Image source: photographed at the San Gabriel Mission Museum.
So when Pilate saw that he could do nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took some water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.” Then the people as a whole answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!” So he released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified. Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole cohort around him. They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on his head. They put a reed in his right hand and knelt before him and mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” They spat on him, and took the reed and struck him on the head. After mocking him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him. (NRSV)
Pilate is the figure on the left giving the orders. The stripped Jesus is being beaten by several figures on the right.
What is your impression of the other figures?
One person, nearest to Pilate appears to have put his hands to his nose perhaps mocking the whole crazy scene?
Next to this man, to the right, is another man with outstretched hands, perhaps, he is making a solicitous gesture of obedience to Pilate’s instructions? Maybe praising Pilate for his “wisdom” in straddling the fence of giving the crowds what they want yet “washing his hands” of the whole scenario.
Notice the man with crossed legs, maybe his face would reveal indifference to the whole carnival atmosphere.
For those who do not believe Jesus is the Messiah, for those who do not believes Jesus is the Lord who suffered for us, the reaction to this scene could be scorn, could be applause, and could be indifference.
But for those who follow Jesus and seek to be his disciple and learn of him, this scene evokes a mixture of sadness and reverence. Sadness that Jesus would have to suffer this way for our sins. It is MY sins that had led him to this moment and to the Cross that would come later. Yes, the Jewish crowds demanded Barabbas be released. It was the Roman ruler and political powers that gave the orders. But, in the final analysis, it was the sin of all of us that led Jesus to this moment. Romans 5:8, But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. And so there is sadness over my sins. But there is also reverence. The suffering Savior is the ultimate demonstration of God’s love. God was not content to let us die in our sins. Instead, he has chosen the costly path of sacrifice. God has entered into the world to take upon himself our sins so that we would be restored to relationship with God.
O sacred head, now wounded,
with grief and shame weighed down,
now scornfully surrounded
with thorns, your only crown.
O sacred head, what glory
and blessing you have known!
Yet, though despised and gory,
I claim you as my own.
— Saint Bernard of Clairvaux