Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. And the soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they dressed him in a purple robe. They kept coming up to him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ and striking him on the face.
It was the Day of Preparation for the Passover, around Noon, and Pilate said to the Jews, “Voila! I present your King!”
But the people cried out, “Away with him, away with him; crucify him.”
And so Pilate prepared Jesus for them to crucify.
John tell us Jesus was flogged. It doesn’t go into great detail, but we can assume that it was a typical flogging.
I wasn’t there, and neither was Mel Gibson, but historical records tell us about typical Jewish and Roman practices. We know quite a bit about the various kinds of flogging that went on.
In the New Testament, Paul explains that he himself was flogged on five separate occasions, by Jewish authorities, each time receiving thirty-nine blows. Normally, two-thirds of these would be on the back, and a third on the chest. The beatings were done with a bound bundle of leather straps – of calf-skin and donkey-hide. The old testament calls some of these scourges “Scorpions” for their fatal sting.
Paul says he was also beaten three separate times with rods. And eventually, one day, he was beheaded by the Romans. He was a citizen, so he got to die quickly.
We don’t know how much Jesus was beaten, but we know from ancient Roman histories that the Romans typically used their most vicious flogging equipment on non-Roman-citizens or low-class folk – like Jesus – who were under death sentences. Upper class folk would be flogged with nice wooden sticks, but poor folk like Jesus were often beaten to within an inch of their lives by metal-tipped scourges.
We know Jesus had to carry his cross, or at least the hundred pound cross bar, all around town – until he could carry it no more.
We know he was nailed to a cross, and on it he died, after only six hours. The other guys were still alive.
He must have been in pretty bad shape.
The whole thing must have been – horrible.
The kind of thing that you can’t even bear to see – if you have any grace at all.
Did you see the images of those four Americans killed in Iraq a couple weeks ago?
They were shot, burned, mutilated, mauled, dragged, and hung. When the images came on T.V. for only a second – I was in another room – but I heard Melanie cry out.
I didn’t want to see the pictures. But I opened my Time magazine this week, and saw them anyway, couldn’t avoid them.
I saw one body so horribly disfigured, I almost got sick.
It was the desecration of a human being, and it was the work of human beings at their worst. It was the face of human evil.
If you’ve reached a certain age, you too have probably seen true horror. You’ve probably felt it in the pit of your gut – the dark power of pure, horrible, hating, evil.
If you’ve ever been around evil human behavior, you know what it must have been like when the mob tortured and mocked and crucified the Just One. Jesus. The Lamb.
Yes, relatively normal human beings — they can get dark, and evil, all too easily. Iraqis, Rwandans, Richmonders…
We can all get evil – and commit horrors.
You know folks can do this. In Europe, America, Asia, Africa – people JUST like us go from every day living to every day murdering in the crack of a whip.
We do this. We go from happy to sad, loving to hating, building to smashing, birthing to murdering – in a snap!!! That is WHAT WE DO. That is WHO WE ARE.
And people want to know, “Why did Jesus have to die?”
People want to know, “Why did God make Jesus die?”
You want to know why Jesus had to die?
WE DID IT!
God didn’t make it happen – WE did. God gave us the perfect expression of himself in human form – for FREE – and WE KILLED HIM.
Don’t ask God why Jesus had to die! Ask your brother. Ask your sister. Ask your priest. Ask yourself!
Jesus had to die, because we had to kill him.
We had to kill him, because that’s what we DO.
The King of the Kingdom of God was destined not by God but by the nature of Mankind to be killed on the altar of human pride.
Not because of God’s cruel will to sacrifice an innocent Son, but because of OUR cruel will to sacrifice God’s love in exchange for our own desires.
It is not God’s will, but the Pride of Man which calls for the blood of the innocent. It is Man which requires bloody sacrifice, not God.
The sad truth is, Jesus had to die, because we had to kill him. God didn’t do it – we did. And what hurts so bad – is we did it all on our own.
We had to do it, because the pride of man will always sacrifice the Love of God. And blood will always flow in our world.
The GOOD NEWS is that GOD will always offer himself to us knowing that we will do this to him, and he’s NOT COUNTING THE COST.
God comes to us, knowing we will murder him, because God is God, and He knows we can’t come any closer to Him on our own.
And because He wants to connect, He bridges the gap.
That’s Grace. That’s Good News.
God … comes to us anyway.
In the shouting horror of this world we’re ruining – in walks the Lamb.
Which is why Jesus wasn’t bitter and angry when we killed him. He was sad, for us. He was worried, for us. He was prayerful, for us. He was up there, for us.
He took our sins, not because God made him do it, but because we put them on him the way we always do.
And He accepted them. He carried them. He redeemed them. He turned them into New Life.
You see, Jesus was one of us. He knew who we were. And He knew we had to do it.
We’re why Jesus had to die. We.
It’s funny how many people still think it was God’s fault.