If there is a dispute between men and they come into court and the judges decide between them, acquitting the innocent and condemning the guilty, then if the guilty man deserves to be beaten, the judge shall cause him to lie down and be beaten in his presence with a number of stripes in proportion to his offense. Forty stripes may be given him, but not more, lest, if one should go on to beat him with more stripes than these, your brother be degraded in your sight. (Deuteronomy 25:1-3)
How merciful God was in dealing with Israel. A convicted man was to be whipped in the presence of the judge. But he was only to be given a number of strokes in proportion to his crime. The maximum he could receive was 40 stripes, so that he would not be degraded in the sight of his brother. Some crimes might have deserved more than 40 strokes, but God in his kindness did not want to see anyone humiliated in front of his brothers.
But he did not show the same mercy toward his Son.
Then he released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified. (MT 27:26)
The ESV footnote for the word “scourged? says: “A Roman judicial penalty, consisting of a severe beating with a multi-lashed whip containing imbedded pieces of bone and metal.” These cruel whips would literally shred the skin of one’s back and sides.
God, who would spare a guilty man from excessive whipping so he would not be humiliated in front of his brother, did not spare Jesus from degradation. How dehumanizing it was when the Roman soldiers mercilessly whipped him, crowned him with thorns, draped a purple robe over his shoulders, placed a reed in his hands for a scepter, then bowed before him paying him mock homage. How degrading as they struck him and spit in his face. How degrading it was when they stripped him in front of everyone than crucified him like a criminal. How humiliating it was for Jesus to hang there gasping for air, while the crowd mocked and laughed at him in his suffering.
Jesus endured the ultimate degradation of becoming so identified with our sin that his own Father poured out his wrath upon him.
He did all that for us – guilty sinners – we deserved to be degraded and humiliated in the ultimate sense. To perish in hell for eternity. But when we believe in Jesus and call upon him to save us, instead of receiving the degradation we deserve, he clothes us with his righteousness, adopts us as his own children, crowns us with glory. What an incredible, amazing God we serve!
O Lord Jesus, you were scourged and humiliated and degraded for me that I might be lifted up, adopted as a child of God, and share in your inheritance. All glory, honor and praise to you.
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Mark Altrogge has been senior pastor of Saving Grace Church of Indiana, Pennsylvania, since 1982. He has written hundreds of songs for worship, including “I Stand in Awe” and “I’m Forever Grateful.” Mark and his wife, Kristi, have five children and five grandchildren.
Find out more on his blog, The Blazing Center.