“Forty blows he may give him and no more, lest he should exceed this and beat him with many blows above these, and your brother be humiliated in your sight.”
A man, condemned of certain crimes, was to be beaten as a form of punishment and humiliation. The beating was reserved for the wicked, while the righteous were exonerated. Years later, a “Kangaroo Court” met in Israel, gathered false witnesses, and condemned the Son of God to death, for the high crime of blaspheme. He was taken to the Roman authorities, where He was again tried, convicted and condemned. Part of the sentence meted out to Him was the Roman scourging. Unlike the Jewish law that carried with it a level of mercy, the Roman scourge was designed, not only to punish, but to kill.
After withstanding the agony of the garden, the hostility of the Jewish leaders, a sleepless night, and the mistreatment by the Roman guards, Jesus was bound and beaten. The beating was carried out by a Roman soldier, who used a leather whip with many “tails.” Woven into the leather were sharp, hard objects, like broken glass or metal. The whip would tighten the skin, while the glass would tear through it. Since the beating was only a step in the crucifixion process, no mercy was shown. Jesus would have been beaten to the very brink of death. We know what He endured was so great He was unable to carry the cross (Mark 15:21), and collapsed under its weight. Isaiah, with prophetic commentary, wrote, “His visage was marred more than any man.” In other words, He was beaten beyond recognition.
As painful, difficult, humiliating, and cruel as these beatings were, they were not without purpose. We are told it is through the sufferings of Christ, we are able to recognize, in our own difficulties, we have a God who can sympathize with us. You have not endured pain so great that He cannot understand it, or feel compassion for you. Also, we know, it is by His stripes that healing is made available to the child of God. Finally, it is the suffering of the cross which reveals the depths of His love. As we reflect upon what He endured to save us, our hearts should be stirred to a greater personal commitment to His service.