Reading the Word
John 19:31–37 (ESV)
31 Since it was the day of Preparation, and so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken and that they might be taken away. 32 So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who had been crucified with him. 33 But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34 But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. 35 He who saw it has borne witness—his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth—that you also may believe. 36 For these things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken.” 37 And again another Scripture says, “They will look on him whom they have pierced.”
Understanding and Applying the Word
Jesus was crucified on a Friday, which meant the Sabbath was at hand. That particular Sabbath was considered especially important (a “high day”) because it followed the Passover. In order not to defile the Sabbath, the people requested that the bodies of the crucified be taken down and buried. This request was in accord with Deuteronomy 21:22-23.
It was usual for Romans to leave bodies hanging and decaying for days, but they also tried to accommodate religious observances at times. In this case, they did not wish to offend the Jewish people so they decided to make sure the three would die quickly by breaking their legs. This would make it impossible to use the legs to push up and take a breath. Surprisingly, Jesus’ legs were not broken because he had already died. This fulfilled a prophecy found in Psalm 34:20 that said that none of his bones would be broken, which also applied to the Passover lambs during the Exodus (cf. Exodus 12:46).
Instead of breaking Jesus’ legs, a Roman soldier plunged a spear into his side to ensure he was truly dead. This too fulfilled a prophecy found in Zechariah 12:10.
It is an amazing thing to think about how many prophecies written hundreds of years prior that Jesus fulfilled. Many argue that he simply set out to fulfill them, but this does not account for the ones he had no ability to fulfill on his own. The events surrounding his birth and his death were completely out of his control to manufacture. Go back and re-read the Gospel accounts and make note of how many times that we are told that Jesus fulfilled an Old Testament prophecy. Go back and read those prophecies in the Old Testament. Then marvel at how Jesus fulfilled the Scriptures.
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