Last week, I joined the careless club. I was attempting to retrofit a chicken nest into a new roost, meaning I was awkwardly trimming some wood with a circular saw. While doing so, I managed to cut into the tip of my pinky finger. Next was a trip to the emergency room. I have a small bone fracture, some torn skin and a nail that is trimmed way too low. In the grand scheme of things, if I had to have an accident with a circular saw this was the best of all possible outcomes.
The biggest pain for the days that followed was peeling the bandage off morning and night. I don't mean discomfort here. Then, of course, every time I bumped into something I was able to see stars by daylight. The good news is I am healing.
My thoughts turned to Good Friday. Jesus was scourged before his crucifixion. We have cleaned up this bloody mess. A scourging was considered such inhumane punishment that it was illegal for a Roman citizen to experience it. It was meant for the “lower” class and slaves.It was demeaning. It was meant to break the spirits of those that watched and to intimidate them into submission or suffer the same fate.
The implement of a scourge was not just a leather whip. The instrument of scourging in the Roman era was called a flagrum. The purpose of the device was to severely punish the recipient with its blows.
A flagrum is made of leather straps with pieces of metal attached in various places. Those pieces of metal, usually lead, had sharp pieces of bone or other metal smelted in and protruded from it. The intent was to hit the victim hard. Then have the sharp pieces imbed in the skin. When pulled away the skin would rip or tear. The weight of the metal allowed for much more powerful blows. The pieces protruding from those metal weights allowed deep penetration into the skin and muscle. In essence, the flagrum ripped skin and tissue from the person that was being scourged while bruising, tearing and exposing their muscles tissue.
The maximum penalty imposed by flogging or a scourging was forty lashes, according to Jewish laws 3but the judge must not impose more than forty lashes. If the guilty party is flogged more than that, your fellow Israelite will be degraded in your eyes. Deuteronomy 25:2. To avoid any miscount and breaking God’s command it was customary to give 39 lashes. This was most likely what Jesus received although not stated anywhere.
Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ depicts this scene very well. At one piont you see the end of the flagrum get stuck on His body and the soldier has trouble getting it unstuck. One can imagine the pain and trauma this would inflict. The scourging would continue until the Centurion in charge saw the victim subdued to the point of near death. Often people did die from scourging alone.
The cross was made from wood, not smooth like today’s wood from the lumber yard. It was very rough wood. Sliding your hands down that wood would potentially give you splinters. Possibly the bark might still be on the wood. Now imagine the Crucifixion process. After this beating, bloodletting called a scourging, Jesus was nailed to a cross. The only way to breathe is to push up with your feet to allow air into your lungs. Your back, which has been severely ripped opened and bruised, scrapes against the wood behind it. The skin getting caught on either bark or the rough wood being further torn. You had to inflict intense pain on yourself in order to take your next breath.
The modern images of Jesus on the cross do not do justice to what he experienced. The crucifixion process was meant to humiliate, intimidate, and serve as a warning to others to not challenge Roman authority.
Why would the Creator send His Son and put him under the authority of the Jewish and Roman leadership to be treated like this for us, for me? When I think about what Jesus endured, I am simply awestruck and I come to the conclusion that this is a God I can worship.
Author - Guy Yasika
Looking to profess my faith to anyone that will listen.