Lesson 110

The Gospel of John

World English Bible translation

 Today's Scripture

19:31 Therefore the Jews, because it was the Preparation, so that the bodies wouldn't remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a special one), asked of Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. 19:32 Therefore the soldiers came, and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who was crucified with him; 19:33 but when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was already dead, they didn't break his legs. 19:34 However one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out. 19:35 He who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, that you also may believe. 19:36 For these things happened, that the scripture might be fulfilled, "A bone of him will not be broken." 19:37 Again another scripture says, "They will look on him whom they pierced."

 Today's Lesson 

Here is what immediately came after the death of Jesus of Nazareth. The practice that is described in verses 31-37 is very much in keeping with both the Jewish traditions of the Sabbath and Roman crucifixion techniques. For the Jews, the Sabbath day was holy, especially the feast days such as Passover. The Sabbath days of the great feasts were treated with special care. If the men continued to live on the crosses they would have to be guarded and attended. This would have been a violation of the Sabbath and should be avoided if at all possible. To hasten the death of these men, the Romans would break their legs.


To understand why this should occur, one must understand something of the mechanism of crucifixion. The man who was crucified most normally died of asphyxiation. The weight of the body hanging placed strain on the respiratory system and the only way to breathe was to attempt to push upward with the legs. If the feet or ankles were nailed in place, this was quite painful, but still possible. If a person had a proper base to stand on and the feet were simply tied to the cross they might live days or sometimes as much as a week before they would die from starvation or exposure. In order to quicken the end of a man who had been nailed to the cross, the soldiers would break the lower legs preventing the man from straightening up somewhat. The results would be that the man would quickly run out of oxygen and die. This section informs us that Jesus' legs were not broken because He was already dead and because of this another prophecy was fulfilled.


This passage is also the closest link between the Gospel of John and the First Epistle of John. The Epistle speaks about the witness of water and blood and so does this passage. We are told that what occurred was that in order to verify His death, a guard pierced the side of Jesus as He hung upon the cross. Out of His side came blood and water. This type of detail is used by the author to verify that what he has seen was what truly occurred that day. And, we are also told that being pierced in the side fulfilled another portion of scripture as well.


The author is trying to tell us that not only did he see these things and verify that they occurred, but that Holy Scripture confirms that they happened in this way as well. We can see something with our eyes and believe it. But God wants us to also see something with the eyes of faith. For those of us that live several centuries after these events took place, the eyes of faith are all that we have to confirm their authenticity. "Greater are those that will not see, and still believe."


That scripture was fulfilled in each step of Jesus' life and death is important. It shows that God had a hand in every part in it all. And, it had an important value to the early church. Most of those people who initially joined the church were Jews who understood the Law and the Prophets. They had to be convinced that this was not something completely foreign to their culture and hopes. Christianity began as the answer to the promise that God had given to the people of Israel. From there it extended to include the whole world.


What is your faith based on? And whose testimony have you believed?


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