In 15:1-11 Jesus is bound and taken before Pilate, who interviews Him to determine of what, if anything, He is guilty. The very first question that Pilate asks (and therefore likely the first charge placed against Him) is “Are you the king of the Jews?” to which Jesus answers in the affirmative. Jesus is silent before the other numerous charges that were being thrown at him.
Pilate, seeing before him a beaten, lonely man, whose claim to kingship could be nothing more than the fantasy of a lunatic, seeks a way to release Jesus. He offers the crowd a choice to release either Jesus or Barabbas, a murderer. The crowd has been primed, they ask for the release of Barabbas.
15 12“What shall I do, then, with the one you call the king of the Jews?” Pilate asked them.
13“Crucify him!” they shouted.
There are few things human more irrational than a mob. But those who know how to incite the baser emotions can direct mobs. You can easily imagine what might have been said. “This charlatan made fools of you when he entered Jerusalem, making you treat him as the Messiah! He thought that he was better than you, that he was your king! Are you going to let him get away with treating you like fools?”
14“Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate. But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”
Once began, the hatred feeds upon itself, inciting a state of bloodlust that responds to no rational argument. Only overwhelming brute force could turn them from their purpose at this point.
15Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.
At this point Pilate is a trapped man. Jesus has said just enough to give the religious leaders great leverage – He has claimed kingship of the Jews. If he doesn’t crucify Jesus now there will be a significant incident of civil unrest that could gain the attention of the Emperor. Pilate would be placed in the impossible position of explaining why he had caused such an outbreak by defending a man who was usurping the Emperor’s authority. Only by ordering the crucifixion of this single pathetic lunatic (so must have reasoned Pilate) could his and many other lives be spared.
We read over the phrase “He had Jesus flogged” so easily. But lest we miss the terrible reality of what our Lord and Savior endured in His human body, here is an excerpt of an article on this practice.
“In the Roman Empire, flagellation was often used as a prelude to crucifixion, and in this context is sometimes referred to as scourging. Whips with small pieces of metal or bone at the tips were commonly used. Such a device could easily cause disfigurement and serious trauma, such as ripping pieces of flesh from the body or loss of an eye. In addition to causing severe pain, the victim would be made to approach a state of hypovolemic shock due to loss of blood.”
That God the Son would submit to such treatment by the creatures that He had created, in order that their sins might be forgiven, is an act of such impossible love that our minds collapse under the weight of the idea.