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by Joshua Bocanegra

Ecce Homo, c. 1665
Mateo Cerezo
Oil on canvas
98 cm x 75 cm
Museum of Fine Arts
Budapest, Hungary

Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces, he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors. .



Imagine that direst, most shameful day--
hour most craven, thirst most unquenchable,
backbone breaking and arching in soulshock,
spirit quaking as body fights its pinions
in utter shatter and forsaking, and consider,
as we must, our part in it. Love, all resolve
mobbed by fear into betrayals we vowed
never to voice, never to feel; then know this:
though house split in two, though shades rent,
and sleepers wake to judge, though sky quake closed
and human eyes fail to see the truth: how each touch
from your hand only opened me more to paradise;
though armature of fear, or tear, or tombflank part us,
in dead of night and pitchest deeps, given for
our bond is the song I live to make,
and forgiven is the promised burden we must take.

- Lisa Russ Spaar


Who has believed what he heard from us?

Which of the disciples would have imagined these moments? Who among the crowds who ate the miraculous bread on the mountain would have imagined then that this prodigy, this hero would be led away like this, by foreigners to be exposed to the most extreme humiliation, torture, and death the Romans could devise?

The prophet had promised Mary Jesus would be the salvation of all peoples, “a light for revelation to the gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel” (Luke 2:31-32). Then gave a cryptic and ominous utterance, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed, and a sword will pierce through your own soul also…” (2:34-35).

Just a week before, Jesus had stood boldly in the Temple and overturned the tables and drove out the merchants. How did this happen? Where were his disciples? Where were his followers?

What did Mary feel when Pilate brought Jesus out and presented him to for the world to see? What did she do when she saw him, crowned, yes, but with thorns, blood running down his face? There he stood, with the might of Rome, wearing a robe of royal purple that clung to the open wounds from his scourging. Did her soul break as Jesus stood in a pool of his own blood and Pilate announced to the crowds, to the cosmos,

Ecce homo!

“Behold, the man.” There is no moment that demonstrates the Incarnation more than these final moments as Jesus is tortured and killed. We see just how true the Incarnation is as we behold him standing at Pilate’s right hand, as we smell the blood and sweat and stench of humanity’s death wrapping itself around him like a python choking its prey. Here we see the absurdity of life, we feel it, we know it. Here we look at the hope of humanity and we see him crushed.

As Jesus, with gurgling breath, cries out, “My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me?” we remember the emptiness of our own lives. When he finally whimpers, “It is finished,” Hope dies. And we die with him.

Now we can finally see the telos of sin. This is what God meant when he said to Adam and Eve, “In the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” To partake of sin is to participate in this rupture of reality, this torture procedure, this murder, this death. Never has the consequence of sin been clearer. When we forget, the broken and bleeding Man on the cross reminds us.

It’s so easy to forget in our atonement theories and theological reflections on Good Friday that a real man, a living and breathing human being was beaten to just this side of death, that he was put on display for people to mock and spit on, and that finally he was crucified by the power of the State. And why? Because we sin. Because each of us stands in the Garden of Eden and choose to become like God. Because each one of us eats the forbidden fruit.

And still we remember his words, “Three days…”

Father, as we look at your Son, bleeding and dying on the Cross, help us to remember this is not merely the manifestation of existential absurdity. Help us remember this is the manifestation of the depths of your love. We were lost in our own sin and death, and you reached into the void by your Son, and in his death, our death was transformed into redemption.

This reflection was originally published on April 19, 2019 as part of Biola University’s 2019 Lent Project.

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Joshua Bocanegra is a writer and visionary from Kansas City. He and his wife, Katrina, serve as leaders in a local chapter of Living Waters, an inner healing program focused on helping the sexually and relationally broken find peace and wholeness in Jesus Christ. Joshua is driven by the question, "What is the Church?" and the way Christians are to be in the communities they inhabit. The Sermon on the Mount is his starting place for all cultural intersection, and he seeks to encourage believers to embrace the other-centered lifestyle taught there.