1998-04-23 - Kill the King
The Cross Series, Part 36
Matt 27:26-31 Then he released Barabbas for them; but after having Jesus scourged, he delivered Him to be crucified. 27 Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole Roman cohort around Him. 28 And they stripped Him, and put a scarlet robe on Him. 29 And after weaving a crown of thorns, they put it on His head, and a reed in His right hand; and they kneeled down before Him and mocked Him, saying, "Hail, King of the Jews!" 30 And they spat on Him, and took the reed and began to beat Him on the head. 31 And after they had mocked Him, they took His robe off and put His garments on Him, and led Him away to crucify Him. (NAS)
At one of the many sites around the Praetorium, a stone as large as a man was propped in an archway. It went ignored for a long time while the rest of the site was picked over with a fine toothed comb. The inscription on the stone was translated as an exercise by one of the people working the site. They could not have been more surprised by what was there. The inscription described the rules to the game "Kill the King". It was a set of rules the guards would use to make sport of a condemned political prisoner. Dice were rolled to determine what that player would be allowed to do. Perhaps they would only be allowed to 'worship' the King, or - if you were really lucky - you could jam a crown of thorns on his head, or punch him in the face. Jesus was not the only one who was apparently treated so badly by the guards. It is hard for many of us to imagine such cruelty. But it is no different to imagine the terror of Hitler, Adi Amin or Pol Pot.
We as a race are capable of immense compassion. We are also equally capable of tremendous cruelty. That cruelty is often carried out in the name of racial or political purity, or on religious grounds. The crusades are often cited as an example. Many of the soldiers who went to 'free the Holy Land' were simply mercenaries looking for work, but there were surely misguided Christians there too. The Mongol Horde of the Khans, the armies of Alexander the Great and Napoleon all marched across continents. Before we say we are above that, more civilized, look deep into your heart. Hear your words and your thoughts.
Mark 15:15 And wishing to satisfy the multitude, Pilate released Barabbas for them, and after having Jesus scourged, he delivered Him to be crucified.
Scourging was a serious punishment. The limitation in the Hebrew law was forty lashes. It was deemed wise to reduce the maximum sentence to thirty-nine therefore reducing the possibility of a miscount and going over the limit. By many accounts great pains were taken to keep the count accurately. If the count was lost, or in dispute, the punishment was ended.
Deut 25:1-3 "If there is a dispute between men and they go to court, and the judges decide their case, and they justify the righteous and condemn the wicked, 2 then it shall be if the wicked man deserves to be beaten, the judge shall then make him lie down and be beaten in his presence with the number of stripes according to his guilt. 3 "He may beat him forty times but no more, lest he beat him with many more stripes than these, and your brother be degraded in your eyes. (NAS)
The Roman lash was often more like a cat of nine tails - a handle with multiple whips. The whips themselves might have chunks of bone, metal and glass tied into the cords. An expert with such a device could remove most of the flesh from a man's back in a single stroke and pull. I am told that most did not survive the thirty nine lashes. That is not hard to imagine between the shock, blood loss and the damage to vital internal organs. The pain would be unimaginable to most of us. The fact that Jesus survived to carry His cross at all was a miracle.
There is one other bit of information the soldier handling the whip was looking for during the scourging. He would listen for the convicted criminal to name his accomplices. If names were named, the soldier or soldiers would lighten up on the lashes. If the prisoner refused to speak, the lash would be laid on heavier and heavier. Jesus had no accomplices, but He was covering for someone. It was you and me. He could have said, "Mike did it! It wasn't me!". He would have been absolutely right in making that statement. But His love for us held His tongue and He endured the beating in silence.
Isa 53:5 But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed.
The punishment Jesus endured should have been yours and mine. Spiritually we were dead. We could not help ourselves. We could not even ask for help. The sin nature we inherited from Adam and Eve separated us from God. The punishment for sin had to be paid and we could never have finished paying the debt. As we continue the walk to the cross, we will see more of how that price was paid on our behalf.
Lord Jesus, In every way You show us care. You allow certain things to touch our lives, but never without purpose. And You protect us from other things, some of which we never know about. As we look into the price that was demanded of You on our behalf - help us keep our hearts and minds open for the things You would show us. Amen.
Grace & Peace,
All verses are from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) unless otherwise noted.