Sunday, June 29, 2008

Look at the man

The statue of Senhor Santo Christo has a long history in the Azorean island of Saint Michael's. As the story is told, two sisters traveled to Rome to seek permission from the Pope to found a new convent in the town of Caloura. The Pope, impressed by their zeal, not only gave his blessing to their initiative but offered them this statue. Over the past 500 years, it has resided in the church of Our Lady of Hope in the city of Ponta Delgada where it has served as the center of the island's devotional life.

The statue depicts Jesus in Pilate's praetorium just after being scourged and crowned with thorns. Pilate presents Jesus to the crowd, perhaps in hopes of sating their cruelty, and says to them: "Behold the man."

It challenges us to come face to face with the man who died to save us.

Looking on the statue calls to mind these verses from the prophet Isaiah:

Yet it was our infirmities that he bore,
our suffering that he endured....
He was pierced for our offenses,
crushed for our sins;
Upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole,
by his stripes we were healed.

Over the centuries, many suffering people have looked on this statue and found comfort and strength. Many sinners have looked on the bloodied face of their Savior and have been moved to repentance.

No one has ever looked on this statue and has failed to be moved by the love which drove Jesus to accept such a cruel fate.

One cannot help but reflect on the scene at the praetorium that day. What different men are Pilate and Jesus. Pilate is a minor official in the Roman hierarchy, while Jesus is the center of all history. What a farce that this man, Pilate, should stand in judgment of Jesus! And yet, how great is the humility of Jesus to endure Pilate's haughty and contemptuous questions!

Jesus, no doubt, may have felt some pity for Pilate. He was a pagan, unversed in Hebrew Scriptures. He held out no hope for a Messiah. The debauched Caesar was the closest thing to a "god made flesh" that he would ever serve. And yet, Pilate knew enough to see that there was no guilt in Jesus. Though he meant it derisively, he also recognized Jesus to be a king.

In some ways, Pilate is like Herod who felt moved by the words of John the Baptist but allowed palace intrigues to result in the prophet's beheading. Pilate knew of Jesus' innocence and even feared the consequences of putting him to death. Nonetheless, he succumbed to the wishes of the crowd, cowardly washing his hands of the matter as if it would lead history to absolve him of his complicity.

How must Pilate have reacted upon his own death to find the roles reversed? What a shock it must have been for him to look upon the one he had scourged and learn that not only was he King of the Jews but Judge of the Nations! How he must have feared that Jesus would wash his hands of him as he washed his hands of Jesus. As he came face to face with the truth he denied, could he have had any hope for mercy? And yet, we can have no doubt that Jesus showed mercy on one who knew not what he did.

We look today at the same man - the man who for our sins was scourged to the point that he no longer appeared human. We look not at a man who comes to condemn us, but to save and heal us. Looking at the man, we can see why the Azorean people are so devoted to the image of their Savior depicted by Senhor Santo Christo.

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At 9:45 PM, Anonymous Amalia said...

Good for people to know.


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