By Daniel Schantz
“The punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).
Sixteenth-century England was the era of the “divine right of kings,” when kings believed they were appointed by God and could do no wrong. During this time, the king alone was allowed to discipline his own son, the prince, but kings were often busy or out of town. Even when they were available, kings tended to be indulgent, and thus princes were often spoiled.
The solution was to hire a “whipping boy,” someone to take the beatings the prince really deserved. This boy would be about the same age as the prince and would live with him. In time the two boys would become very close, like brothers.
Whenever the prince misbehaved, the whipping boy would receive a beating. The prince was required to witness these thrashings, which were usually substantial. The whipping boy would be stripped to the waist and caned to the point of bleeding.
At first the prince was more than happy to have someone take his punishment, but as the two boys became close friends, it began to grieve the prince to see his friend suffering. Gradually the prince decided to grow up and behave himself, in order to spare his companion much anguish.
The system worked well, perhaps even better than if the prince himself had been caned, because no one likes to see someone he loves suffering for his own failures.
It was a great honor to be a whipping boy to the prince, and when the whipping boy grew up, he would be rewarded for his sacrifice with a title or a wife, a territory, or a statue of himself displayed on the palace grounds.
Jesus was our whipping boy, and because of his sufferings he has been honored. “God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name” (Philippians 2:9).
Here at the Lord’s table, we reflect on the punishments we deserve and renew our vow to grow up and behave ourselves like the spiritual royalty that we are through Christ’s death on our behalf.
Daniel Schantz is professor emeritus with Central Christian College of the Bible, Moberly, Missouri.
Find another meditation by him each Friday in July.