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NT Reading: Lk.23:1-
"Behold the man!" Jn.19:5
In a day when many Bible truths are coming under attack I would hazard a guess the truth we are going to look at this evening is not particularly threatened. I imagine that most, if not all, of those in the UK who have heard of Jesus would have no trouble accepting one of the strands of Bible teaching concerning him. I am referring to the humanity of Jesus which is clearly taught in the Bible. Or to put it another way – Jesus is a man.
This doctrine has long formed part of Christian orthodoxy. The creeds, those early summaries of biblical Christian faith contain it. For example the Nicene creed, in referring to Jesus, has the words:
"For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven, was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and was made man."
Similarly Calvin’s Institutes (1536/1559) describe the full humanity of Jesus Christ as do the historic Catechisms and Confessions of Faith of the Protestant church such as the Heidelberg Catechism of 1563, the Thirty Nine Articles of the Church of England (1563), the Savoy Declaration (1658), the London Baptist Confession (1689).
"The only Redeemer of God's elect is the Lord Jesus Christ, who, being the eternal Son of God became man, and so was and continues to be God and man, in two distinct natures and one person for ever."
The Doctrinal Basis of our own FIEC has these words: "The Lord Jesus Christ is fully God and fully man."
This evening I want us to consider what the Gospels in particular have to tell us about how Jesus is referred to as a man. We’re not going to be able to consider every verse – there are probably in excess of 50 of them. Neither will we consider that phrase that was Jesus preferred way of referring to himself: the Son of Man – that phrase alone appears some 80x in the NT with most of them being found in the mouth of Jesus himself!
Now, after that lengthy introduction let us follow the words of our text and "Behold the man".
In considering the various verses that speak of Jesus as a man I don’t intend to try to prove Jesus’ humanity so much as to see how it was referred to by different ones in the gospel narratives.
A small number of those references could be classed as neutral references in that they contain what we might describe as simple identifiers without carrying necessarily any particular attitude either positive or negative.
These examples need not detain us long though they do serve to indicate that in many respects Jesus was seen as one of us – a real man.
Here are some examples:
Lk.23:6 "When Pilate heard this, he asked whether the man (he was referring to Jesus)was a Galilean."
Mt.27:24 "So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, "I am innocent of this man’s blood;" once more he is referring to Jesus.
Or while Jesus was being crucified:
Mt 27:47 "And some of the bystanders, hearing it, said, "This man is calling Elijah.""
But these neutral references are by no means the only way in which people spoke about the man who was Jesus.
As a man Jesus often provoked a sense of amazement as people looked at him and at what he was doing. One such example followed Jesus’ calming of a storm at sea:
Mt.8:27 "And the men marvelled, saying, "What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?"
While such amazement expressed itself in questions men did not always wait for an answer and, imagining they knew everything there was to know, they allowed their sense of amazement to turn to a sceptical dismissal of the man:
Even a neutral sounding question can easily lead to a negative attitude or opinion being expressed. Now it is time to turn to more obviously negative comments that were specifically made about the man Jesus.
It is easy enough to turn a simple description into a negative one. A change from "the man" to "this man" is sometimes all it takes to add a derogative tone. And then the addition of a few critical comments and we have a full scale assault on the integrity of our Saviour.
And critical comments flow aplenty in the mouths of his detractors who were only too ready to pass judgment on him for his actions, his words and his general behaviour.
Let’s look at some of them and you will see what I mean:
Mt.9:3 "And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, "This man is blaspheming.""
And what dreadful thing had he just done to deserve this reaction? He had told a needy paralytic that his most serious need had been met – his sins were forgiven! To demonstrate he had the authority to make just such a declaration Jesus proceeded to heal the man too!
But it didn’t stop the same accusation being made on another occasion:
Jn.10:33 "The Jews answered him, "It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God."
When Jesus freed a deaf and dumb man who had been long under the influence of a demon instead of rejoicing the Pharisees found in this another opportunity of denigrating the Saviour’s name:
Mt.12:24 "But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, "It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons."
Jesus’ enemies certainly felt no need to hold back and so didn’t hesitate to make their declarations:
Jn.9:24 "We know that this man is a sinner."
And what awful crime had he committed this time to warrant such a gratuitous verbal character assassination? He had had the audacity to heal a blind man!
The grounds for accusing this man proved to be many and varied:
He kept bad company:
Lk.15:2 "And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, "This man receives sinners and eats with them."
He misled the people:
Lk.23:2 "And they began to accuse him, saying, "We found this man misleading our nation and forbidding us to give tribute to Caesar, and saying that he himself is Christ, a king."
He made extravagant claims:
Mt.26:21 "This man said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to rebuild it in three days.’"
Indeed he was worse than a robber:
Jn18:40 "They cried out again, "Not this man, but Barabbas!" Now Barabbas was a robber."
Who are you tempted to want more than Jesus?
He was a self-
Jn.19:12 "Pilate sought to release him, but the Jews cried out, "If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.""
In fact any reason would do – they would complain about him because they knew where he came from and because they didn’t know! How stupid and irrational sinners can be in their rejection of the One come to do poor sinners good!
Jn.7:27 "But we know where this man comes from, and when the Christ appears, no one will know where he comes from."
Jn.9:29 "We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from."
So much for the negatives – what remains for us to consider are the positive and thankfully there are many.
As we turn to look at some of the times "man" was used of Jesus in a positive manner we quickly discover that such declarations come from a wide range of different people including from some pretty unexpected quarters. These are the ones who tell us that Jesus was a good man.
Let’s begin with Jesus himself. Speaking to his settled enemies who claimed to be God’s own people Jesus said:
Jn.8:40 "but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did."
Blessed crime! May our day be graced with many more people who will tell us truth heard from God!
Before Jesus even entered into ministry John the Baptist was speaking encouragingly about him. Seeing Jesus pass by John said to his own disciples:
Jn.1:30 "This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’"
Then there was a Samaritan woman who definitely had a shady past. Jesus knew all about it and you might think she’d want to keep things like that quiet and yet she spoke openly to her fellow villagers extolling him for his knowledge and asking questions as to his true identity:
Jn.4:29 "Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?"
We’d expect a person who had benefitted from the power of Jesus’ healing ministry to speak up for him and we’re not disappointed. It might have gotten the man who had been blind but who now could see into trouble but he didn’t care. He could see now and not only with his physical eyes, he could also see far more clearly with his spiritual eyes than those self-
Jn.9:33 "If this man were not from God, he could do nothing."
He knew where this man really came from – do we?
But it wasn’t only those who had benefitted from an encounter with Jesus who spoke up for him. There were some in the crowds who were prepared to think for themselves and to evaluate the evidence for themselves rather than swallow the propaganda of their leaders:
Jn.7:31 "Yet many of the people believed in him. They said, "When the Christ appears, will he do more signs than this man has done?"
Others later would reflect on what they had heard about him
Then we discover that Jesus’ influence also penetrated into to some unexpected areas:
Some members of the Jewish police force were sent to arrest him but returned empty-
Jn.7:46 "No one ever spoke like this man!"
Then we come to some even more surprising interventions:
First, Pilate’s wife comes forward after having had a bad night’s sleep and her testimony is startling:
Mt.27:19 "his wife sent word to him, "Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I have suffered much because of him today in a dream."
Pilate of course can’t follow her advice; he is obliged to do something with this man and yet although he is being cornered and manipulated against his will by the Jewish authorities he does nevertheless give us his very positive judgment and he does so twice over:
Lk.23:4 "Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, "I find no guilt in this man."
Lk.23:14 "You brought me this man as one who was misleading the people. And after examining him before you, behold, I did not find this man guilty of any of your charges against him."
This assessment is confirmed both by one of the criminals crucified alongside Jesus and also by the hardened soldier who stood by watching everything that took place on the Mount of Crucifixion:
Lk.23:41 "And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.""
Lk.23:47 "Now when the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God, saying, "Certainly this man was innocent!""
Chronologically the final reference to Jesus as a man comes two depressed disciples who share unknowingly with the risen Lord the hopes they had earlier entertained:
Lk.24:19,20 "And they said to him, "Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people... we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel."
And they were not wrong! This man is the Saviour of the World!