Ecce Homo, “behold, the man!” Ciseri paints a heart-breaking moment in time as Jesus is led out before a jeering crowd on Good Friday—a haunting snapshot of John 19:5.
His shoulders whipped and bare, his head bowed and bleeding beneath a crown of thorns, Jesus looks unsurprised at the howling mob that only days before had hailed him as their Messiah. “He opened not his mouth, but like a lamb that is led to slaughter… he was silent.” (Isaiah 53:7)
There is a rough man who holds the rope that binds Jesus’ hands. He stands tall, puffed up before the crowd in his moment of fame. Center stage is the Roman Governor, Pontius Pilate, working the crowd like a conman, trying to sell his special mixture of peaceful oppression. We cannot see his face, but we’ve seen his desperate cowardice before, even sometimes in the mirror. Pilate’s advisors and soldiers look on, as if they have watched this scene before. One of them holds a bowl of water for the final act of the Governor’s performance. Isn’t it remarkable that the artist frames this moment from a rear perspective? Dozens of artists have painted this scene from the crowd’s perspective, but Ciseri gives us the Roman, Imperial point of view. Perhaps that suits us Americans better.
Only Pilate’s wife faces our direction. She cannot watch. In her full face we see the dread and grief that all of us feel anticipating the suffering that our Jesus will endure. Is there any other way to Easter except through Good Friday? No, there isn’t.
I’ll meet you at Golgotha. Pastor Paul