Jesus Scourged

The physical trauma of Christ begins in Gethsemane with one of the initial aspects of His suffering - the bloody sweat. St. Luke, the physician is the only one to mention this, probably because as a doctor this would have been amazing to him. He says, "And being in agony, He prayed the longer. And his sweat became as drops of blood, trickling down upon the ground." Though rare, hemathidrosis, or bloody sweat, is well documented.  Under great emotional stress, tiny capillaries in the sweat glands can break, thus mixing blood with sweat and producing marked weakness and possible shock.

Then, after His arrest, Jesus is subjected to seven travesties of trials before the Sanhedrin, Herod Antipas and Pontius Pilate.  Before the Sanhedrin and Caiaphas, the High Priest. Jesus was struck in the face for remaining silent when questioned by Caiaphas. He was attacked by members of the Sanhedrin who slapped and punched Him.  The palace guards  of Herod Antipas blindfolded Him and mockingly taunted Him to identify them as they each passed by, spat on Him, and struck Him in the face.

Early the next morning, Jesus, battered and bruised, dehydrated and exhausted from a long sleepless night, was taken across Jerusalem to the Praetorium Fortress Antonia, to be tried by Pontius Pilate. Pilate knew all about this famous man.  As governor he'd had scouts watch and observe Jesus closely over the last three years.  Not once had one of the scouts reported that Jesus was preaching rebellion. He also knew the chief priests were trying to railroad this man because they were envious of Him (Matt 27:16-26; Mark 15:7-15; Luke 23:18-25; John 18:40).  This, however, was the first time Pilate had had the opportunity to talk with Jesus in person. And, after  his initial examination he publicly declared Jesus innocent.  By rights, Jesus should have been able to walk away a free man.  Yet, the chief priest circulated through the crowd, ordering them to call for Jesus to be crucified.  Frustrated at the political maneuvering, Pilate began to  rapidly tire of this case.  Plus, these same religious leaders had caused him untold troubles during his administration, so this was his opportunity to cause them grief. 

Looking sourly at the chief priest and the crowd beginning to grow, Pilate came up with an idea.  It was his custom at the feast of Passover to release a prisoner chosen by the crowd.  He knew the religious leaders were only trying to get rid of Jesus because they were jealous of him, so he decided to offer an unappealing choice.  He knew that in his dungeon was a notorious murder, thief named Barabbas.   Putting an innocent look on his face he announced, “As you know, it is my custom at this time of year to pardon and release one prisoner.  So, I’ll give you a choice.  Which will you choose? The prisoner called Barabbas or this man named Jesus who is called Christ?” as he thought to himself, “Surely they will pick this innocent man!

The crowd and the religious leaders were surprised.  Barabbas was an evil man who killed without mercy.  Yet, the chief priest and the elders again circulated through the crowd ordering them, “Vote for Barabbas.”  When Pilate smugly asked, “Well, what is your choice? Which one do you want me to release?”, the people screamed, “Barabbas.  We want Barabbas” Pilate was stunned.  Leaping to his feet, he gestured toward Jesus and said, “Then what shall I do then with Jesus who is called Christ?’  Stirred up by the chief priests, the people began shouting, “Crucify him, Crucify him!” Again, Pilate was astounded thinking, “this can’t be happening!” So he tried once more. “WhyWhat crime has he committed?”  This was the second time Pilate, in effect, pronounced Jesus as innocent.  And once again, Jesus could have walked out a free man.  Yet, he said nothing and stayed where he was.

Pilate had no desire to convict an innocent man, yet the crowd was trying to force his hand.  Suddenly, he had another idea.  He called a centurion to him and said, “Take this man and scourge him.”  Scourging was a brutal punishment that ripped a man to shreds.  It was Pilates hope that when the people saw Jesus after being scourged, they would have pity on him and allow him to be released.


Jesus was dragged into the praetorium and stripped of His clothing, then His hands were tied to a post above His head. A legionnaire stepped forward with a flagrum dangling from his hand.  The flagrum, was a short vicious whip made up of several heavy, leather thongs with small balls of lead attached to the ends of each which in turn fastened to a sturdy wooden handle.  

Imbedded into each of the leather strips were bits of bone, metal or broken pieces of ceramic or glass. At the nod of the centurion, the soldier raised the heavy whip up high over his shoulder and brought it down with full force across Jesus' shoulders.  The leather straps snapped into the tender flesh of Jesus' back with a stinging, white hot, molten pain. Then, in a steady rhythm, the soldier whipped the heavy fagellum across one side of Jesus shoulders, back and upper legs.  The cruel whip wrapped around the chest and legs creating pitiless destruction on both the front and the back of His body.

At first, the heavy thongs seared the skin causing wicked red whelps to form with tiny little punctures from the bits of metal and bone.  Each strike of the whip however began to cut into the flesh, bruising subcutaneous tissues, causing blood to ooze from capillaries and veins in the skin.  The small balls of lead at the end of each strand biting into the skin causing large, deep bruises. The bits of bone, metal and ceramic imbedded in the leather straps began to rip and tear with each new bite of the whip. Then he switched and whipped the other side of Jesus shoulders, back and upper legs.  Some try to teach that Jesus received the 39 stripes of Jewish law.  But, this scourging was not administered by Jewish authorities, it was administered according to Roman law, which was only limited to not killing the prisoner.

Time after time, the lash struck, snapping across Jesus' back with white hot searing pain, creating an eternity of unbelievable torment.  The Legionnaire cracked his whip over and over and over again until Jesus shoulders, back, legs and chest was shredded, skin hanging in strips.  When the centurion in charge of the detail was satisfied Jesus had been thoroughly scourged, he shouted, "enough."  Jesus was untied and allowed to slump to the stone pavement, wet with His own blood.   Then a bucket of cold salt water was thrown on Him.  The cold water was to revive their victim while the salt was there to burn and sting open wounds.  Romans were not known for their mercy. 

 The centurion turned on his heel and walked quickly away.  It was a custom to allow the soldiers to torment their victims for a sport for a short time before a crucifixion.  The men fell to their sport with a vengeance.  While the scourging was taking place, innovative soldiers looked for ways to torment their victim.  One put on heavy leather gloves and twisted and wove a crown of thorns from the branches of a local thorn bush which produced iron hard, wickedly sharp thorns that grew up two inches long. 

Another found a broken reed to serve as an imitation scepter, while a third found the purple robe Herod had provided when he was mocking Jesus.

The soldiers laughed as the first soldier rammed the crown of thorns on Jesus head,  the thorns puncturing and cutting deep into his scalp.  Next, the second soldier placed the broken reed in Jesus hand.  The third in a flourish, wrapped the purple robe across His battered and bleeding shoulders.  Then together all the soldiers mockingly kneeled and shouted in ridicule salute, “Hail King of the Jews.”   Then they tormented Jesus by grabbing handfuls of his beard and jerking it harshly pulling out clumps of haier and backhanding Him, slapping him, laughing and kicking Him for fun. Finally, the centurion marched back in and barked, “Enough!” Playtime was over.  Jesus was then half dragged, half carried back to Pontius Pilate.

Pilate had Jesus dragged out to the people.  The people gasped, Jesus, his shoulders slumped and arms hanging down,  swayed half dead before them.  He was bloody and torn, quivering in pain with a crown of thorns on his head, and the gory purple robe his back, blood dripping at His feet.  Pilate gestured at the miserable spectacle and shouted, “Behold, the man!”  He’d hoped the people would finally find pity on this innocent man and allow him to set Him free.  But, the chief priests cried out, “Crucify him, crucify him.”   Pilate was stunned.  This was not going as he expected.  He said in disgust, “You take him and crucify him, for I find no fault in him.”  He knew they didn't have the authority to carry out capital punishment and was taunting them.  Legally, he had just passed judgment, “I find no fault in this man! (John 19:4-11).”

The chief priests shouted back, "We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God." Not a religious man, Pilate was still shaken.  He'd heard of the incredible miracles this man performed.  Unbidden, the thought leapt into his mind, "Am I tormenting and judging a deity?"   He gestured once again to the centurion to have Jesus brought back into the praetorium where he could talk to Him in private.  When they were alone Pilate demanded,  “Where do you come from?” Jesus gave him no answer. Pilate hissed in amazement, “Do you refuse to speak to me?  Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?” Looking Pilate in the eye Jesus rasped, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore, the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.”  Pilate was stunned, the man was refusing to protect Himself!.

John states that from then Pilate tried to set Jesus free, but the Jewish leaders changed their tact and began shouting,  “If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.” This statement shook Pilate to the core.  Did the chief priests know about the turmoil in Rome?  Pilate had been nominated for his position as governor by the praetorian prefect, Sejanus who was second in power only to the emperor of Rome.  Tiberius, the emperor was old and was declining.  Sejanus in a bid for power, secretly had Tiberius, son  Drusus murdered so that he, Sejanus could gain the title of emperor.  Tiberius however, learned of Sejanus deadly plot and ordered not only Sejanus and his family murdered, but everyone who was associated with Sejanus killed. For the last few months, Rome had experienced another blood bath. 


Pilate heard the words, "If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar"  reverberate through his mind and soul.  When he'd been appointed the post of Governor of Judea he had also been given a ring into the elite group of high ranking men known as "friend of Caesar."  The message of the chief priest was clear.  They knew about Sejanus and Pilates connection.  In essence, the chief priest had turned the tables on him.  If Pilate did not give in to their wishes, a delegation would be sent to Rome and then it would be Pontius Pilate who faced potential execution.


Shaken, but unwilling to lose face Pilate shouted, “Here is your king” But the people in a lust for blood shouted, “Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!”  One last time Pilate shouted, “Shall I crucify your king?” The chief priests answered back, "We have no king but Caesar,”.  Pilate responded one last time, "Why? What evil has he done?"  The crowd shouted even louder, "Crucify Him, Crucify Him!"  When Pilate realized the crowd was getting out of control, he called for a basin of water.  Washing his hands he stated firmly, "I am innocent of the blood of this just Person.  You see to it!" 

The people shouted back, "His blood be on us and our children."  Pilate gestured to the centurion and ordered, "Let him be crucified." 

Refecting Christ's Light



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