39 lashes was the limit. More than that would have probably caused death. The object of lashing was to inflict severe pain and humiliation. It was part of the ritual of crucifixion – a means to cause the criminal harm and set him up for the mockery from an angry crowd that would follow him to the cross outside the city. In Jesus’ case, He was beaten to a bloody mass of flesh – well beyond 39 lashes.
The Roman scourge was a short whip consisting of several sindividual leather thongs, filled with small iron balls and shards of glass or bone. The iron balls would cause deep bruising and the glass and bone would cut the skin and underlying tissue. As the beating continued, the flesh weakened and the scourge cut through muscle tissue and resulted in extreme pain and blood loss.
Jesus endured the beatings. It was Pilate’s way of dealing with this man and the crowd of angry Jews. It was also God’s fulfillment of the prophesy of old.
Isaiah 53:4-5 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.
Scourging could lead to considerable blood loss as well as a drop in blood pressure, pre-shock condition and possible organ failure. After the beating, the condemned would be thrown to the ground where the body would endure even more pain and contamination. The open wounds would become infected and infested with flies and other insects. To add to this, there was the dreadful walk to Calvary where He would be transfixed to the cross and exposed to even more pain.
He did this willingly, like a lamb led to the slaughter – an innocent, unblemished lamb of God who came to take away the sin of the world. By His wounds we are healed.