March 13, 2013
Text: John 19:1-16
By the time when Jesus was brought to the praetorium of Pontius Pilate (that is, the governor’s headquarters), He was already brought back and forth to different places and suffered beatings and scoffing of different kinds, just as prophet Isaiah says, “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb led to the slaughter, and like a sheep silent before its shearers, so he opened not his mouth.” However, during that darkest night many other mouths opened. Some uttered remarkable words because though they may have had their own intentions, the fact that they are recorded in the Bible gives them theological meanings about either who we are or most importantly about who Jesus is. At praetorium, Pilate uttered two “beholds” that have deep theological meanings. One is “Behold, the man.” The other is “Behold, your King.”
The trial at praetorium was the final trial of Jesus before the crucifixion. While Pilate conducted the interrogation inside the praetorium, the crowd gathered outside because entering into a Roman headquarters would make a Jew unclean, thus unable to eat the Passover. After gathering all the possible accusations and evidence that the crowd could provide and after his own investigation, Pilate couldn’t find any quilt in Jesus except that they said He has made himself the Son of God and king of the Jews. But that’s exactly who Jesus is. St. Matthew records that Pilate’s wife sent word to him saying, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I have suffered much because of him today in a dream.” Now Pilate’s only concern was how to appease the crowd to avoid an insurrection. After the crowd refused his effort to release Jesus by asking for Barabbas; he took Jesus and flogged him. And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on Jesus’ head. He thought this would appease the Jews. So he said to them, “I find no guilt in him.” When Jesus came out, Pilate said to them, “Behold, the man.”
“Behold, the man.” This sentence is usually used for official opening of a trial by presenting the criminal. Here in essence, however, before God and the whole universe, Pilate as an authority was presenting THE man. They were beholding the man with His face hardly recognizable and His blood bleeding all over His body, the man waiting for judgment and punishment of sins that He did not commit, the man of whom the law and the prophets testify in the Holy scriptures, the true man of whom God’s creation of man intended to be, the man whom God has given authority to rule over all things, the man who stands between God and men to be the mediator, and the man in whom God assumed our human flesh in Mary’s womb by the power of the Holy Spirit. Yes, He was the true man and true God of whom Christians of all generations confess in the Apostle’s Creed. Thinking that Jesus could have been really the Son of God, the king of the Jews, Pilate was even more afraid. So, he sought to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.” Pilate faced a hard choice to choose between the two kings, the earthly king, Caesar; or the heavenly King, Jesus. Eventually, political-correctness and worldly concerns prevailed for Pilate feared the people rather than God. So, he sat on the judgment seat and made the final judgment saying to the Jews, “Behold your King!”
Now, the King of glory was the man of the hour, the man of the accused , the
condemned, the man hated by all as if He was the greatest sinner of the whole world. I couldn’t help but keep recalling into mind a scene that I saw in a Chinese movie when I was a child. It was a story about a man who was a land owner with many family militants, sort like a tribal leader in Afghanistan or pirate leader in Somalia. He had more power in local area than the government and did all kinds of evil things. Almost everyone hated him. After He was finally arrested, he was tried in front of a angry mob. When he was brought out, someone said, “Behold, the man.” The crowd shouted “Away with him, away with him. Kill him. Hung him.” And then everyone was pushing forward to try to get a piece of him. If there had not been guards protecting him, he would have already been torn into pieces. Similarly, when Pilate said, “Behold, the man,” the blood-thirst crowd cried out, “Crucify him, crucify him” even though Jesus was sinless, even though this came out of their own evil intentions. But you know what? At this very hour, Jesus was the man of sin, the greatest sinner of the whole world. I know, in His whole life He did not sin, instead did all the wonderful things among the people by teaching the Gospel, healing the sick, feeding the hungry, and raising the dead. But at this very hour, He was bearing the sin of the whole world and became sin for us. God “made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
“Behold, THE man” and “Behold, YOUR king.” The very hour when Pilate said these words was about the sixth hour, a beginning hour on the day of Preparation, the day to prepare the Passover. This was the hour when THE man, your king was sentenced to death. This was exactly the day when thousands of Passover lambs would be slain for the Passover meals in the temple. It was not coincident that Jesus must die on this day for He is the man of Passover lamb, who was prefigured by the first Passover lambs that brought people of Israel out of the bondage of slavery; who was foreshadowed by the sacrifices by the priests of the OT for the forgiveness of sins and peace of God’s people; who was prophesied by Isaiah that “he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed;” and who was announced by John the Baptist, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” The lamb of God is the man. He will be your king when you trust in Him for the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation.
2000 years ago, in the final trial of Jesus, on the judgment seat, Pilate as the God given authority of the hour announced the judgment: “Behold, the man and behold your king.” Then he delivered Jesus over to the crowd to be crucified. However, on the future day of final judgment, the person on the judgment seat won’t be Pilate. It will be Jesus. Jesus is the Lamb sitting upon the throne and every eye shall behold Him. The question is, are you beholding Him in faith now? If not, you will behold Him when that hour comes, but the consequences will be different. To behold to is to see with attention, is to lift up eyes to see with your heart and mind. When people of Israel sinned in the wilderness, the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people. Many people died. God asked Moses to make a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. Whoever behold the bronze serpent would not die but live. Soon after Pilate announced the judgment, Jesus would be lifted up on a cross to be crucified. They put up over his head, his accusation written, `This is Jesus, the king of the Jews.’ Jesus says in John chapter 3, “as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.” My prayer is that the man at the Praetorium of Pontius Pilate will be your king, and by beholding Him in faith you will have forgiveness of sins, life and salvation.