As a warning to the people who read part 3 of this story. The scenes in this posting are graphic and violent. I wish they weren’t but part of telling a true story in a fictionalized way is to describe what happened by bringing out the details that might not be in the original telling. I do not take this lightly and I am not, in any way, trying to glamorize violence. In fact, my point in writing this is to show how deplorable the actions were. It is hard for me to imagine how something so violent could be so necessary. I apologize to everyone who waited for part 3 to arrive. I honestly didn’t want to write this part. Without delay, here is part 3.
The trip to see Herod was not a particularly long trip, however, each step on the road became heavier to make, as my friend and I crept closer to the man who held Jesus’ fate in his hands. When we arrived, Herod seemed almost delighted to see the man claiming to be the King of the Jews. He put his arm on Jesus back and escorted him, and a few soldiers(including myself) into another room where Herod and other leaders hammered him with questions. Jesus remained silent. The religious leaders became furious and hurled even more accusations at Jesus, each one becoming more outrageous than the last. Why wouldn’t Jesus defend himself? In addition to the mockery of the priests, Jesus was dressed in royal robes and dismissed and sent back to Pilate.
On the way back to Pilate’s residence, whispers started that the man that had betrayed Jesus, a one Judas Iscariot, had hung himself when learning that Jesus was being lead to his death. Each minute we took part in this parade of death, it became increasingly believable that this Jesus, King of the Jews, might actually be who he said he was. One thing was becoming increasingly clear, this wasn’t an ordinary day on the job.
Upon our returning to Pilate, there was a meeting with the religious leaders to determine what to do with their shackled leader. In the end Pilate declared that both he and Herod found nothing to blame in Jesus but to appease the crowd would have Jesus flogged. Besides, Pilate was certain that his ability to rule could not sustain the public execution of a religious icon on Passover. The crowd, already in a frenzy, demanded more. Because of the Passover feast, Herod had the ability to let one prisoner go free. So, in one last desperate move to make certain an innocent man would go free, Pilate offered up Barrabas, a man guilty of revolt against the state, as a substitute for Jesus. The crowd yelled, becoming increasingly violent, “Give us Barrabas, Crucify Jesus.” Refusing to give into the crowd, Pilate asked a second and third time. “Are you sure you want to crucify this man?“ The crowd continued to scream insults and demand that Jesus be crucified. Prior to releasing Jesus to the crowd, Pilate made good on his promise to have Jesus flogged.
Pilate motioned Jesus and his accusers to an area away from the rest of the crowd into a courtyard of stone with a pillar of stone leaning out of the ground and shackles dangling from the top. The stone was unnaturally colored, stained with the blood of countless other criminals. I looked to my friend with fear in my eyes as we lead Jesus to the whipping post and ripped the mock robes from his body As we approached the whipping post, I noticed a table off to the side that had whips on it. From having this job for a while, I was aware that these whips would be laced with lead shards which would latch on to the skin and pull it from his body. Each contact with the skin would be even more painful as the last, not only ripping at the first layer of skin but any other muscle and tissue attached to Jesus’ bones.
It was up to the discretion of Pilate to flog him up to 40 times according to Jewish law. Knowing that the crowds would not stand for anything less, I was pretty sure that Jesus would be getting the maximum sentence allowed. As I looked over to Pilate, I saw the recognition in his eyes that this would be the first, and probably last, time that this was going to happen to a truly innocent man.
The guard standing at the whipping posts grabbed Jesus by the hands, raising his arms high above his head. Gathering his wrists together, he closed the shackle around them and we watched as Jesus almost dangled from them. His toes barely touched the ground. In a loud voice the guard demanded that Jesus stand with his back toward us.
At that moment, the burly man sitting at the table with the whips stood up, grabbed the longest whip and pushed away from the table. He walked to a place directly facing Jesus’ back, looked at the ground momentarily, raised his hand over his head and with a movement of his arm and wrist let the whip crack through the air. The leathery straps flew through the air and attached to Jesus’ shoulder. At first it did not seem that the straps would detach from his skin but with a forceful yank, the guard pulled back the whip, bringing with it a chunk of Jesus’ flesh. Before raising his arm a second time, the guard reached to the end of the whip and discarded the skin that had attached itself. All I could do was stand and stare. Showing any sense of emotion and I could lose my job, or worse, I could be branded a sympathizer and be the next in line. I swallowed back tears knowing this would only serve as the beginning of Jesus’ humiliation.
As the whippings continued, Jesus’ face contorted showing signs of intense pain. He only cried at first but as the beatings continued his cries became louder and eventually became screams. Halfway through the process a woman appeared along the side of the courtyard with cloths in her hands. As she took one look at the man, tears began welling up in her eyes and she, too, began to audibly cry. She made no attempt to approach the man knowing that if she did it would only complicate the situation even further. Although, it was never said, it was clear that this was the mother of Jesus.
When the whipping started Jesus stood on his feet but with each of the beatings his posture weakened, slumping until he could no longer support his weight. And although, his skin was torn, broken and bleeding, none of his bones had been broken. As the whippings came to an end, one of my fellow workers approached with a crown he had made of thorns and pressed it firmly over the top of Jesus’ head. Jesus screamed as the thorns dug into his brow and blood trickled down his cheeks. Another soldier approached Jesus with purple royal robes and dressed him in them. A line formed of soldiers in front of the messiah, and as it formed it was clear to me that I was expected to be in that line. Each of the soldiers stood in front of Jesus and yelled at him “All hail King of the Jews.“ and slapped him in the face. As the line got shorter, I resented what I would have to do. If I showed any sort of weakness I would instantly be fired and possibly face the same punishment as Jesus. I didn’t want to hit Jesus but I had a family to protect and provide for. The choice was clear for me. As I approached Jesus, his eyes met mine. I know he felt my shame as my hand raised and I slapped him. My mouth opened and said the same phrase all my other friends had said as well. I saw no anger in Jesus eyes as I left the line.
Once everyone in line had their turn in front of the accused, Pilate yelled out to the crowd and told them he was bringing out their prisoner and insisted that the man the crowd had chosen to crucify had done nothing wrong. Pilate led Jesus out to the crowd dressed in mockery and said “Here he is.” The chief priests and other officials yelled out to Pilate “Crucify Him!” Pilate refused. He looked over the crowd and said. “Look, you crucify him. As for me, I find no basis for a charge against him.” The priests countered by saying that they had a law that said that Jesus had to die because he claimed to be the son of God. Pilate had already banned the Sanhedrin from carrying out capital punishments except in the case of foreigners entering the sacred areas of the temple unlawfully. Turning Jesus over to the Roman government was the only way the priests would get what they want.
Pilate showed fear and asked Jesus “Where do you come from?” Jesus remained quiet, refusing to say anything.
“Why are you not talking to me? Don’t you know I have the power to free you or to crucify you?”
Jesus looked at Pilate and said, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore, the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.”
Pilate continued to argue with the priests, refusing to crucify Jesus. They responded by telling Pilate that unless Jesus went through with the punishment, he was no friend of Caesar. Their reasoning: Anyone who claimed to be a king, opposed Caesar. Everything had been planned out. From the beginning the priest had the answers.
Pilate sat down in his judges seat. “Here is your king.”
The officials, priests and others yelled back. “Take him away! Crucify Him!”
Pilate asked one last time, “Shall I crucify your king?”
They yelled back “We have no king but Caesar!” Pilate handed Jesus over to be crucified.