Jesus’ Side Is Pierced

John 19:31-37 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 came there out blood and water. And he that saw it bare record, and his record is true: and he knows that he said true, that you 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 said, They shall look on him whom they pierced. 

‘Sabbath day, (for that sabbath day was a high day)’ this was Tuesday sunset to Wednesday sunset. The next day was a “high day” (John 19:31), a special sabbath of the feast, not the ordinary weekly sabbath, which was two days later (Lev. 23:6-11). Bodies were not to hang all night (Deut. 21:22-23).

‘Legs might be broken’ it was common practice to break the legs of criminals upon the cross to hurry their death, but law again was broken to fulfil a prophecy that no bone of Him shall be broken which is the 14th Old Testament prophecy in John (Ex. 12:46; Num. 9:12; Ps. 34:20).

‘Came there out blood and water’ – there is nothing symbolic or spiritual intended to be conveyed here, but the fact of His literal death. The prophecy in Psalm 22:14 was being fulfilled during His crucifixion: “I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint, my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels.” The loss of tissue fluids – after He had been scourged: ripped open – had reached critical levels; and His compressed heart was struggling to pump heavy, thick, sluggish blood to the tissues, and the tortured lungs were making a frantic effort to inhale small gulps of air as He was trying to get oxygen as He pushed Himself up for every breath against the nails that held Him to the cross. The markedly dehydrated tissues sent their flood of stimuli to the brain was why Jesus cried of thirst. Again we read in the prophetic Psalm: “My strength is dried up like a potsherd; my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death” (22:15). To make doubly sure of death, a legionnaire drove his lance between the ribs, upward through the pericardium and into the heart. ‘And immediately there came out blood and water.’ Thus there was an escape of watery fluid from the sac surrounding the heart and the blood of the interior of the heart. This is rather conclusive post-mortem evidence that Jesus died, not the usual crucifixion death by suffocation, but of heart failure due to shock and constriction of the heart by fluid in the pericardium.

‘He that saw it bare record’ this was John the apostle himself (19:25-26; 21:24-25).

‘They shall look on him whom they pierced’ the 15th Old Testament prophecy fulfilled in John (Psa. 22:16) and be fulfilled as we read from Zechariah 12:10 and Revelation 1:7 that they who pierced Him – or rather their descendants – shall mourn for Him. This identifies the Jews as the ones responsible for the sufferings and death of the Messiah. Peter confirmed this (Acts 2:23). Having been the ones who pierced Him, or had Him pierced, the Jews will then, in that future day, lament and mourn in bitterness over their deed, upon seeing Him and the marks of His wounds. They will at last make supplication to Him for mercy and forgiveness (Zech. 12:10-14).

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