In view of the busy schedule of lecturing, preaching, teaching, and traveling, we will for this time not continue our series on I Timothy 4. It will be easier for us to write this time on this passage from the Gospel of John. It may even prove to, be a bit more interesting to the reader in as much as this text deals with a very important aspect of our Lord’s suffering and dying; the death of the Lord of glory.
This passage reads, in full, as follows:
“The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the Sabbath day (for that Sabbath day was an high day), besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. Then came the soldiers, and brake the legs of the first and of the other which was crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, they brake not his legs; but one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith there came out blood and water. And he that saw it bare record, and his record is true: and he knoweth that he saith truth, that ye might believe. For these things were done, that the Scripture should be fulfilled, A bone of him shall not be broken. And again another Scripture, They shall look on him whom they pierced.” Vss. 31-37.
Jesus had died. He had laid down his life to take it again. Such was his power. No man took his life from him. He is the mighty conqueror, who taketh captivity captive and gives gifts unto men.
It had been a long conquest. But Jesus knew that his mission was accomplished. All that led up to the final moment of dying was fulfilled. Now he could cry out with a mighty shout, a triumphant out-cry: “It is finished!” The three hours of darkness are over; the multitudes have returned to the city; the veil in the temple has rent in twain from top to bottom; the rocks have rent and the earth has quaked. The Centurion has beat upon his breast, saying: “Truly this was God’s Son.”
It is the hour of the Son of Man!
It would seem that now all had been done by the hands of wicked men, according to the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, to God’s holy child Jesus. But not all. The Scriptures must be fully realized; all the features of the prophets, who prophesied of the time and the manner of the suffering to come upon Christ, and the glory to follow, must come to stand in bold relief. God has a little work yet for the Jews, the soldiers; God is not yet quite finished speaking at that Cross. He has a bit more, of what is transpiring at that Cross, for John to behold and to record.
Let us take notice of the sacred record here in John.
The Jews, from their legalistic, Jewish point of view, are to keep the Sabbath day. It is really very, very ironical. The Sabbath speaks of the rest that remained for the children of God; it speaks of the forgiveness of sins, of dying unto sin and living unto God. Our rest and peace has been made secure in Christ’s blood. But they cling to the shadows, the sabbatic calendar, pointing toward the rest. The rest is in their midst; he “came to his own (things) and his own (people) received him not!”
Tenaciously they cling to the order of the day; they do not see that the kingdom of God has come upon them; that old things are, indeed, passed away, and that all things have become new. The Sabbath must be kept according to the law; they had not heard the Word of reconciliation from the Cross “it is finished!” This word of the Cross is foolishness in those perishing, perishing while keeping the Sabbath!
There is a difference of interpretation as to what is meant that this “Sabbath was an high day.” The one interpretation holds that this refers to the fact that it was the Sabbath of the “first-fruits,” when the sheaf would be waved before the Lord, as a promise and pledge that all the earth would be the Lord’s and dedicated to him. On the 14th of Nisan the Passover Supper has been eaten, the lamb having been slain between the two evenings of that day. On the 15th Christ had died, and that the next day would be the 16th, the Sabbath of the first-fruits.
Others hold that John holds that this was the preparation for the Passover proper, the eating of the Passover meal. Christ then had died on Nisan, between the two evenings. Thousands of lambs were being slain that night on that day. And God was bringing His Lamb to take away the sins of the world.
We will not go further into this matter of chronology.
We will simply leave it stand as the motive of these blind Jews, who must fulfill all the counsel of God.
They have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge; they are ignorant of God’s righteousness, and, therefore, seek to establish their own righteousness. They do not see that this very Christ, hanging on the Cross, is the end (the Divine purpose) of the law for righteousness to every one that believes.
So they wend their way to Pilate, the Roman governor. The law says that after sun-down no dead bodies may hang on the tree; that would defile the land. Christ must be put away as one who would defile, together with the two murderers. Their legs must be broken wit-h heavy blows by clubs, thus hastening death. That was also to be the loti of Christ.
But God rules at Calvary-Golgotha, the place of a skull. All was finished. It is the Lamb of God who has carried away on that Cross the sins of the world. He is the Lamb without spot or blemish; he is holy, harmless, undefiled and separate from sinners. And “not a bone of him shall be broken.” Such had been the instructions of the Lord to Israel at the institution of the Passover in the land of Egypt, the house of bondage. In Exodus 12:46we read: “In one house shall it be eaten; thou shalt not carry ought of the flesh abroad out of the house;neither shall ye break a bone thereof.” It must be eaten as a body and not simply as a piece of meat. And now these keepers of the law, who cannot see that Christ is the subject, meaning, purpose of the law, will, in name of the law of the Sabbath, break the legs of the Lord of the Sabbath!
God rules in lofty majesty.
Not a bone shall be broken of this Lamb of God, who is the Mighty God in the flesh. The perfect sacrifice is brought and it shall not be mutilated post-mortem. It seems so natural, such a mere human logic at work, here in these rude, calloused Roman soldiers. (Was one wearing the raiment of Christ for which the lot had been cast?) They brake the legs of the one murderer and of the other; but, when they come to Christ, they see that he has already died!
And they do not break his legs.
Not a bone is broken; the Scripture is fulfilled!
He was delivered for our offenses; he was bruised for our iniquities. The chastisement of our peace was upon him; by his stripes we are healed.
He is the whole sin offering, the whole peace offering, and the whole thank offering!
But look! That one soldier has a spear. He thrusts it forcefully into Jesus’ side. And, oh wonder, “forthwith there came out blood and water.” Thus we read in the text. This is a very remarkable occurrence. What does this mean? Is this to be explained to be a miracle, a wonder, a “sign” of God? If water can flow from the rock in the desert for thirsty Israel, and, if that rock is Christ (I Cor. 10), and, when water can flow from Samson’s jaw-bone of an ass at Ramath-Lehi, do we need to hesitate to see water and blood flow from Christ’s “riven side?” It is the wonder of grace.
For let us not fail to see that we have here to do, with the fulfillment of the Scriptures; it is the fulfillment ofZechariah 12:10: “And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn . . .”
This is a very significant passage from the prophecy of Zechariah. It belongs to the Messianic section, portraying graphically the scene at the Cross, centuries later. It portrays here the real essence of what took place on the Cross. Jehovah God, Himself, was pierced by Israel. Thus Peter preaches in Jerusalem two months later: “But ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you; and killed the Prince of life . . .” (Acts 3:14, 15).
Notice: God was in Christ! He was in Christ reconciling the world to himself. He is Immanuel, God-with-us. Here he hangs in the land of Immanuel. The land that may not be polluted. He will be taken from the Cross without His legs broken. He has laid down His life for His own. Yet, he is pierced, pierced, pierced! All the way Jehovah was hated. Peter savoring the things of man and not of God said: this will not happen unto thee. But Christ is speaking of that wondrous thing: the Stone rejected of the builders is set for the head of the corner. The entire salvation rests upon Him. It is Jehovah-God, in Jesus, who was mocked, spit upon, crowned with thorns, who becomes our righteousness: JEHOVAH-YIDSKANU!
When they have done all, finished all the piercing, then a Roman soldier shall be the instrument to fulfill the word: they shall look upon me (not him) whom they have pierced!
It was Jehovah-God himself in our human nature on that Cross!
Behold: “forthwith there came out blood and water.” It was real water and real blood, methinks. It was a sign. Hail it been merely the two parts of the blood present in all dying people, or the parts of blood taken in a blood-transfusion, the solemn assurance of John would not be necessary, nor would it have been a sign on the Cross of such moment that it proclaimed: I the Lord of life, God in the flesh has been pierced.
Now the land will not be defiled.
The body will be taken down; it saw not corruption.
Christ was with the rich in his death!!
Not a bone is broken, for He is the pierced One from whose side flows the blood of atonement and the water of regeneration and cleansing. Go to, then, ye would-be devotees of ceremonial cleanness of the land. The riddle is here solved; a greater than Samson’s. For it is the Wisdom of God. God is revealed in the flesh, seen of angels, preached in the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.
For John assures us of two things.
The first is that the thing itself, the sign of water and blood, is true; it is no counterfeit, no product of an overwrought imagination. Real water and blood flowed; real salvation and real cleansing from the guilt and corruption of sin!
The second is that he speaks the truth in relating it. He faithfully relates it. He has done so for many years. It is a long time since this occurred. John is now an old man. But he continues to testify of it.
That we might believe the glad story that God was in Christ bringing the sacrifice for our sins. Truly the world itself could not contain all the books, should all be written.
Small wonder that we listen with rapt attention to the little that is recorded. And all the weeping of Zechariah’s prophecy is turned into laughter. The Lord hath done great things. Wherefore we are glad.