BEHOLD YOUR KING
Topic: Sunday Morning Messages Passage: John 19:01–16, Isaiah 40:01–09
“BEHOLD YOUR KING!”
John 19:1-16a, Isaiah 40:1-9
Deciding what is “valuable” is not as simple a process as we might initially think.
From as far back as Aristotle (circa 4th century BC), philosophers have attempted to explain what has come to be known as “the paradox of value.” It is sometimes referred to as the “diamond-water paradox.” Simply put, it goes something like this: “Water, which is necessary to sustain life, is abundant and cheap; whereas diamonds, which one can live without, are very expensive.”
The things that are most “valuable,” therefore, are determined on the basis human needs and the recognition of those needs. Economists call it as “the law of supply and demand.” As the demand for something increases and the supply to meet that demand decreases, its “value” will rise. That holds true in our everyday lives, and even more so in matters of eternal significance.
Realizing our most basic needs in order to survive has a unique way of rearranging our priorities. The writer of Revelation speaks of a day when severe famine will cause prices to rise at an unprecedented rate. He tells us that it will cost a day’s wages to purchase enough food to survive to the next (cf. Revelation 6:6).
In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus addressed the matter of “value” when He said, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven...For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21).
“Value” is a subtle theme that runs throughout John 19, specifically the “value” that is placed upon the Son of God. It is here that we find Jesus at the end of a series of unjust trials. He has been up all night, bound and having been led from one inquisitor after another, only to be rejected and passed off to the next. Even His disciples have fled, and He is left at the mercy—had there been any—of His most adamant accusers. His fate has been sealed, but ultimately not by any of those who sit in judgment of Him. He is about to enter history’s darkest hour...the hour for which the world has been waiting since its earliest days. Only the most astute observer would have realized it.
I invite you to follow along as I read John 19, verses 1 through 16:
1 Then Pilate took Jesus and flogged him. 2 And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe. 3 They came up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and struck him with their hands. 4 Pilate went out again and said to them, “See, I am bringing him out to you that you may know that I find no guilt in him.” 5 So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Behold the man!” 6 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.” 7 The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has made himself the Son of God.” 8 When Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid. 9 He entered his headquarters again and said to Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. 10 So Pilate said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to
crucify you?” 11 Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.”
12 From then on Pilate sought to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.” 13 So when Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Stone Pavement, and in Aramaic Gabbatha. 14 Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover. It was about the sixth hour. 15 They cried out, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.” 16 So he delivered him over to them to be crucified.
Jesus is presented as something of a “side-show oddity.” Sweaty, bloodied, and bruised, He is being pointed at and jeered. Despite the lofty ideals He has stood for and exemplified, at this moment He appears to be of no “value” or “worth” to anyone.
As we consider the scene, there are three images of Jesus that need to be brought into focus. The first is stated in verse 5. The context reveals that with Jesus standing nearby, Pilate says...
Behold the man! (John 19:1-11).
In an attempt to appease the blood-thirsty Jewish leaders, who are unwilling to accept anything short of Jesus’ death, Pilate has Jesus “flogged.” Although this is not the same “scourging” that He will shortly endure (cf. Matthew 27:26 and Mark 15:15), it is nevertheless barbaric and bloody.
“Flogging” involved the one inflicting the torture to employ a short wooden handle to which several thongs were attached. At the end of each thong were sharp pieces of metal, stone, or bone. The victim would have been barebacked and bent over with his wrists attached to a low post so as to receive the full force of the blows when they were stuck. Any observer with a degree of compassion would have been forced to turn his face away and not watch.
Adding to the pain of the beating, Jesus was both verbally and physically abused Him by sadistic soldiers who mocked His claim to be a king.. We are told that they “twisted together a crown of thorns,” pressing the sharp points down upon His head and “arrayed him in a purple robe.” With cruel laughter, “They (repeatedly) came up to him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’”
Regarding the “crown of thorns, the late Scottish pastor James Stalker, has made this noteworthy observation:
When Adam and Eve were driven from the garden into the bleak and toilsome world, their doom was that the ground should bring forth to them thorns and thistles. Thorns were the sign of the curse...but it was the mission of Christ to bear the curse; and as He lifted it on His own head, He took it off the world.
Pilate had hoped that the Jews would be satisfied with this level of punishment and back off from their demands to see Jesus executed. So in verses 4 and 5, he goes to them again, and declares, “‘See, I am bringing him out to you that you may know that I find no guilt in him.’ So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, ‘Behold the man!’”
Twice now Pilate has stated Jesus’ innocence (cf. John 18:38). Nevertheless, he has forced this guiltless Man to endure abuse and undergo torture. All in an effort to placate the crowd! He tried to give the Jews a measure of what they demanded, but it was clearly not enough for them.
“Behold the man!” “Look at the poor fellow! What threat can this pitiful man be to you or to anyone else?” That is just how Pilate saw Him...as a man, an ordinary man who happened to find Himself in the wrong place at the wrong time, having made enemies with the wrong group of people.
What Pilate was unable to comprehend was that it was for this very reason—to be a “man,” one like us—that Jesus had come. As John has reminded us since the very first chapter of this book, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14), and “He came to his own and his own people did not receive him” (John 1:11). Neither Pilate nor these Jews could see that this unlikely “man” who stood before them was at that moment fulfilling the mission for that had been ordained from “before the foundation of the world” (cf. Revelation 13:8).
In his letter to the Philippians (2:5-8), Paul would later write, “Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” As has been said, “The Son of God became the Son of Man so that sons of men may become sons of God.”
But the Jews would have none of Pilate’s thinly-veiled ploy to spare the life of this One they had delivered into His hands. “Crucify him, crucify him!” they shouted. Crucifixion was the means by which the Romans executed capital offenders. And such executions happened daily. Along busily traveled roads from Rome to Jerusalem and other major cities stood crosses, some still bearing the bodies and remains of thieves, insurrectionists, and murderers.
What was one more death to Pilate? Despite Jesus’ obvious innocence, Pilate’s patience was wearing with these Jewish leaders. “Take him for yourselves and crucify him for I find no guilt in him,” he blurted out. It was a meaningless statement made out of frustration. He knew full well that they were powerless to carry out an execution of this sort unless he “signed off” on it.
But the Jews were equal to the challenge. They dug in their heels and countered with their own assertiveness. In verse 7, they say, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has made himself the Son of God.” The “law” to which they referred is found in Leviticus 24:16, which reads, “Whoever blasphemes the name of the LORD shall surely be put to death. All the congregation shall stone him.” They may very well have stoned Jesus, and Pilate would have turned a blind eye. But that was not enough for them. They wanted a crucifixion.
Inadvertently, they were playing right into the hands of a sovereign God. Three times the Book of Acts (5:30, 10:39, 13:29) speaks of Jesus “hanging...on a tree” in fulfillment of Deuteronomy 21:22. Centuries before, God had determined the manner of death by which Jesus would die.
Verse 8 says that Pilate was greatly troubled when he heard of Jesus’ claim to be “the Son of God.” Indeed, it stopped him in his tracks. Roman mythology had taught him from his earliest years that there were many “sons of the gods.” Indeed, it was a claim every Roman emperor made for himself. Pilate was suddenly gripped with fear and felt it necessary to question his prisoner again.
In verse 9 we read, “He entered his headquarters again and said to Jesus, ‘Where are you from?’ But Jesus gave him no answer.” In the previous chapter Jesus had already stated that His “kingdom is not of this world” (cf. John 18:36). No need to reiterate that, so Jesus remained silent.
Pilate appears to be offended, so he asks astonishingly, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” To which Jesus now replies, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.”
The governor has raised the matter of “authority,” and Jesus is quick to clarify where ultimate authority resided. Despite the way things looked, Pilate was but a pawn in the hands of an omnipotent God. And so were these Jews and their leader Caiaphas, who had “delivered (Jesus) over” to Roman jurisdiction in order to carry out the form of execution they demanded...and God’s providence required. It was necessary that Jesus fulfill every Messianic prophecy. And this He did, to the last letter. Although His enemies were unwittingly fulfilling a script written by God Himself, they all remained accountable for the part—some greater, some lesser—that they were playing.
“Behold the man!” Yes, but unlike any other man who ever walked this planet. It is not enough to believe that Jesus was “a man”...even if you say that He was “a great man.” To do so is to minimize His Person and His mission. It is to sell short the work He came to do and to downplay its effect upon our lives. The death of Jesus Christ is “valueless” to you see Him only as a “man.”
Paul puts it this way in Romans 5:6 through 8: “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Jesus Christ was no ordinary man. He was and remains the most unique among all men. Adherents to the Nicene Creed, which dates back to AD 325, declare their belief that Jesus...
...came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.
That is the Man we are to “Behold!” He is the incarnate Son of God, who willingly endured suffering and shame for our sakes. Until we see Him in this light or we do not truly see Him at all.
The second image of Christ upon which we must bring into focus is drawn from verses 12 through 16. Once again, it is the voice of Pilate speaking, where in verse 14 he declares...
Behold your King! (John 19:12-16).
Pilate’s latest round of questioning only increased his apprehension about permitting Jesus to face an unjust execution. Verse 12 tells us that “From then on Pilate sought to release him.”
Once again, these insistent Jews were ready with a response, and they knew just where Pilate was most vulnerable: “If you release this man,” they warned, “you are not Caesar’s friend. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.” “Heads rolled”—literally—when anyone
found himself on the emperor’s “bad side.” Pilate’s appointment as proconsul of Judea was an honor that had been personally granted to him by Tiberius (circa AD 14-37). Anyone receiving such an honor was considered “a friend of Caesar.”
His position was something he believed he had earned through years of faithful service to the Empire. He had been assigned to that region to maintain peace and order among a people known for their national zealousness and religious fanaticism. The thought of his job being in jeopardy due to a conflict over one solitary Jew created fearful and anxious thoughts within him. The “horns of the dilemma” upon which he had already found himself had become suddenly more pointed.
Verse 13 says that “When Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judgment seat.” It was the place where a ruler presided when making an official pronouncement. The crowd became silent as he sat. The governor was about to issue his verdict.
John informs us that “It was the day of Preparation of the Passover. It was about the sixth hour.” Scholars are divided whether “the day of Preparation” was the day before the Passover meal was eaten or the day before the Sabbath. Also, was “the sixth hour” calculated by the Jewish or Roman manner of telling time? In maintaining harmony with the other Gospel accounts, we can assume that it likely would have been between 6 and 7 a.m. on the Friday morning of Passover week.
Before rendering a judgment, Pilate—whether in another vain attempt to release Jesus or to mock the Jews one final time—stood the physically weakened and pitiful defendant before them and said with a loud voice, “Behold your King!”
Of a truth, He was indeed their “King”...the very One ordained by the Father to rule and to reign over His chosen people. Centuries earlier in the days of Samuel, the Jewish people had rejected God as their king (cf. 1 Samuel 8:7), preferring an earthly monarch just like the neighboring nations had. The tragic history of the Jewish people has revealed the foolishness of that choice.
As their “King” stood before them, the soul of the nation hung in the balance. And what would be their response to Him? With even greater vehemence in verse in verse 15, they shout, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him!” How deep must one’s hatred for another be, to not only want someone dead, but to want that person to die the most painful and brutal form of death possible? And how infinite the crime in seeking the death of the Son of God!
There is only one way to overcome such bitter hatred...and that is by love. Not our love, but God’s. Romans 5:8 says that “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Because we are all sinners, we have a natural and inherent hatred toward God. We recoil at righteousness and cannot bear to be in the presence of holiness. With blinded eyes, we prefer sin to God. We are in a hopeless state without a cure. What we need is a righteous “King,” One who is able to represent us before God and to plead our case.
“Behold your King!” His name is Jesus. By nature, along with these Jews, you and I have also cried out, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him!” We insist, as they did in John 18:40, “Not this man,” but another.
Resigned now to the fact that matters were beyond his control, Pilate asks, “Shall I crucify your King?” “The chief priests,” those who had been charged with the spiritual well-being of the nation, respond with the blasphemous cry, “We have no king but Caesar.” Those damning words were not
only a betrayal of their national heritage, but also a denial of their Messianic expectations. Here we find ourselves surrounded in depths of unbelief.
When Jesus Christ is rejected as “King,” we become “kings” and “queens” unto ourselves. We rule from our own thrones and we become answerable only to ourselves. That may appear to work for a season, but in time we will recognize that the kingdoms we claim to rule are empty ones.
Within forty years Jerusalem would become a heap of rubble ruin, and the Jewish people would be scattered among the nations. They would be without a homeland for nearly two thousand years. Even to this day the Jewish people continue looking for their King. He came and offered Himself to them, but they rejected Him. He was of no “value” to them.
But they were not alone. We have all rejected Him (cf. Romans 3:10-12). In response, He left heaven in order to pursue a people for Himself, those who would turn from their sin and welcome Him as “King.” One day He will return and gather His “subjects” into His eternal Kingdom.
The long evening of mock court proceedings at last comes to a conclusion in verse 16, for there we read, “So he delivered him over to them to be crucified.” In the most cowardly fashion, Pilate gave in to the demands of a frenzied mob and handed over an innocent Man to die an unjustifiable death. Within three hours Jesus would be hanging on cross (cf. Mark 15:25). And no one—other than He—understood the ramifications of what was taking place. Matthew (27:24) tells us that Pilate symbolically “washed his hands before the crowd.” And is so doing, he handed Jesus over to them. Jesus held no “value” for him.
Neither Scripture nor history tell us that Pilate felt any regret or even remorse for his actions. In his day, G. Campbell Morgan was known as “the prince of expositors.” In one of his commentaries he relates a story that is purely fictional yet profoundly philosophic. In that story, Pilate is depicted as now retired and living luxuriously in a villa on the Italian coast. Many years had passed when one day a visitor from Rome recognized him in the villa. “Pilate,” he asks, “Are you not the man who was the proconsul in Judea when they put to death that man Jesus?” Looking at the visitor, Pilate curiously responds, “Jesus? Jesus? I don’t recall the name.”
“Behold your King!” The “value” of every mortal king fades with the passage of time. But Jesus is a “King” whose “value” never diminishes. He is forever declared to be “King of kings and Lord of lords” (cf. 1 Timothy 6:15; Revelation 17:14, 19:16). Among those who have ever worn a crown and borne the title of “king,” Jesus reigns supreme over them all. His value and worth far surpasses any of theirs because His Kingdom is forever (cf. Revelation 11:15).
And that leads me to the final image of Jesus that we need to bring into focus. In order to see it, we must turn in our Bibles to the prophecy of Isaiah, chapter 40. I’ll ask you to do that with me as we prepare to close.
John 19 has shown us that even a disbelieving world can point to Jesus and say “Behold the man!” and “Behold your King!” So, in order to see the full picture of Jesus, we must look at Him a while longer. Both “Man” and “King” He was and is, but before He was either He was something—or Someone—more. All along He has insisted that His Kingdom “is not of this world” (cf. John 18:36). He did not originate in the world, rather the world was made by Him (cf. John 1:3). He entered into His creation after it had been marred by sin for the purpose of redeeming it and claiming out of it a people for Himself.
Therefore, beginning with chapter 40 of his lengthy prophecy, Isaiah leads us to...
Behold Your God! (Isaiah 40:1-9).
This chapter marks the turning point of this wonderful prophetic book. This section opens with the great promise of God to deliver a people who had been willfully unfaithful to the covenant that He had made with them centuries before. Thirty-nine preceding chapters of judgment are suddenly interrupted by the words, “Comfort, comfort my people says your God.” The book now becomes a message of hope because a promised King was coming to deliver them from the consequences of their sinful disobedience and to fulfill every covenant pledge made to them by their God.
Speaking through His prophet eight centuries before Christ, the Lord previews the very Gospel of which John would one day write its fulfillment. In verses 1 through 9, we read...
Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her
that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned,
that she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins.
A voice cries:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD;
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill made low;
The uneven ground shall become level. and the rough places a plain.
And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together,
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”
A voice says, “Cry!”
And I said, “What shall I cry?”
All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower fades
when the breath of the LORD blows on it;
surely the people are grass.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
but the word of our God will stand forever.
Go on up to a high mountain,
O Zion, herald of good news.
Lift up your voice with strength,
O Jerusalem, herald of good news.
lift it up, fear not; say to the cities of Judah.
“Behold your God!”
Who is this coming “King”? Look closely, for it is none other than “God” Himself. Isaiah is giving us a prophetic announcement the Advent of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is that Deliverer whose arrival is being predicted. He is that “King.” Indeed, He is none other than “God.”
And when He comes, so says the prophet, old things will pass away and new things will come (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:17). Isaiah calls this, “good news”...“good news” that is to be shouted from the highest mountain. You and I can now look back and declare, “The King has come!” His name is Jesus! Therefore, “Behold your God!”
Aside from the sheer tragedy of what we read in John 19, what strikes me with the greatest force is the restraint of our Lord Jesus in the face of the violent death that He knew He was about to endure. He alone was able to comprehend the depth of what it all meant, and only He could see its necessity. No one but He understood the “value” of the sacrifice of an innocent Life in redeeming the countless lives of guilty sinners who would one day believe.
With complete and selfless humility and an unwavering sense of Divine purpose, He shied not away from the awful fate that awaited Him. He appeared to be a passive and helpless victim, but never was a condemned man more in control. With unflinching resolve He faced the cross and yielded to it. Time was at last catching up with the eternal plan of God. The moment for which the entire history of redemption had been waiting had arrived. Jesus Christ is infinitely “valuable,” but His value to you will not become apparent until you recognize and admit the depth of Your need.
I presume that you have come this morning because you look to Jesus with some measure of personal regard. But just who is He to you? If you see Him only as “Man”—perhaps a “good” man, or maybe even a “great” man—that is insufficient for Him to be Your Savior. Jesus requires more than Your respect...He commands your allegiance. He did not come to set an example of virtue and humility for us, although He certainly did that. What He accomplished was of far greater “value.” He surrendered His sinless and perfectly righteous life as a sacrifice for the sin of those who would be willing to repent and embrace Him as Savior and Lord. Jesus—and the saving benefits of His death—will be of precious little “value” to you until you sense your desperate for Him and “Behold the Man!” as He truly is.
Practically speaking, it was Paul who brought all of this into sharp focus for us—even for those of us who profess to know Christ—when he wrote in Philippians 3(:8-11):
“I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.”
John’s main point throughout His Gospel has been to demonstrate the Deity—and, therefore, the supreme “value” of Jesus Christ. One cannot objectively read through this book and come away without seeing the love of God that compelled Him to give Himself as sacrifice for sin on behalf of ungrateful and undeserving people like us. From his opening words, John has told us that “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God...And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory” (John 1:1, 14).
Therefore, this morning, we can declare, “Behold the man!” “Behold your King!” “Behold your God!”