The Scourging and the Crown of Thorns

by IBD conributor Kyle Larson

Jesús en casa de Anás (1803)After his arrest in Gethsemane, the guards dragged Jesus before the Jewish nation’s supreme court: the Sanhedrin. The high priest, Caiaphas, had arranged for an impromptu trial of the controversial rabbi. Being held at night an in secret, the legality of the trial was already in doubt. As a line of false accusers came forward, each contradicting the last, all hope of a fair trial faded away; Jesus’ was guilty no matter how long it took to prove it.

Eventually, Jesus admitted his unique status as the son of God. Caiaphas, unable to make his sham trial effective, jumped at the opportunity to condemn Jesus as a blasphemer. The sentence was death!

Unfortunately for Caiaphas, the Jewish nation was living under Roman occupation and no man could be executed without the permission of Rome. So the Jewish leaders waited until early Friday morning to bring Jesus before the Roman Governor of Judea, Pontius Pilate. After a short interview, Pilate could not find any real basis for a charge against Jesus, so he sent him to Herod.

Herod could find nothing in Jesus’ worthy of death either, so Pilate, never a fan of the Sanhedrin or or the Jews, decided to release Jesus. Not because he cared for Jesus or because he was particularly worried about justice, but because the Sanhedrin was jealous of Jesus. Releasing Jesus would make them angry … and in some place in Pilate’s heart that thought pleased him.

However, after several attempts to release Jesus, Pilate found himself faced with a riot. What on earth had this man done to so enrage the Jewish leaders? After his wife came to him, begging him to have nothing to do with Jesus, Pilate washed his hands of the matter. He finally gave in to the will of the people and sent Jesus to the cross.

Jesus whipped with a flagrum, stained glassBefore a condemned man was taken to the cross, it was a preliminary procedure to have that man scourged. The type of whip used by the Romans was totally different than the kind used during the days of slavery in the Southern United States. The Romans used a kind of whip that had long leather strips. At the end of each of these leather strips were pieces of sheep bone and other VERY sharp objects. Thus, when this whip came down upon upon a man’s back, it also wrapped around the chest of the bent over man. This whip ripped through skin, muscles and nerves. This caused intense pain. As the whip came down on the man’s back and wrapped around his chest. severe bruising on the rib cage and the lungs would occur. Thus, when a man took a breath, it was extremely painful. Thus, during and after this brutal scourging, Jesus had to be careful to take shallow short breaths because if he attempted a normal deep breath, he would be in extreme agony.

If we had been there to view the scourging of Jesus, we would see his entire back broken open. Not only would the top layer of skin be totally ripped open, but also deeper layers of the back that would have ripped apart muscles and nerves. Large pieces of flesh came flying off of Jesus back, chest and legs.

The pain must have been agonizing not only on the back but also on the chest. Jesus would continuously slump down on the ground, only to be jerked back up again so that the scourging could continue. Many people died at the whipping post. Many people called the scourging at the post “the half death” because most victims, including Jesus, already half dead before even being nailed to the Cross.

As the scourging continued, the man would experience nausea and vomiting as well as severe dizzy and fainting spells. Yet the Roman soldiers showed no mercy as the scourging continued. When the scourging of Jesus was finished, he had huge black, blue and purple bruises all over the front and back of his body. He could hardly stand up.

The Crown of Thorns

Christ Carrying the CrossIn the case of Jesus, he claimed to be a King. Thus, the Roman soldiers chose to mock the Kingship of Jesus. In order to do this, the soldiers took part of a thorn bush and formed a “cap” that covered his entire head. These thorns probably came from the “Syrian Christ thorn” plant. These thorns were as hard as nails. When the Roman soldiers rammed down the crown of thorns on the head of Jesus, the thorns went the two major nerves that covered the entire head. When the crown of thorns came down upon Jesus, he experienced “trigeminal neuralgia” There would be agonizing pain all over the front and sides of his face. There would also be agonizing pain on the insides of his ears. It would have been the equivalent of having someone come up with a knife and stabbing a person all over the face.

I have a friend who has experienced trigeminal neuralgia. She writes:

“There are different levels pertaining to the pain of trigeminal neuralgia. I personally experience most of the time the pain on both sides of my face called bilateral pain. Besides feeling like a toothache I experience a severe amount of pressure around my whole lower jaw. It feels as though someone is squeezing your cheeks and jaws together with a piercing pain going on at the same time. Also, every so often I experience sharp, electric shocks to the side of the face like someone stabbed me with a sharp needle or knife. The pain can extend up the side of the face where your temples are and keeps going around to the top of my eyes and forehead like an excruciating, unbearable migraine in your entire face.There are times when the pain can get so severe that you feel like your face is on fire and there is nothing you can do about it; where you cannot get any relief”

Most movies on Jesus do not emphasize the severity of the scourging and the crown of thorns. Remember these things as you meditate on the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ.