“Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged him…”The Gospel of John
After Jesus is betrayed, he is judged and condemned to death. Before he is crucified, Pilate hands him over to the Roman soldiers to be scourged. While the Gospels tell us little about what might have occurred during his scourging, both history and imagination fill in the blanks. Scourging was a form of punishment in both the Hebrew and Roman communities during the time of Christ and it was no mere whipping. Scourging involved a flagellum, a whip consisting of several leather strands knotted with sheep bone or iron balls, so the injuries to skin, muscle, and bone were severe. In the emotional sense, scourging, I would imagine, would be demoralizing and debilitating. The intense physical pain, coupled with the public humiliation, would weaken the victim’s body and mind.
For me, the image of the scourging is one of deep rejection. Jesus has been reduced from being the beloved prophet entering Jerusalem on a pathway of strewn cloaks and palms to being a mass of flesh and blood. The great healer is unable, perhaps unwilling, to save himself from the indignity of torture. Though he did not deserve his punishment, perhaps he felt he did. Every lash probably struck his heart. Why me? How has my journey been worthwhile? Why do they hate me?
In this mystery, I also ponder my own moments of rejection, humiliation, and defeat. There have been many times when I have poured my heart into people and situations, out of love, only to be cast aside and even attacked. I have been fortunate to experience very few physical blows against me but, like most humans, have been subjected to insults and judgments. Labels and comments have the capacity to bruise and tear. It is natural to feel anger and the need for retaliation. But I think back to this moment and stand strong.