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Antonio Ciseri’s depiction of Ecce Homo, 1871.

Behold the man: Good Friday reminds us of Christ’s humanity

One of the most powerful declarations of who Jesus is came from Pontius Pilate when he said, “Behold the man.”

“This statement may seem insignificant, but it reflects a paradox at the heart of Christianity — a paradox that is both deeply human and divinely transcendent,” said Harry Hargrave, CEO of the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C.  “With these words, Pilate unwittingly points to the essence of Christ’s mission and the central mystery of the Christian faith. For in Jesus we behold not just a man but the incarnate son of God, who willingly embraced suffering and death for the redemption of humanity.”

Good Friday is a reminder that God became man.

“The crucifixion story confronts us with the humanity of Christ — his vulnerability, his anguish, his willingness to endure suffering for the sake of love,” he said. “These are profoundly human experiences and emotions, things all of us are familiar with. That’s why Isaiah prophesied that Jesus would be `a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.’”

Good Friday, however, is not only about Yeshua – the Hebrew name Jesus was actually known by during his life. All Christians have a part to play.

“Isaiah leads us to see ourselves in the story,” Hargrave said. “He is reminding us that Christ didn’t go to the cross for himself — he went for us. That is Paul’s message to believers in the book of Romans when he writes, `But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.’ Jesus knew we couldn’t come to him, so in the incarnation, he came down to us even though he knew it would cost him his life.”

On Good Friday, Christians behold the man and we relate to Jesus’ humanness.

“But if that were the whole story, we’d have no reason to call Good Friday good,” he said. “If Jesus were only human, we’d have no cause to hope, because he would just be another of death’s victims. But it isn’t the whole story. Three days later, Christ did something else for us: He rose from the grave. “

On Easter, Christians behold the risen man and stand in awe of Christ’s divinity.

“Christ’s divine nature accomplished that which human nature by itself cannot; it defied death,” Hargrave said. “That’s why Easter is the day of triumph. The resurrection demonstrated beyond any doubt that Jesus was who he said he was: the Son of God. But it did something else as well. It fulfilled God’s promise of redemption. It is the contrast between Good Friday and Easter Sunday that helps us grasp the weight and wonder of Christ’s passion. We will truly understand the triumph and glory of the resurrection when we have also walked with Christ through the depths of his suffering, only when we `behold the man.’”

–Dwight Widaman | Metro Voice


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