The Pierced Side

Then the Jews (because it was the Parasceve), that the bodies might not remain upon the cross on the Sabbath-day (for that was a great Sabbath-day), besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. The soldiers therefore came, and they broke the legs of the first, and of the other that was crucified with Him. But when they came to Jesus, and saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs, but one of the soldiers opened his side with a spear, and immediately there came out blood and water. And he that saw gave testimony, and his testimony is true. And he knoweth that he saith true, that you also may believe. For these things were done that the Scripture might be fulfilled: 'You shall not break a bone of Him.' And again another Scripture saith: 'They shall look on Him Whom they pierced.' - John 19:31-37

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1. Jesus is dead, but His two companions are not yet, and the great Sabbath-day is drawing near. Saint John, with his eye kept steadily fixed on the great unity of the work of God among men, that unity which he was able the better to recognize after the vision of the Apocalypse, that unity which we shall understand in the great revelation of the next world, reminds us of two great though insignificant details, which might well be the key to many more. "They did not break His legs;" they broke no bone of the "Lamb that was slain from the beginning of the world." Thus was obeyed the precept concerning the Paschal Lamb: "You shall not break a bone of Him." The membership of the Body of Christ must be a complete thing; to the end of time a "severed limb" shall be a contradiction.

2. Thus for the fulfillment of the past. But the last of the prophets had spoken another word looking into the future. In one of the most difficult passages of the Old Testament the prophet Zachary had strangely inter mingled words of triumph and of sorrow. The day would come when "Jerusalem" would revive, when "the Lord" would "protect the inhabitants of Jerusalem" even from herself; and the prophet goes on: "And I will pour out upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of prayers: and they shall look upon Me, Whom they have pierced: and they shall mourn for Him as one mourneth for an only son, and they shall grieve over Him, as the manner is to grieve for the death of the first-born." Saint John saw the heart of Jesus Christ pierced through; he remembers the word of Zachary; he knows that the piercing of that heart means many things for Christ's own that are to be.

3. Here Saint John reverts to that form of emphasis which we find in two or three other places of his writings. We find it at the beginning of his Epistles; we find it at the end of the Apocalypse; we find it at the conclusion of his Gospel, where he says: "These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God: and that believing you may have life in His name." And here he says: "He knoweth that he saith true, that you also may believe." What would he have us believe from this passage? That Jesus Christ is indeed the fulfillment of all prophecy; that He is the great Sacrifice, concluding in Himself all that has gone before; that He has poured Himself out, to the last drop of blood and water; that henceforth, for all time and for all eternity, the stream springing from Calvary shall flow on, preserving innocence in many, cleansing many more, so that the glory of Heaven itself shall consist in being steeped in the Blood of the Lamb.


1. No bone was broken.

2. The side was opened.

3. The great meaning of this for all time.

- from The Crown of Sorrow, by Archbishop Alban Goodier