The Boomerang Effect: Pilate's Actions Return to Haunt Him
- 2005 27 Oct
Editor's Note: "Creed" is an ongoing article series that discusses the core beliefs of Christianity as expressed in the Apostle's and Nicene creeds. Links to other installments are listed at the end of this article.
Do you remember when you first learned about boomerangs? Maybe, like me, you were in elementary (or grade) school. Your Social Studies teacher was telling you all about Australia when suddenly she held up this funny wooden structure looking something like a “7” with a thyroid problem. Not that you knew what a thyroid was.
“A boomerang,” the teacher said, “is designed in such a way as to return to the thrower.”
Later on you learned that “boomerang” could also mean an act or words spoken that come back to haunt the originator.
In the story of Jesus’ trek to the cross, Pilate was about to feel the affects of the “boomerang.”
Return to Pilate
Over the past several installments of Creed, we’ve been walking with Jesus from the “Upper Room,” to “Gethsemane” to Pilate’s Court and finally to Herod’s Court, all of which were in Jerusalem and close by. (This explains why Jesus was arrested, taken before the Sanhedrin, then to Pilate, to Herod and back to Pilate again in the early morning hours of Friday.)
Herod had been quite anxious to meet this Teacher from Galilee. He’d hoped for a performance, really. Something to amuse and to entertain him. But what he got from Jesus was only silence.
In return, “Herod and his soldiers ridiculed and mocked him.” (Luke 23: 11a) Herod called for an elegant—truly magnificent, according to the Greek word, Lampros—robe to be draped over Jesus; a robe meant to scoff at the “kingship” of the Galilean. A robe that surely stuck to the fresh and open wounds about the Savior’s body.
Jesus was then sent back to Pilate.
Perhaps Pilate was, by this time, exasperated. He called together the chief priests and those who the Jewish people looked up to.
“I can’t find anything to condemn this man for and neither can Herod. We’ll punish him a bit and let him go,” he said. (Paraphrase, mine.)
The people cried out, “NO!” Having been without sleep for some time and encouraged by the leaders, they’d been stirred to a frenzy by this point. They called for the death of the one they’d hailed “Hosanna” just a few days earlier. They’d prefer the release of the criminal Bar-abbas (which means, son of the father) rather than the Son of the Father.
Barabbas’ crime was that he’d taken part in a rebellion. Jesus had, in effect, led one. His earthly work was rebelling against the forces of Hell…and nothing would stand in His way to finish it.
First the Chief Priests, Now My Wife
About that time, Pilate’s wife sent a message to him. She’d had a dream about Jesus. “Do nothing,” she warned. “Do nothing to that innocent man.”
I have often wondered about this little insert of information, found only in Matthew’s letter. What would have made this woman have such a dream? Surely God wasn’t “warning her” as He’d done so often throughout history. After all, all that was happening was His plan.
Could it have been that Satan, keenly aware that if the Son of God were crucified the human race would have their way back to God? That the moment he’d been dreading and yet anticipating for thousands and thousands of years—since that awful moment in the Garden of Eden—was about to come to pass? Could he have used the mind’s ability to dream while sleeping to try to influence possibly the only person who could persuade Pilate against the crucifixion of Jesus?
I suppose in this life we won’t know. But one thing we do know is this: sent back to Pilate, Jesus was eventually condemned to die. But first, he would be flogged—and taken just this side of death.
Suffered Under Pontius Pilate
Many Christians today have no real clue as to the sufferings of Jesus. It would have been enough had He been led up to Calvary and “simply” crucified. In and of itself, Roman crucifixion was a horrendous way to die.
By the time Jesus had been condemned by Pilate to die a criminal’s death, He’d already been beaten to a degree. But what was about to happen to him is beyond the heart’s understanding.
Roman scourging (or flogging, as some say) involved an instrument known as a “cat of nine tails,” which was a long whip with nine strands of leather, each strand embedded with items such as bone, nails, glass and other sharp and broken items. They were designed to bring a criminal to his knees with just one lash and thereby to extract information. It was well understood that more than 39 lashes would kill a man, but men died with less than that.
The historian Josephus wrote that men were literally torn to shreds. Body parts were exposed. Historian Eusebius of Caesarea describes the absolute gruesomeness of this type of torture. Some men, when their flesh was hit just the right way, could easily die from their arteries being sliced apart or from their vital organs being ripped from their bodies.
For Jesus, this wasn’t the end. It was only the beginning.
Photo: Found within the Franciscan Chapel inside the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, The Column of the Flagellation is a fragment of a porphyry pillar and is said to be the pillar to which Jesus was tied during the scourging. Photo taken by Eva Marie Everson.
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Creed: Herod Antipas, Meet Jesus
Painting: Duccio di Buoninsegna, Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, Siena