“Behold the Man: A God Who Bleeds, a God Who Dies” (John 18:1 – 19:42)

Good Friday
April 19, 2019

“Behold the Man: A God Who Bleeds, a God Who Dies” (John 18:1 – 19:42)

“Behold the man!” So Pilate said as Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. “Behold the man!” “Ecce homo” in the Latin. “See, I find no guilt in him.” Nevertheless, Pilate delivered Jesus over to be crucified.

So now: Behold the man on the cross! This is his purpose. This is why God became man. This is why the eternal Second Person of the Trinity has taken human flesh. This is the reason. Behold the man on the cross, bleeding, gasping, suffering, dying.

Behold the man! Behold his hands, which the night before were washing his disciples’ feet. Now they are pinned with nails to the rough crossbeam of this instrument of torture and execution. Behold the fingers with which he touched lepers, stuck into the ears of a deaf man, and picked up bread to declare it to be his body. Now they jerk uncontrollably every time he has to pull himself up on the nails to take a breath. But this is why God has hands.

Behold the man! Behold the skin of his back that has been shredded with the Roman flagrum, with lacerating bone shards and bruising steel balls woven into the leather thongs to inflict the most damage and the greatest suffering on the one being beaten. Behold his back, now a bloody pulp that he must scrape up and down on the cross as he struggles to breathe. But this is why God has skin. Behold the knees skinned and bruised from falling under the weight of the cross that for a time he carried out to this Place of the Skull. But this is why God has legs.

Behold the man! Behold his feet, nailed to the cross, bearing his weight as he dies. Behold the feet that walked from town to town as he taught his disciples, healed the sick, and preached the good news of man’s release from sin and death. “How beautiful the feet of him who brings good news!” Behold the feet that Mary of Bethany anointed with expensive ointment and wiped with her hair. Behold the feet that are now bound in place. Behold the feet that must endure stabbing pain as they push up on the nail pinning them in place. Behold his heel, which in this act of dying is crushing the head of the serpent, destroying the kingdom of Satan, answering for mankind’s sinful rebellion. But this is why God has feet.

Behold the man! Behold his head, with the rivulets of blood flowing from each place where one of the thorns on this mock crown has pressed through his skin. Behold the head that should rightly be crowned with majesty and glory surpassing every earthly king’s crown. Behold the head over which has been hung the sign listing the charge that brought this death sentence: Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews. Behold the head that, like his forefather David’s, would have been anointed to make him king. “O sacred head, now wounded!” But this is why God has a head.

Behold the man! Behold his face, which has fresh swelling and bruising from the blows dealt first by the high priest’s officer and later by the soldiers, jeering, “Prophesy! Who is it that struck you?” Behold the eyes that looked with mercy and compassion on the crowds, on his disciples, on the sick. Behold his lips, which spoke words of absolution but now are dry and cracked from a deeper thirst than you or I will ever know. Behold the cheeks that were kissed by his mother. Behold how his face contorts in agony. But this is why God has a face.

Behold the man! Behold his chest, as his lungs slowly fill with fluid. In this hanging posture, his lungs cannot exhale without the man pulling his whole body up on the nails to open his airway. He struggles to expel one final breath as he cries, “It is finished!” With that, he gives up his spirit and dies. But this is why God has lungs.

Yes, “It is finished,” he cries. “It is accomplished.” Luther writes: “Now when the Lord departs with the words ‘It is accomplished,’ he means by this that all Scripture has now been fulfilled, as if to say, ‘The world and the devil have done all that they could to me, and so I have suffered all that was needful for the redemption of humanity, all that was prophesied and proclaimed in Scripture through the prophets. Thus everything is fulfilled and accomplished.’ We should note well that Christ’s suffering is the fulfillment of Scripture and the accomplishment of the redemption of the human race. It is accomplished: The Lamb of God is slain and offered for the sins of the world; the true High Priest has completed his offering; the Son of God has given and offered up his body and life as payment for sin; sin has been blotted out; God’s wrath appeased; death overcome; the kingdom of heaven won and heaven opened. Everything is fulfilled and completed, and no one may dispute, as if anything yet remained to be fulfilled and accomplished.”

Behold the man! Behold his bones, which remain unbroken throughout this tortuous ordeal. And that is the reason every sacrifice, every Passover lamb, every bull for the whole burnt offering, every scapegoat, every ram, every turtledove had to be healthy and intact, with no broken bones or disfigurement, a perfect specimen of its kind. The soldiers, with their clubs, shatter the legs of each of the thieves crucified with Jesus, but they refrain from doing so to Jesus. This is why God has bones.

Behold the man! Behold his side, into which the soldier thrusts his spear, causing a river of blood and water to pour forth, confirming that he is truly and completely dead. His heart has stopped. His synapses no longer fire. Behold the deep sleep of death that has come upon this man on the sixth day of the week. Behold the blood and water from the side of the crucified man, which God will fashion into his bride, the church, and give her to him when he wakes. Behold the pierced side of the man, which disbelieving Thomas will be invited to shove his hand into. But this is why God has a side.

Behold the man! Behold his blood, which pours from his lifeless body, staining the wooden beams of the cross, spilling onto the dirt, reddening the soil, watering his creation. Jesus first shed his blood on his eighth day, undergoing the sign by which all Jewish boys were made Israelites. Now behold the blood for which the crowd thirsted and asked for, ironically, exactly what they need: “His blood be on us and on our children!” Behold the blood that was foreshadowed on every Day of Atonement, when the blood of the sacrifice was sprinkled on the mercy seat on the ark of the covenant. Behold the blood he gave to his disciples in the cup the night before, telling them its meaning: shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins. Behold the blood that proves that this God is also truly and fully man, a brother in blood to us sinners. This is the blood by which this eternal high priest enters once for all into the Most Holy Place, giving sinful men access to a holy God. But this is why God has blood.

“Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” “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.” Dear friends, this is the heart of our faith. The Holy Spirit has called us by the gospel, so that now each one of us can say, “I believe that Jesus Christ . . . is my Lord, who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with his holy, precious blood and with his innocent suffering and death.”

Behold the man on the cross! This is no accident. This is no tragedy. This is God acting, in love, according to plan. Jesus himself had said, “No one takes my life from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again.” This is why God is man: not to teach you how to be good, not to show you the right way to live, not to set a perfect example, not to impart his wise teaching. Oh, he does all that, but that is not the main reason the Word became flesh. God is man so that he can die for men. God is man so that he can die for you. Jesus has a life so that he can lay it down in exchange for yours. Behold the man!

Published in: on April 19, 2019 at 7:06 am  Leave a Comment  
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