Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Idou O Anthropos - Behold the Man

In my opinion, two of the most profound phrases in the Bible - phrases which express the human condition and determine our destiny throughout the ages - were uttered by none other than one of the ultimate ‘bad guys’ in the Bible, Pontius Pilate.
In his discussion with/interrogation of Jesus, Pilate uttered (rhetorically), the first of those two phrases, “What is ‘truth’?”, in John 18:38. Has that not been a question and issue that has vexed the ‘enlightened’ throughout history?
The other statement from Pilate, on which I want to focus this week, is found in John 19:5. After Jesus had been scourged (a form of flogging that often led to the recipient’s death), Pilate had a purple robe and a crown of thorns placed on Jesus. He then paraded Jesus out to the people and pronounced, “Idou o anthropos!”, or “Behold the man!”
Based upon the trumped-up charges that had been brought against Jesus, and on Jesus’ own admission that He was ‘King of the Jews’ (Luke 23:3), I believe Pilate probably intended to convey to those people, “Look at this spectacle – is this who you call your ‘king’?”
However, what Pilate actually did was deliver a statement that implies a question which has everything to do with each and every person’s eternal destiny. When he made the statement, “Idou o anthropos”, Pilate was saying, “Look at this man”, or “See this man”, or “Observe and consider this man”. And that then implies the ultimate question facing every person that has or will walk this planet: “What do you think about this Man?”
How each person answers that question determines his or her eternal destiny.
There are all kinds of ways people can (and do) answer that question: ‘He was a good man’, ‘He was a prophet’, ‘He was a great teacher’, ‘He was a role model’, ‘He showed us how to live and how to treat others’, etc. While those answers aren’t wrong, they are woefully incomplete and inadequate.
There were also all kinds of responses in the minds of those standing there that day when Pilate pronounced, “Behold the man!” Some would have thought Him to be the defeated leader of an insurrection; others considered Him a common criminal; others couldn’t even recognize Him as someone they had known (due to His injuries); some would have considered Him a ‘scapegoat’ of sorts to get the government off their backs; some considered Him a personal liability and sought to sever any ties to Him; some looked at Him as a dreamer who failed; some considered Him to be a ‘hope’ that didn’t ‘pan out’.
Pilate didn’t have clue as to Who Jesus really was. But there are other instances in the Bible where a phrase very similar to ‘Behold the man’ was pronounced along with an answer to the question it prompts. For example:
In Isaiah 7:14, we are told (basically), ‘Behold the man – God with us’ (Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel. (NKJV))
In Isaiah 40:9, we are told, ‘Behold the man – your God!’ (O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God! (KJV))
And John tells us, ‘Behold the man – Who takes away your sins’ ("Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29, NASB))
But those are not the kinds of responses those people had when Pilate said, ‘Behold the man’. They saw a man who was beaten to within an inch of his life and who was on his way to the cross – the end of whatever story he represented.
But we know that wasn’t the end of the story. In fact, because we know the whole story, we are able to look back at Jesus’ life and see things His contemporaries could not have understood. We are able to see things in a different light. So, our perspective is different when we:
Behold the Man – on Whom the Spirit descended like a dove.
Behold the Man – Who calmed the sea.
Behold the Man – Who raised the dead.
Behold the Man – Who gave sight to the blind.
Behold the Man – Whose glory shown on the mountain.
Behold the Man – Whose touch could heal.
Behold the Man – Who walked on water.
Behold the Man – Who willingly accepted death on a cross.
Behold the Man – Who conquered death.
Behold the Man – Who ascended to glory.
Behold the Man – Who first ‘beheld’ us.
Behold the Man – Without Whom nothing was created that was created.
Behold the Man – Who was and is and is yet to come.
Behold the Man – Who takes away all sins.
Behold the Man – The One and Only way to heaven.
So try to put yourself in their sandals: There you are - standing among the Passover crowd in Pilate’s courtyard in A.D. 33. Pilate drapes a fancy purple robe on the body of a beaten, bruised, and bloody man who is then brought out in front of you. Upon the man’s disheveled, scab-encrusted head of hair sits a mock crown, made of thorns. The man is in shock and is teetering precipitously. Pilate hushes the crowd by raising his hand, and then lowers his hand and sweeps it in the direction of Jesus, pronouncing, “Behold the man!”
So - Behold Him.
Carefully consider Him.
What do you think of Jesus?

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