Forty lashes (plus or minus one)



I headed out to my car on break after barely being able to keep my eyes open at my station. I intended to pray a bit, and read a bit, and then hopefully catch 40 winks plus or minus one. The weather for once was cooperating. It had clouded up and I was happy with that. I never like it when it’s bright and sunny on Good Friday. It just doesn’t seem right.

I cranked the seat back and opened the sunroof and to my delight, a few drops of rain, teeny cold and precious drops hit me. I listened as it lightly pelted the car. As I lay there I thought of what I had read earlier……what Jesus went through on the day He died for me. Before He was even crucified.

He got 40 lashes minus one. This was the traditional number, and yet professional killers don’t always use much discretion.There would have been not one, but two Roman legionaries, one on either side, according to my historical sources, who were specially trained to inflict extreme physical suffering without actually causing death. These weren’t just any lashes.

After Jesus was made to kneel, His wrists were bound to the “scourging post.” The wood handled “whip” had three leather straps around 3 feet long, The whipping was so painful that many times people had seizures, threw up or lost consciousness due to blood loss. The bits of bone and metal attached tore through flesh and exposed muscle and inner organs.

There was no pause between blows, and after this Jesus would have been in physical shock.

And yet even that wasn’t enough for them. A crude purple robe was laid over His open wounds which probably reached down to His calves, and a crown of thorns dug into His already bruised and battered face. Normally He would have had to carry the 50-70 pound cross beam to His own crucifixion but He was too badly beaten for that.

As the soldiers led him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus. Luke 23:26

Those who saw “The Passion of the Christ” might have thought that Mel Gibson was laying on the gore a bit thick, but those who have researched the subject know that it was bad, so bad that people could barely look on Jesus as He was led down to Golgotha.

Just as there were many who were appalled at him — his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being and his form marred beyond human likeness–Isaiah 52:14

As I lay there in the car with my eyes wide open, thinking about all Jesus went through for us, I wondered if maybe it isn’t necessary or healthy to dwell on this part. After all, it happened, it’s done. Jesus is glorified, resurrected and in His rightful place back home with His Father in glory.

And yet, I can’t not think about it. And each year, I am aghast and apalled all over again at how terrible and how wonderful it is. I marvel at a God who would go to such lengths to save me.

I marvel at a God who loves me so much it kills Him.


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