The Holy Spirit convicts men of sin, righteousness, and judgment to come. Christians still remain in the world as salt and light. The creation testifies to the glory of God. Everyone, saved and unsaved, has a conscience. God does not presently permit mankind to be as depraved as possible. He also promotes good in our world in the form of kindness, compassion, and charity.
Pilate is an example of an unsaved, pragmatic leader who wants to do the right thing when faced with what he deems is an impossible situation. He believes that Jesus of Nazareth is innocent. He has done nothing worthy of a death sentence. He worked hard at advocating for the our Lord. When he could not overcome His enemies, he still looked for a way to release Him. Maybe the enemies would be satisfied if Pilate scourged Jesus within an inch of His life. Presenting Jesus before them arrayed in the mocking robes of a king, all bloodied and beaten, he said, “Behold the Man!”
Why does Pilate do this? He cannot dismiss the Jewish religious leaders without putting himself and his position in jeopardy. But he still has hopes of releasing Jesus. The presentation of Jesus after His beating was designed to invoke sympathy in His fellow countrymen and shame them for their unreasonable hatred toward Him.
Once people see Jesus beaten, bloodied and bowed, perhaps they will relent. Once they see the end of their hatred, perhaps they will have compassion because of the undeserved pain and suffering they have caused Him. An expansion of Pilate’s thoughts are in order: “Behold the Man! You have demanded that I crucify Him. I have told you over and over again that He has done nothing worthy of death, but you maintain that He has. I have scourged Him and still find no fault in Him. Even if He has broken your laws, surely He has suffered enough for it. Be satisfied! Don’t make me go through with what you’re asking me to do. Behold Him! Where is your compassion? Won’t your anger dissipate? Behold the Man!”
Pilate gives voice to Jesus’ defense before His persecutors. “Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by? Behold and see if there is any sorrow like my sorrow, which has been brought on me, which the LORD has inflicted in the day of His fierce anger” (Lamentations 1.12). Yet, they will not hear Pilate’s advocacy or anyone else’s. “Reproach has broken my heart, and I am full of heaviness’ I looked for someone to take pity, but there was none’ and for comforters, but I found none” (Psalm 69.20).
There is no sympathy in Jesus’ enemies. There is no shame either. Jesus is a rebel as far as they are concerned. Pilate presents Jesus to His blood-thirsty detractors hoping to convince them that such a gentle and lowly man is no agitator or zealot. Even His closest disciples and friends had deserted Him. No one advocated for Him save Pilate himself. “Behold the Man! How can you say that He is a threat to you or to Rome. There is nothing special about this Man. Yet you fear Him. You are jealous of this Man? You want to put this Man to death? Even if He had influence over the nation in the past, how could He ever hope to gather a following again after all that has happened to Him on this day? Leave this Man be. He is no longer a threat. Behold the Man!”
Pilate views the nation’s religious leaders with contempt. They pursue a dead dog …a flea. The scribes and Pharisees had connived and planned for this day. They would not let it pass. They would not be satisfied until Jesus was crucified. If Pilate did not comply, they would make him an enemy of Caesar. “If you let this Man go, you are not Caesar’s friend. Whoever makes himself a king speaks against Caesar” (John 19.12).
“Caiaphas, being high priest that year, said to them [other religious detractors of Jesus Christ], ‘You know nothing at all, nor do you consider that it is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish.’ Now this he did not say on his own authority; but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for that nation only, but also He would gather together in one the children of God who were scattered abroad” (John 11.49-51).
Caiaphas unwittingly prophesied of the saving benefits of Christ’s death when he intended simply to recommend the execution of a trouble-maker. Pilates desire is to save the Man who would save him by His death. Even Pilate’s wife understood Jesus was a just man. She advised her husband, “Have nothing to do with that just Man, for I have suffered many things today in a dream because of Him” (Matthew 27.19).
Behold the Man!
- Behold the Man and gain confidence! The sheer weight of fulfilled prophecy indicates that Jesus is the Christ. Was this Man treated with contempt by the whole nation? Was this Man mocked, reviled, and spit upon? Was He beaten with many stripes? Search the Scriptures. If it is so, then He must be the Christ. “He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before it’s hearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth” (Isaiah 53.7). He could have called 10,000 angels to defend Him and obliterate us. But then prophecy would not have been fulfilled. Our redemption would not have been secured. If He endured this for us while we were yet enemies, what will he not do for us when we beg for His mercy?
- Behold the Man and gain gratitude! The love of Christ is past finding out. A finite mind cannot comprehend an infinite love. We desire to know the love Christ which passes knowledge, but we cannot plumb the depths of such love. But what we do find out and experience, leaves us grateful. “Behold the Man!” A crown of thorns, a reed for a scepter, a royal robe, and blood flowing down. He is ready to lose consciousness. He carries our shame and contempt. He demands more than lip-service from us. He will win our heart if we behold the Man.
- Behold the Man and gain motivation! If you love Christ, keep His commandments. “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him” (John 14.21). “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you” (John 15.14). People sought to make Jesus king, but he refused. He hid Himself from His would-be subjects. They desired a bread-king. But when they mocked Him and plated a crown of thorns for Him, He submitted willingly to this. Why? It was because such submission would set us free to love and worship God. It would free us to exalt, honor, and worship God. We would say, “Behold the Man!” We would say it with new meaning and perspective. He endured the contradiction of sinners against Himself. He endured the cross, despising the same. We follow Him and bear His reproach. He gave Himself for us, to purchase a people who would be zealous of good works. Let Christ be magnified in our body, whether it be by life or by death! Behold the Man!