Lent 2018 – Week 2 – the whip

John 18:38 – 19:1

‘What is truth?’ retorted Pilate. With this he went out again to the Jews gathered there and said, ‘I find no basis for a charge against him. But it is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover. Do you want me to release “the king of the Jews”?’
They shouted back, ‘No, not him! Give us Barabbas!’ Now Barabbas had taken part in an uprising.
Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged.

19th Feb – Monday

Singing the Faith 277
Psalm 16 (StF 802)

John records the flogging as taking place during the trial, although Matthew and Mark imply that it came at the end. Flogging was usual prior to crucifixion and administered without compassion since the victim was going to die anyway. The only consideration was that they would be able to carry their cross to the place of execution. In Jesus’ case, it seems that the soldiers went too far, since he is unable to complete the journey without the help of Simon from Cyrene.

It is entirely likely that Jesus knew that he would be flogged as well as crucified if the religious leaders had their way. He faced that with the courage and self-giving as he did the whole package of punishment and death.

The purpose of the flogging was two-fold. First, the physical pain – with the intention of dissuading others from criminal behaviour, and secondly, humiliation. Like crucifixions, floggings were conducted in public.

There was no dignity and no mercy.

And this is Jesus – the man who showed mercy to others by allowing the merciless torture of his own body and saving us from sin.

If anyone deserved mercy it was him. ‘Why? What has my Lord done?’ – A valid question from Samuel Crossman in his hymn: ‘My song is love unknown’.
The answer: ‘He made the lame to run, he gave the blind their sight’.
He only did what would be for the good of God’s people (his people), the Jews – and through them, all the world. He had mercy and love for all he met.
Lord, let me never forget he lengths you went to for my forgiveness – the pain and punishment you suffered so that I can know life in all it’s fullness. Amen

Pray for the families who bring their children to Shirley Pre School. Pray that they might find a warm welcome in our building, and that they quickly feel part of the community.
Pray for support for parents worldwide at times in life where new phases are begun, especially for the times when you have to ‘let go’ of a child, and let others teach and influence them.

20th Feb – Tuesday

Singing the Faith 267
Psalm 19 (StF 803)

It was the first of many.
I’ve flogged a good few since.
But they say that no soldier forgets the first time the whip is put into their hands. I’d witnessed countless floggings before, of course. It was part of life in the Roman army.
But this one was different – and not just because it was my first.
I remember the instructions I was given – instructions I’ve passed on to others since.
It was a technical task requiring a practiced swing, the full strength of a toned man – and a strong stomach.
As time goes by, it becomes just another job.
But this man was different. He was calm and controlled. I caught his eye – a bad mistake and one I’d been instructed to avoid. I expected hate, anger, bravado or fear. And there was fear. But the expression was more of pity – sympathy – forgiveness.
At that moment, I wanted to drop the whip and run! I wanted to hand the task over to someone else and hide my face from him. But I didn’t want to end up strung up at the whipping post myself. I was more afraid of my masters than of this pale and weary victim.
So, I put it out of my mind and focused on the task ahead. My partner (there were always two of us) gave the command and made the first swing.
The eyes of the criminal came back to me for a moment before I could push them to the back of my mind. I closed my eyes and did my job.
But I was never sure who was more scared – him or me. I will never forget him.

Pray for dads, especially those who are part of our ‘Who Let the Dads Out’ group. Pray that they feel welcome and safe, and that the group becomes an important support network for them.
Pray for dads worldwide, especially those who find themselves separated from their children for periods of time, through work commitments or family circumstances. Pray that men may be empowered in their parenting roles, setting a good example for their children.

21st Feb – Wednesday

Singing the Faith 283
Psalm 23 (StF 805)

Jesus was being punished for a perceived crime. Many in the Sanhedrin (the Jewish rulers) would say he deserved it – and more. They wanted vengeance – they wanted him dead. They wanted him punished for claiming in his work and in his words that he was God. There could be no greater crime in their eyes.
Blasphemy! Pure and simple.
God was God – Yahweh – the one and only God. There was no room in their thinking for another.
They knew the scriptures – they understood that they must worship Yahweh with all their heart, all their soul, all their minds. They know what was right.
And this man was not just wrong. He was down-right evil for claiming equality with God and performing all the healings in God’s name – and on the Sabbath!
The sad thing is that they didn’t see who Jesus was at all.
They saw through blinkered eyes and narrow minds.
They thought they knew who God was, what God wanted from them. They thought they know what was right.
As they stood with the rest of the crowd and watched the sickening punishment unfold, how many of them cheered the soldiers on? How many of them took sadistic pleasure? How many of them would have preferred not to watch the spectacle? How many of them had the tiniest bit of doubt? How many of them would have stopped it, if they could?
But, how could they? They were locked into a battle with Pilate to see an end to this dangerous man and his teaching. They thought they knew what was right. And however wrong this felt, there was no going back now.
Lord, help me to know when I see things through blinkered eyes and narrow vision. Give me the broad vision that was in Jesus – broad vision and supreme love.

Pray for women of all ages, especially our Wednesday Women’s Group, who meet weekly for fellowship and friendship together.
Pray for women throughout the world, especially in countries or societies where women suffer oppression or discrimination.

22nd Feb – Thursday

Singing the Faith 281
Psalm 22 (StF 804)

Pontius Pilate was between a rock and a hard place. Nothing new for the governor of this pesky little territory that he had been given. He constantly trod a tightrope as he tired to keep the peace and keep Rome off his back.
Too soft on the Jews – too understanding of their bazar religion and un-Roman ways and he was hauled up before his superiors. His job (likely his life) would then be on the line.
But too harsh on the Jews and the temperature in Jerusalem rose to boiling point.
And right now, it threatened to boil over!
What difference did it make if this quiet, calm and pathetic prisoner said he was a god? Romans had a good few of them! It kept people happy to have a god to worship. You worshipped the one you liked best and let everyone else get on with worshipping they’s.
But not these wretched Jews!
Everything upset them. Everything had to be done according to their scrolls and scrolls for rules!
They would be the end of him.
So, punish the poor fool. He refused to clear himself – lie a bit to satisfy his accusers.
He was as bad as them – he was one of them!
He’d soon change his story when he felt the first lash – or the second – or the fiftieth.
He’d have had enough of playing god once his back was ripped…..He hoped.
He was wrong. Because Jesus wasn’t playing at god. He was and is part of God – God the Son. And he endured all that for us.
Lord, I don’t want to think about the realities of Roman brutality. But you had no choice. Except of course, you did. And our forgiveness (at infinite cost to you) was what you chose.

Pray for our church musicians; David, our organist, the choir and the worship band. Thank God for the contribution they all make in our worship services.
Pray for the gift of music in our world; for the creativity of those who compose and perform, and for the enjoyment which listening to and performing music gives.

23rd Feb – Friday

Singing the Faith 286
Psalm 24 (StF 806)

Punishment is for the guilty. Punishing those who are innocent is abuse. Jesus didn’t deserve to be beaten – no one could ever have been more innocent than him. Not only was he innocent of the crimes for which he was beaten, but he was innocent of all crimes. He was without sin!

He’d not been caught in an un-lawful act. But here he was, tied to the whipping post and being beaten because of our faults and our crimes against God.

Surely, he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.

Who could stand it – even if they knew they deserved it? How could he stand it knowing that he didn’t?

Plenty of people have been punished for crimes they didn’t commit. But he could have avoided this – he let himself be betrayed, arrested and tried. At any moment he could have stopped it. But he didn’t defend himself.

At this moment, in this suffering, did he regret it? Humanly, we cannot believe that he didn’t. But human as he was, he is also God. And his love for humankind is beyond our ability to understand.

We can only be grateful – more grateful than we can put into words.

Lord, we turn away from thinking of the pain, humiliation and mental torture you suffered. And whilst are words are inadequate to express our thanks, we offer
them anyway: Thank you for loving me that much.

Pray for our church council, that they might have wisdom in the decisions they make on behalf of the church community.
Pray for all of those who hold power and make decisions on behalf of others. Pray for democracy in countries throughout the world.

24th Feb – Saturday

Singing the Faith 290
Psalm 29 (StF 807)

‘It’s the innocent that suffer.’
Have you heard it said?
It’s cheats and thieves who win,
The best and young who end up dead!

‘Crime doesn’t pay’ it’s often said.
There’s a certain ring.
But gangsters fatten up
And good folk get so poor and thin.

Jesus took a cruel beating.
Must have done some crime.
But we know he did not.
Just the wrong place at the wrong time?

The Romans ruled like bully boys.
The leader in that place
Couldn’t let the Jews out smart
The might of Rome – let Rome lose face.

Enough blood for one day, you’d think.
Little chance it seemed.
‘Crucify! Blasphemer!’
Let him go, Pilate? In your dreams!

Jesus, bloody, bruised, exhausted,
Unsteady as he stands.
Looks at Pilate without hate.
His blood is on those Roman hands.

It won’t wash off. It can’t be done.
You can’t shift the blame.
Innocent for guilty.
That’s the deal. And that’s why he came.

Pray for our two ministers, Christine and Brian. Pray that they may be sustained in their energy and health, and that their ministries may be effective for the Kingdom.
Pray for wisdom and humility among those who lead our political parties, governments and rule worldwide. Pray especially for our own Prime Minister and Government, that they may lead our country with justice, tolerance and generosity of spirit.