"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." (John 19:36,37)
IN comparatively few verses here, we have recorded a matter that will fill heaven! If you and I have an interest in it, it will fill our heaven, and ultimately bring us there, to praise and bless the holy Lamb of God for ever and ever. As our eyes are opened, in any measure, to the solemnities of eternity, we shall realize that the highest honor that God can confer upon a sinful man, is to give him a part and interest in the gospel, in the love of God and in the atoning sacrifice and precious blood of the dear Redeemer, and eventually, upon that ground, open to him the gates of heaven and grant to him an abundant entrance there. On the other hand, the most awful calamity that can befall sinful man, is to live and die ignorant, hard, careless, indifferent, unconcerned about these tremendous issues, die in his sins, and sink to the bottomless pit. O, how can we bless God enough for the gospel? Favored souls are they, who can feel to have some standing for eternity! Indeed blessed are they, who long to feel the cleansing flood and more so, they who hope they have had a taste of pardoning love, through the precious blood of Christ applied to their consciences. O happy indeed are they who feel a hope of heaven and an interest in these blessed realities!
This chapter records some particulars of the Saviour's crucifixion at Calvary. Though there are heights and depths that must ever confound us, yet here we are assured, without any question, that He did indeed, literally, die a physical death; moreover, that His holy side was pierced and that blood and water issued therefrom. This is referred to in the Revelation; "Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him, and they also which pierced Him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him. Even so, Amen." (Rev. 1:7) So such a word embraces everyone in this congregation; some will wail because of Him and others will be filled with holy peace and joy. It would seem according to that word, that all shall see Him, every eye shall see Him, and they also which pierced Him, some to their eternal condemnation, some to their eternal justification. Moreover, is it not also predicted by Zechariah in his prophecy, "I will pour upon the house of David, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and supplications: and they shall look upon Me Whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for Him, as one mourneth for his only son." (Zech. 12:10) There will then be those who will have godly sorrow, contrition--yet mingled with a sacred sense of pardoning mercy and love, as faith views that wounded side, and others who shall call upon the rocks and mountains to hide them from His wrath.
These words are very speaking, are they not? "One of the soldiers with a spear pierced His side, and forthwith came there out blood and water." (John 19:34) May it not be a noticeable point to observe here, that the piercing of the Redeemer's holy side was not the cause of His death? For we read before this, that Jesus said, after He had received the vinegar, "It is finished," bowed His head, and gave up the ghost. Are not these some of the most profound, solemn, sacred, and far-reaching words in Holy Scripture? He said, in the midst of that inconceivable agony, "It is finished;" then "He bowed His head, and gave up the ghost." This indicated submission to the will of His Father, that the cup was passing from Him, the bitter ingredients had been taken, and the cup of divine wrath exhausted. Justice had drawn its sword and smitten the innocent Surety, had sought satisfaction and found it, and had no need to go any further. Justice was satisfied there. He said, "It is finished!" That is to say, when the Redeemer died the work of redemption and substitution was complete. He bowed His head! Ordinarily the head would fall from physical exhaustion, but the Saviour bowed His head in token of submission to His Father's will, indicating thereby that the work was accomplished. O, have we ever heard such a voice, indicating that it was for us? "It is finished; and He bowed His head, and gave up the ghost."
"Then the Jews, because it was the preparation day, desired that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath day, and 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." They apparently did not go first to Jesus. Are there not things beyond our understanding in this? They went to the two thieves (one a vessel of mercy, and the other a vessel of wrath) and brake their legs to dispatch them. O, sad to think of indeed! a suffering, a lingering death, for still life lingered; so they brake their legs. A solemn thought this! Wonderful indeed that one should have proved to be a vessel of mercy and before he died, prayed, "Lord, remember me, when Thou comest into Thy kingdom." (Luke 23:42) "But when they came to Jesus, and saw that He was dead already, they brake not His legs." But why all this? "That the Scripture should be fulfilled, A bone of Him shall not be broken." (John 19:36) They brake not His legs. O, is it not striking to observe, that even those Roman soldiers were directed to fulfil Scripture, though as far as we can tell they may have known nothing about it? That the Scripture should be fulfilled, they brake not His legs. "A bone of Him shall not be broken."
This was the case with the type--when the children of Israel came forth from Egypt on their deliverance, the paschal lamb was slain and eaten, according to the divine directions, but they were not to break a bone thereof. "Neither shall ye break a bone thereof," (Exo. 12:46) a type of the dear Redeemer in this sense, and, moreover, that the Scripture should so be fulfilled, "A bone of Him shall not be broken." A bone may indicate strength in the body, and so may indicate the strength of the dear Redeemer to fulfill all that was committed to Him, and laid upon Him--the bone being a solid part of the body. Yet it may also be observed that inasmuch as the church is His body, mystically viewed, not one member shall be broken, lost, for whom He laid down His life.
"Again another Scripture saith, They shall look on Him Whom they pierced." There was, then, a literal piercing of the side of Emmanuel after His decease. Seeing that He was dead already, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, they brake not His legs, but a soldier pierced His side, which would have caused instant death otherwise, and this too that the Scripture should be fulfilled. Wonderful thought this! But let us remember that the dear Redeemer had already paid the price, laid down His life. His human soul had entered heaven which we can believe according to the dear Saviour's word to the dying thief, "Today shalt thou be with Me in paradise." (Luke 23:43) So the piercing of His side was not the cause of His death, but that the Scripture should be fulfilled. The piercing of the Redeemer's side was also an indication of those two wonderful blessings that should flow from His death in the sanctification and justification of all His dear people. This was the "fountain opened for sin and for uncleanness," predicted in Zechariah 13:1. It was necessary then for His side thus to be pierced, that Zechariah's prophecy should be fulfilled, and, moreover, that there should thou be a fountain opened for sin and for uncleanness; so His holy side was pierced, and there came out the water to cleanse, the blood to atone, to wash away the filth and the guilt of sin that must otherwise have been our everlasting ruin. O, it is wonderful to get a glimpse, by faith, of this and to feel a hope, in some measure, that His side was pierced for us, and that the precious blood that flowed from His wounded side, was to atone for our guilty, black, vile sins, Well might one say,
"Let us our loved Redeemer meet
Weep o'er His pierced hands and feet
And view His wounded side."
O, has it ever been so with you? Have you known that never-to-be-forgotten moment, when you looked upon Him Whom you pierced? Hart says,
"They nailed Him to the accursed tree;
(They did, my brethren; so did we); So did we!
The soldier pierced His side, 'tis true,
But we have pierced Him thro' and thro'."
Just a moment's further consideration upon this point. It may be observed by the Scripture, that not only was the dear Saviour literally pierced by the spear of the soldier, but there was a deeper piercing by the hand of justice. Justice drew its sword and smote the innocent Surety. In Isaiah 53 it is so declared "Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him." A profound Scripture this--"It pleased the LORD to bruise Him." When the dear Saviour was on the Mount of Transfiguration, and when He was baptized in Jordan, the Father's voice was heard, saying, "This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased," and yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him! "He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed." O, does that mean you? Does that mean me? Can it be that such poor, worthless worms as we are wrapped up in such a statement? Was He delivered for our offences, and raised again for our justification? The hand of justice wounded Him--which was a terrible wound; indeed, it must have been a terrible wound!
"Many hands were raised to wound Him,
None would interpose to save,
But the awful stroke that found Him,
Was the stroke that justice gave."
But not only was the Redeemer thus pierced by the hand of justice, but He was pierced also by His people. He was pierced in His heart by His dear people, whose sins were thus laid upon Him, which were a load, a burden, overwhelming, that sunk His soul "in deep mire," as we read, "where there is no standing," and into deep waters, where the floods did overflow Him. O, when we think of this, what an awful thing is sin! What a price was called for--to atone for sin and to ransom us from eternal death! "They shall look on Him whom they pierced."
"These things were done, that the Scripture should be fulfilled." So we may conclude by this, that literally speaking, the Saviour was pierced by the sword of the Roman soldier, He was pierced by the hand of justice, and He was pierced by the sins of His people. But it is said here, "They shall look on Him whom they pierced." There were some standing by who were eyewitnesses of this, and of the sufferings of Christ, as the Apostle Peter speaks: "We have not followed cunningly devised fables" in this, it was a literal fact; but the view of faith is deeper--to gaze upon those wounds by faith, is deeper, and can, indeed, be more real where that revelation is given. Some, it may be, saw the piercing of the Redeemer, who had no part or lot in the matter, but some of them had. We read, "Every eye shall see Him and they also which pierced Him."
This flowing forth, then, of the blood and water, sets forth the all-sufficient efficacy of His precious death; it ensures your heaven and mine, if we have a part in it. Is it not an amazing consideration that He should go to such depths as these? suffer such inward pangs of soul, and pains of body, for a wretch like me--or like you? If it were to enter into our hearts, it would make us feel to be wretches that we should be the cause of such inconceivable suffering--and yet, how it would make us love Him, admire Him, esteem Him, account Him All-in-All, Alpha and Omega! It would make Him everything to us if we did but get a glimpse of Him.
"They shall look on Him." In this the Scripture must be fulfilled! O, if the Lord were pleased to give us some opening up of this, some view by precious faith, by divinely-given faith, which the Holy Ghost is pleased to work in a believing heart, what should we see in the wounded side of our glorious Redeemer? We should see the everlasting love of God! Where can divine love shine brighter than at Calvary? "In this was manifested the love of God toward us...Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins." (1 John 4:9,10) O wonderful love is this! Wonderful love shines forth at Calvary, before the eye of faith, to a sensible sinner who is brought to weep before His cross, to feel a hope that the hell he deserves is put away, and that one day he will see in the realms of bliss, that glorious, exalted Lamb that has been slain. "They shall look on Him Whom they pierced."
Another point seen by faith is that by the piercing of His side that fountain is opened "to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness." This pure water must wash the filth away; this precious blood must make the atonement. Here, then, is the fountain opened for sin and for sinners too, the precious fountain spoken of here.
"There is a fountain filled with blood,
Drawn from Immanuel's vein,
And sinners plunged beneath that flood,
Lose all their guilty stains."
Lose them, Lose them! O, have you known anything of that? They lose them! Another writer says of the atonement:
"It rises high, and drowns the hills;
Has neither shore nor bound;
Now if we search to find our sins,
Our sins can ne'er be found."
O, what amazing grace, mercy, love, compassion and pity flow from His wounded side! Moreover, faith sees in the wounded side of Jesus an open way to heaven, a "new and living Way" (Heb. 10:20) through the rent veil of His flesh. "A new and living Way!" This is the gospel way as distinct from legal traditions and obligations, that were a shadow of good things to come. This is the good thing that has come; here is a new and living way opened for a sinner, for you, for me; it is a way open, it has not to be opened, it is already open. Jesus Christ declares Himself to be "The Way, the Truth, and the Life." (John 14:6) Here too a poor sinner has a ground upon which to stand and "come boldly to the throne of grace." The precious blood of Christ is his argument, his plea, that upon which he may, by faith, boldly venture and take no denial.
"I can no denial take,
When I plead for Jesus' sake."
"They shall look in Him." Here, without pretending to visionary things, I remember when this was so real in the view of faith to me, that I felt just then it could not have been more real if I had actually been at the foot of the cross when He was crucified. "They shall look on Him." Have you known a day or a night when to look on Him has melted your heart, moved your affections, brought forth worship? when you have put your crown on His head and crowned Him Lord of all? "They shall look on Him whom they pierced." The wounded side of Jesus brings reconciliation, nearness, removes differences, takes away barriers. "Ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ." Can you follow the apostle in that?
"The blood of Christ, a precious blood!
Cleanses from all sin, doubt it not,
And reconciles the soul to God,
From every folly, every fault."
Do you wish for another advocate, another gospel, something more up-to-date, as people say, more modern, more pleasing? O, if the grace of God is in your heart, and your soul is lively, you will say, O, that I could live closer to Him, be more often weeping at His cross, feel in my heart a sweet contrition, hear the echo of that wonderful voice, saying, "It is finished!" and feel that this mighty work was accomplished for me! What else do we need? We do not need a lot of religious enthusiasm, but we need a bleeding Jesus; nothing more can we wish for, nothing less can we do with. O, that precious blood--invaluable blood! "They shall look on Him whom they pierced." Here then, is a welcome to a sinner who may be feeling ready to perish; there is a welcome here. O, but, some of you say, I feel to be too bad, too vile, too black, too sinful, too great a sinner. Who said so? What kind of a woman was she who was first at the sepulcher and who could not leave it, but waited there and was the first to see the risen Saviour? Was it not Mary Magdalene? May not this show the wonderful, sovereign condescension and love of the Redeemer, to appear first to such a character as she had been? O, but, say you, she was given repentance and was forgiven! She leaves me far behind. What do you need in your soul? What do you need, poor thing? O, say you, I need that same blood, "That same Jesus," that same sacrifice. O, what will satisfy you? O, say you, I know what will satisfy me. If I could but "look on Him." But I am dark, confused, ignorant, vile, out-of-the-way. Yes, but what is all this to Him? What does He say? Come unto Me, with all this, with your vileness, wretchedness, ruin, sin, guilt, misery. Come to the cross with it all. Take it there and plead the blood that does for sin atone.
"They shall look on Him." O, have you had just that sacred glimpse of Him, by precious faith? Then you will get to heaven. Heaven is to be seen through His wounded side, for a poor perishing sinner, who is brought to that place to have to say, "Give me Christ, or else I die." What do you think of Him? What is your feeling of this sacrifice? What is your view of this precious blood? How are you moved by His death? O, say you, it is all profoundly blessed, wonderfully real; but I do not know, I seem to be out of the secret, I do not know. Do you want to know? Do you ever pray for the Lord to make it clear in your soul? Do you seek sometimes for that precious blood to be sprinkled on your conscience, so that you can say, I am clean, just God, I am clean? O, say you, that would satisfy me, give me peace, bring me joy, assure me that it will be well with me one day. O, may the Lord grant it then, and may He favor every waiting soul who longs for His appearing, with that sweet manifestation of His dying love. This will be more to you than anything else; it will break you to pieces. It will break your heart--and it will bind it up too. For this precious blood heals the broken-hearted.
"Jesus heals the broken-hearted;
O, how sweet that sound to me!
Once beneath my sin He smarted, (Did He?)
Groaned, and bled to set me free."
O, that personal pronoun there! May the Lord bring it in! We mourn that the Lord seems distant from us in this, but O, may He hear the cry of the poor and needy, and bring a healing, not a slight, partial healing, but a full forgiveness. May He say to some, as He did to the woman who was a sinner, like you, like me, "Thy sins are forgiven thee." Here is our foundation, our hope, our trust, our confidence, our peace, our heaven.
But there are our providences, difficulties, burdens, trials, heavy things, disappointments, set-backs, all kinds of things; what about all these? If the Lord is pleased to come and bless your soul, it will help you through a trial better than anything else; it will bring you quietness, confidence, strength. O, say you, if I could believe He had pardoned my dreadful sins, it would bring me through all my difficulties. Has He not done so for some of you? Has He not said, "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee?"
May the Lord help us, give us a gracious experience of that which will give us a standing for eternity, bear us through the flood of Jordan, and grant us an abundant entrance into His everlasting kingdom!