The flogging scene in The Passion of the Christ portrays the brutality of the beating Jesus endured more graphically than anything I’ve seen. It must’ve been awful, yet the gospel writers mention it only in passing, it seems.
Here’s Mark’s account: “. . . and having scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified” (Mark 15:15b).
His description leaves me wanting more. He was scourged? What does that mean? How bad was it?
Mark’s readers probably needed no explanation; they knew what he meant. But we’ve never seen anything like the flogging Jesus endured.
Here are some brief descriptions of what scholars think Jesus went through. Before you take the Lord’s Supper today, take a few minutes and think about what he went through.
“Flogging was not a light punishment. The Romans first stripped the person and tied his hands to a post above his head. The whip, sometimes called a ‘cat of nine tails,’ was made of several pieces of leather with pieces of bone and lead embedded near the ends of the leather strips. Two men, one on each side of the criminal, did the flogging. The Jews limited the number of hits (stripes) a person could receive, usually no more than thirty-nine. The Romans had no limit. Flogging ripped out chunks of flesh and often left the bones of the victim exposed. Some victims did not survive a flogging” (R.L. Cooper, Holman).
“Flogging was both a preliminary to crucifixion (perhaps to hasten death) and an independent punishment. It was a Roman punishment and must be distinguished from the much milder synagogue beatings of forty lashes less one. Bits of metal, bone, or glass were embedded in leather thongs; and the flesh of the victim was shredded, sometimes until bones or entrails appeared. Flogging was sometimes fatal” (J.A. Brooks, NAC).
“But before Jesus is given over to their custody, the governor has him scourged, which apparently was standard pre-crucifixion procedure. Scourging was done with a whip made up of several leather straps to which were attached sharp, abrasive items, such as nails, glass, or rocks. Scourging resulted in the severe laceration of the skin and damage to the flesh beneath (e.g., Josephus: ‘flayed to the bone with scourges’)” (C.A. Evans, WBC).
It’s scary to think about how painful this must’ve been.
Take a few minutes and thank him. —Chuck