Behold the man

Pilate and Jesus, a painting by James Tissot, 19th century French painter

When Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate said to them, “Behold the man!” [Bible – John 19:5]

One of the most poignant passages I came across recently is the following.

Those who wounded us were not superior, impressive beings who knew our special weaknesses and justly targeted them. They were themselves highly frantic, damaged creatures trying their best to cope with the litany of private sorrows to which every life condemns us.

The lines belong to a book titled The School of Life: An emotional education co-authored by 20-odd writers. I stopped reading the book after reading those lines. I was struck by a lot of thoughts. An image rose from the depth of my consciousness. It was the image of Jesus standing mangled before a hostile mob that bayed for his blood. The same people who had flocked to him for his miracles primarily and for his counsels secondarily, the same people who had called him Master and Lord, now wanted to see him crucified.

Pilate, the Governor of the Roman Empire in Judaea, knew that the fickle-minded people had been manipulated into this by some vested interests, the Jewish priests. Pilate had no grudge against Jesus. But he had his own political interests. He could not afford to displease Caesar with a mob riot in his province. So he ordered Jesus to be whipped.

The Roman soldiers had their bit of fun. They did not stop with whipping. They put a crown of thorns on Jesus’ head to mock him. King of Jews, wasn’t he? Didn’t he claim to be, at least? Did he? Well, the answers didn’t matter really. Soldiers love fun of this sort. There is a sadist within every soldier.

The soldiers had stripped Jesus before whipping him. Now they gave him an old purple robe to put on. Purple is the royal colour and the king of the Jews deserved it. The mockery was as total as it was brutal.

Then they brought this king to Pilate. Pilate presented him to the frenzied mob and said, “Behold the man!”

Pilate was appealing to the normal human sentiments. But lynch mobs do not possess normal sentiments. They are driven by pious sentiments like nationalism and patriotism.

A philosopher and mystic whose soul failed to appreciate the vulgar delights of the body was nailed to a cross by a crowd of people that thought themselves as “superior, impressive beings”.

That was the image, or series of images, which put an end to my reading of the book mentioned at the beginning of this post.

Unless you are a through and through conformist, you must have gone through many a crucifixion. People love to do that. To create an enemy and then vanquish the enemy as brutally as possible.

Is it brutality or is it a normal human weakness? That is what the book made me ponder on.

Some of the writers of this book are psychologists. The author of this particular chapter must be one of those shrinks who counselled quite many odd souls who struggled to toe the lines drawn by lynch-mobs. A couple of pages before the passage quoted above, the writer says that psychotherapy is not going to forge absolute happiness for anyone. You will remain “still – quite often – unhappy” after your therapy. You will continue to be misunderstood. You will continue to meet with opposition. People who don’t deserve will continue to mount high positions and arouse your jealousy or indignation. People will continue to judge you mercilessly. And the same people who clamour for your blood on Saturday evening will stand on a church pulpit on Sunday morning and preach to the faithful about the quintessential Christian virtue of compassion.

That’s how life is. That’s how it ever was and will be.

Your choice can be compassion. Your choice can make you a better human being. Remember that those who bay for your blood are also damaged people. Damaged by parents, society, religion, whatever. They need the blood of the sacrificial lamb to sate the thirst of their parched souls.

PS. My latest e-book, Coping with Suffering, is available at Amazon.


  1. You are a storehouse of knowledge and wisdom. It is a pleasure to read you.

  2. It is sad. There is enough misery in the world and to top that, there are those who love to create more misery for themselves and those around them. I feel it's the greatest misfortune, to 'create' suffering. Thought provoking article.

    1. Unless people choose to raise their consciousness levels, more and more misery will be added to life.

  3. A good point, and added some points for me to think and reflect


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