“But Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released to them Barabbas,
and handed over Jesus
so that He might be crucified” (Mark 15:15).
How much can a single word hold?
St. Mark used only one to record the scourging of Jesus, the second sorrowful mystery of the rosary. He does not give it even a sentence, as does St. John, and certainly not the unbearable five minutes of Mel Gibson. Here St. Mark can only muster a pained glance at this one from whom men hide their faces (cf Is 53:3).
How much suffering the one word contains! The Gospel’s Greek had to borrow from Latin to represent the Romans’ cruel art. The law of Moses moderated beatings, lest “your brother be degraded in your sight” (Deut 25:3). This Roman flagellation was designed to disgrace one doomed to death.
One word could bring this ruin on a man’s body. As a centurion has told us, a Roman officer’s words were efficacious, “I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” (Mt 8:9). At that time, a word returned health to the centurion’s slave. Now, a word from Pilate destroyed “all form or comeliness” in the One who took on the form of a slave (Is 53:2, cf Phil 2:7)
It was an evil word that tore through that sacred flesh. But it was not the last word. For in the sorrow of this word we see a different Word, a Word through whom all things were created and through whom all can be redeemed, a Word spoken by the Father to reveal a love stronger than death. Amidst this painful word we see Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh.
“He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
upon Him was the chastisement that made us whole,
and by His stripes we are healed” (Is 53:5).
Image: Michael Pacher, Flagellation