Summary: The Romans tortured Jesus out of ignorance. But is that a justifiable excuse?
It’s interesting to contrast how the suffering of Jesus is portrayed. There are depictions that are rated PG. There’s hardly any blood; and Jesus looks more annoyed than in pain. There’s a heavenly glow around His head, as He gazes into heaven. Then there are depictions that more accurately portray His suffering, like Mel Gibson’s film, The Passion of the Christ. It was rated R for its violence. But Gibson really didn’t go far enough. To understand the physical impact the scourging had on Jesus, you have to start in Gethsemane.
“And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” - Luke 22:44 (NIV)
The drops of blood Luke (a doctor) refers to, are a result of a medical condition called hematidrosis. Severe anxiety breaks the capillaries in the sweat glands, which results in “bloody sweat.” This is important to the scourging of Jesus because it causes skin to be extremely sensitive.
People often think Jesus got 39 lashes, but that was a Jewish limitation. Roman scourging was more severe. They punished victims within an inch of death. Soldiers used a whip of braided leather with metal balls woven into them. When they struck the flesh, the balls caused bruises, which, after enough blows, would break open. The whip also had pieces of sharp bone to cut the skin. The objective was to shred the muscles of the back, buttocks, and legs. Often, part of the spine was exposed from deep cuts. The whipping would focus on the shoulders all the way down the back of the legs. Historians say that six out of ten men would die from this beating.
“The sufferer’s veins were laid bare and the very muscles and bowels, [or intestines] of the victim were open to exposure.” - Third-century historian, Eusebius
But they didn’t stop there. They took a thorny branch and wove it into a crown, a coronation wreath. They pressed it down on His brow. There aren’t a lot of nerve endings in the forehead, but there are many capillaries. The result would have been a bloody mess - blood matting down His hair, filling His ears, and getting into His eyes. Christ was stripped and dressed in a purple robe. Then they mocked Him, saying, “Hail, king of the Jews.” Now what makes this beating so amazing is not just the extreme nature of it, but that it was allowed to happen in the first place. Which brings us to ask: “WHY?”
“Christ suffered for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but he died for sinners to bring you safely home to God.” - 1 Peter 3:18 (NLT)
“No one takes my life away from me. I give my own life freely.” - John 10:18a (Easy to Read)
What is even more amazing than the sever nature of Christ’s suffering is the thought that none of it was forced. No one was doing this to Jesus against His will, at any second He could have put a stop to it.
Navy Seals go though a time of training that is so intense that they consume over 7,000 calories a day and still lose weight. They might get a maximum of four hours of sleep for an entire week. But at any time within their training process, there is a bell that is centrally located. All they have to do at any time is ring that bell and all the pain will come to an end. They are volunteers; no one is forcing them to become a Seal. All they have to do is ring the bell.
Perhaps the most amazing thing to consider in pondering the torture of Christ is that He didn’t ring the bell. Now, with all this as a backdrop, I want you to understand that the Romans were also faced with the ultimate question, “What will you do with Jesus?” And their response was to torture and crucify Him. Why?
Now, there are two things we need to understand about ignorance.
1. Ignorance is no excuse.
Ignorance is a favorite defense of ours. We figure we can’t be culpable for what we didn’t know. Don’t blame me; I didn’t know. Do you ever say that? We often justify our guilt by pleading ignorance. Did you take out the trash? I didn’t know today was trash day. Did you eat the last Popsicle? I didn’t know that was the last one. Are you aware there is a dress code in the office? I didn’t know that. Did you know that you are beating the Son of God beyond recognition? Did you know the blood that is spattered upon your face is payment for your sins? Did you know that the bruises you give Him are for your transgressions? That by His wounds you are healed? I didn’t know . . .