Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe. And Pilate said to them, Behold the man!
When you point to any object or event you never know what the witness really sees. Hold a picture before a score of people, and they all see and value it differently. In a wild district I saw a rude stone wall. To the simple builder and passers by it was just so many stones held together by mortar. But an instructed eye saw in succession blocks of quartz, trap, schist, sandstone, conglomerate, and other suggestive monuments of the world's history. Point out the stars to a multitude. All see the same objects, and yet not the same.
I. WHAT THE ACTORS IN THAT TRAGEDY BEHELD. All the world was in that crowd.
1. Pilate; or what worldliness beheld. A mysterious man — no ordinary criminal. Superstition is never far from worldliness. There was fear in the mind of Pilate at something supernatural at the back of demeanour so strange, placid, and holy.
2. The priests; or what bigotry beheld. Jesus has not respected their traditions and echoed their dogmas; therefore, He is an imposter and blasphemer. There is no hate like priestly hate. Bigotry in the midst of revealed religion is farther from God than heathen worldliness. There was some lingering susceptibility in the breast of Pilate; in the Hebrew priest, none. Pilate saw something which excited both awe and pity. The priests nothing but the hideous creation of their own malignant passions.
3. The mass; or what ignorant resentment beheld. The Christ of their desire was only a more vulgar rendering of the political Messiah of the infuriated priests. Scarcely a week ago, they greeted Him as their King. But there is Jesus, weak, bound, silent, and trampled upon. They saw one who raised their expectations to the highest, and disappointed them. A mob is never so savage as when it conceives itself to be imposed upon by one whom it has made its idol. They therefore join ix the cry, "Crucify Him!"
4. The soldiers; or what heathen brutality beheld. A hardened Roman in the ranks could feel nothing but contempt for a Jewish criminal. Such men could admire and adore a Caesar who could lead them through fields of slaughter to the fame of a Roman victory. They understood that He was a sham king from a district in fanatical and turbulent Galilee.
5. Nicodemus; or what unavowed discipleship beheld. Lack of courage and decision brought no consolation in this dread hour. Little has he risked to avert this tragedy, and he is beginning to feel it.
6. The centurion; or what heathen piety beheld. "The Son of God."
7. Peter; or what the unfaithful apostle beheld. Jesus cast one look on him, but the apostle could encounter that eye no more.
8. Judas; or what the traitor and apostate beheld. From that eye, so downcast, he has often seen look forth the love of God. The memory of that sight is fire unquenchable, the writhing of the worm that never dies.
9. John; or what the disciple whom Jesus loved beheld. He could not look for his tears; but yet he saw what few eyes there witnessed, but what we need to see to-day — our Incarnate and Redeeming God.
10. Mary; or what the mother and the believing woman beheld. How her motherly love and her religious reverence are wounded by the suffering and shame heaped on her Son and Saviour! There are other holy women here. Shame on the men among His followers! Where are they?
II. WHAT WE BEHOLD IN THE MAN OF SORROWS.
1. A man.
(1) He was born of a woman. He passed through the life of a little child.
(2) In the home of Joseph, at Nazareth, there were many boys and girls. It was no unimportant contribution to the development of our Saviour's wide and sympathetic manhood, that brothers and sisters were the companions of His first years. The temptation in the wilderness was not our Saviour's first nor last trial. His young life had its tests.
(3) Our Lord, too, was born in circumstances favourable to the culture of a true manhood. Among the humble poor, and inured to a lowly calling. Men who begin their career at the summit of society do not uncommonly acquire much real fellow-feeling with classes which lie farther down. Men from the ranks, who have lived through the grades in their ascent, develop human sympathies deeper and broader. Every great worker for God and humanity has to be brought by some means or other into personal contact with the multitude. Galilee was a more important school than the halls of the Rabbis at Jerusalem.
(4) Jesus had His personal friendships. He is beneath a man or above him, who is without human friendship.
2. A tempted man (Hebrews 4:15). One with the form and the faculties of a man, is yet not a man if without temptation.
3. A suffering man. That pain is allotted to sinful creatures is not surprising. But here is one who never transgressed a precept. He suffered with the race and for the race which He came to save. But the ministry of suffering must come to every man. We bring into the world only raw materials. The discipline of life must weave the precious fabric. The suffering Jesus garnered in His sinless humanity the precious fruits of trial and sorrow (Hebrews 2:10). When your soul is bowed down, to which friend would you go in your sorrow? You could not repair to inexperienced amiability and to goodness unruffled by trial. A bosom so smooth has not treasured the balm of fellow-feeling for which the smitten heart aches to its very core.
4. THE MAN. Jesus is the only one who can be so styled. He is the perfection of humanity. Human beings at the best are a mixture of good and evil. Jesus Christ was "separate from sinners." He belonged to a totally different classification. He has more than every man's excellence, and exhibits no man's defect. Qualities seemingly opposite and irreconcilable were habitually blended in Him. The extreme of ease and dignity, loftiness and condescension, gentleness and severity, manly firmness and womanly sympathy, &c.
5. Is He man only? Nay, verily. Standing alone as a creature, no one can be complete as a man. One only perfect Man has been in our world, and He was the Incarnation of God.
Parallel VersesKJV: Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe. And Pilate saith unto them, Behold the man!