Text: John 19:4-7
Listen to the Sermon here.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
We find ourselves looking at the Roman governor and his peculiar new prisoner on a Friday morning, on the sixth day of the week. He lets the And Pilate says the words that still haunt us: ‘Behold the man!’ Pilate is not speaking this to the scribes, the Pharisees, the chief priests, and the rulers of Israel. Pilate is saying, “Behold the man” to you, to me. Pilate asks 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 a Friday we have called “Good,” we will behold the man.
Behold His Suffering
I want you to pause momentarily 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, and 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. Behold 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. See how the whip tore and chewed through his flesh. This scourging was for 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. With his back a bloody mess, it would scrape against the rough wood of the cross with each breath he will take. It would have killed him if this scourging itself had not been limited. Behold the scourged man.
Behold him as the Roman soldiers dress him up as a king—of sorts: they twist a crown of thorns, and that tells you what they thought about such a claim. and make them into a crown of mockery. Behold him as they cruelly force the thorny crown onto his brow, and blood begins to pour. Behold the man wearing a crown of thorns.
Behold him as the soldiers mock him and strike him. Behold him as they place a purple robe on him, mocking his kingship. Behold him as he is mocked and beaten by the very ones he carefully and wonderfully knitted together in their mothers’ wombs. Behold the beaten 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, rejected, and acquainted with grief.
Behold the man! Here is the true image of the true God. Here is the man who has brought God’s love 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, slap, and scream for his blood.
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 endured 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 man!’ Behold his suffering.
Behold Your Savior
When we consider the living, loving God coming to live among us rebels in the world that he created and still loves, we must ask ourselves: what should he do with us? It is easy to wish for God to send in the tanks to deal with evil, but in reality, we are part of the problem he would have to address. Should he have become a superhero, quickly defeating the rebellion in a blaze of glory? Should he have hit the reset button, erasing all that had gone wrong? But our Creator did not take these paths. Instead, he chose to enter our world and offer his own life as a sacrifice to reconcile us to himself. He provides us with redemption and renewal through His boundless love and mercy. The appropriate response from him is the one Jesus has now taken. The King of the Jews doesn’t conquer with strength of arms but with a crown of thorns. The innocent king, the true man, who told the truth and was accused of blasphemy.
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 obligation or duty but simply because of his great love for you.
Behold your Savior and hear his words: “It is finished.” The work of redemption is now perfected and completed. The price has been paid in full. As the blood drips from his body, each and every one of your sin is washed away. He leaves no transgression unaddressed. He endured wounds and bruises for your transgressions and iniquities. Every time you sin, in thought, word, or deed, by what you have done or left undone, it is as though you are holding the whip. The lashes and the death he suffered were what we deserved. But from his wounds, we find the ultimate cure for all that afflicts us. What more could be done beyond the shedding of Christ’s blood from the lashes, the nails, and the spear? In him, redemption is perfected, and you are forgiven in turn. His sacrifice is without flaw, without missing pieces you must fill in. When he took away the sin of the world, the Lamb of God also took away every one of your sins.
Behold this one solitary act of unsurpassed love, in the darkness between noon and three, the Son of God bore all your griefs and sorrows. Our sin was answered for, and the just demands of the Law were paid. Put simply, you 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, took our sins to the grave, and left them there.
Take heart, for this message, is meant for you! Look at this man; your living, loving, bruised, and bleeding God will be seen. Jesus “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 has rescued and bought you through his bloody death on the cross. Every grief, sorrow, and pain you have faced or will face has already been borne by Jesus in his own body. All that has been done to you and all that you have done to others has been dealt with through his boundless love and mercy. You have been redeemed by one who loves you beyond measure. 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.