IN ORDERING CHRIST TO BE SCOURGED, Pilate undoubtedly told himself that he was thereby saving Him from the death sentence demanded by the Jews. Actually, however, he was merely playing politics with the Jewish leaders. If he was convinced, as he appears to have been, of the innocence of Jesus, and if he was really devoted to enforcing the principles of Roman law in this outpost of the Empire, he had only to declare it his will and Jesus would walk out of the praetorium a free man, and His enemies would not dare to touch Him.
He was, indeed, sympathetic to Jesus, but he was far more concerned with keeping this subject people complacent and on good terms with Rome, thus assuring the security of his own post and his eventual promotion. This scourging, then, was a cowardly compromise, the act of a man who dared not boldly support the cause of truth and justice.
Taking Jesus to a room within the praetorium, the guards removed His tunic and forcing Him into a stooping position, bound His wrists together and tied them to the low whippingpost. Then they began their task, lashing His naked back with leather thongs tipped with metal. When they finally desisted, wearied by their brutal exercise, Christ’s back was an ugly mass of blood and shredded flesh.
Some of these soldiers may have belonged to the guard which escorted Jesus to Herod and may have witnessed the cruel masquerade to which the king subjected Him, for Pilate’s men now began a similar diversion. Having assembled their entire cohort, they loosed Jesus from the whipping post and wrapped His mangled body in a piece of red cloth representing the purple robe of a sovereign. Seating Him on a stool, they placed on His head a hideous crown they had woven from thorny plants, and in His hand they placed a reed, His scepter.
They offered Him mock homage, bending their knees before Him and saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” Then they spat upon Him, and snatching the reed from His hand, they struck Him on the head.
Meditation: Christ’s passion and death made reparation to God for all the sins of men. But in suffering the scourging He was atoning especially for the sins of the flesh that men of all ages would commit. It is helpful, therefore, to think of the frightful suffering, the sharp and stinging pain endured by Christ. The enormity of this torture can help us realize the enormity of sins of the flesh, which are often presented to us today as attractive experiences that no one can be expected to forego.
Information from The Life of Christ “Our Lord’s Life with Lesson in His Own Words for Our Life Today” The Catholic Press, Inc. 1959. 267-268. © 1954 edited by Reverend John P. O’Connell, MASTD and Jex Martin, following mainly A Chronological Harmony of the Gospels by Stephen J Hartdegen OFM NIHIL OBSTAT John A McMahon; IMPRIMATUR Samuel Cardinal Stritch, Archbishop of Chicago August 1, 1953. Print. Drawing by Albert H Winkler.