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Rays of Light Bible Lessons by Keith Holder

SCRIPTURES WERE FULFILLED

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 knoweth that he saith true, 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 saith, They shall look on Him whom they pierced.

Although the events described in the lesson text are recorded only in the gospel of the apostle John, they are extremely significant in establishing and assuring the world that the New Testament doctrine of Christ Jesus is the true word of God.

The time, as reckoned by the Jewish calendar, was the preparation, that is, the preparation of the Passover (John 19:14). This was not only the preparation day for the Sabbath Day, but it was especially significant because it was the day to prepare for the annual Passover Sabbath Day. This preparation, according to Jewish custom, began at the ninth hour of the day preceding the Sabbath Day, which, according to our reckoning of time, would have been 3 o'clock on Friday afternoon. Normally Romans let crucified victims hang on crosses until death, which sometimes lasted for two or three days. However, Jewish law specifically stated that the bodies of those condemned to death were not to remain hanged into the day following their crucifixion (Deut. 21:22-23). Therefore, in order that the Sabbath Day be not defiled, the Jewish leaders besought Pilate that He would, after assuring their death, have Jesus, and the thieves crucified with Him, be taken down from their crosses that they may be properly buried.

An extremely cruel practice was used by executioners in order to hasten and assure death before victims were removed from their crucifixion cross. History tells us that heavy mallets or sledges were used to crush their leg bones, causing excruciating, unbearable pain that soon resulted in death. On this day before the Passover Sabbath, and because they were still alive, Pilate evidently gave such orders to the soldiers who came to their crosses and brake the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with him, that is, they broke the legs of the two malefactors that were crucified on either side of Jesus. Although one of these thieves repented to Christ for his sinful life and would soon be with Jesus in paradise, yet, like Jesus and the other thief, he too suffered the pain and anguish of the brutal death of crucifixion.

But when they came to Jesus, and saw that He was dead already, they brake not His legs. Although it was common to break the legs of those crucified, God's will prevailed. David, through whom Jesus descended, gave us this prophecy: He keepeth all His bones: not one of them is broken (Psa. 34:20). With Jesus, this was fulfilled on this day before the Passover Sabbath. However, Jewish law stated that the lamb, which was slain, prepared, and served at the Passover meal was to be without blemish and neither shall ye break a bone thereof (See Ex. 12:43-47). This, also, seems to apply to God's Son. He too, had no bones broken and was the symbolic paschal lamb offered for the sins of the world.

Instead of breaking Jesus' legs, to assure His death, one of the soldiers with a spear pierced His side, and forthwith came there out blood and water. This was also a fulfillment of the prophecy found in Zechariah 12:10, which reads, and they shall look upon Me Whom they have pierced. Indeed, God was in charge of the crucifixion of His Son. Although the militant Jews and Roman soldiers carried out these events, they were by God's design, fulfilling the prophecies of His Old Testament messengers. Verse 35 tells us that John bare record, and his record is true, ...that ye might believe. Old Testament prophecies were fulfilled and the evidence is undeniable; Jesus' atoning death enabled all mankind of being reconciled with God and the hope of eternal salvation in heaven.