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Ecce Homo: Behold the Man
Mike Robinson

Then Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. And Pilate said to them, “Behold the Man!” Therefore, when the chief priests and officers saw Him, they cried out, saying, “Crucify Him, crucify Him!” Pilate said to them, “You take Him and crucify Him, for I find no fault in Him” (John 19:4-6).

Pilate had Christ scourged and then appealed to the pity of the Jewish leaders as Christ was mocked again by soldiers. Pilate went out to the Jews with Jesus beaten and dressed as a burlesqued king. Pilate announced yet again, that Christ is innocent. He offered Christ to the people and proclaimed, "Behold, the man!" This was met by the crowd’s shouts, "Crucify him, crucify him." Pilate took Christ into the palace and asked, “Where are You from?” But Jesus gave him no answer (John 19:9). Exasperated at His quietness, Pilate told Him that he had total power over Him. The mysterious answer of Jesus as to the source of power still further alarmed him, and he made new efforts to secure His discharge.

The Jewish Elder’s Threats Secure Christ’s Death

You never hear Jesus say in Pilate's judgment hall one word that would let you imagine that He was sorry that He had undertaken so costly a sacrifice for us. When His hands are pierced, when He is parched with fever, His tongue dried up like a shard of pottery, when His whole body is dissolved into the dust of death, you never hear a groan or a shriek that looks like Jesus is going back on His commitment (Charles Spurgeon).

Pilate was often capricious, unfair, and cruel, but the elders were mindful that he was extremely careful to not alarm or displease the emperor. Thus the Jewish leaders told Pilate, "If you release this man, you are not Caesar's friend: every one that makes himself a king speaks against Caesar" (John 19:12). The idea of being accused of supporting or showing weakness regarding treason was too much for the dithering judge to bear. Jesus was brought out and Pilate sat again and asked, "Shall I crucify your King?" The chief priests blasphemed and cried out, "We have no king but Caesar" (John 19:15). Lastly Pilate capitulated to their pressures and outcry as he decreed Christ be crucified. Nonetheless, he retaliated by posting on the cross the inscription "The king of the Jews" and then washed his hands. The people then bellowed a curse-full malediction, "His blood be on us, and on our children" (Matthew 27:24-25). Then Jesus was transported to be crucified.

How far were these proceedings in accordance with the Roman law under which they had been taken and conducted? In the first place, Pilate, as procurator, was the proper officer to try the charges brought against Jesus. History observes that Pilate was no saint, he was absolutely ruthless. But here, probably due to his wife’s terrible warning, he attempted to serve justice at different points. However his preliminary blunder, which gave rise to all the following injustice, was in not acquitting and releasing Jesus immediately, once he had declared that he found no fault in Him. The imposing of an unjust sentence in such hostile and bias conditions was jurisdictive murder.

For their part, Jews will be drawn to the Talmud’s view that the most famous critic of halakhah’s formality, and the person who accused the rabbis of favoring legal technicalities over justice and mercy, was the only person for whom those same formalities proved of no avail. Presenting Jesus as the sole exemplar of halakhic execution, the Talmud poetically argues that the mercy, grace, and compassion that Jesus sought outside the law are found within the halakhah* itself (Chaim Saiman**).

The Jewish elders did not try Him for treason, but they convicted Him of blasphemy. They changed the indictment when they came to Pilate’s judgment seat. There they turned it into treason because with Rome death is automatic for those found guilty of treason.

Scholars demonstrate, with different levels of indignation, outrage, and sadness, the myriad ways in which the trial violated those procedures. The timing, the location, the manner of interrogation of the witnesses and of Jesus himself, the manner of the decision, the unanimity of the verdict—the list is long, and most of the violations seem grave. In contemporary language, this was not a harmless error but a colossal denial of due process.1

Christ and His Grace: A Powerful Framework for the Christian Life

It’s something too good not to believe (Vince Gilligan: producer of Breaking Bad).

Christ was unlawfully and unjustly sentenced to death by crucifixion. Nonetheless, His death is the means of salvation for believers. People need a clear message concerning the distinctions and interrelations between the law and gospel; duty and grace. Various churches unwittingly confuse the law and the gospel. Some churches fall into legalism. Others may affirm the opposite by stating that teaching moral duties is legalism.


*Halakhah: Jewish law. The comprehensive body of rules and customs that Jews are bound to follow, including biblical commandments, rules instituted by the rabbis, and binding obligations.

**Professor of law at Villanova Law School, the Gruss Professor of Talmudic Law at University of Pennsylvania Law School.

The Holy God

Sin is a very serious matter, and it is taken seriously by God, though men often make light of it.  It is not only a transgression of the law of God, but an attack on the great Lawgiver Himself, a revolt against God.  It is an infringement on the inviolable righteousness of God, which is the very foundation of His throne, and an affront to the spotless holiness of God, which requires of us that we be holy in all manner of living (Louis Berkhof).

The Bible does not reveal a manageable god—a god who is only there to meet the believer’s needs. At times it seems that much of the Christian world appears to be embarrassed by the true God, and they try to change Him into a more user-friendly deity. An almighty sovereign God, full of awe and righteousness, is not what the world wants. But He is the God all people need. The Bible reveals that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 9:10). The Bible teaches that one is saved by grace alone, through faith alone because of Christ alone. Yes, one is saved through faith alone, but not a faith that remains alone (Phil. 2:8-10). When Jesus saves someone, a real Christian loves Jesus and wants to follow Him. The Christian follows the Lord and obeys His law. He doesn’t do this to find a way to make it to heaven by his works, but because he loves Jesus. We obey God out of gratitude forasmuch as Christ died to save us. Obedience is a fruit of salvation, but our works in no way get us to heaven.

That's who Jesus Christ is. He became the final Priest and the final Sacrifice. Sinless, he did not offer sacrifices for himself. Immortal, he never has to be replaced. Human, he could bear human sins. Therefore he did not offer sacrifices for himself; he offered himself as the final sacrifice. There will never be the need for another. There is one mediator between us and God. One priest. We need no other. Oh, how happy are those who draw near to God through Christ alone.2

Churches are to teach their members the commandments of God. They are to instruct their members in the ways of the Lord and exhort them to teach their family God’s moral code. Preachers are to make the clear distinction between justification (Rom. 4) and sanctification (Heb. 10) as well as grace and law. All Christians must understand that keeping God’s law doesn’t save their soul, but grace through faith in Christ alone saves them. And the Christian is to follow God’s law out of gratitude because Jesus died in their place.

If you love Me, you will keep My commandments (Jesus: John 14:15).

I … believe that I am, by Christ, freely and fully justified and acquitted from all my sins … yet, methinks, I find my heart more willing and desirous to do what the Lord commands … than ever it was before I did thus believe.3

The Christian is to be taught that obedience should be motivated by gratitude and love. The believer is to follow God’s law because he loves God and his fellow man. God is good and loving. This truth infuses obedient love into the believer’s heart, by the power and person of the Holy Spirit, through faith. If you love Jesus, you are called to follow His moral law. If a church loves Jesus, it is going to instruct and admonish its members to follow God’s law.

In the Book of Titus, Paul reminds believers that we are already justified, so we must earnestly strive to do good works.

But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This is a faithful saying, and these things I want you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men (Titus 3:4-8, italics mine).

Bavinck on The Crucified and Glorified Lord

Sin is guilt, pollution, and misery: a breach of the covenant of works, a loss of the image of God, and submission to the domination of corruption. Christ redeemed us from all three: by His suffering, by His fulfillment of the law, and by His conquest of death. Thus Christ’s benefits consist in the following:

He restores our right relation to God and all creatures (the forgiveness of sins, justification, the purification of our conscience, acceptance as children, peace with God, Christian liberty, and so on);

He renews us after God’s image (regeneration in the broad sense, renewal, re-creation, sanctification);

He preserves us for our heavenly inheritance and will someday free us from all suffering and death and grant us eternal blessedness (preservation, perseverance, glorification). …

It is Christ Himself, the crucified and glorified Lord, who by His Word directs our faith to His sacrifice, by His Spirit incorporates us into His fellowship, and by both Word and Spirit prepares and preserves us for heavenly blessedness.4

For more see my book Killing Jesus Christ: Contesting the Trendy Skeptics on Amazon at  (ebook)

Or in paperback


Weiler, J.H.H. First Things, The Trial of Jesus, July 2010.

Piper, John. The Passion of Jesus Christ.

Fisher, Edward. Notes by Thomas Boston: Marrow of Modern Divinity: Covenant of works & Grace: The Ten Commandments.

Bavinck, Herman. Reformed Dogmatics, Volume 3: Sin and Salvation in Christ.