John 19:1 – “Pilate took Jesus and flogged him.”
As a young man of perhaps 33 years of age, Jesus was in good health due to his job as a carpenter and his constant walking of many miles as an itinerant minister. Jesus began speaking openly of his impending death, including at the Passover meal he ate with his friends as their Last Supper. There, he broke with 15 centuries of protocol. In so doing, he showed that the Passover meal, which God’s people had been eating annually, found its ultimate fulfillment in him. The Passover memorialized the night in Egypt when, in faith, God’s people covered the doorposts of their home with blood so that death would not come to the firstborn son in their home but would rather pass over them (Exodus 6–12). Jesus, the firstborn Son of God, likewise, had come to die and cover us with his blood so that God’s just wrath would literally pass over us sinners as the essence of the new covenant (Luke 22:19–21).
During the Last Supper, Satan entered one of Jesus’ disciples, Judas, who had been stealing money from Jesus’ ministry fund for some time and had agreed to hand him over to the authorities to be crucified. After Judas left the meal to lead the soldiers to Jesus, Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane, where he spent a sleepless night in an agony of prayer. At this point, Jesus was fully aware of his impending crucifixion and was so distressed that, as the Bible records, he sweated drops of blood, a physical condition that doctors say is rare because it requires an elevated level of stress that few people ever experience.
After Jesus’ exhausting, sleepless night of distress, Judas arrived with the soldiers and betrayed Jesus with a kiss. Jesus was then arrested. He was made to walk a few miles to a series of false trials where contradicting false witnesses were brought forward to offer false testimony. Despite the absence of any evidence supporting the false charges, Jesus was sentenced to be murdered. He was eventually blindfolded as a mob of cowardly men beat him mercilessly. He was then stripped nearly naked in great shame, and the Bible just says that they had him scourged.
Scourging itself was such a painful event that many people died from it without even making it to their cross. Jesus’ hands would have been chained above his head to expose his back and legs to an executioner’s whip called a cat-o’-nine-tails. The whip was a series of long leather straps. At the end of some of the straps were heavy balls of metal intended to tenderize the body of a victim, like a chef tenderizes a steak by beating it. Some of the straps had hooks made of either metal or bone that would have sunk deeply into the shoulders, back, buttocks, and legs of the victim. Once the hooks had sunk deeply into the tenderized flesh, the executioner would rip the skin, muscle, tendons, and even bones off the victim as he shouted in agony, shook violently, and bled heavily. Ancient historians record that, on occasion, a rib would come flying off a man and that many died before they ever got to the cross. Hundreds of years prior, the prophet Isaiah predicted: “Many were astonished at you—his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind” (Isa. 52:14).
Jesus’ bare back and shoulders, though bloodied and traumatized, were then forced to carry his roughly hewn wooden crossbar of perhaps 100 pounds to his place of crucifixion. The cross was likely already covered in the blood of other men. Timber was so expensive that crosses were recycled; therefore, Jesus’ blood mixed with the layers of blood, sweat, and tears of countless other men who had walked that same path before him.
Curiously, we live in a day when it seems like everyone wants to be considered a victim. But, the greatest victim in the history of the world is Jesus Christ. He lived a perfect life and suffered the most injustice and cruelty in all of human history.