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to the criminal's life; when they found that Jesus was already dead, there was no occasion for expediting his death by breaking the legs; thus, by omitting it, they acted agreeably to their orders.
But in this transaction, we must above all things have an eye to the hand of God, by which the hands of these soldiers were withheld from committing such an outrage on his Son's body. God would not suffer our Saviour's legs to be broken, for the following reasons:
First, That it might be manifest, that the sufferings and death of our Redeemer did not proceed from the will and insolence of his enemies; but that he himself had power voluntarily to lay down his life, before any one took it from him, (John x. 18.)
Secondly, That it might appear, that the blessed Jesus, though he was numbered among the trans-: gressors or malefactors, was not of that class. Therefore his heavenly Father caused him to be distinguished from the two malefactors, after his death; since his bones were not broken, and he was honourably buried, neither of which was the case of those who were crucified with him.
Thirdly, That the scripture might be fulfilled, which, as cited by the Evangelist, says, 'A bone of him shall not be broken.'
These words refer,
1. To the type of the Paschal Lamb; concerning which it is said in scripture, (Exod. xii. 46.) Thou shalt not carry forth ought of the flesh abroad, out of the house, neither shall ye break a bone thereof." From this intimation of the Holy Spirit, here quoted by St. John, it is plain, that the chief view of that Divine ordinance was to prefigure this circumstance of our Saviour's passion, as it was a type of his great sacrifice.
2. We are hereby referred to a passage in the Psalms, (Psalm xxxiv. 19, 20.) where it is said of a particular righteous servant of the Lord, That many
are his afflictions; that the Lord delivereth him out of them all; and lastly, that he will keep all his bones, so that not one of them is broken;' and preservation was to be a pledge of his approaching resurrection. These words cannot be applicable to every righteous and pious man; for many godly persons have experienced the contrary. But if we interpret the words as a prophecy concerning Christ, which the context will very well bear, we may here see the literal accomplishment of them. The following words in the twenty-first verse of this Psalm are likewise applicable to our Saviour's enemies: Evil shall slay the wicked, [Jews] and they that hate the righteous [Jesus] shall be desolate; they who called out, his blood be upon us, &c. shall be punished with ruin and desolation. Let us hence deduce the following truths:
1. He who once gives himself up a servant to sin, will be continually incited by it to commit greater
The enemies of the blessed Jesus were not satisfied with seeing him fastened to the cross; they would not rest till he was actually dead. Their inhuman cruelty was not satisfied though his flesh had been bruised and torn by the scourges and blows; but they solicited the governor, that his bones also might be fractured, the better to compass what they ardently. wished, namely, that he should lie down, and rise up no more, (l'salm xl. 8.) Thus they could not restrain their impotent rage against the innocent, though the sun had, as it were, hid his face at the sight of their past wickedness, and the earth had shook and trembled under their feet. Thus, a man is deprived of all his freedom by sin if he suffers it to get the dominion over him; and he becomes a slave of the devil, and a blood-thirsty beast of prey, so that every spark of humanity is gradually extinguished in him. Let us therefore resolutely oppose the first beginnings of sin, and tread under foot the least spark of it that appears, lest it should break out into a flame to the destruction. of body and soul.
2. Whoever judges of a man's spiritual state from outward appearances will be frequently mistaken.
The converted malefactor, as we have already observed, suffered the same painful cruelty as his impenitent companion; and yet there was a very great difference between those two persons. For one of them was a friend of Christ, the other his enemy and reviler; one was transplanted from the cross into Paradise, the other was cast into an abyss of misery.Thus it may frequently happen, that two persons may be involved in the same misfortune, between whose inward spiritual circumstances there is a great disparity. One may be a faithful servant of God, the other the infamous slave of satan. Saul and Jonathan fell both in the same battle; and yet the difference between them was very great. The pious Josiah and the idolatrous Ahab were both killed in battle by an arrow, (Chron. xviii. 33. xxxv. 23.) That wicked prince Zedekiah, and the prophet Daniel, were both carried away captives into Babylon, (Jer. lii. 11. Dan. i. 2, 6.) but who thinks their merits equal? As this consideration should restrain us from forming precipitate judg ments, and induce us not to think unfavourably of those who are involved in difficulties and distress, and labour under poverty, sickness, &c. it may likewise serve to comfort us when we are involved in sufferings, together with the most impious malefactors. For the Lord knows his own who have departed from evil; and a day will come when the difference between the righteous and unrighteous will be made manifest before the eyes of angels and all the human race. In the mean time, it is our duty by our calmness, patience, and resignation, so to distinguish ourselves from the children of this world, that others may see that a different spirit dwells in us from that which worketh in the children of unbelief.
3. God by a timely death often delivers his children from some great calamity intended them.
The Lord Jesus by his death, in which he freely laid down his life, prevented the cruelty of the soldiers, who designed to torture him by breaking his legs. Thus God still frequently brings his children into safety by an early death, before the floods of his judgments break in, and spread a general desolation over their country; or before the wicked can execute the impious schemes they had planned against them.
However the infinite wisdom of God is pleased to dispose of us, we must rest satisfied with his dispensations. If the Lord of life and death is pleased, by a sudden disolution, to remove us from some impending misfortune, it is to deliver us from evil; and were we to suffer the calamity, we have cause thankfully to acknowledge, that not a hair shall fall from our heads without his knowledge and permission.
II. But, instead of the intended insult of breaking the legs of Jesus, God permitted another indignity to be offered his sacred body; and the account of this insult is the subject of the remaining verses of the text, (John xix. 34, 35, 36.) which contain the following particulars.
First, The person who did this injury to our Saviour's body, and he is here mentioned. This was one of the soldiers, namely, one of those who had broke the legs of the two malefactors. This man, contrary to the respect he owed to his officer, (who had given a public testimony of Christ's innocence) had the presumption to offer this indignity to the blessed Jesus, after his death. Possibly, his design by this brutal insult to the dead body was to please the Jews; who perhaps had bribed him to do it, or at least, would not fail to reward him for his insolence.
Secondly, The indignity offered to our Saviour's body, which was this: A soldier with a spear stabbed it in the breast or side. This was done, indeed, out of wantonness or insolence; or, perhaps, the soldier might at the same time have an intention of trying, whether Jesus was really dead, or only in a swoon.
He therefore stabs him with a spear near the heart, that he might see whether he had still any life in him; so that by giving him a wound, he designed to dispatch him, in case any life remained in him. That it was no small wound which the spear made in the breast of our blessed Lord, but a large incision, appears from what he says to the incredulous Thomas, after his resurrection, Reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side,' (John xx. 27.)
Thirdly, What followed this injurious piercing of our Saviour's side is likewise mentioned by St. John, in these words: And forthwith came there out blood and water.' This was undoubtedly an extraordinary event; since the providence of God directed the soldier's spear to make an incision in the place where these different humours were lodged, and, at the same time, hindred these two fluids from intermixing; for St. John, who stood by, could plainly distinguish both blood and water issuing from the wound.
Fourthly, Mention is made of the certainty of this remarkable incident, in these words: And he that saw it bare record, and his record is truc; and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe.'— The certainty of this extraordinary phenomenon is confirmed,
1. As it is related by one who had it not by hear-say, but saw it with his own eyes.
2. As St. John is a credible witness; who was admitted by Christ among his Apostles, that he might bear a true testimony of the actions and occurrences of his life, death, and resurrection.
3. As his record was delivered after deliberate and mature thought, with the assisting light of the Holy Spirit, and with a Divine assurance; therefore it is added and he knoweth that he saith true.' But St. John here likewise mentions the end, for which he bare record in these words: that ye might believe;' namely, that our Saviour's side was thus pierced, and consequently that he did really die on the cross. The