VII. Flogged & Crowned
A few hours later, most likely at dawn, the beaten and exhausted Jesus, who more than likely did not get any sleep because He was up all night tending to His wounds and suffering from what has happened so far, was brought before the Sanhedrin. Jesus was charged with blasphemy and condemned to death. The Sanhedrin were not empowered to order a death sentence and had to get the Procurator of Judea to approve, but he would not order an execution on a religious charge, so they had to try and convince Pilate that it was a political charge.
Pilate then sends Jesus to Herod and then Herod sends Jesus back to Pilate. The problem was that Pilate could not find Jesus guilty of any crime worthy of death. So, a clear political move and strategy on his part to appease the crowd he orders Jesus to be flogged:
John 19:1 - "Then Pilate took Jesus and flogged him."
A flogging or scourging was a brutal and inhumane punishment which was carried out by trained Roman soldiers. Though sometimes a flogging was ordered only as a punishment, it was such an extreme practice that it caused accidental deaths. The bloody barbaric method was also even carried out as a death penalty, and you can be assured that if this were the orders, there were no accidental victims walking away afterwards, it was certain that the order was carried out and were fulfilled.
The instrument that was used was called a flagrum. It was made in various forms, but the most common was a leather whip, containing three or more leather tails or thongs with small metal balls or sheep bones at the end of each tail. The victim would usually be stripped naked, tied or shackled by the wrists to a sturdy object like a column. They then would be made to assume a bent position and then the executioner would begin this barbaric and inhumane task.
The flagrum would then repeatedly be whipped back and forth onto the victims back, side, ribs, arms, shoulders, and the back of the legs and calves. It would dig deep into the flesh wherever the whip may land causing an extremely agonizing, humiliating, painful, and bloody experience.
Titus Flavius Josephus the first-century Romano-Jewish scholar, historian, and hagiographer writes about ordering a flogging, in which he uses the word, "whipped". Take notice how gruesome a flogging really was as you read what he records about the leaders and how he "had them whipped till every one of their inward parts appeared naked," and the terrified response by the multitude when they saw them..
Josephus, Wars, Book 2, 21:5
"..And when their leaders came into the house, Josephus drew them to the most private part of the house and shut the door, and then had them whipped till every one of their inward parts appeared naked. In the meantime the multitude stood around the house and supposed that he was having a long discourse with those that were gone in, about what they claimed of him. He then had the doors set open immediately, and sent the men out all bloody, which so terrified those that had before threatened him, that they threw away their arms and ran away.'
There is no doubt that if the order for a flogging was to be strictly punishment, not the death penalty, and the victim happened to survive, the outcome was a very pitiful condition. The emotional and physical trauma is difficult to even comprehend. Medical research that I read on this subject and experiments that I viewed on animal carcasses during my investigation were often very difficult for me to "take in" emotionally. It truly was an "eye opener." After a flogging the human body would have been covered with deep tears, welts, bruises, puncture marks, cuts, scratches, ribs possibly cracked and or broken, along with a high probability that the lungs would be lacerated, causing every breath taken both inhaling and exhaling to be very painful. On top of all this, being a complete bloody mess both internally and externally are just some of the injuries, but there are even more that a victim could have sustained that I have not even listed! A flogging as you can see was indeed very brutal.
Now this is a very important point that I would like to make. If you can only remember one piece of information about what I have shared with you regarding a flogging, remember this, because yet again this is an imperative observation that is often overlooked...
The general rule of thumb with a flogging was for greater the crime, the greater and all the more cruel of the punishment was inflicted by the Roman soldier with the flagrum. There was only one exception to this rule and that was "if" and only "if" a crucifixion was ordered BEFOREHAND. If there was even a slight chance of the victim being crucified after the scourging, it was a game changer.
Most victims in antiquity that were crucified were in fact, flogged beforehand, but there was a huge difference in how intense the flogging actually was. Roman crucifixions were made to be and designed for a very slow, painful, agonizing, and humiliating death. The longer the victim stayed on the cross, the more they suffered, and this was the point, and it certainly sent a message. This would leave the victim hanging naked on a cross for many hours, sometimes days, and even up to a week or more, humiliated, suffering, in severe pain, and without food or water until they eventually died.
Now here is the main point...
When Pilate had Jesus flogged, the words "Crucify Him" never came out of his mouth nor were they even a thought that ran through his mind as of yet. Keep in mind that Pilate could not find Jesus guilty of any crime worthy of death, so the clear political move and strategy on his part was to appease the crowd by having Jesus scourged.
So, what does this mean?
This means that we can now understand the intensity of Jesus' flogging by the Roman guard with the flagrum.
The Roman soldier or soldiers who flogged Jesus were trained professionals, no matter how barbaric torturing someone may seem to be. They knew how and where to lash a victim unleashing the exact amount of force desired for the given outcome. This meant that they knew exactly what to do and how to do it with precision. It was a very sadistic trade and you had to be a very special kind of someone to not only be able to mentally perform a scourging, but to perform countless ones each and every day. They were most likely a type of person who did not have or had a defect within their conscience. Whether the orders for the victim meant to be a slow or speedy death by flogging, or a brutal form of extreme punishment intended not to kill, but close enough to near death and barely live, or punish the victim just enough, so that they could last for an extended period of time suffering and hanging on a cross, the individual who swung the flagrum was a master with it. The blows were not just wild and random, they were calculated precisely where they needed to be, like a modern day sharp shooter or sniper who not only hits the target, but is relied on to get the center of the bulls eye each and every time. They were highly intelligent, but sadistic and the trade was like a psychotic art and they were like the master artist. It was a inhumane barbaric profession, but in their minds, they were only carrying out orders, the people they punished or killed were criminals who were guilty of breaking laws, and they were only giving them what they deserved. Accordingly, they carried out their orders, they did their job, and they did it well.
I don't think that this has ever been done before, but after researching this subject so extensively, I believe that we can look at scourging/flogging and break it down into three levels of intensity.
Side note: By no means am I trying to explain that any of the 3 levels were "easier" to endure, but each level was designed for a strategic purpose, and the outcome for all three levels are equally horrid.
3 - the highest level/most intense scourging (purpose - death by scourging)
2 - the medium level /mid-intense scourging (purpose - near death, barely live)
1 - the low level/least intense scourging (purpose - preparation for crucifixion)
By using this system, I believe that we can figure out what level was used for Jesus, why, and what kind of condition He was in before He took His next step closer to the Cross.
First and foremost we can quickly rule out 3. The outcome for the flogging of Jesus was not designed to scourge Him to death. This is because Pilate did not agree with the Jewish leaders condemning Jesus with a death sentence. Both Herod and Pilate could not find Jesus guilty of any crime worthy of death.
Second, we can quickly rule out 1 as well. We can do this for the same reason 3 was ruled out.
This leaves only one possible level left and it makes the most sense 2. I'll explain why. If you really give this some thought it makes perfect sense.. Scholars and theologians can argue and bicker amongst themselves all that they want about how many lashes of flagrum Jesus received:
The Romans had no laws governing the number of lashes, the Jews were against the unlimited amount since the Mosaic Law forbid lashes to exceed 40, Pilate did not care what the Jews thought, Pilate appeased the crowd and had Jesus whipped according to the Mosaic Law, etc.., blah, blah, blah..
I think that they are missing the point. The point is not "how many lashes" Jesus received, but how and what level of intensity of the scourging was ordered. It did not depend on how many lashes were given, because a particular victims condition varied during the scourging because everyone is different with pain tolerance. It was all up to the soldier or soldiers using the flagrum to sense when a victim had reached the assigned level that was ordered. Because they were trained professionals, no matter how barbaric torturing someone may seem to be, they could sense and know just how many more lashes, where to precisely place them, and unleash the exact amount of force not to kill Jesus, but torture Him just enough, near death, barely alive, and put Him in a most sorrowful and pitiful condition.
After Jesus was brutally scourged he was then untied or unshackled from the column. Mark records three more often overlooked details that contribute to Jesus already existing pain and suffering as the soldiers then take His battered, beaten, and bloody body:
Mark 15:17-19 - "They put a purple cloak on him and after braiding a crown of thorns, they put it on him. They began to salute him: “Hail, king of the Jews!” Again and again they struck him on the head with a staff and spit on him. Then they knelt down and paid homage to him."
Setting aside the humiliating "King" parody that the soldiers mock Jesus with, they "put a purple cloak on him" which I will discuss later, but for now let's look at the crown of thorns they put on him, and the repeated strikes "again and again" on his head with a staff.
The crown of thorns that they put on Jesus is often only looked at as a humiliating moment, which indeed is true, but has other consequences that are overlooked. When it was placed on His head it added to the pain and the soldiers repeated striking him on the head again and again with a staff added to the pain even more.
Despite the vast amount of theories that I have researched regarding what kind of plant the crown of thorns was possibly braided from, I really don't think it is important to know exactly what it was. This is because whatever kind of plant it actually was, they all had sharp, hard, and thick thorns all over it. When it was placed upon Jesus' head, it was more than likely in the shape of a cap. It was then pushed down very fast and hard, fitting very tightly around His head, all the while causing a large number of the hard, thick, and very sharp thorns to scrape and dig deep into various regions of His head, including the front, back, and sides like the scalp, forehead, and both temples. This would have been a pretty painful experience causing Jesus to bleed. The pain and blood increased when the soldiers repeatedly struck him on the head again and again with a staff causing the thorns to dig deeper, more pain, and bleed all the more with each and every blow on various parts of the head, and highly possible the blows included the facial area causing additional bruising, bleeding, and pain.
When the soldiers were done having their sadistic "fun," they led Jesus into the praetorium. This is where the Sanhedrin would now see Jesus for the first time since Pilate ordered the flogging. Pilate figured that when they saw Him in the now more wretched. bloodied, pitiful, and disfigured condition that He was in, it would more than satisfy their desire to have Jesus executed anymore. It would also keep them from bothering him about foolish Jewish religious matters, because he had better things to do.
There Jesus was in a blood stained purple robe and wearing a crown of thorns on His head. This certainly was no Messiah or King that the Sanhedrin were expecting to come when they searched the Scriptures and be willing to kneel down and pay homage to! His sorrowful physical condition told a story of great suffering. He was exhausted, a bloody mess internally and externally, and could barely stand in such a weakened state. Along with what just happened with the crown of thorns and the beating with the staff, His body was also covered with deep tears, welts, bruises, puncture marks, cuts, scratches, with His ribs more than likely cracked or broken, had trouble breathing because His lungs would be more than likely have been lacerated, along with other possible injuries, and this was all from the level 2 scourging that was just inflicted.
Prior to the flogging, Jesus was still suffering from the beating that he endured from the unknown amount of men at the home of Caiaphas. To the extent of the injuries that He attained there is uncertain, but a beating by "men" being plural, as we discussed earlier adding two, three, or maybe even more would further the damage and injuries incredibly.
I wonder if Jesus was thinking about all of this when He said to His friends in:
Mark 14:34 - "...My soul is very sorrowful, even to death..."
And then in The Garden of Gethsemane suffer and agonize so much from such severe anxiety that the reaction of hematidrosis (sweating blood) took place due to fear?
Whatever the case maybe, Pilate's thinking that the Sanhedrin seeing Jesus in this wretched. bloodied, pitiful, and disfigured condition would more than satisfy their desire to have Him executed did not go according to plan.
They were not satisfied and still wanted Jesus dead. They called for crucifixion, Pilate finally caved, and then they finally got what they wanted, Jesus was going to be crucified, and the worst part of His painful journey of suffering was about to come.