Christians on the Sidelines
“Then he released Barabbas to them and scourging Jesus, he delivered him over that he should be crucified.”
“But Pilate, wanting to make the crowd satisfied, released Barabbas to them, and delivered Jesus to be scourged in order that he should be crucified.”
“And Pilate had come to the decision to grant their request, so he released the one whom during the revolt had been thrown into prison for murder, which was whom they requested, and delivered up Jesus to their will.”
“Then Pilate took Jesus and had him scourged.”
Many of our English translations will render the beating that Jesus received as a scourging in the Synoptic Gospels and as a flogging in the Gospel of John. This is done to reflect the fact that two different words are being used here for these events. At the same time, the words are synonyms and each one can refer to a whipping, a flogging, or a scourging depending on their context, and, as it was the Roman custom to scourge a person before crucifixion to weaken him, this is the word that it seems sensible to choose.
A scourge is a whip with multiple strands coming forth from the handle and often would have little hooks or pieces of metal and stone woven into the ends for the purpose of tearing out hunks of flesh with each beating. In ancient times, these whips with metal ends were figuratively called “scorpions” respecting the amount of pain that they brought to the recipients of the beating. Indeed, such use adds light to the quote of Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, when he said: “my father disciplined you with whips; I will discipline you with scorpions.”
Notice how Luke focuses the attention on the wish of the Jews. Pilate chooses to grant their request, he releases Barabbas, whom they requested, and he delivers Jesus up to their will. Clearly, he is making sure that it is clear that it is the Jewish authorities and the Jewish mob that is figuratively driving the train in this matter. Pilate and Herod are still guilty, but it is the Jewish authorities that are ultimately behind this wicked, wicked event. And thus Pilate seeks to placate the crowd and send Jesus to be crucified.
All through these devotions we have been speaking about peer pressure, mob mentality, and the wicked politics that happen to be taking place here at the prompting of the enemy. But let me again remind you of how often we fall prey to not doing the right thing due to the fear of men. How often we make a choice based on human standards rather than divine ones. How often we are guilty, like this crowd, of following along and not risking doing what is right and true and just. Can you imagine how different our communities would be were we to do what is right and true, not fearing the pressure of the wicked, and seek justice…always. We would transform the culture. We often pray for revival and transformation in the culture, but beloved, it will not come if we satisfy ourselves sitting on the sidelines.