On Good Friday morning, Jesus was stripped, beaten, scourged, and mocked — all while Roman and Jewish leaders debated about how to handle their famous prisoner. Of course, Jesus fate was already determined as we saw back in the Garden of Gethsemane. God’s will was that Jesus lay down His life as a ransom for all our sins.
Eventually, the decision was made by Pontius Pilate to send Jesus to Golgotha for crucifixion. Before doing so, however, Pilate gives one last declaration to the crowd . . . a statement that was intended to embarrass the Jewish leaders even more than Jesus Himself. Pilate walked Jesus in front of the crowd outside his fortress. The crown of thorns on Jesus head and purple robe draped about His shoulders could not hide the grotesque injuries He had received underneath. Under his cross examination, Pilate had found that Jesus had done nothing wrong – and he told the Jewish mob as much. Then these events transpired:
“So Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, ‘Behold the man!’ When the chief priests and the officers saw Him, they cried out, ‘Crucify Him, crucify Him!’ Pilate said to them, ‘Take Him yourselves and crucify Him, for I find no guilt in Him.’ (John 19:5-6)”
Eventually Pilate gives in and sentences Jesus to be crucified.
While visiting the city of Jerusalem, one of the stops we had was at the Ecce Homo Convent, a location managed by the Ladies of Zion. This convent is located on the site where the Antonia Fortress stood during Jesus’s day. The Antonia Fortress was built by King Herod to house Roman troops in the city of Jerusalem. Pilate probably had his office there. The convent’s name (Ecce Homo) is Latin for “Behold the Man.” It is believed that this location is where Jesus was presented by Pilate to the masses in John 19.
The convent sits along the Via Dolorosa, the traditional path Jesus walked to the cross. There are many stunning sculptures and paintings on the Via Dolorosa to stop by and reflect upon what Jesus has done for us. Remember, however, the modern city of Jerusalem (even its old parts) are built on top of ruins that date back years and years. The roads you walk at street level are not the same roads Jesus traversed. To see the original roads, you need to go underground.
Beneath the Ecce Homo Convent in a dimly lit portion of the basement is a section of stones that are indeed original to the first century. They are the very road Jesus would have walked on the way to the cross.
It is hard to describe the emotion in the room as our tour group stood on that road. Above us (at street level) thousands of people were bustling about, but underground all was quiet. The weight of the historical moment fell like a beam across our shoulders. Jesus had really died. He had really carried the cross that was meant for you and me. It really happened . . . in history . . . in this place.
Our God is righteous and just. He will bring to account all sin and unrighteousness. Someday, all people will be brought before Him and it will be said of us, “Behold the man (or woman),” and our lives will be on display for Him to see. Though I have met some pretty amazing people in this world, I have never met a perfect one. This will pose an enormous problem for humanity as we stand before God on judgement day, He beholds us, and issues a judgement. On our own, we simply have no hope before a Holy and Just God.
However, there is another possibility. Our God is also gracious. In His grace and mercy, God has made a way for us to be judged, NOT on the basis of our works, but on the basis of Jesus’s works. If we trust in Christ for the forgiveness of our sins, on judgement day, when we stand before God, we will be able to say – “Behold the Man” . . . and point to Christ. His righteousness will cover the wounds of our sin like a royal robe. The death that He died on the cross that He carried will be sufficient to satisfy all of God’s wrath concerning our sins.
How about you? In faith, can you say – “Behold the Man?”