With His Stripes We Are Healed

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Photo from ChurchofJesusChrist.org

Note: This blog post is part of an ongoing series on the final 24 hours of the life of the Savior.

As Easter approaches, my heart is turned to the events in Gethsemane, the crucifixion, and the resurrection. As Brother Tad R. Callister recently taught, the Atonement is “a series of divine events that commenced in the Garden of Gethsemane, continued on the cross, and culminated with the Savior’s Resurrection from the tomb.” Recently I have been studying the Savior’s crucifixion and learned more about the scourging that was connected with the crucifixion. As I have come to understand this painful process, I’m reminded of an insight that Elder Kitchen, one of my mission companions shared with me. As we studied the scriptures together, he emphasized the phrase, “with his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). “I wonder,” Elder Kitchen said, “If Christ being whipped was part of our atoning sacrifice as well.”

Scourging victims was a practice which often preceded crucifixion. While this is not a pleasant thing to think about, it’s important to understand what the Savior actually experienced – because he did it for us. As Nephi describes, “They scourge him, and he suffereth it…because of his loving kindness and his long-suffering towards the children of men” (1 Nephi 19:9).

Describing the crucifixion of Jews in approximately 170 B.C., the ancient historian Josephus wrote, “They were whipped, their bodies were mutilated, and while still alive and breathing, they were crucified.”[1] In the time of Christ, this scourging was carried about by Roman soldiers, and was a brutal process (see Matthew 27:26, Mark 15:15, John 19:21). This pictures illustrates the scourging process.

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As one commentator describes, “The lictors (Roman legionnaires assigned to this duty) used a whip made of leather cords to which small pieces of metal or bone had been fastened. Paintings of the scourging of Jesus always show him with a loincloth, but in fact the victim would have been naked, tied to a post in a position to expose the back and buttocks to maximum effect. With the first strokes of the scourge, skin would be pulled away and subcutaneous tissue exposed. As the process continued, the lacerations would begin to tear into the underlying skeletal muscles. This would result not only in great pain but also in appreciable blood loss. The idea was to weaken the victim to a state just short of collapse or death. It was common for taunting and ridicule to accompany the procedure. In the case of Jesus, the New Testament tells us that a crown of thorns, a purple robe, and a mock scepter were added to intensify the mockery.”[2]

I do not know if the scourging itself was technically part of the Atonement, but it was was prophesied of in connection with the crucifixion, both by Jesus (see Matthew 20:19) and ancient prophets (see 1 Nephi 19:9, 13, Mosiah 3:9). I love this translation of Isaiah 53:5: “He was wounded for our rebellious acts. He was crushed for our sins. He was punished so that we could have peace, and we received healing from his wounds.” (Isaiah 53:5, God’s Word Translation, emphasis added). Through Christ’s suffering for us he has “overcome the world” and testifies to each of us, “In me ye might have peace” (John 16:33).

Read more about the final 24 hours of the life of the Savior.

[1] Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 12.255–256

[2] Fleming Rutledge, The crucifixion: understanding the death of Jesus Christ.(Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2015), 94.