In John 19:5 Pilate proclaims about Jesus, "ecce homo" — "Behold the man." Pilate is saying something profoundly theological, although he does not understand it. What does it mean that Jesus is the man? This ought to remind us of the original man from Genesis. Adam was created by God to subdue the earth to glory of God—to be the very image of God in the world. But he exchanged the truth and life of God for Satan’s lie. What was that lie? If Adam ate the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, he could be like God.
We have this story recorded for us in Genesis 3. Adam and Eve looked upon the forbidden fruit. Being tempted by the serpent Satan, Eve first took and tried it. Adam also took and ate. Thus, as a result of their disobedience, the first man became subject to death — both sin and death entered into the world, and all mankind fell in Adam. Anyone born from Adam, which includes every single person who ever lived, will be tainted with the stain of sin, what we call “Original Sin.” St. Paul describes it this way: we are born dead in our sins.
If the narrative ended here then the story of humanity would be a sorrowful tragedy … cast out of God’s life-giving presence and taken up in death. But, this is not the end of the story. God did not leave mankind wallowing around in the darkness of despair. In Genesis 3 God promised to make all things right again. Speaking to Satan, the Serpent, God prophesied, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your seed and her seed; he shall crush your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Gen 3:15). One who would come from Adam’s loins, a man, would crush the head of the serpent and defeat death. Notice, Satan’s wound would be a permanent wound, a head crushing wound. But the man, the descendant of Adam, would receive a temporary wound, a wound of the heel.
The entirety of history plays out of this theme. Who is this man that would come and make things right? Who is worthy to crush the head of Satan? There are glimpses in the OT of a man who may accomplish this. Behold a man, a son of Adam, Abraham the great patriarch. But Abraham, being born with the stain of original sin, could not accomplish this. Behold another man, Moses. Could Moses, the great deliverer of the Jews from Egypt be this man? No, he too was a Son of Adam and tainted by original sin. Near the end of his life he struck the rock instead of speaking to it like God commanded. Because of this, he was not allowed to enter the promised land. Behold another man, David, the royal king of the Jews. Surely he must be the man who will crush the head of the serpent. After all, David crushed the head of Goliath. But David too was a Son of Adam and tainted by original sin. As tenacious as David was even he sinned greatly against God when he took another man’s wife for himself and arranged to have her husband killed to cover up his adultery. David was a great man — a man after God’s own heart. But, even David was a Son of Adam.
We see a theme developing. The man promised in Genesis 3 who will crush the head of Satan must not be enslaved under Satan’s rule, that is, he must be free of original sin. This can only be true about one man, Jesus Christ because Jesus is God himself who became a sinless man. About Jesus’ sinlessness Hebrews 4:15 says, “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.” The Apostle Peter in his epistle writes, “[He] committed no sin, nor was there any deceit found in his mouth” (1 Pet. 2:22). St. Paul writes in his epistle to the Corinthians, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him”(2 Cor. 5:21).
We have arrived back at Golgotha. At Golgotha we have a sinless man, the new man, a man untainted by original sin, crucified on a tree near a garden (cf. Jn 19:41) . Interesting, we have a man and a tree in a garden. The events that transpire this Good Friday is a reversal of the Fall in the Garden of Eden.
Jesus, when taking the curse of sin on himself, became the curse on our behalf. Jesus reconciles us to God the Father by dying in our place. It is at Golgotha, the place of the skull, where Jesus, like David, defeats the great and seemingly powerful giant Satan, fulfilling the prophecy of Genesis 3. At the cross Satan bruised the heel of Jesus when the nails were driven through his feet. But Jesus is the one who delivered the fatal head wound to Satan. At the place of the skull Jesus is lifted up on the cross crushing the head of the serpent. According to Genesis 3, the wound Jesus receives is a wound of the heel, meaning it’s not fatal, that is, it’s not permanent. Though Jesus definitely died on the cross, on Easter morning he will rise from the dead effectively defeating death. His resurrection will deal the final fatal blow to Satan.
Because Jesus Messiah breaks the curse of sin in our lives, we may behold the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. We now have our answer. Why did Jesus die? He who knew no sin became sin for us so that we may be made righteous. He died for us — for you and for me. His death is sufficient to remit all our sins. His resurrection will open the door back to the Eden where joyful and glorious fellowship with God is restored. Today we behold the man who took our curse for us by hanging on a tree.