Ecce homo! Behold the man! Pontius Pilate spoke these famous words when he presented Jesus to the crowd after He was brutally scourged, crowned with thorns and clothed in a purple cloak. “Behold the man!” On the surface, Pilate was basically saying: “Look how pathetic he is. How can you take him seriously as a king?” Pilate was ridiculing Jesus and he was trying to satisfy the crowds and actually get them to call for Jesus’ release. He was basically saying: “look how pitiful He is. He may be dressed like a king, but he’s no threat.” Of course, the chief priests and the guards were not convinced. When they beheld Jesus standing there bloody and bruised, they had no compassion. Instead of agreeing to Jesus’ release, they cried out: “Crucify Him!” They hated Jesus so much that they weren’t satisfied that he had been horribly tortured. They wanted the death penalty.
Ecce homo! Behold the man! These words of Pontius Pilate have more than a surface meaning. These words have a deeper theological meaning than Pilate ever intended. Behold the man! Yes, Jesus, the Son of God, is true man! He is the Word made flesh who came and dwelt among us. He became a man. God assumed our human nature.
“Behold the man!” Pope Benedict XVI wrote that these words take on “a depth of meaning that reaches far beyond that moment in time.” He wrote: “In Jesus, it is man himself that is manifested. In Him is displayed the suffering of all who are subjected to violence, all the downtrodden. His suffering mirrors the inhumanity of worldly power, which so ruthlessly crushes the powerless. In Him is reflected what we call ‘sin’: this is what happens when man turns his back upon God and takes control over the world into his own hands.”
Pope Benedict goes on to say: “There is another side to this, though: Jesus’ innermost dignity cannot be taken from Him. The hidden God remains present within Him. Even the man subjected to violence and vilification remains the image of God. Ever since Jesus submitted to violence, it has been the wounded, the victims of violence, who have been the image of the God who chose to suffer for us. So Jesus in the throes of His Passion is an image of hope: God is on the side of those who suffer.”
On this Good Friday, I invite you to consider that the meaning of what happened on this day reaches far beyond the time in which it took place. What happened on this day 2,000 years ago sheds light on the entire history of the human race. When we behold the man Jesus bloodied and scourged, we grasp the most profound understanding of sin and human suffering. When we behold the man Jesus, we see love. We see God. We see God’s Son, who was like us in all things but sin yet became a victim for sin in order to save us. We behold our God, who entered into solidarity with us sinners, even unto death. We see the Son of Man, who gave His life as a ransom for us.
On this Good Friday, let us behold the face of Jesus. Let us contemplate that holy face, that human face that is also God’s face. It is the face of the Man of Sorrows who took upon Himself the burden of our sins and the anguish of death.
My brothers and sisters, Christ’s face is reflected in that of every person who is humiliated and offended, sick and suffering, alone, abandoned and despised. When we “behold the man,” may we not cry out “Crucify him!” When we behold His holy face, may we say instead: “Lord, what do you want me to do for you?” And Jesus will answer us with these words: “Love one another as I have loved you.”
At the last judgment, we will behold the Son of Man in His glory. I pray that we will hear Him say to us: “Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.”
Blessed Mother, Our Lady of Sorrows, intercede for us! Help us to follow the way to the kingdom of your Son Jesus!