When Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate said to them, “Here is the man!”
John 19:5

There is a section of the Athanasian Creed that reads, “It is furthermore necessary for eternal salvation truly to believe that our Lord Jesus Christ also took on human flesh.” Yes, Jesus was truly God; he was also truly a man. He was completely divine, and he was completely human. As he lived his years on this earth, he did not make full and constant use of his divine power. The apostle Paul explained it this way in his letter to the Philippian congregation: And being found in appearance as a man, [Jesus] humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! (2:8).

“Humbled.” Wow, what an understatement! God himself allowed humans to curse him and flog him and mock him and spit on him and kill him. All of this was “necessary for salvation.” Jesus had to be a human to redeem human beings. Jesus had to die—even though he had done nothing to deserve death—to be the perfect sacrifice for our sin.

Pilate said, “Here is the man!” What did they see? They saw a joke—a “fake king,” with a pretend royal robe and a bogus crown made of spikey vines. They saw a sad and lonely man who was bruised and bloodied. What did they say when they saw him? “Crucify! Crucify!” That’s how much they despised Jesus. Sadly, that’s how much they hated the very Savior sent from heaven. They couldn’t see him for who he really was.

Shamefully, humans continue to curse and mock and spit on God every time we say we don’t care about his Word. We would rather shape God to our desires than conform to his will. That is what makes the account of Jesus’ suffering and death so incredible. He endured genuine emotional and physical torture in order to bear the punishment that we deserved. A “great exchange” indeed!

The hymn “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded” creates an unforgettable picture of the Holy Week scene. How vividly it captures the injustice of it all! It was the intention of the writer to present the passion in all its perverse reality—the God-man Jesus being abused by his very creation. But these poignant verses are not the account of an excessively sentimental drama. The hymn looks behind and beyond what we see. Hear the expressions of glory despite the gore. Faith grasps the necessity of what happened. Penitent sinners confess that the suffering and the cross were indeed our “rightful lot.” Then believers implore, “But take away my anguish by virtue of your own!” And, with the cross in sight, proclaim, “Who dies in faith dies well!”

Dearest Jesus, we are so very conscious of our own sin and shame. You endured suffering beyond imagination because of us. Forgive us in your mercy and strengthen us to live in faith and love.

This devotion was written by Rev. Paul Koelpin who serves Martin Luther College as a professor of history and theology.


Leave a Reply