Saturday in the Thirty-Third Week of Ordinary Time

John 19:31-37

Him Whom They Pierced

It was the custom of the Romans to leave bodies on crosses so that all would see and fear.  Occasionally an exception would be made.  This was the case here.  According to the Law, bodies were not to be left after nightfall but to be buried, lest the land be polluted (Deuteronomy 21:23).  This was especially the case when the next day was a Sabbath, and even more especially the case when that Sabbath was a “high day,” like the Sabbath of Passover week.  The breaking of the legs made it so that the criminal could not use his feet to push himself up to get air into his lungs, which hanging down with outstretched arms made difficult due to the constricting of the chest.   The effect was the hastening of death.  The two unfortunate convicts on each side of Jesus endured this horror while Jesus did not as he was already dead.  One of the soldiers was apparently skeptical and pierced Jesus’ side to be sure – and out flowed blood and water.

This is a contested passage.  Throughout the history of the Church, Catholics have seen the water and blood as representing baptism and the Eucharist (Lord’s Supper).  Protestants deny such associations and assert the passage either indicates that Jesus experienced a real death, or that new life comes from Jesus’ sacrifice as the blood washes away our sins while the water represents the indwelling Spirit (John 7:38-39).  I am fine with either but find another ancient interpretation – that as Adam’s wife came from his side, so does our Lord’s Bride, the Church, flow from his through the water and blood – to be quite beautiful.  The fact that the soldiers did not break Jesus’ legs is mentioned by John as fulfilling prophecy.  Psalm 34:20 makes explicit reference to this, but the regulations for celebrating the Passover in the Law are even more impressive.  None of the bones of the Passover lamb were to be broken; moreover, it was not to be left until morning but eaten that night, just as Jesus was not left on the cross but interred (Exodus 12:46; Numbers 9:12).  The early Church insisted that the celebration of the Passover with all of its regulations was a foreshadowing of the true Passover Lamb who, like a lamb, was sacrificed over that feast making our liberation from Egypt (sin) possible, beginning our journey to the Promised Land (heaven).  In doing so, they were following the Apostle’s lead in 1 Corinthians 5:7.

John closes this passage asserting that he was an eye-witness and is writing the truth – so that we may believe.  That’s the purpose of the gospels – not to give us information, not to tell a wonderful story – but to share the good news about Jesus Christ that we may be saved.

Author: The Reformed Baptist

My name is Stephen Taylor, ordained Baptist minister of eighteen years pastoral experience with a Ph.D. in Historical Theology from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Better than that, I am married to a godly woman, Karla, who has been very patient with me since 1989. I have two daughters, both of whom I homeschooled for extended periods of time, who became godly young women, and who ran off and married godly young men, all of which is very proper. The oldest daughter has even seen fit to bless me with a grandson and a granddaughter, and my youngest daughter with a grandson, all three of whom are bundles of exceeding joy. As you can see, I am quite blessed. This website is dedicated to helping people grow in the wisdom and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ through the gift of writing that the Lord has given to me. It is specifically about helping His people grow in godliness, the theme you see repeated above. I write devotions with this aim and hope that they might be of some help to God’s people. Full disclosure: I am of a Reformed bent, meaning that my understanding of Scripture is primarily informed by the Reformers and their successors of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. However, as a student of church history and theology, I strive to remain true to that teaching handed down once for all unto the saints through every age of the Church. I like to think of myself as a “catholic” Christian, as the Reformers thought of themselves. At any rate, feel free to read, pray, and contact me if you wish, or correct me if need be. As you can see, I tend to follow the church year. Of course, I make no special claims about these devotions. I know very well that others have written better and plumbed the depths of God’s word with greater insight. But if my musings help someone draw closer to the Lord, well then, I have my reward. Blessings to you and may the God and Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ speak to you that word which He knows you especially need to hear. Grace & peace, Stephen Taylor

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