the scourging | John 19.1-3
Then Pilate took Jesus and flogged him. And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe. They came up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and struck him with their hands. John 19.1-3 | ESV
Pilate thought perhaps he could appease their thirst for blood by drawing some of Jesus’ – with a whip – so he handed him to the guard and had him properly flogged. After the flogging the guard gave him the royal treatment – complete with crown. They wove together a victor’s crown made not of olive branches but of thorn bushes and placed it ceremoniously on his head, then decking him out in a royal purple robe to boot. Each in turn approached him with appropriate bows, each with mock honor saying in turn, “Hail, King of the Jews!” each in turn then giving him the back of their hand instead of a worshipping kiss. MAV (Mike’s Amplified Version)
No graphic narrative bleeding red with blood and torn flesh.
Says Edersheim (Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah):
“The Evangelists have passed as rapidly as possible over the last scenes of indignity and horror, and we are too thankful to follow their example. Bar-Abbas was at once released. Jesus was handed over to the soldiery to be scourged and crucified, although final and formal judgment had not yet been pronounced. Indeed, Pilate seems to have hoped that the horrors of the scourging might still move the people to desist from the ferocious cry for the Cross.
For the same reason we may also hope, that the scourging was not inflicted with the same ferocity as in the case of Christian martyrs, when, with the object of eliciting the incrimination of others, or else recantation, the scourge of leather thongs was loaded with lead, or armed with spikes and bones, which lacerated back, and chest, and face, till the victim sometimes fell down before the judge a bleeding mass of torn flesh.
But, however modified, and without repeating the harrowing realism of a Cicero, scourging was the terrible introduction to crucifixion – ‘the intermediate death.’ Stripped of his clothes, His hands tied and back bent, the Victim would be bound to a column or stake, in front of the Praetorium. The scourging ended, the soldiery would hastily cast upon Him His upper garments and lead Him back into the Praetorium. Here they called the whole cohort together, and the silent, faint, Sufferer became the object of their ribald jesting…Such a spectacle might well have disarmed enmity, and for ever allayed worldly fears. And so Pilate had hoped.”
If you wish to assault your senses, you can view Mel Gibson’s version of the scourging in The Passion of the Christ. But John, with the rest of the Evangelists, actually spares us that.
Perhaps we should take our cue from them and simply sit quietly for a few moments,
repeating their word:
And then those ancient words of promise: “By his wounds we are healed.”
How does the scourging of Jesus impact you? Why?
Lord, lead me into a fresh awareness of your sufferings and what they have accomplished in me and in the world. Deliver me from a heart calloused to the blows suffered by others – and to the wounds you have borne for me. Amen.