Delivered to the cross
Firstly Jesus was flogged, v.1 –
There were three levels of flogging in the Roman Empire:
- Fustigatio – which was less severe for “light” offences.
- Flagellatio – a brutal flogging
- Vereberato – a scourging, where the victim was tied to a post and beaten by several soldiers until they were exhausted. The whip, similar to the one pictured above was made up of nine leather strands, each one having pieces of bone or metal tied in to rip the prisoner’s flesh off. A scourging often led to death, with bone and entrails visible from the striped lacerations and severe blood loss.
In Mark 15:15, Jesus received this worst scourging before the crucifixion. The authorities needed him to die before the Sabbath started. John’s account looks like the less brutal whipping. It could be there were two beatings, this “lighter” one a strategy by Pilate to get Jesus set free. The brutal one, not recorded in John, would have come later. Pilate presents Jesus as a pathetic weak harmless man – “Here is the man” (v.5). He is mocking the Jewish leaders and Jesus. Is this really the man you are so worked up about?
The irony, that John so often uses, is that indeed Here is the Man, the word become flesh.
The brutal scourging, leaving deep striped wounds was part of God’s plan – “by His stripes we are healed” as Isaiah prophesied.
The Chief Priests are not placated by Pilate’s mocking portrayal of a weak and pathetic, cowed and whipped Jesus. That’s not enough! They need Him dead. So they demand that Jesus is crucified for claiming to be the Son of God. That made Pilate more afraid. Why?
- To the Jews that claim was blasphemous and had clear Messianic pretensions.
- To a Roman that claim was no threat to the Empire, and definitely not worthy of execution. However Romans were superstitious. What if this was a divine man, with divine powers. Afraid, Pilate asks Jesus in private (v.9) where He comes from?
Fear is a powerful motivator. Standing on the edge of a big drop – fear keeps us safe. But mostly fear is a powerfully negative motivator. It stops us doing the right thing. The thing we should be doing, the thing the Lord wants us to step out in faith to do. What do you fear? Job 3:25 – “What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me”. Don’t give in to the wrong sorts of fear – fear of man, false expectations, appearing real…
Jesus lets us know that the only authority Pilate really has, is that which God has allowed Him to have. Now Pilate is really afraid! Afraid of the consequences (a good fear), but not as much as he fears man. The Jewish leaders prevail on him to crucify Jesus and so he does.
Jesus died, for us, the most brutal death so that we could know the grace and mercy of God – salvation, healing and deliverance.