Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified. Mark 15, verse 15.
Have you ever watched “The Passion of the Christ?” My wife and I went to see it in the theaters when it first came out years ago, and I remember being transfixed by the imagery of it. Every year during Lent I try to watch it to remind myself of just what crucifixion really looked like. The movie is so vividly gruesome and violent. If you want to know the truth, I think it was understated. That goes hand in hand with the Gospel of Mark.
Consider those four words: “he had Jesus flogged.” Have you seriously considered what it was like to be flogged? ISIS would find it entertaining. First century Romans would flog only those criminals whose crime was so severe that it merited the worst kinds of punishment. Often the ‘floggee’ wouldn’t survive. The way it worked was that the Romans used a whip with multiple leather lashes on it. Attached to the ends of the lashes were pieces of metal or bone. According to http://gira.cadouarn.pagesperso-orange.fr/english/back_matter/flogging.htm, flogging would consist of no set amount of lashes because the Romans were bound by no law except their own. Typically, Hebrew whippings were limited to no more than 40 lashes while the Romans could (and did) administer as many lashes as they liked. The whip would indeed lash and welt bare skin while the metal or bone would dig into the skin, creating deep cuts or contusions. As the Roman soldier whipped his victim, when he reared back to lash again, very often one of the lashes would embed in the victim’s flesh and rip it out.
If you’re cringing, it’s for good reason. Mel Gibson made a gory, violent, wrenching movie about Jesus’ last hours and he may have just gone easy on it.
Pilate had Jesus flogged knowing fully well that He was innocent. The crowd demanded Jesus’ crucifixion knowing fully well that an innocent man would be savagely tortured for no good reason. The high priest and his cabal of hypocrites arranged for this torture knowing fully well that Jesus had never done anything to deserve it. You and I would scream and cower while tied to that post at just the first lash. Imagine if you didn’t know how many you were to receive knowing, at the end, your torturer would force thorns on your head, then make you carry a 100 pound cross up hill to where you’d be nailed to it. That’s what Jesus endured. That’s what He chose.
More than any of that, Jesus went to it all willingly. He could have stopped it but He didn’t. To paraphrase Max Lucado, Jesus chose the flogging. He chose to put Himself there in the praetorium while men He created in love brutally savaged Him. They flogged him until the flesh was torn from His back and sides. They whipped Him until excruciating agony understated the pain Jesus felt with every lash. They brutalized Him in ways no human should have to endure and He chose it all. Jesus chose the whip, the flagrum, the blood loss, the hamburger flesh. The boy from the peaceful manger was being slowly, deliberately murdered in the worst way possible.
And He chose it so we wouldn’t have to.
Lord Jesus, I can’t imagine what You suffered. Thank You for doing it on my behalf in a debt I can never possibly equal or repay…and don’t have to.
Read Mark 15, verses 1-15.