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A Personal Reflection on the Scourging of Jesus




Date: March 9, 2022

By: Rosanna M.



Whenever I pray the Sorrowful Mysteries of the holy rosary, I try to meditate on the Passion of Jesus, and what He suffered for love of us. I must admit I am still learning how to contemplate and meditate, and distractions do surface, which I must then ignore and return to prayer. This is something I am especially working on this Lenten season.


The second Sorrowful Mystery is the Scourging of Jesus, which reflects on when Jesus was sent to Roman governor Pontius Pilate by the members of the Sanhedrin asking for Jesus' crucifixion. Pilate wished to appease these authorities, but did not originally want to have Him crucified, and then ordered for Jesus to be scourged. Pilate hoped this would satisfy them and would spare the Man in whom he found no guilt (John 18:38). This was not to be so, and it was God's will that Jesus should be offered as a perfect sacrifice to atone for the sins of many.


The prayer intention of this second Sorrowful Mystery is often for "purity". I have struggled with this personally, trying to understand why it was needed for Jesus to be scourged, and how His brutal and intolerable suffering aids us in growing in this virtue. In 1 Peter 2:24, we read: "Who His own self bore our sins in His body upon the tree: that we, being dead to sins, should live to justice: by whose stripes you were healed" [1].


I consider that my conversion to the Catholic faith happened about twenty years ago when I was an adult. While I was baptized as an infant, and attended Catholic schools during my childhood, I was not really raised in this faith. My family did believe in God, and we often prayed, but we received little Christian formation in these early years. I do not wish to elaborate, but it would suffice to say that we experienced much trauma. This led me to leave what little faith I had and to seek answers from secular influences that seemed to be very ready to provide them. I made some choices in the past that caused deep pain for a long period of time. Even when I stopped the behaviour, the pain did not go away. I needed deeper healing.


I returned to the Catholic faith after experiencing a crisis in my life, one that caused me to go searching for the true God and to try to be reconciled to Him. It was not a smooth journey, and I must have often seemed very awkward to others who witnessed my desperation to find God. There was much healing that needed to occur both spiritually and psychologically (and even physically), and I am still healing today. My faith life has grown so much, thanks be to God. However, for an extended time, I still struggled with purity. This does not mean that I did not live according to the Catholic teachings during my state of life as a single person. I started making better choices as a single person even before I returned to the Church. Rather, it was an internal struggle: I repented of my sins and I knew I was forgiven, but would I ever be made whole again? Could purity be restored in me? The words of Psalm 50(51):4-5 come to mind: “Wash me yet more from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my iniquity, and my sin is always before me.”


I have been blessed to encounter many devout, inspiring, and well-educated Catholics over the years in different situations. Little by little, they helped me heal my brokenness. In 2020, I graduated with a post-graduate certificate from a Roman university in Shroud of Turin studies. I believe the Shroud of Turin is the authentic burial cloth of Jesus Christ, who is referred to as the Man of the Shroud in scholarly research. There is extensive historical and scientific evidence to support this claim. I learned about Jesus's sufferings as were seen on this ancient linen cloth, argued to belong to the first century. It is not my intention here to validate the authenticity of the Shroud; that can be discussed at a later time. However, I do want to share some of what I learned about Jesus's scourging. I must admit that, when studying in this particular course, I became overwhelmed with what I was learning. I even had to postpone my studies for a time. I eventually did finish my studies, but I was not the same afterwards. I wanted to love Jesus more for what He suffered, despite my weak, human frailty.


What I will relate below describes scourging in graphic detail and may be sensitive for some readers. Jewish law from the Old Testament limited the scourging of an individual to a maximum of 40 lashes, minus one (39), so in case count was lost during the process, the victim would not "depart shamefully torn" from the eyes of the accuser (Deuteronomy 25:3; 2 Corinthians 11:24). Roman law had no such limits, and based on the evidence of the wounds on the shoulders, chest, back, buttocks, and legs of the Man of the Shroud, it is possible that Jesus was scourged according to Roman law. The lead researcher from the Shroud of Turin Research Project (STURP) in 1978, Dr. John Jackson, stated that his team identified 372 individual scourge wounds on the Man of the Shroud. These were caused by the Roman flagrum, an instrument made up of an eight-inch long wooden handle, with three leather strips of varying lengths, each with two rough metal balls attached to the ends [2]. The flagrum was forcefully whipped on the naked flesh of the victim, and would cause bruising and tearing of the skin, and would even bruise the internal organs of the victim. The victim would experience severe blood loss, and could also experience tremors, fainting, seizures, and vomiting. Sometimes, bones were fractured, though according to the Scriptures, this did not happen with Jesus [3].


What was unique in Jesus's particular scourging was that, during His agony in the Garden

of Gethsemane the night before, Jesus sweat blood (Luke 22:44). This is a rare medical phenomenon called hematidrosis, when due to extreme stress, the capillaries become distended and burst upon coming into contact with the overactive sweat glands. This condition renders the skin extremely sensitive and is described as being very painful [4]. Jesus was brutally scourged when having already experienced this first suffering on His skin.


Different medical researchers studying the Shroud over the years have come up with

similar conclusions about Jesus's tortures, although there are some differing hypotheses about what caused Him to die. It is strongly believed that Jesus's scourging caused so much blood loss that it led to hypovolemic shock [5].


The combination of elements, such as the hematidrosis, the abandonment by His apostles,

the mental and physical abuse of the soldiers, the lack of food and sleep during His night of

detainment in the cell of the High Priest, and the scourging, left Jesus in at least serious, if not critical condition prior to His crucifixion [6]. Yet, while on the Cross, He called out in a loud voice and "gave up the ghost" (Luke 23:46, John 19:30). Despite His very weakened condition, He asserted His will to lay down His life for us, and to save us, until His very last breath.


Pope Clement VI declared in Unigenitus Dei Filius in 1343, that although Christ

copiously shed His blood during His Passion, only one drop of His blood was needed for the

Redemption of the entire human race [7]. Jesus, who is the Second Person of the Holy Trinity,

allowed for His human nature to feel human weakness to the highest degree. He would have felt the pains of the Passion, in particular the scourging, to the greatest extent. It was during the scourging that Jesus was nearly emptied of His Precious Blood. It was such a magnanimous outpouring of His love for us.


Jesus was innocent of the crimes he was accused of, and although He merited the greatest

mercy, He received none. Yet, He offered, and continues to offer His mercy to us [8]. He offers us His Precious Blood in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Through the Sacraments of the Church He instituted, He cleanses us of our sins and restores us to God. Isaiah 1:18 states: "And then come, and accuse me, saith the Lord: if your sins be as scarlet, they shall be made as white as snow: and if they be red as crimson, they shall be white as wool."


Although I have studied some of the details of the Passion of Jesus, I can still barely

comprehend what He suffered for us—what He suffered to save me from my sins, to restore me to wholeness and to restore me to Him. I am in awe trying to understand the great love He has for us, a love that caused Him to offer Himself completely, not sparing a drop of His own Blood. It is by His Precious Blood shed in the scourging that we are cleansed and restored to purity. It is by His stripes that we are healed, and our scarlet sins are made white as snow. In Revelation 22:14, we read of those saved by Jesus Christ: “Blessed are they that wash their robes in the Blood of the Lamb: that they may have a right to the tree of life, and may enter in by the gates into the city.”


Let us keep these thoughts in mind during this Lenten season. Jesus suffered so greatly to reveal to us His merciful love. How can we contemplate such a generous offering of His love for us? How do we love Him in return? May I always be faithful and grateful to Him. May I always be His, for He gave so much of Himself for me and for us all.



ENDNOTES:

  1. All bible passages are taken from: Douay Rheims Edition of the Holy Catholic Bible, Catholic Treasures, Duarte, CA, 2006.

2. J. JACKSON, The Shroud of Turin: A Critical Summary of Observations, Data and Hypotheses, The Turin Shroud Center of Colorado (TSC), Colorado Springs 2017. 47-48


3. F. ZUGIBE, The Crucifixion of Jesus: A Forensic Inquiry, M.Evans and Company, Inc., New York 2005, 19-25.


4. P. BARBET, A Doctor at Calvary: The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ As Described by a Surgeon, Allegro Editions (published as an orphan work in 1953), 2014. 70.


5. F. ZUGIBE, The Crucifixion of Jesus: A Forensic Inquiry, M.Evans and Company, Inc., New York 2005, 25.


6. W. EDWARDS et al, “On the Physical Death of Jesus Christ”, Journal of the American Medical Association, v.255, n.11, (March 21, 1986). 1455-63. 1458.


7. L. OTT, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, TAN Books, Charlotte, NC, 1974, 188.


8. JOHN PAUL II, Encyclical Letter Dives in Misericordia, 13 November 1980, 7. http://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_30111980_dives-in-misericordia.htm. Accessed: 9 February 2019.