Nicholas Ludwig Von Zinzendorf was born into nobility, to one of the wealthiest families of Europe. Born in Dresden, Germany on May 26, 1700, he never knew his father since he died of tuberculosis six weeks after the young Count was born. His mother married again when he was just four years old and he was sent to live with his grandmother, a godly woman who had a great influence on his life. His grandmother taught him about the things of God and the young boy showed great interest. By the time he was fifteen he was reading the Bible on his own, spending time in prayer, and able to read the New Testament in Greek.
He was sent to the University of Wittenberg to pursue his academic studies. When he graduated his grandmother paid for him to have a “Grand Tour” of Europe, which was common for the children of aristocratic families. He saw all of the great sites, but none impacted him more than what he encountered at the Art Museum in Dusseldorf. It was a painting by the Italian artist, Domenico Fetti, titled, “Ecce Homo,” in English, “Behold the Man.” The phrase is taken from our Scripture for this morning. Underneath the painting of the suffering Jesus wearing a crown of thorns, was written in Latin, “This have I done for you. Now what will you do for me?” Nothing he had ever experienced had the impact on his life like the time he spent in front of the painting of Jesus. He said it was like Jesus Himself was speaking to him. Before he left his place in front of the painting of Jesus, Count Zinzendorf resolved that he would dedicate his life in total service to Jesus. He said to himself, “I have loved Him for a long time, but I have never actually done anything for Him. From now on I will do whatever He leads me to do.” He was nineteen years old.
At the age of twenty-one, in 1721, the young Count Zinzendorf bought his grandmother’s estate. He was married a year later. In December of 1722, a Moravian refugee named Christian David showed up at his door. He had heard that Zinzendorf and his wife opened their home to persecuted Moravian refugees. Soon he had ten refugees living in his home. He called his estate, “Herrnhut,” meaning, “the Lord’s watch,” and by May of 1725, there were ninety persecuted Moravians living on his estate. One year later the number had swelled to three hundred. Zinzendorf later told someone, “I bought this estate because I wanted to spend my life among peasants, and win their souls for Christ.”
In 1727, twenty-four men and twenty-four women covenanted together to pray around the clock, twenty-four hours a day seven days a week. Each person took a one hour prayer shift during the “prayer watch.” God began to call Count Zinzendorf and those who lived on the estate to missions as they prayed for the unreached people groups around the world. In 1792, sixty-five years later, the prayer watch was still going strong and the little community of committed men and women had sent out three hundred missionaries to North America, Cape Town, South Africa, Jamaica, Surinam, Guyana, South America, Turkey, Greenland, Lapland, and the West Indies.
Zinzendorf discipled men and women, he trained them to carry the Gospel to all nations, and he himself went on many voyages to share the Gospel. He said, “I have but one passion: It is He, it is He alone. The world is the field and the field is the world; and henceforth that country shall be my home where I can be most used in winning souls for Christ.” And when he died, there wasn’t enough money left in his estate to pay for the burial…He had invested all of his wealth in the lives of those who would carry the Gospel to others.
Where did it all begin? It began with a look, in beholding the Man, the Suffering Savior in the painting by Domenico Fetti and hearing Jesus’ voice in the words etched on the bottom of the canvas, “This is what I’ve done for you. Now, what will you do for me?” N.T. Wright wrote,
You become like what you worship. When you gaze in awe, admiration, and wonder at something or someone, you begin to take on something of the character of the object of your worship. (N.T. Wright, Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense.)
Count Zinzendorf left the Art Museum at Dusseldorf that day when he was just 19 years of age, but he never took his eyes off of Jesus, and his life was forever changed. It has been my prayer this week that we will all “behold the Man” like we’ve never seen Him before. Let’s turn to our Scripture in John 19:1-16 and read together.
1 Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. 2 The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe 3 and went up to him again and again, saying, “Hail, king of the Jews!” And they struck him in the face. 4 Once more Pilate came out and said to the Jews, “Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no basis for a charge against him.” 5 When Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate said to them, “Here is the man!” 6 As soon as the chief priests and their officials saw him, they shouted, “Crucify! Crucify!” But Pilate answered, “You take him and crucify him. As for me, I find no basis for a charge against him.” 7 The Jews insisted, “We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God.” 8 When Pilate heard this, he was even more afraid, 9 and he went back inside the palace. “Where do you come from?” he asked Jesus, but Jesus gave him no answer. 10 “Do you refuse to speak to me?” Pilate said. “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?” 11 Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.” 12 From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free, but the Jews kept shouting, “If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.” 13 When Pilate heard this, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judge’s seat at a place known as the Stone Pavement (which in Aramaic is Gabbatha). 14 It was the day of Preparation of Passover Week, about the sixth hour. “Here is your king,” Pilate said to the Jews. 15 But they shouted, “Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!” “Shall I crucify your king?” Pilate asked. “We have no king but Caesar,” the chief priests answered. 16 Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified. So the soldiers took charge of Jesus. (John 19:1-16 NIVO)
The past two weeks we’ve been taking a look at God’s Word and learning about what God says about repentance and the forgiveness of sins: How we can be forgiven and how we are to forgive others with biblical forgiveness. The lessons we’ve learned have been a stark contrast to the wisdom of society concerning the topic of forgiveness. The primary reason for the deep, deep difference is this: Biblical forgiveness is costly, it is painful. The writer of Hebrews puts it this way: “…without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” (Hebrews 9:22 NIVO) It is not your blood or my blood that the writer of Hebrews had in mind, it was the blood of the perfect Lamb of God, the One John the Baptist saw while he was baptizing people in the Jordan River.
29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29 NIVO)
There it is again, did you hear it? “Look, look, the Lamb of God…” Look at Him. See Him. Fix your gaze upon Him. I want us to see Him this morning. I want us to see Him being taken away as Pilate ordered Him to be flogged. John tells us, “Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged.” (John 19:1 NIVO)
We don’t have to guess what the Roman flogging, or scourging was like. Roman historians Josephus, Eusebius, and others give us horrific details about the pain and suffering brought on the accused at the hands of Roman soldiers, or “lictors,” as they were called. Josephus tells us, in his Jewish Wars, about a man who was scourged by the procurator Albinus. He writes, “he was whipped until his bones were laid bare.” (Josephus, Wars, 6, 6, 3.)
The accused would be stripped down to his loincloth, his feet were tied behind his body to rings or a post. His body would be bent forward with his arms stretched out around a pillar, stretching the skin on his back. A Roman soldier would take an instrument of suffering called a “flagrum” or “flagellum” which consisted of a short wooden handle with leather ropes tied to it. Knotted into the leather were pieces of metal or bone and one particular instrument called, “the scorpion,” had hooks at the end of the leather pieces. The Jews would never give more than 39 lashes to the one being punished because of what was written in Deuteronomy 25:2-3. Read it with me.
2 If the guilty man deserves to be beaten, the judge shall make him lie down and have him flogged in his presence with the number of lashes his crime deserves, 3 but he must not give him more than forty lashes. If he is flogged more than that, your brother will be degraded in your eyes. (Deuteronomy 25:2-3 NIVO)
Deuteronomy says, “…he must not give him more than forty lashes.” The Jews stopped at thirty-nine lashes because they might have miscounted and didn’t want to go beyond God’s prescribed law. For the Romans there was no limit to the punishment that could be inflicted. John MacArthur writes,
The Romans, however, were not bound by any such restrictions. The punishment would continue until the torturers were exhausted, the commanding officer decided to stop it, or as was often the case, the victim died…the body could be so torn and lacerated that the muscles, bones, veins, or even internal organs were exposed. So horrible was this punishment that Roman citizens were exempt from it. (MacArthur, John. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: John 19-21. pg. 338)
Let it sink in. Behold His back. Cut into ribbons. Blood pulsating with every beat of His heart. The anguish of every lash. See the lictor gritting his teeth as he brings the flagrum down on the back of the Sinless One. Hear the flesh being torn. Don’t turn away…behold the Man. Isaiah prophesied,
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5 NIVO)
The Old King James tells us, “…by His stripes we are healed.” The New American Standard, “And by His scourging we are healed.” The New Living Translation, “He was whipped so we could be healed.” I’ve heard many people quote this verse as they claimed healing over a cold, the flu, a fever blister, heart attack, or cancer, but the healing He had in mind as He endured the blood letting was greater than these minor ailments, it was for the healing of our sin sickness.
Surely someone stepped up and cried out, “Enough! That’s enough!” Whether those words were spoken or not, it was not over. The Romans hated the Jews, they were troublemakers, rabble rousers, and all the venom and rage of the Roman Empire was now focused on One Jewish Carpenter, One so-called King of the Jews. John tells us,
2 The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe 3 and went up to him again and again, saying, “Hail, king of the Jews!” And they struck him in the face. (John 19:2-3 NIVO)
“Well, well, what do we have here? A king, a real life king. Hey fellas, it’s the king of the Jews!” One of the soldiers said with a big smile on his face. Another spoke up, “Every king needs a crown,” as he pressed the crown of thorns onto Jesus’ head. There’s so many varieties of plants in Israel with thorns, but a strong case has been made for the thorny crown coming from the date-palm, a tree with thorns as long as ten inches. The blood began to pour down Jesus’ forehead and face. Another soldier grabbed an old military robe, purple, and draped it around the bloody shoulders and back of Jesus. “Now, we’ve got ourselves a king!” They began shouting, laughing, fist-bumping one another like a bunch of school boys ganging up on their victim who doesn’t stand a chance. They mocked Jesus, “Hail, king of the Jews!” as one by one they balled up their fists and beat the life out of Jesus. Matthew and Mark tell us the soldiers put a wooden staff in Jesus’ hands to serve as His royal scepter, then Matthew tells us,
30 They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. (Matthew 27:30 NIVO)
A royal scepter? No, it was more like a baseball bat taken to the head of Jesus over and over again. Feeling squeamish? Is your heart breaking? You want me to stop? Don’t turn away, don’t turn away…behold the Man! The Man who suffered for crimes He never committed. The Man whose blood was shed for no sin of His own. Don’t turn away…behold the Man!
When they finished having their fun, the soldiers took Jesus back to Pilate. Pilate was prepared to bring Jesus out before the crowd, before the religious leaders who would never be satisfied until Jesus was dead. John tells us,
5 When Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate said to them, “Here is the man!” (John 19:5 NIVO)
Barely able to stand, draped in the purple, blood-soaked robe with the thorns still piercing his head all around, Pilate said, “Here is the man!” Pilate had hoped by bringing Jesus out onto the balcony the crowd could see the pathetic sight of Jesus and be satisfied, satisfied that Jesus had been rendered powerless. G.R. Beasley-Murray said, “Jesus looked more like a clown than a king.” The soldiers had clowned Jesus, humiliated Jesus, stripped Him of all dignity before the crowd. Long before the humiliation took place, Isaiah prophesied,
3 He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. (Isaiah 53:3 NIVO)
Pilate had to have been shocked when, with the sight of Jesus, the crowd yelled back, “Crucify! Crucify!”
6 As soon as the chief priests and their officials saw him, they shouted, “Crucify! Crucify!” But Pilate answered, “You take him and crucify him. As for me, I find no basis for a charge against him.” (John 19:6 NIVO)
Pilate grabbed Jesus and went back into the palace. He began to frantically quiz Jesus, “Where do you come from?” Jesus was silent, He offered no answer. Pilate said, “Do you refuse to speak to me? Don’t you realize I have the power either to free you or crucify you?” Behold the Man! See Jesus, standing in front of the One who believed he held the power of life and death, and yet beaten, broken, and bloodied, Jesus never begged for His life. Jesus looked to no man for strength, no man for consolation, no man for vindication. His gaze was fixed, immovable, and His Source was in God alone. Spurgeon writes,
Neither the weakness of the past (beatings), nor the pain of the present, could prevent (Jesus) from continuing in prayer. The Lamb of God was silent to men, but He was not silent to God. Dumb as sheep before her shearers, He had not a word to say in His own defense to man, but He continued in His heart crying unto his Father, and no pain and no weakness can silence His holy supplications. Beloved, what an example our Lord herein presents to us! Let us continue in prayer so long as our heart beats; let no excess of suffering drive us away from the throne of grace, but rather let it drive us closer to it. (Spurgeon, Charles H. The Cross Before The Crown.)
Through the years that I’ve been walking with the Lord and sharing life with others who have known Jesus, I’ve noticed how the troubles of life can derail us when God doesn’t “perform” in the way we want Him to. We suppose He is our genie in a bottle, our heavenly rabbit’s foot, our divine four leafed clover, but when He doesn’t come through for us, when He doesn’t “perform” like we want Him to, we turn away in disappointment. Behold the Man! Look closely at His resolve. Pay close attention to the sorrow and suffering. He knew the Father’s love and it was the Father’s love that sustained Him in the midst of His suffering. And so it is with you and me. When the tears won’t stop flowing, behold the Man! When the pain won’t subside, behold the Man! When the trials and troubles of life overwhelm you, behold the Man! Behold the Man! Never take your eyes off of the Man who was familiar with suffering, not just His own, but yours and mine as well.
Pilate was running out of options so he gave it one last try. He brought Jesus out onto the balcony one last time. John tells us,
14 It was the day of Preparation of Passover Week, about the sixth hour. “Here is your king,” Pilate said to the Jews. 15 But they shouted, “Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!” “Shall I crucify your king?” Pilate asked. “We have no king but Caesar,” the chief priests answered. (John 19:14-15 NIVO)
The crowd could not be persuaded, nothing less than the death of Jesus would silence them. “Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!” And we read,
16 Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified. So the soldiers took charge of Jesus. (John 19:16 NIVO)
“Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified.” Yet, Jesus had said, back in John 10:18, “No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again…” (John 10:18 NIVO)
Behold the Man! Never take your eyes off of Him because what we see in His suffering is the greatest exhibit of love and forgiveness ever demonstrated in the history of the world. Artists have tried to depict the scene of Jesus, splattered in His own blood, a spectacle of suffering, on canvas, print, and in song, but all far short of its power and transforming reality. People like Zinzendorf have gazed upon the scene and had their lives forever changed. Men and women in every age, in every society, have fixed their hearts and minds upon the Suffering Servant and found strength to endure. Those burdened down by their guilt have recognized their release and forgiveness in the crimson flow of the Redeemer’s blood soaked robe. Behold the Man!
I have to believe that there are some of us here this morning who have been looking and listening like never before this morning. I have to believe that God has heard my prayer this week that our eyes will be opened like never before. If you’ve never truly seen Jesus for who He is, not the Americanized version of Jesus in skinny jeans with a hipster demeanor, but the One who loves you with an everlasting love, the One whose love was demonstrated in offering Himself when your offering would not suffice. I want to invite you to come and give me your hand as you give Jesus your heart this morning.
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
May 7, 2017