In God’s Hands: The Witness of Pontius Pilate

Where Do You Stand?Ecce Homo, Antonio Ciseri, 1891, Oil on Canvas,292 X 300 cm, Galleria dell’ Arte Moderna, Florence Italy, Image Courtesy WGA.

This painting, by Antonia Ciseri, called “Ecce Homo”, or “Behold the Man” is one of many examples of this scene. Usually an “Ecce Homo” painting will be some sort of representation of Jesus as he is presented to the crowd by Pontius Pilate.  He is usually represented wearing the crown of thorns and a red robe; the focus of these paintings being the suffering and humiliation of Jesus. But notice what Ciseri does here that is different:

  • He places us on the reverse side of the scene. We  can not really see the crowd, but we know  they are there.
  • He effectively puts us in the background as a witness to the event.
  • Notice all the little details of light and shadow and how this artist uses his expertise of transparent white to create a realistic setting.
  • Look at all the details of costume and architecture this artist meticulously includes for historical accuracy, as he firmly plants Jesus in a real time and place.
  • Close your eyes and imagine the sounds of the mob below and the tension that is occurring in this moment.

As you immerse yourself in this scene, remember the next phrase in our look at the Apostle’s Creed:

I believe in the Jesus who “suffered under Pontius Pilate”

Does it seem odd to you that this guy who wanted nothing to do with Jesus’ execution should get his name so prominently featured in the tenants of the Christian faith? The early church fathers must have decided in their wisdom to add Pilate’s name to the creed because when you do, Jesus becomes a man who walked the earth, who lived and died under a historical figure. Jesus was a part of history.

In Pilate, we can observe a man who tried everything to escape his destiny, who washed his hands of Jesus’ crucifixion, but in the end became one of the greatest witness to Christ that ever lived. In this moment we can see that ultimately God has a plan for man’s redemption. It is a plan that was set in motion before time began and will keep rolling along regardless of the part we decide to play.

In this moment Jesus is our example:

” Who, being in very nature God….made himself nothing,….and being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself…..Therefore God exalted him to the highest place….and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Phil 2:6-11

Heavenly Father, you alone are worthy of our praise. Let us resolve to look deeply at the scenes of the cross with unflinching love. Guide our hearts to look courageously at the gift of your presence on the Cross as you poured out your love for us and when we do….heal our wounds and guide our steps in the coming week. In Jesus Christ we live and pray, Amen.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. I had not seen this piece of art before. I love the artwork as much as I appreciate your comments about the stature of Pilate in being a witness to the Messiah. It brought to mind John 19:19-22, “I have written what I have written”, when the Chief Priests tried to get Pilate to change the wording on the sign he had posted on the cross. (Whew!)


  2. Reblogged this on God Thru the Arts and commented:

    “…because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that we should follow his steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth; Who, when reviled, reviled not again; when suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously..” I Peter 2: 21-23 KJV


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