A New Day: The Suffering Servant, Part 4

Pilate then had Jesus flogged. The Jews had exact rules regarding this form of punishment. According to Deuteronomy 25, no one could be lashed more than forty times. So they typically flogged people up to 39 times. But Jesus was flogged by the Romans, not the Jews. And the Romans operated according to more grisly protocol.

Under Roman law, the number of times a person could be scourged was limitless. Roman flogging was so severe that people often died from this beating alone. The victim was usually stripped and tied to a post. The Roman whip had long leather lashes which could wrap around the whole body. At the end of each lash was a piece of metal, glass, or bone. After only a few applications of the whip, the victim’s skin was ripped away and muscle was exposed. Romans were especially fond of scourging the face. By the time a Roman flogging was over, often even family members could no longer recognize the victim. So His face was probably a bloody mass which would fulfill Isaiah 52:14, his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance.

Pilate had a reason for the severity of the flogging. He was hoping to present Jesus to the crowd once again in the hopes that such a severe flogging would suffice their bloodlust. To top it off, the soldiers put a crown of thorns on his head as a way of mocking him. The symbolism is important here. Thorns were part of the curse of Adam from Genesis 3:17-18, Cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you. Therefore, through His suffering, Jesus bears upon himself the curse of Adam, the curse of all humanity.

When Jesus was presented to the crowd again, Pilate said, Behold your King! But the people said, We have no king but Caesar! And they called for His crucifixion yet again. Finally Pilate relented and handed Him over to be crucified.

On the first day of Passover, when the special Passover sacrifice was offered up, many Jews came into the city to observe. Apparently Simon of Cyrene was one such person who was in the city for this holy festival. But Jesus was so battered from his flogging that He could not carry His own cross. So Simon was enlisted to carry the cross to Golgotha, which is the Aramaic name for the hill of crucifixion. In Latin, this word is translated as “Calvarie,” from which we get the same English word.

The soldiers offered Him wine mingled with myrrh and gall. This was often given to convicts just before nailing them to the cross in order to help numb some of the pain. But Jesus refused. As one scholar says, “He needed full control of His senses for the spiritual warfare He was about to fight on the cross.”

He was crucified at 9am on the first day of Passover, the same time that the priests offered up the special Passover sacrifice inside the city. In Roman crucifixion, the nails were almost always driven through the wrists, then the heels. The idea was to force the victim to pull himself up in order to take a deep breath. Many victims of crucifixion eventually suffocated as their energy wore out.

The first thing Jesus said from the cross was this: Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. Words of grace, even as His blood was being shed.

This entry was posted in Devotional, Faith, God, Gospel, Isaiah, Jesus, Scripture, Theology. Bookmark the permalink.

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