When Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate said to them, “Here is the man!”
This well recognized and famous painting of Jesus with Pontius Pilate was done by Italian artist Antonio Ciseri in the mid 1800’s. The title of the painting is, “Ecce Homo” in Latin, which means, “Behold the Man”. Those were the words of Pontius Pilate as he spoke to the crowd in John 19:5, immediately before he sent Jesus to be crucified. With this wonderful painting and it’s title as a backdrop, here are some thoughts that may shed some light on the age old question of, “Who are we and what are we doing here?”
Jesus’ disciples and followers came to know Jesus the man; first as their Rabbi, Master, and Teacher and following His death and resurrection, as their Savior. They walked and studied the man day and night for over three years. They knew him intimately and absorbed His teachings and character into their own personalities. They did not understand that He was eventually going to die for them and be resurrected as their Savior. Their gift of salvation came at the end of their journey. For every believer since the resurrection, that process has been reversed. Now, we first encounter Him by faith and take Him as our resurrected Savior and only later, if at all, do we come to know him as a man and our Rabbi, Master, and Teacher. Because of this reversal it is easy for the death and resurrection to overshadow our need to learn from and about our Rabbi, Jesus. It requires only a simple faith to receive His salvation, but to know him as Rabbi and Teacher takes work. Salvation is a gift (Ephesians 2:8-9), but discipleship is a walk (1 John 2;4-6). But, shouldn’t His rabbinical teaching ministry be as important to us as his death and resurrection? We cannot ignore or minimize either His death or His life. The Bible requires of us not only to have faith in Jesus, but also the faith (or faithfulness) of Jesus. We can’t just accept him as Savior, we must also learn to walk as Jesus walked.
Pilate said to the crowd, “Behold the Man”. What about the man, Jesus? What about His thirty three years on earth and the three and a half years of His public ministry before His death and resurrection? Shouldn’t we take the teachings of His life and the scriptures that He studied as seriously as we count on His redeeming death and resurrection? Dwight Pryor says concerning Jesus, “His mission as the ‘Son of Man’ was to be lifted up on a cross for the world. His mission as a ‘Man’ was to raise up many disciples”. We are supposed to become His disciples, His students. We all know the Great Commission that Jesus gave in Matthew 28:19-20, that we are to go and make disciples. But, the burning question is, “How can we make our own disciples if we have never been a student, ourselves?”
It is safe to say that Jesus wants to be our rabbi and mentor just as badly as He wants to be our Messiah and Savior. How do we “Behold the Man”? There is no way around the hard work and discipline of becoming a disciple. To get to know Him, we have to spend time in His Word. To study God’s Word is the highest form of worship. We learn the truth about the man, Jesus by studying his very words to us. John 8:31 says, “To those Jews who had believed in Him, Jesus said, ‘If you hold to (continue in) my teachings, your really are my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.’” It is our personal and corporate responsibility to know that truth, the truth that will set us free. Our churches are full each week of people who have taken Christ as their savior and have put their faith in Him as their resurrected Lord. But, they don’t know much about the man, Jesus and what He taught and how He lived. How can they imitate Him if they don’t know what He did and said? People must be challenged and exhorted to do the hard work of discipleship, to “Behold the Man!” Only then will they know the truth and have purpose and know who they are and what they are doing here!