“…Behold the Man!” John 19:1-5

Text:  “Behold My Servant shall deal prudently, He shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high.  As many were astonied at Thee; His visage was so marred more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men.  So shall He sprinkle (with His Blood) many nations…”

Isaiah 52:13-15.

          “I (the prophesied Christ) gave My back to the smiters, and My cheeks to them that plucked off the hair; I hid not My face from shame and spitting.”

Isaiah 50:6.

Good morning, comfortable Christian!  You and I sit Eternally comfortable today, hidden in Christ Jesus - for the Saviour has paid the full Price for our sins.  Hallelujah!  Thank you, dear and loving Lord Jesus, for suffering in my place - the Just for the unjust; the pure for the vile; the sinless for sinners such as we!  Hallelujah!  What a Saviour!  Bless the Lord, Oh my soul!

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth (trusts and continues to trust) in Him should not perish (Eternally), but have everlasting life.”  (John 3:16)

In verse five of our Bible reading for this lesson, Pilate admonishes all concerned to ‘…Behold the Man (Christ Jesus)’.  But, what does this mean?

Dictionary definition: Behold - (verb transitive) to look at; to view; see; to contemplate; to observe closely and understand. (The Chambers Dictionary page 145)

Look At Jesus:  Pilate commanded the gathered people to look at the Man Jesus.  At this point in time, the Lord Jesus stood before the crowd resembling a piece of bloody meat.  He had been brutally interrogated; He had been physically buffeted, and mentally humiliated; He had been rejected by Jewish rulers, Herodian politicians - his very disciples had fled and left Him alone!

Then, He was cruelly tortured:  a crown of spiked, Middle-Eastern, thorns was platted into a wreath and plunged down into the soft scalp of His Holy brow. 

Christ was wickedly scourged:  His back and upper body flayed with leather cords entwined with sharp bones and twisted metal, until He was left raw and bleeding.  (The majority of people scourged very quickly bled to death.)

He was mocked by the Roman soldiers; farcically robed in a purple robe; and punched viciously by the entire troop of soldiers on duty that day.

With these facts in mind, dear reader - let each of us once more, ‘Behold the Man.’, and realise afresh the meaning of these words: ‘…His visage was so marred more than any man…I (the prophesied Christ) gave My back to the smiters, and My cheeks to them that plucked off the hair; I hid not My face from shame and spitting.’  Let us try for a moment to ’Behold…’ this dear dear Man.

All the full horror of Hell and the extreme violence of man was suffered by the Lord Jesus that day.  Our hearts should melt in shame and pity for Him - for He undertook all this pain and suffering in our place!

Look At His Suffering:  The suffering of Christ Jesus on that day only gives a physical glimpse of what the Master was suffering at that time.  Like the iceberg, this physical suffering was merely the visible tip of His suffering.  All the hordes of Hell were rallied against Him as He suffered the full penalty of your black sins and of mine.  The price was infinite, the depth of suffering incapable of measure.  Every sin sinned since Adam, had to be punished by our Holy Lord God, and every sin-debt paid.  Jesus paid it ALL!

“He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and we hid as it were our faces from Him; He was despised, and we esteemed Him not.  Surely He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows; yet we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.  BUT He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed (from our sins).”  (Isaiah 53:3-5)

The sin-question plunged mankind into chaos and death - Christ Jesus took that sin upon Himself and was nailed to the Cross to pay for it.

If only Pilate, the Roman Governor, had realised the fact that Christ Jesus was the Lamb of God, sent to us by God His Father, to be a Sacrifice for sin - surely he would have cast himself down at Christ’s feet, in abject repentance.

With the above grim but Scriptural facts in mind therefore, let us obey the command of Pilate.  Let us ’behold the Man’ of Calvary afresh, and worship Him.  There is life for a look at the Crucified One - Christ Jesus.

Thought: “Look unto Me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is none beside Me.”  (Isaiah 45:22)

Eternal Substitution! John 18:39-40

Text:  “For He (God the Father) hath made Him (God the Son) to be sin for us,  Who (He) knew no sin; that we (Hell-deserving sinners) might be made the righteousness of God in Him.”

2 Corinthians 5:21.

Good morning, Substituted Christian!  You and I were on our way to a Hell that is hot and filled with Eternal suffering.  Yet because of Christ’s Sacrifice for sinners on Calvary’s Cross, He took our place.  Praise God, we are free!

“Surely He (Christ Jesus) hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows...He was wounded (or tormented) for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities, the chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and with His stripes we are healed...the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquities of us all (i.e. all born again believers!).”  (Isaiah 53:4-5)  (Genesis 3:15)

Definition of the term:  The doctrine of Substitution concerns the penal sufferings (i.e. punishment required by Law) of Christ Jesus, in the place of His people, by which everyone born again of Him are SAVED.

God’s righteous penalties for sin had to be met, and God had to be satisfied by an acceptable Sacrifice.  Christ’s SINLESSNESS and perfect conformity to all God’s holy laws, was the only sacrifice the Father could accept - to pay the Price of our vile sins, “...the just for the unjust...”  (2 Corinthians 5:21)       (John 1:29)

Christ’s holiness and righteousness was the only thing pleasing to a thrice holy God.  (Hebrews 4:14-15) (Matthew 3:13-17) 

Thus, the satisfaction offered by Christ was not on His own behalf, but to bear the sins of “...His people...”, and to suffer the required penalty of God’s wrath (literally) “...in our place...”. What a Saviour!  Amen. (Matthew 1:21) (Luke 19:10) (John 3:16)

Substitution:  Substitution reveals the highest exhibition of God’s grace and mercy towards Hell-deserving sinners such as we.  (Ephesians 2:8-10) 

It is, of course, the very essence of the Gospel message of Salvation in Christ ALONE.  None other Sacrifice could Atone for the sins of the Elect Body of believers, the true Church of Christ!  (Psalm 118:1) (1 Corinthians 1:12-27) (John 3:3-8) (Romans 5:1)

Substitution:  Substitution manifests the Father’s love for sinners in sending His only begotten Lamb to suffer in our place upon the Cross at Calvary.  The Father’s grief must have been INFINITE indeed! 

Some reflection of God the Father’s sufferings is revealed in type, as King David mourns the death of his beloved son Absalom upon a much earlier tree than Christ’s Cross.  (2 Samuel 18:33) (Acts 2:22-26)

Substitution:  Substitution manifests the Son’s love for His people, as He suffers INFINITE sufferings upon that Calvary Tree - the Almighty Bridegroom in place of His weak Bride, the Church.                (1 John 4:10) (John 10:11)

Christ took upon Himself our grave-clothes of sins that we, by His grace, might be ROBED in the Robe of His righteousness!  Oh, the love of a risen Christ Jesus!  Thank you, beloved Lord God!                   (Isaiah 61:10) (1 Peter 1:16-19) Hallelujah!

Substitution:  Substitution is portrayed wonderfully well in the Gospels as Barabbas, - the guilty, rebellious murderer  - is set free; and Christ, the faultless One, goes to the cruel Cross in his place.  Instead of the guilty sinner being made to suffer the legal penalty for sin; the guiltless, sinless, Saviour, Jesus Christ, suffers as his substitute!  (Luke 23:18-25)

Substitution:  The doctrine of Substitution helps us to comprehend, to some degree, how God can remain a HOLY and JUST God of immutable wrath against sin; while at the same time be a God of infinite LOVE and pardoning mercy towards the sinner who has, by faith, received Christ Jesus as their SIN-BEARER, and Saviour; their blessed and gracious Substitute.

Christ, therefore, suffered as a substitute for His elect people.  All others who refuse His Substitutionary Sacrifice must suffer for themselves in Hell’s fires forever!  There can be no ‘double jeopardy’ in the matter.

Christ Jesus suffered for us who are saved that we might be forever blessed with peace.  He suffered unto death, that we might be sustained unto Eternal Life.  (Romans 5:1) (John 14:27)

Thought: This, therefore, is the glorious Scriptural doctrine of Christ’s Substitution.  Teach it, preach it - thank God daily for its truth.  Amen.  (See Basic Christian Doctrines button on our website www.ulsterchristians.org) 

Faultless Jesus! John 18:28-38

 Text:  “Pilate then went out unto them (the Jewish accusers), and said, What accusation bring ye against this Man?”

John 18:29.

Good morning, accused Christian!  When the world, the flesh, and the Devil all seek to cause us grief, invariably the charge is against our Christian faith and practice.  When every-day individual faults and weaknesses - which we all have - fail to measure up to the degree of hatred our enemies desire to level against us as Christians; the world seeks to find some fault in our worship of God.  This was Daniel’s experience, as it was the Christ’s.

First Daniel, the Jewish exile, was promoted to be one of the ‘presidents’ of King Darius’ kingdom, and was preferred over all others in authority. (Daniel 6:1-3)

This made the other local rulers envious, and they did what many do today - they conspired against Daniel to bring him down.  (Daniel 6:4)

Unable to find fault with Daniel in his public and civic duties, these envious rulers turned their microscopes upon Daniel’s religious views and practices - that there, they might find the necessary faults with which to accuse him. 

“Then said these men, We shall not find any occasion against this Daniel, except we find it against him concerning the law of his God.”  (Daniel 6:5)

Daniels worldly accusers then turned their minds to another familiar tactic that we Christians find alive and well, and still working, today!  They began to legislate laws designed to bring Daniel into conflict with the King.  Nothing much has changed there, has it?  They ‘…made mischief by framing a law…’

“Shall the throne of iniquity have fellowship with thee, which frameth mischief by a law?  They gather themselves together against the soul of the righteous, and condemn the innocent blood.”  (Psalm 94:20-21)

As it was with Daniel hundreds of years before Christ’s incarnation as a man; so it was with the Lord Jesus in His time; and so it will continue to be with us, Christ’s servants, until the Lord Jesus returns again for us.

These hypocritical religious leaders at Jerusalem, headed by Caiaphas and Annas, led Jesus into the "…hall of judgement…" - but "…they themselves went not into the judgement hall, lest they should be defiled; but that they might eat the Passover.”  (V.28)  What utter hypocrisy!  What dead religion!

“Let them alone; they be blind (Spiritually blind) leaders of the blind.  And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.”  (Matthew 15:14)

Their total sense of self-importance, and self-righteousness, was made evident when Pilate asked them the question I have featured in today’s Bible text:  "What accusation bring ye against this man?" (V.29)

The hypocrites replied: "…If He were not a malefactor (an evil-doer, a criminal), we would not have delivered Him up unto thee."  (V.30)

False accusers frequently expose their own antichristian unbelief, with lies from their own mouths.  "By their fruits ye shall know them…"

God’s Word further exposes the real intent of these religious charlatan’s hearts in verse 31 - wrongfully punishing the faultless Jesus was not enough for them -  they really hated Christ Jesus, and wanted Him dead!

“Then said Pilate unto them, Take ye Him, and judge Him according to your law.  The Jews therefore said unto him, It is not lawful for us to put any man to death.”  (V.31)

Hearing this from the false accusers, Pilate further interrogated the Lord Jesus; questioned Him in depth concerning His religious beliefs and views.

Yet, after all Pilate’s deeper interrogation, the Roman Governor could come up with no other conclusion than you, me, or any other person who has ever lived:  “I find in Him (Christ Jesus) no fault at all.”  (V.38)  Hallelujah!

“His mouth is most sweet; yea, He is altogether lovely.  This is my Beloved, and this is my Friend, O daughters of Jerusalem.”  (Solomon’s Song 5:9-16)

In you and in me - and in every other Christian that ever lived, or ever shall live - the world will always find many faults and failings and sins.  However, the accusers can NEVER find faults or failings in the ever-Holy Jesus.

“We have not an High Priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, YET WITHOUT SIN.”  (Hebrews 4:15) 

Praise God, we have a faultless Saviour/Lord!  Let us bring our worship to Him.  Christ Jesus alone is worthy to be worshipped and praised.   All glory to His Holy Name!

Thought: Christian believers go to Heaven on Christ’s Righteousness!

Far Off Following? John 18:15-27

 Text: “Then took they Him (Jesus), and led Him, and brought Him into the high priest’s house.  And Peter followed afar off.”

Luke 22:54.

          “Draw nigh to God, and He will draw nigh to you.  Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.”

James 4:8.

Good morning, far off following Christian!  Once you walked close to the Living Lord Jesus, but now you seem content to follow afar off.  Once you possessed the greatest wealth of joy a human heart could desire; now you blunder through each day, obsessed by career, or accumulation of finances, or the gathering up of mere material things. 

What a sad case you have become!  There is none as sad a case as the true Spirit-born Christian who is following Christ afar off.  Repent!

‘Far off following‘, if one is seeking to live in Christian reality, is nothing less than backsliding.  Such backsliding in the Christian’s experience commences with the first daily Bible-reading missed; the first morning started without prayer to God; the first sin left without confession to God. 

“If we say we that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him (the Lord God) a liar, and His Word is not in us.”  (1 John 1:8-10)

It is a well known and personally experienced fact that, when we allow sin to come into our Christian lives - we begin to exclude true joy from them.  Sin will separate us from the Lord’s fellowship every time. There is no true joy for the Christian without close fellowship with the risen Christ Jesus.  We can have sin, or we can have joy - but we cannot have both at the same time.  Christian, take heed!  Unconfessed sin will hinder your fellowship with God.

“Behold (Look!), the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear; but your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you, that He will not hear.”  (Isa. 59:1-2)

When we have non-confessed sin in our lives, our fellowship with our Holy Lord God of wrath against all sin is immediately broken.  Almighty God will not listen to the prayers of a hypocrite.

“If I regard iniquity in my heart (harbour, and try to cover up and ignore my sins), the Lord will not hear me.”  (Psalm 66:18)

Peter had, in fact, contradicted the Lord Jesus, just a little earlier in Luke’s account of the events of the night of Christ’s betrayal.  Pride had rushed in to the hearts of the disciples, including Peter, as they argued among themselves, ‘…which of them should be the greatest…’  (Luke 22:21-30)

The Lord Jesus had openly told Peter that Satan wanted to ‘…sift you as wheat…’ (Luke 22:31)  But Peter’s pride made him lean on his own understanding and, no doubt, with some indignation Peter declared, ‘…Lord, I am ready to go with Thee, both into prison, and to death.’ (Luke 22:33)  Peter thus revealed the unbelief of his heart - pride was the sin that threatened his close fellowship with the Lord Jesus. Peter really thought he knew himself better than the Lord knew him! Pride often comes just before a fall.        (Proverbs 16:18) (Proverbs 3:5-7)

One sin always leads to another sin, and yet another sin - and sin will separate the Christian from the Christ every time. Christian beware!  There’s no joy in following afar off!

Peter ’…stood at the door without…’, among Christ‘s enemies.(V.16)  Peter lied to the maid. (V.17)   Peter lied to the man. (V.25)  Peter lied to yet another man. (V.26-27)  "And immediately the cock crew."  Peter had denied his Lord God - "…and Peter went out and wept bitterly." (Luke 22:62)  Sin always causes great grief to the Christian soul.

Come, sincere but somewhat backslidden Christian, repentance is our passport back to full fellowship with the Lord of our Salvation, Jesus Christ.  Far off fields look green but there is no real joy in them.  Come back now!

“If we say we that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  (1 John 1: 8-9)

The Lord knows our every fault and weakness - come, let us return to Christ in prayer?  “Dear Lord Jesus, I have failed You, but now I repent.  Please hear my prayer and cleanse me afresh from my sin.  Amen.”  It is done.

Thought: Coals that fall away from God’s Fire - always grow cold.  Rekindle now.