A Barrie Brown
John 19: 5, “Behold the man!”
Heaven’s desire is that our hearts and minds should be directed, perhaps for the first time, to the Man who is the subject of the glad tidings. You may have sat under many preachings and many presentations of the Lord Jesus before. Have you beheld Him for yourself; have you seen Him with the eyes of faith, dear hearer? Then, for those of us who through divine mercy and grace have seen Him, have beheld Him before, there is a fresh opportunity to look at Him. We sang that earlier today:
Every view of Him unfolding,
Wakes fresh bursts of joyful praise.
Is that your portion? When you consider the Lord Jesus, is there an answering chord in your heart? This is a sobering section of Scripture. We need to leave these matters in finality with God, but it is of note that the speaker of these words which we can take on our lips and use in the glad tidings is one whom we would judge was not himself a saved person. How sobering that is that God was using such an instrument to bear testimony to His Son, the Man Christ Jesus in this scene.
I thought we might consider the Lord Jesus in three aspects: the Man as the subject, lowly, obedient One, as the suffering One, and as the glorified One. It has been said of the Saviour, the Lord Jesus, that He wins our heart with His humiliation - with His pathway here, His lowly pathway and His suffering - but He satisfies them with His glory (JBS vol 2 p23), and I think that would be a good outcome from the glad tidings that we were all satisfied. God is satisfied with Him; I had a distinct impression of that this morning, and it was carried through into the reading, thinking of what God finds in the Lord Jesus. That is a wonderful contemplation.
These three words that we have read have echoed down through this dispensation. No doubt there have been many other settings forth of the Saviour from these words, but their value needs to be current and living in your heart and in your soul as beholding the Man. In one of the incidents in the Old Testament of the journeys of the children of Israel they complained, and they did not do what was right, and God sent fiery serpents among them, and the people were being bitten, some were dying and some died. And the remedy was that God said to Moses to make a fiery serpent, and Moses made a serpent of brass and lifted it up upon a pole, and he that looked lived, Num 21: 4-9. How stark that is. If we do not behold the Man, if we do not behold Him rightly, if we do not behold Him with the eyes of faith, and put in our claim on Him and His saving work, we are in a position of great peril. We sang about that in our hymn together:
Why will you risk the peril
Of lost eternity?
There are millions of people in this world who are risking the peril of lost eternity. What a sobering matter that is, when God’s offer of free, full and eternal salvation is there. It says in one of the prophets, “Take with you words”, Hos 14: 2. The very words that we need to say to be saved are given to us in the Scriptures: “if thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord, and shalt believe in thine heart that God has raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved”, Rom 10: 9. The very words are given; yet people are risking the peril of lost eternity; what a sober matter that is. And these children of Israel, if they had not looked, would have perished, and some of them did. But in grace, that serpent was lifted up so it could be seen, it could be seen easily by all, and it would remind us that our Saviour was lifted up on the cross as a spectacle. What ignominy and shame there was there, but what grace that, as lifted up, the Saviour is blessedly available to all who feel their need. So I trust that there would be no one in this room tonight risking the peril of lost eternity, but that we would all be beholding that blessed One.
Well, consider Him as the obedient One, the subject One. What a moment the incoming of the Lord Jesus was for God. Psalm 14 says,
Jehovah looked down from the heavens
upon the children of men, to see if there
were any that did understand,
that did seek God.
They have all gone aside, they are together
become corrupt: there is none
that doeth good, not even one.
What sober verses these are; how God felt that. We have read about the Man, and God’s thoughts are primarily in relation to men; that would be the race of men: men and women, boys and girls. Yes, another scripture does tell us that “the cattle upon a thousand hills” (Ps 50: 10) are His. It is not that He does not care for the animal creation or the vegetable creation, but God’s primary concern in this dispensation is as to men, to secure them for Himself; and therefore what grief it must have been to God to see His creation, God’s handiwork, going their own way. We have spoken about that serpent that was lifted up, and it is a very striking type, one of the most striking types there is in Scripture of the matter of sin. It takes us right back to the beginning; “from the beginning the devil sins”, 1 John 3: 8. It speaks in Revelation about “the ancient serpent”, chap 12: 9. Sin has been spoken of as the bite of the serpent, that poison of sin, that has affected every single person who has been born, save One and that is the Man that we are speaking about in the glad tidings. Sin manifests itself in different ways; yes, there is that in human nature which we would respect such as family affections or kindness, but naturally each one of us here has been affected by that bite of the serpent, and we have all been corrupted as it said in that psalm; we have all gone our own way. Psalm 53 says, “Every one of them is gone back”: gone back from God’s original thought, v 3. The idea of free will that is spoken about is not a right thought; any divergence from God’s will is sin. It is not exactly that sin is transgression of the law because it was there before the transgression of the Mosaic law, but “sin is lawlessness”, 1 John 3: 4. It is doing what I want to do in contravention of what God would have me to do: “There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof is the ways of death”, Prov 14: 12. How sober that is. Although sin manifests itself in different ways, there is the answer to every sin in the glad tidings, in the work of the Lord Jesus. But what I would like to occupy you with just for a moment is not my sinful condition or your sinful condition, although you must acknowledge that. Those children of Israel who were feeling the bite of the serpent would have known quickly that they were under a malign influence. Are you like that? Have you been convicted in your own being, in your own mind, in your own conscience? That is very necessary. All men have sinned (Rom 5: 12), and it is good to put my name in there; it makes the gospel personal. In Psalm 51 David says, “Against thee, thee only, have I sinned”, v 4. We may have thought we have sinned against somebody else, our parents, brothers, sisters, whoever it may be, one or another, but David there acknowledged that he had sinned against God, he had “done what is evil in thy sight”; and then, I think this is really David coming to it, “that thou mayest be justified when thou speakest, be clear when thou judgest”. It is easy to judge other persons; Romans speaks about that: “Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, every one who judgest, for in that in which thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself”, chap 2: 1. It is easy to judge sin in somebody else. Have I judged it in my heart?
Well, having said that, we love then to turn to another Man who has come in. God could look down, the Father could look down, on that Man, and had complacency, have rest in Him completely and fully. How momentous that is, dear friend, to consider that there is one Man, and that really is the story in the glad tidings. There are many people that could be considered, but they all pale away into insignificance when considering this Man, the Man Christ Jesus. Scripture speaks affectingly of Him as “the child Jesus” (Luke 2: 27), and too “the boy Jesus”, v 43. Another has said, His humanity was perfectly natural in His development. Think of that; He came in, “come of woman” (Gal 4: 4), but deriving nothing morally from His mother. That poison that we have spoken about did not touch the Saviour. It had no point of attack in the Saviour; the One who we present as your Saviour offered no inlet or inroad to the matter of sin. How could it be? For the One who came in in Bethlehem’s manger as a baby was none less than the eternal God. Does that affect your heart freshly? I seek that it would. The One who is being presented here - “Behold the man!” - was the One of whom another scripture says, “the world had its being through him, and the world knew him not”, John 1: 10. Do you know Him? He came to His own, the Jewish race, and apart from that faithful remnant they did not receive Him. Oh! let none of us be like that; let each one of us receive the Lord Jesus, receive fresh impressions of Him - perhaps receive impressions for the first time. He is absolutely flawless. We often speak about the matter of delight, but perhaps we do not consider too much what it means. We perhaps use it in relation to things of the world but delight would simply mean absolute pleasure, and God had absolute pleasure in the Lord Jesus. Just think of that, think of all the ways that God could have chosen to come in to make His attributes known. Think of Him coming down on Mount Sinai in the old dispensation; if you read the description there it is terrifying, and you can understand why the children of Israel would have felt like that. The mount was all on fire. Did God come in like that in the Saviour? No, He came in as a lowly, subject, obedient Man. We are not entitled to our own will, but there was One that was, the Man Christ Jesus, but for the whole of His pathway here He was subject to the will of His God and Father. How beautiful that is: there was no chafing; perish the thought of that. There was no railing against it as there is with me at times. Another scripture to refer to would be in Psalm 1. The Man of Psalm 1 really describes what is on my heart in relation to the subject One, “But his delight is in Jehovah’s law, and in his law doth he meditate day and night”, v 2. He is the Man; he does not walk “in the counsel of the wicked”; He does not stand “in the way of sinners”; He does not sit “in the seat of scorners”, v 1. “For Jehovah knoweth the way of the righteous”, v 6. Think of the Lord Jesus in the ordinary circumstances of life in Nazareth, and then perhaps in Capernaum, moving about, perfect in everything that He did. What a consideration, those hidden years that Scripture is largely silent about; but the eye of the Father saw all. What a consideration!
That is the lowly, subject, obedient Man: food for our souls indeed but, being careful and reverent in what we say, there needed to be more than that perfect life. That life had to be laid down, the only life that was not forfeited. My life and yours are forfeited as a result of sin, but the Saviour had no need to die for anything in Himself, surely not. Pilate indeed says that; how affecting it is! The baying of the crowds here just after we read was, “Crucify, crucify him”, v 6. But Pilate says, “I find no fault in him”. And that was a further testimony, no doubt put there by God, but yet if I were to be freed from sin, be free to come into God’s presence, it required that Man to lay down His life. “For God is one, and the mediator of God and men one, the man Christ Jesus”, 1 Tim 2: 5. The work that the Saviour has accomplished on Calvary’s cross as the Sin-bearer is available for you, and I would just ask you then, behold Him there. Was He there in your place? I can say He was in my place; He hung there for me. Do you know Him as the One who hung there for you? Can you say that for yourself? You cannot say it for anybody else, and others cannot say it for you. You must behold Him, behold Him there in your place. God has been propitiated and glorified in relation to the matter of sin, fully and eternally. There is a ”Behold” earlier in John’s gospel, “Behold the Lamb of God”, behold that One, “who takes away the sin of the world”, chap 1: 29. God has been absolutely satisfied with the work of the Lord Jesus. Another psalm, just to touch on, says,
Loving-kindness and truth are met together;
righteousness and peace have kissed each other,
Ps 85: 10.
Where was that? I think that was on the cross. It has been said that the matter of glory is the conciliation of God’s nature with His attributes. I do not profess to understand that in fulness at all, but I know this, that I could not have stood before a holy God were it not for the work of the Saviour. Therefore, think of the glory of the cross. Outwardly what was seen were three persons hanging on three crosses; but the Man in the middle, I trust He is your Saviour. Think of that, the thief, the malefactor, the one who was suffering justly for what he had done said, “this man has done nothing amiss”, Luke 23: 41. Are these words in your mouth? Have you come to it that the lowly, subject Jesus was there not on His own account but on your account? I commend Him to you, the suffering One, the One who “suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God”, 1 Pet 3: 18. Has He brought you to God? Do you want to be brought to God? That would be a question. Are you content to go on your own way? I trust that nobody here would be like that for
Why will you risk the peril
Of lost eternity?
I would point you to Jesus, the One who has fully, and in one momentous event, taken the righteous judgment of God that was due to me. Another scripture in the prophets says that God is “of purer eyes than to behold evil” (Hab 1: 13), but “Him who knew not sin”, God “has made sin for us, that we might become God’s righteousness in him”, 2 Cor 5: 21. How full the Scriptures are with references to the Lord Jesus on the cross; the Scriptures testify of Jesus, but while it is very good to know the Scriptures it is better to know the Man, the Man of the Scriptures. We know Him through the Scriptures; so, “Behold the man” there in your place who suffered in darkness on Calvary’s tree, who shed His blood that your sins may be washed away. Well, friend, behold Him there.
Repentance too, has been described as taking God’s side against myself, and I think as we repent, as we come to it that the Saviour is flawless and sinless and I am anything but, we really get God’s view: what a fine thing it is to have God’s view of the Saviour. Do you have that, dear friend? You might ask, ”How could I possibly have God’s view of the Saviour?”. Well, He would love to share that with you. That is one of the many wonderful things that marks God’s world, the area of relationships that we have been brought into called Christianity that it is marked by sharing. The world is not marked by sharing. If I have something naturally, and I give it away, I am at a loss but the matter of sharing is prevalent in Christianity. How beautiful that is, the matter of co-heirs comes in, inheritance with Christ. That is open to you as beholding the Man.
Well, I trust you beheld Jesus by faith as the lowly, subject One; I trust your heart has been drawn to Him; I trust your heart has been affected by the suffering One. Again, another of the prophets says, “his visage was so marred more than any man”, Isa 52: 14. That is what this world did to Him, and this world is still the same, and although He has gone on high, His suffering over, His name is still traduced in this world. This world is still the same as it was when they said here, “Crucify, crucify him”. If the princes of this age had known “they would not have crucified the Lord of glory”, 1 Cor 2: 8. Perhaps that is some reference to Pilate, but one of the wonderful facts of the glad tidings is that, even that terrible sin was treated as a sin of ignorance; Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”, Luke 23: 34. What a Man we have to deal with in the glad tidings, who after the worst treatment that could be meted out to anyone; as another scripture says, He “made intercession for the transgressors”, Isa 53: 12. May each one of us know what it is to behold the Man, to know the Man, to look at Him, to live.
But then, I wish to consider Him as the Man in the glory; are you beholding Him there? We said at the outset that He would win our hearts, win our trust, win our confidence in His humiliation, in His lowliness, in His suffering. In a sense we never leave that; the emblems were on the table this morning, and they remained on the table throughout the service. The matter of glory is a wonderful thing; it is a satisfying thing: it is a moral thought. The glory of this world is largely taken up with what is material, what is showy, and what is outward. I suppose we are all drawn to that naturally to a certain degree; the glory that is in the Lord Jesus in His present position would indeed eclipse that. The sun in its shining would outshine any other light, and the Lord Jesus would desire that your affections, your life, would be drawn to Him where He is in the glory; so are you beholding Him there? You say, “How can I do that? I cannot see Him with my natural eyes”. One scripture says, “we see Jesus … crowned with glory and honour”, Heb 2: 9. How do we do that? I think that is by the blessed Holy Spirit. What a Person He is. A brother was helping us recently as to John 16, “He shall glorify me, for he shall receive of mine and shall announce it to you”, v 14. That is a present service of the Holy Spirit. I think it is a divine committal: it is an ongoing matter. Do you know what it is to receive current impressions of the Lord Jesus by the Holy Spirit for, as we have been told since we were young, the heart of a Man beats in heaven, the Man that went back in?
Received in glory bright up there,
The Father’s greetings, honours rare,
Are heaped upon His Son’s blest brow;
He is the mighty Victor now.
The Holy Spirit would seek to engage your heart with Him, to draw us away from this scene. The sealing of the Holy Spirit for the day to come is one matter, but the Holy Spirit’s service is constant, it is real, it is powerful, it is vital. And He would unfailingly seek to occupy you with the Saviour. So we can almost take these words and move Pilate to the background and say, and I think the Holy Spirit too, speaking reverently, would be saying the same thing: He would be saying, “Behold the man!”. There is no other man who is worthy of your affections. The end in the gospel would be this that persons are saved, secured for eternity; but then they are set up here as indwelt by the Holy Spirit, working out their own salvation, and also giving glory to God. What a triumph it is then for God that in this scene where His beloved Son was crucified, at the “place of a skull”, there are those who are beholding the Man. They are committed to the Man, and love the Man. They compose His assembly which is soon to be taken to be with Christ, and then, we will see Him face to face. We behold Him through the eyes of faith at the moment, but those of us who are saved will hear first the assembling shout. But when I think those of us who believe and trust in the Saviour, who have beheld Him as the subject, lowly One, as the suffering One, as the glorified One, I do not think there will be any need for anyone to point out Jesus to us in those courts above. Think of that moment when we see our Saviour face to face for the first time!
“Behold the man”; come to Him for yourself, dear friend, believe in Him, trust in Him. For, in closing, the responsibility in the preaching is this:
Why will you risk the peril
Of lost eternity?
Think of all that is in God’s favour for you, the door of mercy is open; we cannot say it will be open much longer. God has kept the door of mercy open until now, through His wonderful, marvellous, condescending, grace; to needy sinners like me and you. Avail yourself of the opportunity tonight, “Behold the man”, know Him for yourself, trust in Him for time and for eternity, for His Name’s sake.
25th January 2015