Having scourged Jesus, he delivered him to them to be crucified. -Matt, xxvii. 26.
Why did he scourge him before he delivered him to them? St. Jerome says because it was a Roman custom that prisoners condemned to death should be scourged before execution. So it was that the prophecy was fulfilled, I was made ready by a scourging (Ps. xxxvii. 18).
Some writers think that Pilate had Our Lord scourged that the Jews might be moved to pity and so, once He was scourged, they would let him go.
Pilate therefore took Jesus and scourged him (John xix. i). He did not, that is, scourge him with his own hands but handed him over to the soldiers. And this that the Jews-sated with his sufferings-might be softened somewhat, and cease to rage for his death. For it is the natural thing that a man’s anger dies down when he sees the cause of his anger humiliated and punished. This is true of anger, for anger seeks to inflict harm only to a certain degree. But it is not true of hatred, for hatred seeks utterly to destroy the thing hated. Hence the words of Sacred Scripture, If an enemy findeth an opportunity, he will not be satisfied with blood (Ecclus. xii. 16).
Now it was hatred that moved the Jews against Christ, and therefore it did not satisfy them to see him scourged. I have been scourged all the day, says the Psalm (lxxii 14), and in Isaias (l. 6) we read, I have given my body to the strikers.
Did Pilate’s intention excuse him from the guilt of scourging Our Lord? By no means, for no action which is bad in itself can be made wholly good by the good intention with which it is done. But to inflict injury on one who is innocent, and especially on the Son of God, is of all things the one most evil in itself. No intention therefore could possibly excuse it. (In John, xix.)