Jesus, having been beaten and abused by the hands of strong athletic Romans, covered with sores, bruises, welts and blood, adorned with a crown of thorns and a purple robe, was led to the balcony and presented to the people. Pilate stood before him and exclaimed, “Behold the Man!” That was it, that was all that Pilate had to say, “Behold the Man!” Do you see him? Is this the one that you want? Look at him! Look at what we’ve done to him. Take some time and behold the Man.
Behold is a term that serves to emphasize what follows. Look, listen, pay attention, to the Man. Later the Greek New Testament was translated into Latin in what is known as the Vulgate. The Latin phrase Ecce Homo (pronounced ex-ee home-o), has become extremely popular. Many classical artists have painted the picture of Christ presented as the crushed Servant with the simple title ‘Ecce Homo’. Frederick Nietzsche titled his autobiography ‘Ecce Homo’. Nietzsche was in no way trying to relate himself to Christ, instead he contrasted himself with Christ and believed that to be “a man” was more than Christ. For instance in the chapter entitled “Why I Am a Destiny”, he comments that, “after coming into contact with a religious man I always feel I must wash my hands.” Nietzsche’s work greatly influenced postmodernism and existentialism, and certainly another existentialist by the name Michael Moorcock. In 1967, Moorcock received the Nebula Award for his book, “Behold the Man”. Would you be surprised if I told you that this book grossly mocks and crudely sabotages the significance of Christ?
There is obviously something powerful in those words — Ecce Homo: Behold the Man! Pilate clearly struggled when beholding the Man. Pilate felt the need to wash his hands on the matter of his crucifixion. He presents Christ before the crowd and says, “I’ve seen him and I see no reason that he should be crucified — now I want you to see him. What do you see? Do you see a man deserving death?” For some reason the mob sees something different and cries, “Crucify Him!” In the same way, many men, like Nietzsche and Moorcock, have beheld the Man and still they cry, “Crucify Him!”. But others have seen the significance of his suffering and death and have declared, “Surely this is the son of God.” What do you see? Ecce Homo: Behold the Man!
❖ The 4th Servant Song
The fourth Servant Song of Isaiah (52:13-53:12) commonly referred to as “Isaiah 53” is by far the most famous section of scripture in our Bibles. Some have called it the “The Gospel According to Isaiah”, others “The First Gospel”. It is by far, a favorite of the New Testament authors because it is the most quoted section of Scripture in both the Gospels and Epistles. Volumes have been written about these 15 short verses. The song is five stanzas long with the first stanza beginning at Chapter 52:13. Each stanza is exactly 3 verses long and forms a perfect chiastic structure or chiasm, a form so called because it looks like the left half of the Greek letter chi (X). This chiastic structure is obvious in Hebraic poetry.
The first stanza of this song tells us, in advance, that despite his many sufferings, he will ultimately be successful and greatly exalted. The second stanza elaborates upon his suffering and his despised life, and the third stanza, or the very middle of the chiasm, deals with his significance. Isaiah wants us to understand why this suffering servant is so significant. He is the fulfillment of the Day of Atonement and makes atonement for our sin. The fourth stanza then tells us more about his sufferings however, it kicks it up a notch and explains his trial, death and burial. Finally, the last stanza, like a second yet more dramatic bookend, reminds us that he will succeed because he will live again.
Now, despite the fact that there are distinct themes in each of these five stanzas, a common theme runs through out the entire song. Every stanza tells us that the Servant does it all for us. He will succeed for our transgressions, he will suffer for our transgressions, he is significant because he atones our transgressions and again he suffers and succeeds in order to satisfy the requirement of our transgressions. At the risk of being repetitively redundant, Isaiah constantly reminds us that this suffering Servant suffers, dies and resurrects for our transgressions. In five stanzas he says it 10 times. He does not want you to forget that we are being reconciled to God because of this Man. This is the gospel according to Isaiah, and so appropriately Isaiah invites us to Ecce Homo: Behold the Man!
The song begins with the words “Behold my Servant”. As mentioned before, the word behold is a prompter of attention and serves to emphasize all that follows. Isaiah is saying, “look, listen, pay attention, come now and fix your eyes upon this Servant!” Will you pay attention? Will you look and fix your eyes upon this One, who succeeds in reconciling you to God and covers over all of your sin? If this man can pay for your sin, does he not deserve every ounce of your undivided attention? Come now and behold the Man!
Because the term “behold” forces us to fix our attention on all that follows, it seems appropriate that we should get a picture of the entire chapter as we behold the Man. We must look, listen and consider. Throughout this song Isaiah says things like, “those who did not hear will see and understand” (52:15), so we must look. Isaiah asks, “Who will believe and who has heard the message” (53:1), so we must listen. And he submits that a generation does not consider this man (53:8), therefore we must consider as we behold the Man — just as it is written, “No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9)
For just a moment would you look at Christ hanging on his cross? “The nails have pierced his hands and feet, and there in the broiling sun he hangs, — he hangs to die. The mockery has not ceased; still they put out the tongue and wag the head at him; still they taunt him with ‘if thou be the Son of God come down from the cross’”. He was marred beyond human semblance as one from whom men will hide their faces. Many could not bear even to look — but will you look? Will you behold the Man and see how great is his love?
Previously Christ had said, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13) Paul reminds us that “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) And so I must ask you, can you look upon the cross of Christ and see this One dying for his friends and claim that you do not want to be one of them? Or can you look upon this cross and see this Man suffering while you are still in your sin and declare that you do not desire the payment and freedom from your transgressions? How could anyone behold the Man and not fall upon their knees before the cross in thanksgiving and gratitude for all that he has suffered in our place? I can think of none but those who do not believe the simple gospel message which says that “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
Turn now your ears to his message and listen. Many have heard the message but Isaiah suggests that few believe. Jesus says, “He who has an ear let him hear.” Do you have an ear? Will you hear the message? Please don’t suggest that you have heard the message but cannot understand it, because it is the simplest message that anyone can hear. It requires only the simple faith of a child and is frequently received by the simple and unrefined. Christ attracts to himself the ears of fishermen, tax collectors, and prostitutes while he theologically and philosophically stumps the religious and Roman elite. All of them had ears but only some could hear.
Listen as Jesus tells us that just as “Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes in him will have eternal life.” (John 3:14) Hear the simplicity of Christ’s words when he declares, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” (John 5:24) If you have an ear, please hear as Christ tells us, “This is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:40) Listen to this and tell me if it is too difficult to understand: “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.” (John 6:47) Or perhaps it is easier for you to understand Christ’s message in John 8:24: “I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am He you will die in your sins.”
Indeed, we could spend half the afternoon going through the entire gospel of John, gleaning from the simple gospel message of Jesus Christ, but if your ear does not already hear and understand, then I am afraid that you do not have an ear to hear. The message could not be any simpler, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Act 2:21; Rom 10:13) Have you heard the message? Do you believe this message? If you do — then call on the name of Jesus and you will be saved! But for those who cannot see, and who have not heard, perhaps you must take it to heart and consider the wisdom in God’s plan.
“Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” (Isaiah 1:18) Sit down, contemplate and reason this out. Since the very beginning of all creation, the wisdom of God has always been to forgive and erase the sin of man. He has promised to blot out the filthy stain of sin and to make it white as snow.
It has always been the will of God to save sinners. He tells us in Ezekiel, “As I live, declares the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die?” (Ezekiel 18:23; 33:11) God had provided a temporary way for the sinner to be absolved from sin through the sacrifice of bulls and goats. However, it was his good and perfect will that Christ would “enter once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.” (Hebrews 9:12)
Think about this — if Christ crucified as an offering for sin has always been the plan and promise of God, and if he has indeed provided the suffering servant to be wounded for our transgressions and bruised for iniquities, then how on earth would you expect to be saved in any other way? If it is the LORD’s will to crush him so that his soul would make an offering for your guilt, how could you possibly not rejoice in this truth. Your sin has been paid in full — do you think that you will be able to pay it yourself? In Christ, your guilt has been completely removed — do you believe there is any other means by which you can remove guilt?
Please think about this. Let it sink in and soften your heart. Because if you cannot believe that God loves you, and that he has given his Son as the means by which your sin and guilt is completely forgiven, then there is no hope for you — and you will die in your sin. But if you believe that Jesus is the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, then you will be saved.
❖ Behold the Man!
Just as Pontius Pilate presented Christ to the mass of people and invited them to behold the Man, and as the prophet Isaiah opens this beautiful song inviting us to behold the Servant, I will conclude by inviting you, once again, to Ecce Homo: Behold the Man! And it is my prayer that in reading these words, you will look upon the cross of Christ, listen to his simple gospel message and consider it’s timeless truth.