John’s gospel paints a heart-wrenching portrait of this very truth. Toward the end of John’s narrative, a bruised and bloodied Jesus is trotted out before a mob. He is clad only in a silly purple cloak and a thorny crown. They are mocking him. “Here’s your poser-king!” is the intended jest. “Here’s the fool who thought he could take the throne!” Yet even here, amid the mockery, Pilate’s introduction of the dress-up king says it all. In the Latin language, his statement can be boiled down to just two words: Ecce homo. “Behold the man.”
He doesn’t ask them to behold a man. He says, behold the man. Behold the human. And without knowing it, the Roman thug has identified Jesus for who he really is. He is the true representative of the entire human race. He is the true Adam whose actions will affect the world in an even more dramatic fashion. He is also the true Israel who will now fulfill the calling of the covenant. Behold the man. And behold the king! Like David his forefather, Jesus is going to battle without armor, on behalf of the people, and their fate is bound up inextricably with his own. This is the fight we’ve been waiting for. It is the decisive battle to secure salvation for God’s people. Behold the man!
In the searing image of a bloody king, we begin to glimpse the true meaning of the cross. There is love and logic there, if only in hints and hushed whispers. The cross is where God acted decisively to deal with the evil infecting his good creation. He acted. And he did so through the only vessel strong enough to bear the blow: his Son, the second Adam, the Author-Actor who did what only God could do and paid what only man could pay. Behold the man!
This is but one facet of the cross’s meaning. It was the field of combat where an unlikely revolutionary— God in human flesh—secured the Creator’s victory for all time. What happened there dwarfs our theories and defies our every attempt to distill its meaning. Yet if we believe the Scriptures, the crushing, freeing claim of the Bible is that one dark Friday, the Author of God’s plotline allowed the cruelest twist of plot to waste itself on him. And because of this, the early followers of Jesus came to believe that in a very real sense, evil had been swallowed up in love. It is paradoxical that we could live forgiven because God died condemned. It is madness in a way. Yet as even Nietzsche knew: “There is always some madness in love. And there is always some reason in madness.”
The cross reminds us this is true. It tells us that our sin is serious. It is so ugly that God would have to die to make it beautiful. But the Jesus chapter doesn’t end just yet.
This video and article are an except from Long Story Short: The Bible in Six Simple Movements by Josh McNall. The study is perfect for: 1) Newcomers classes 2) College or Young Adult Ministry 3) Home groups 4) Neighborhood Bible studies 5) Sunday School. As you walk through this book, you will: Learn the big story of Scripture as a seamless whole; engage with a highly readable book; be challenged to think about familiar stories of the Bible in fresh ways. | “Joshua McNall in his engaging and witty little book Long Story Short, can help you understand the storied world in and of the Bible, and perhaps more importantly help you understand how actually you are in the story, and you must embrace it as yours.” (Dr. Ben Witherington III) Get the book + DVD or streaming from our store here.