There is one more phase in Pilate’s weak struggle with his conscience and his sense of right. He thought that if he could have our Lord scourged somehow the mob would relent and settle for His release. So the scourging was initiated and carried out by Roman legionaries – brutalized instruments of a race noted for its absence of all tenderness. “Pilate, then, took Jesus and had Him scourged,” (Jn. 19:1) but St. Matthew was more reportorial, for he wrote:
“Then the soldiers of the procurator took Jesus into the praetorium, and gathered together about Him the whole cohort. And they stripped Him and put on Him a scarlet cloak; and plaiting a crown of thorns, they put it upon His head, and a reed in His right hand; and bending knee before Him they mocked Him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they spat on Him, and took the reed and kept striking Him on the head.” (Mt. 27: 27-30)
The Romans used various kinds of scourges. There was the stick (fustis), the rod (virga), and the whip (lorum) which was of leather-platted throngs and into the plats were woven iron spikes (scorpio) or knuckle bones of animals. Tradition has it that the latter was used by the soldiers to scourge Christ.
Behold your Savior bound to a low pillar with the six scourgers standing on a raised platform beside and above Him, and watch them, if you can, laying those cruel lashes on the bent back of our Lord! Let us go to His side and gaze into the pure eyes of Christ as He suffers in the scourging and acknowledge that it was our sins – yours and mine – that caused Him to endure such agony, and promise Him from this day on we shall never deliberately offend Him again.
There is another consideration I would have you ponder over in your mind. It concerns the reed placed in our Lord’s hand during the crowning with thorns as a mock gesture of a king’s scepter. Is it not worthy of note that the lowly reed should play such an important part in our Lord’s life? He began His public life by going to Cana of Galilee, to begin as it were the reconstruction and redemption of mankind with a man and his wife – since it was a man and his wife who had opened the sluice gates of sin and flooded this world with woe.
“Cana,” you see, means “a place of reed.”
And now at the end of His public life the reed appears again and is placed in His hands in mockery of His royalty, and finally, it becomes an instrument of torture in itself – since the soldiers beat His thorn-crowned head with this same reed. I have always thought that the special sufferings inflicted on our Lord by the blows from the reed were in reparation for the mockery men and women make of marriage and the sins, such as divorce, abortion, desertion, and birth control committed by persons disdainful of God’s laws. Married persons will beg for the grace to fulfill the duty of their state and the unmarried will beg special graces for those to whom God has entrusted such awful responsibilities.