Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Only Human

Meditation on John 19:1-22

People will sometimes blame their failings on the fact that "they're only human." However, the problem since the fall of Adam is not that we are human but that we are less than human. Our sin has dehumanized us, turning us in on ourselves rather than outward in love toward God and others. Beastly thoughts and words and actions often proceed from us. Survival instincts dominate. So it is written, "Man is like the beasts that perish" (Psalm 49:12).

And we don't like anyone drawing this to our attention, either. Better if they can be ignored or shut up. This is the behavior of those who are less than men. It is the behavior of the chief priests and the officers when they see Jesus. He is a threat to their territory and domain. And so they growl for His crucifixion.

But before they can cry out their desires, Pontius Pilate speaks words that were more true than he realized. He presents a bloodied and beaten Jesus and says, "Behold the Man!" Here is the One who is truly and fully human, who is not degraded and corrupted by His own sin. Here is the only real Man, who lays down His life for fallen creatures like you to raise you up as the people of God, His own beloved bride, His Church. He willingly allows Himself to be treated inhumanely to rescue you, to restore your humanity, to give you to share in His life and His glory. By His wounds you are healed and forgiven.

Behold the One who wears thorns on His head as a crown, to redeem you from the curse on the ground which you were created out of. Behold the Ram whose horns are caught in the thorny thicket of sin, who is offered up in the place of you Isaacs as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Behold the woman's Seed who is crucified at Golgotha, the place of a Skull, whose cross is driven like Jael's tent peg into the skull, whose pierced feet crush Satan's head and defeat the power of death.

This is Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews. The chief priests don't like this inscription that Pilate placed over Jesus' head and ask him to change it. But the earthly authority whom God has established proclaims the truth. "What I have written, I have written." Jesus truly is the King of the Jews, that is, the King of all those who are the true children of Abraham. He reigns in mercy over His baptized ones, over all you who believe in His promises, and who are credited with His righteousness by grace alone.