The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ 3.
THE SCOURGING AT THE PILLAR.
The chief priests and the scribes of the Sanhedrin found Jesus “guilty” of blasphemy. Out of hatred and pride, they wanted to put him to death. However, since permission for such execution to take place, Jesus was brought to the governing Roman authority, Pontius Pilate. This time, however, he was cunningly presented by his accusers as a self-appointed king against the Roman rule, and not as a blasphemer, as previously condemned by the Sanhedrin. For what reason? His accusers wanted to assure that the death execution was to be handed to Jesus by Pilate.
Pilate, however, made no charges against Jesus and sent him to Herod Antipas, the tetrarch of Judas, who in turn, made no charges and sent him again to Pilate. St. Mark briefly recounts this episode in his Gospel, Mk 15: 1-15:
“And as soon as it was morning the chief priests, with the elders and scribes, and the whole council held a consultation; and they bound Jesus and led him away and delivered him to Pilate. And Pilate asked him, ‘Are you the King of the Jews?’ And he answered him, ‘You have said so.’ And the chief priests accused him of many things. And Pilate again asked him, ‘Have you no answer to make? See how many charges they bring against you.’ But Jesus made no further answer, so that Pilate wondered.
Now at the feast he used to release for them one prisoner whom they asked. And among the rebels in prison, who had committed murder in the insurrection, there was a man called Barabbas. And the crowd came up and began to ask Pilate to do as he was wont to do for them. And he answered them, ‘Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?’ For he perceived that it was out of envy that the chief priests had delivered him up. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release for them Barabbas instead. And Pilate again said to them, ‘Then what shall I do with the man whom you call the King of the Jews?’ And they cried out again, ‘Crucify him.’ And Pilate said to them, ‘Why, what evil has he done?’ But they shouted all the more, ‘Crucify him.’
So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barabbas; and having scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.”
POINTS FOR MEDITATION:
- Pilate knew that Jesus was innocent and that he was delivered out of envy. He wanted to save Jesus but he did not have the courage to go against the wishes of the crowd. So he made an absurd move: he gave the crowd an option to choose between Barabbas, a murderer, and Jesus, an innocent man.
- Pilate had the good intention (end), but made use of the wrong means. How often do we justify ourselves, washing our hands like Pilate when we employ evil means in order to obtain what we want! Lord, may I always engrave in my mind and heart that the end does not justify the means. My good intentions do not make my actions good if I carried out an evil means to obtain what I want.
- Human respect which is basically cowardice impedes us to fight for justice and truth. We are cowered by what other people would think or say and are more concerned with our benefits than what is really good.
- Lord, help us defend the truth without being afraid of the consequences. May we able to overcome human respect and cowardice to do what is morally right and good.
- Pilate’s plan and good intentions did not pull through. The people chose Barabbas due to the stirrings of the chief priests who manipulated the crowd to choose the criminal. How envy makes us do worse things!
- May we learn how to think on our own and not let ourselves be influenced by the evil schemes of other people. God gave us freedom, made us as rational creatures, in order to be able to choose what is good.
- Jesus, pardon me for the many times I have given into the snares of evil, without affirming what my reason has shown me as right and good. Help me make good use of my freedom and not be easily swayed by the deceits of the enemy.
- May we also overcome the sin of scandal, that is, instigating others to commit sins, because of our words, actions and behavior.
- Historical and medical details of scourging:
- Edwards et al., gives us an eye-opening account of the scourging of Jesus after describing some details on the Roman process of flagellation. He states:
“Flogging was a legal preliminary to every Roman execution, and only women and Roman senators or soldiers (except in cases of desertion) were exempt. The usual instrument was a SHORT WHIP (flagrum or flagellum) with SEVERAL SINGLE OR BRAIDED LEATHER THONGS of variable lengths, in which SMALL IRON BALLS OR SHARP PIECES OF SHEEP BONES were tied at intervals. Occasionally, staves also were used.
For scourging, the man was stripped of his clothing, and his hands were tied to an upright post. The back, buttocks, and legs were flogged either by two soldiers (lictors) or by one who alternated positions. The severity of the scourging depended on the disposition of the lictors and was intended to weaken the victim to a state just short of collapse or death. After the scourging, the soldiers often taunted their victim.
As the Roman soldiers repeatedly STRUCK THE VICTIM’S BACK WITH FULL FORCE, THE IRON BALLS WOULD CAUSE DEEP CONTUSIONS, and the LEATHER THONGS AND SHEEP BONES WOULD CUT INTO THE SKIN AND SUBCUTANEOUS TISSUES. Then, as the flogging continued, the LACERATIONS WOULD TEAR INTO THE UNDERLYING SKELETAL MUSCLES and produce quivering ribbons of bleeding flesh. (27,25) Pain and blood loss generally set the stage for circulatory shock. (12) The extent of blood loss may well have determined how long the victim would survive on the cross.
A detailed word study of the ancient Greek text for this verse indicates that the scourging of Jesus was particularly harsh. It is not known whether the number of lashes was limited to 39, in accordance with Jewish law…
The severe scourging, with its INTENSE PAIN AND APPRECIABLE BLOOD LOSS, most probably left Jesus in a PRESHOCK STATE. Moreover, HEMATIDROSIS HAD RENDERED HIS SKIN PARTICULARLY TENDER. The physical and mental abuse meted out by the Jews and the Romans, as well as the LACK OF FOOD, WATER, AND SLEEP, also contributed to his generally weakened state. Therefore, EVEN BEFORE THE ACTUAL CRUCIFIXION, JESUS’ PHYSICAL CONDITION WAS AT LEAST SERIOUS AND POSSIBLY CRITICAL (William D. Edwards, et al., “ON THE PHYSICAL DEATH OF JESUS CHRIST” in “The Journal of the American Medical Association,” March 21, 1986, Volume 256, capitals mine).”
Physical violence, anguish, humiliation, mockery, blood, intense pain, both physical and moral….even before the Crucifixion, Jesus’ body and soul are both terribly battered and bruised. All these Jesus suffered for you and for me…silently, without any complaint whatsoever…
“Bound to the pillar. Covered with wounds.
The blows of the lash sound upon his torn flesh, upon his undefiled flesh, which suffers for your sinful flesh. More blows. More fury. Still more… It is the last extreme of human cruelty.
Finally, exhausted, they untie Jesus. And the body of Christ yields to pain and falls limp, broken and half dead.
You and I cannot speak. Words are not needed. Look at him, look at him… slowly. After this… can you ever fear penance?
(St. Josemaria, Holy Rosary, 2nd Sorrowful Mystery).”
Let us “look at Jesus. Each laceration is a reproach; each lash of the whip, a reason for sorrow for your offences and mine (St. Josemaria, The Way of the Cross, 1st Station, point of meditation no. 5).”
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