“Then Pilate took Jesus and flogged him. And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe. They came up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and struck him with their hands. Pilate went out again and said to them, “See, I am bringing him out to you that you may know that I find no guilt in him.”” (John 19:1–4, ESV)
Here we have the strangest interrogation scene (and most damning to Pilate) in history. Look at what is going on:
- Pilate had Jesus flogged (no, he did not do the flogging himself) – The New English Translation Notes (NET Notes) explains what this means: Three forms of corporal punishment were employed by the Romans, in increasing degree of severity: (1) fustigatio (beating), (2) flagellatio (flogging), and (3) verberatio (severe flogging, scourging). The first could be on occasion a punishment in itself, but the more severe forms were part of the capital sentence as a prelude to crucifixion. The most severe, verberatio, is what is indicated here by the Greek verb translated flogged severely (μαστιγόω, mastigoō). People died on occasion while being flogged this way; frequently it was severe enough to rip a person’s body open or cut muscle and sinew to the bone. It was carried out with a whip that had fragments of bone or pieces of metal bound into the tips.
This punishment was brutal and generally only used when someone was facing capital punishment.
- The Roman soldiers in attendance took a crown of thorns and pushed it onto his head. No doubt this caused an effusion of blood because the head bleeds the most of any of the parts of the body when wounded. NET Notes points out that by doing this the soldiers were mocking Jesus’ claim to be a king, imitating the “radiant corona” which was a type of crown that many emperors wore on their heads when represented on coins of the day.
- The soldiers then proceeded to mock him and beat him with their fists.
Surely this man deserved such punishment, right? No one would be treated this way who was innocent, or whom the judge (Pilate) believed to be innocent. Sure, he could make a mistake and think that Jesus was guilty and have him punished. This would be a travesty, but at least an honest mistake.
So what do we see Pilate doing after he has had Jesus severely flogged? He goes out to the Jewish crowds and says: “I find no guilt in him.”