Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe. And Pilate said to them, Behold the man!
I. WHOM THE WORLD DESIRED. This is He of whom the prophet spake — "the desire of all nations shall come." At the Fall, preparations were begun for the advent of the Deliverer, and continued without intermission.
1. We all know in general what forms these preparations assumed: how the early promise of Eden was brightened and enlarged; how sacrifice was instituted at the very gates of Paradise; how a great system of type and shadow succeeded pointing to Him; how the law became a schoolmaster leading unto Him; how prophets foretold His sufferings and glory.
2. While thus instructing them so carefully in spiritual things, He was also conducting them providentially, and was making the lessons of their outward life — the mercies and the judgments, the wars and the captivities, the declensions and revivals of their national history — to co-operate with the things more expressly gracious, in preparing a way for "the Messenger of the covenant," and in preparing the mind and heart of the Church, to give Him a loving and loyal welcome. Accordingly, we see a grand procession of joyful worshippers at the opening of the New Testament history — angels, shepherds. Simeon and Anna, and the wise men.
3. In the outer world, also, God was working by Him providence and Spirit to prepare the nations for the coming of His Son. We behold a succession of rising and falling monarchies, of dreadful battles, the building and the burning of cities, the terrors of superstition, constant strange movement, but never to any "dawning of the day," and man, as man, felt more deeply as time rolled on the moral hopelessness of his condition without celestial help. There was thus a yearning for deliverance, a longing in the hearts of men for relief, and liberty, and higher life — for recovery of long-lost fellowships, and for returning presence of God. Then, in the fulness of time, He comes to answer the world's questionings, to relieve its sorrows, to meet its deepest wants, "Behold the Man" whom all other men in their best moments were yearning for and inly pining to see! How strange then that we have to say —
II. WHOM THE WORLD CRUCIFIED.
1. If ever there was an act in which this whole world was united, the crucifixion of the Son of God was that act. It was the fair outcome and expression of its moral dispositions, and its spiritual state before God. It was not without a struggle that it was done; there were many relentings and misgivings, just as there are now to men when they sin. In following the steps of His pilgrimage and ministry, we sometimes think that the world is going to open its heart and receive Him at once. But how fallacious such appearances! The world, thus put on its solemn trial, failed to prove itself truer and brought out before other worlds the most conclusive proof of its depravity and guilt. "The light shone in the darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not." One who "did no sin," who missed no opportunity of doing good and glorifying God — was not suffered to live. There was much to attract in His life and character, but, as the event proved, there was more to repel; and humanity, which had fallen before in the first Adam, fell again just before it rose in the second. Christ was "the desire of all nations" before He came, and that proved that man had not fallen into an irretrievable degradation — that seeds and elements of good were working in him still, and that the great Father was not forgetful of His prodigal children. Christ was the rejected of all nations when He came, and this proved that our fall was not a temporary and a trifling circumstance, but that it had rent the most sacred bonds, and filled human nature with guilt and sin.
2. But oh the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! The world crucified His Son, and He made that very crucifixion the means of the world's life. The same event which proved the sinfulness of our nature as nothing had ever proved it before, turned full upon the world in sudden revelation the love and mercy of God; and what to our natural judgment would have seemed the most impregnable of barriers in the way of our return to God, was made the means of our repentance, and the gate of everlasting life. He vindicated Divine righteousness while proclaiming Divine mercy; He honoured the law by making the gospel.
III. WHOM THE WORLD WILL CROWN. Heaven has crowned Him already.
1. But earth must crown Him too. And she will. He must be honoured in the very scene of His humiliation. He must gather joys where He sowed tears and sufferings. He must claim a kingdom where He shed His blood. And not a murmur of dissent will be heard from shore to shore as proclamation is made through every land that "the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our God and of His Christ."
2. We neither know exactly how nor when this great result is to be brought about; the times and the seasons are reserved in the Father's power. But what of that? If I cannot tell the length of the prophetic days, am I to hope or labour any the less earnestly for that blessed day of millenial peace and joy which, when they have elapsed, will come? It I cannot interpret aright the sound of one angel's trumpet, am I not to speed "another angel who flies in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach."
(A. Raleigh, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe. And Pilate saith unto them, Behold the man!