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Behold the man

By Richard Dresselhaus

“Does anyone really understand?” you may ask.

For Pilate it was a pesky problem. Rabble-rousing opponents of Jesus wanted to vent their anger and frustration on a seemingly innocent Man. A good Man. A teacher. A worker of miracles. Finally Pilate said it: “I find no basis for a charge against him” (John 19:4, NIV).

Then Jesus appeared wearing both a crown of thorns and a purple robe. At this sight Pilate said: “Behold the man!” (John 19:5, KJV). To him it was a polite invocation; to us it is a revelation of life-changing truth.

Does anyone understand? God’s answer is, “Behold the Man!” This is the One who alone understands. This remarkable God-Man tasted pain, sorrow, and grief for us all. His suffering at all points credentials Him. Now we can say, “No one understands like Jesus.”

This truth was built into the fiber of my life from earliest days. There were times when friends, teachers and parents did not understand, but I knew Jesus did. He is a safe harbor in which I find refuge in turbulent times.

But how? He was born 2,000 years ago, raised in an Eastern culture, and exposed only to a simple and nomadic life. Untraveled. Provincial. Isolated. Yet He understands.

It is not “Behold the Son,” the invocation of deity. Or “Behold the Lamb,” the salutation of redemption. Or “Behold the King,” the celebration of royalty. It is the invitation, “Behold the Man,” that assures me He understands.

“Behold the Man!” When grief coagulates and takes your breath away; when loneliness stalks your soul; when pain squeezes your ability almost beyond endurance; when sorrows like sea billows roll — behold the Man.

He is perfect in His humanity. Jesus is not only God, He is also Man. He is the convergence, personification and embodiment of all that is humanity. He is the authentic representation of our race.

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Think of it this way. You have two parents, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents, 16 great-great-grandparents, and in just 20 generations potentially more than 1 million progenitors. You and I are more the product of man than of our immediate families. I am more man than Dresselhaus. I celebrate first my humanity.

So it is and more with Jesus. He is the very expression of our race, our humanity and our identity with mankind. Someone said: “In Him all the lines of our common humanity converge.”

That Jesus is perfect God and perfect Man is well attested in the Scriptures. The genealogies speak of it: Matthew 1:1-17 traces the royal line of Jesus back to Abraham; Luke 3:23-38 traces the natural line back to Adam. Here is clear recognition of deity and humanity finding one expression in Jesus.

Jesus called himself Man: “You are determined to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God” (John 8:40, NIV). Others called Him Man. “For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!” (Romans 5:15).

Notice that Jesus possessed all the attributes of humanity. His soul sorrowed. (See John 11:33.) He hungered. (See Matthew 4:2.) He thirsted. (See John 19:28.) He grew weary. (See John 4:6.) He was angered. (See Mark 3:5.) And He wept. (See John 11:35.) In all ways Jesus was perfect in His humanity.

Strip away His humanity, and I have no one to understand and no one to stand in my place. Strip away His humanity, and I am lost and have surrendered my Savior.

Jesus is ideal in His example. Listen to the idealism expressed by the writer to the Hebrews: “Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted” (Hebrews 2:18). “We have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are — yet was without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). Ideal in His example.

In what ways are you tempted? To think more highly of yourself than you ought? To covet what belongs to another? To indulge yourself, surrendering to urges, appetites and cravings? To parade your goodness to be seen by others? To explode in anger, retaliation, dominance and control? Jesus knows. You may say, “But my temptations are unspeakable, insurmountable, shameful, perverted and disgusting.” Maybe. But Jesus knows all about them.

“Pastor, you have no idea of the power behind my obsessive, addictive and compulsive behavior.” Maybe not. But Jesus has gone through those temptations exactly and fully. And He did it without sin.

The pull of alcohol, nicotine, cocaine, pornography, lust, greed — it is all familiar to Jesus. I do not know when, perhaps in the wilderness confrontation with Satan, but Jesus stood in your place. Experientially. Existentially. Vicariously.

When I minister to alcoholics, I am only partially successful. As quickly as possible I refer them to our support group which reaches out to persons dealing with substance abuse. Friends in the group have been where the alcoholics are, and they know.

But Jesus need never refer. Not only that, but “He is able to help those who are being tempted” (Hebrews 2:18). His is not only an expressed empathy; He possesses in himself a transferable power and authority. You can lay your indulgences, cravings, urges, addictions, obsessions and appetites at His feet. He is able to help.

His perfect humanity and His ideal example open for us a new level of motivation in our devotion to the Father. We are drawn by the passion of Jesus’ obedience: “I have come … to do the will of him who sent me” (John 6:38). By His relentless call to prayer: “Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you” (John 17:1). And by His spirit of resignation expressing itself ultimately at the cross: “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46). Jesus showed us how man should love God.

Do you have a strong heart after God? Do you hunger and thirst for Him? Is the passion of your heart to know Him in power?

“Behold the man!” You will find His devotion to be irresistible in its challenge.

It is wonderfully and gloriously true: No one understands like Jesus.

Richard L. Dresselhaus is pastor of First Assembly of God in San Diego, Calif., and an executive presbyter of the Assemblies of God.

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