John 19:31-37

Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jewish leaders did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus' side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe. These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: "Not one of his bones will be broken," and, as another scripture says, "They will look on the one they have pierced."

This passage describes the events immediately following Jesus' death. Again, it’s a passage rich in symbolism and prophetic fulfillment.

First, we see the Jewish leaders' concern about the bodies remaining on the crosses during the Sabbath. It was Preparation Day, the day before the Sabbath, and this particular Sabbath was a special one, likely because it fell during the Passover week. Leaving the bodies on the crosses would have violated the sacredness of the Sabbath.

So they ask Pilate to have the legs of the crucified men broken, a brutal practice that hastened death, and to have the bodies removed. The soldiers do this to the two men crucified with Jesus, but when they come to Jesus, they find him already dead.

What happens next is highly significant. Instead of breaking Jesus' legs, one of the soldiers pierces his side with a spear. Blood and water flow out, a medical detail that confirms the reality of Jesus' death.

But there's more than physiology at work here. John sees in this moment the fulfillment of Scripture. He cites two passages: one that says none of the Messiah's bones will be broken (likely referring to Psalm 34:20), and another that says "they will look on the one they have pierced" (a reference to Zechariah 12:10).

These prophetic echoes are a powerful confirmation of Jesus' identity as the Messiah. Even in the details of his death, Scripture is being fulfilled.

But the blood and water also carry deep symbolic meaning. In John's theology, Jesus is the source of both cleansing (represented by the water) and atonement (represented by the blood). His death provides both the washing away of sin and the payment of sin's penalty.

The flow of blood and water has also been seen as a symbol of the sacraments of baptism and communion, which flow from Jesus' death and give life to the church.

John stresses the eyewitness nature of this account. He (or the disciple he's writing about) saw these things happen, and he testifies to their truth. His purpose in sharing this is so that we, the readers, may believe.

As we reflect on this passage, we are struck by the providence of God. Even in the darkest moment, God is at work, fulfilling his purposes, keeping his promises. The details of Jesus' death are not random or meaningless, but pregnant with spiritual significance.

We are also reminded of the life-giving power of Jesus' death. The blood and water from his side are a vivid picture of the cleansing and renewal he brings. Through his death, we are washed clean and brought into new life.

Finally, we are challenged to respond in faith. John testifies so that we may believe. The question is, will we? Will we look on the one who was pierced for us and put our trust in him?

As we contemplate the cross, let's ask ourselves: Do I see the hand of God at work, even in the darkest moments? Have I experienced the cleansing and life-giving power of Jesus' death? Is my faith rooted in the testimony of those who witnessed these things?

May we look on the pierced One with eyes of faith, and find in his wounds the source of our salvation.

God bless you.

More in this category: « John 19:28-30 John 19:38-42 »
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