the cross. This is why we call this particular Friday good: It took that bloody death upon the cross for sin to be atoned for. God could not wink it away. God could not ignore sin. For he is holy and just – and sin pays out nothing but death and judgment. But God is also merciful and does not desire the death of sinners. So God in the flesh, our Lord Jesus Christ, lays down his Life of priceless worth of his own accord. There is mercy for you, because there was no mercy for Jesus. He does this not out of a sense of obligation or duty, but simply because of his great love for you.
In that one, solitary act of unsurpassed love, in the darkness between noon and three, all your griefs and sorrows were borne by the Son of God, our sin was answered for, the just demands of the Law were paid, and we were reconciled to the Father. One moment in history for all time. One Man for all men. Jesus bears the burden of sin for us, he nails it to his cross, and he took our sins to the grave, and left them there.
What does this mean for you? It means that it is for you! It means that he “suffered, died and was buried, that he might make satisfaction for [you] and pay what [you] owe, not with silver nor gold, but with his own precious blood” (LC, Creed, II.31). He rescued you. He bought you. He has died for you, on your behalf. He carried you. Jesus has dealt with all your griefs, your sorrows, all that death has done to you or will do to you, all that others have done to you, all that you have done to yourself, Jesus dealt with them in His own body on the cross.
Behold the man! Behold your King! Behold your God. Behold your salvation.
May the peace of God, which passes all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.