Our Sin Begins to Be Measured
It gets uglier. We read John’s Gospel separately because it relates more of this part of the account than the other three. In John, Pilate flogs Jesus before he is condemned; in the other three gospels, he is scourged after being condemned. The notes in my ESV Study Bible tell me that Jesus could very well have been whipped twice, a “light” whipping before Jesus was condemned which Pilate hoped would satisfy the Jews, which was then followed by the horrific Roman scourging after condemnation was pronounced. Anyone who has seen The Passion of the Christ knows how horrible scourging was, and many died from that before even reaching the cross. (Embedded in the leather straps were pieces of bone and metal.) But it may be significant that the gospels do not go into detail about it, but simply say that Jesus was scourged. (Leon Morris writes that the gospel writers do not seek to play on our emotions, Commentary, NICNT, 790.) This is all intertwined with the soldiers beating and mocking him with a crown of thorns and purple robe. And again the irony of it all is that they mock and abuse the King of kings and Lord of lords, who still had twelve legions of angels at his beck and call. (I like to picture them at the ready, full of indignation, and chomping at the bit for the call that never comes.)
And poor Pilate can’t seem to get this monkey off his back, no matter what he does. When he hears the Jews say that Jesus made himself to be the Son of God, well then he’s really scared – but probably more from superstition than anything else; after all, he fears Caesar more when threatened by a snitch. In desperation he interviews Jesus again and, when Jesus remains silent, which Pilate angrily interprets as disrespect, he reminds him that he can release him or crucify him. Jesus actually means no disrespect. He knows Pilate gets his authority from above (Romans 13:1-7). I wrote yesterday of how ugly politics can be. Just before Pilate condemns Jesus, he says to the chief priests mockingly, “Shall I crucify your king?” And they answer, “We have no king but Caesar,” which is something that they never would have said under any other circumstances.
And still it gets uglier. Why must this be? God shows us in the passion of our Lord just how ugly WE are. You see, the measure of my sin is the measure of my Lord’s suffering for my sin. All the ugliness and darkness is there to show me all the ugliness and darkness inside of me. His suffering was in payment for my sin, so that payment had to be equivalent to my sin. The ugliness of our Lord’s suffering is the measure of the ugliness of our sin.