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John 19:31-37

31. The Jews, therefore, that the bodies might not remain upon the cross on the Sabbath-day, (for it was the preparation, and it was the great day of that Sabbath,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. 32. Then the soldiers came, and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who was crucified with him. 33. But when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was already dead, they broke not his legs; 34. But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and immediately there came out of it blood and water. 35. And he who saw it hath borne testimony of it, and his testimony is true, and he knoweth that he saith true, that you may believe. 36. And these things were done 184184     “Car ces choses ont cste faites;” — “For these things were done.” that the Scripture might be fulfilled, A bone of him shall not be broken. 37. And again, another Scripture saith, They shall look on him whom they pierced.

 

31. For it was the preparation. This narrative also tends to the edification of our faith; first, because it shows that what had been foretold in the Scriptures is fulfilled in the person of Christ; and, secondly, because it contains a mystery of no ordinary value. The Evangelist says, that the Jews besought that the bodies might be taken down from the crosses. This had undoubtedly been enjoined by the Law of God; but the Jews, as is usually the case with hypocrites, direct their whole attention to small matters, and yet pass by the greatest crimes without any hesitation; for, in order to a strict observance of their Sabbath, they are careful to avoid outward pollution; and yet they do not consider how shocking a crime it is to take away the life of an innocent man. Thus we saw a little before, that

they did not enter into the governor’s hall, that they might not be defiled,
(John 18:28,)

while the whole country was polluted by their wickedness. Yet, by their agency, the Lord carries into effect what was of the greatest importance for our salvation, that, by a wonderful arrangement, the body of Christ remains uninjured, and blood and water low out of his side.

And it was the great day of that Sabbath 185185     ἦν γὰρ μεγάλη ἡ ἡμέρα ἐκείνη τοῦ σαββάτον. “A very solemn festival; namely, as being not only an ordinary Sabbath, but the extraordinary one on the 15th of Nisan. For ἐκείνη, very many MSS., Versions, and early Editions, have ἐκείνου, which is received by most Editors from Wetstein to Scholz, with the approbation of Bishop Middleton.”BloomfieId. Another reading more generally approved is, and that Sabbath-day was great; but the reading which I have adopted is supported by many manuscripts that are ancient and of great authority. Let the reader choose for himself. If we read ἐκείνου in the genitive case, (ἐκείνου τοῦ σαββάτου of that Sabbath) the word Sabbath must be understood to denote the week; as if the Evangelist had said, that the festival of that week was very solemn, on account of the Passover. Note, the Evangelist speaks of the following day, which began at sunset. But, if we choose rather to read ἐκείνη, in the nominative case, ἦν γὰρ μεγάλη ἡ ἡμέρα ἐκείνη τοῦ σαββάτου, and That was the great day of the Sabbath, the meaning will be nearly the same in substance; only there would be this difference in the words, that the Passover, which was to take place on the following day, would render that Sabbath more solemn.

33. But when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was already dead. That they break the legs of the two robbers, and after having done so, find that Christ is already dead, and therefore do not touch his body, appears to be a very extraordinary work of the providence of God. Ungodly men will, no doubt, say that it happens naturally that one man dies sooner than another; but, if we examine carefully the whole course of the narrative, we shall be constrained to ascribe it to the secret purpose of God, that the death of Christ was brought on much more rapidly than men could have at all expected, and that this prevented his legs from being broken.

34. But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear. When the soldier pierced Christ’s side with his spear, he did so for the purpose of ascertaining if he was dead; but God had a higher object in view, as we shall immediately see. It was a childish contrivance of the Papists, when, out of the Greek word λόγχε, which means a spear, 186186     “Du mot Gree lonchi, qui signifie une lance.” they manufactured the proper name of a man, and called this soldier Longinus, and, to give an air of plausibility to their story, foolishly alleged that he had been formerly blind, and that, after having received his sight, he was converted to the faith. Thus they have placed him in the catalogue of the saints. 187187     Dr Bloomfield subjoins the following note to this verse: — “The epitaph of this soldier, (if genuine,) said to be found in the Church of St Mary, at Lyons, is as follows: — Qui Salvatoris latus Cruce Cuspfdefixit, Lo,’Ginus Mc jacet’ Here lies Longinu’s, who pierced the Savior’s side on the Cross with a spear.’” As the learned annotator has thus summarily adverted to this legendary tale, it is right that the reader should be briefly put in possession of the whole of it, as it has been collected by Moreri from Tillemont and other ecclesiastical writers, in his “Directory” under the head, St Longin — (St Longinns.) This St Longinus is twofold: “some saying, that he was the soldier that pierced our Lord’s side with a spear; and some, that he was the centurion who commanded the guard at the cross. The legends report both these persons to have been converted to the Christian faith, to have suffered martyrdom, and to have been canonized.” Moreri, however, though an ecclesiastic of the Romish Church, was constrained to add, The acts of both Longinuses are manifestly false; and the circumstances they allege mutually refute each other.”
   It would appear that the name Longinus has been formed from the Greek λόγχη, spear: Longinus being the Latin form of λόγχιμνος,spear-man. Thus, St Longinus is found to be a similar saint to the Sancta Veronica, reported by Brydone. “The Greeks,” continues Moreri, celebrate the martyrdom of Longinus, the centurion, on the 16th of October, the Latins on the 15th of March, and the Copts on the 1st of November. The martyrdom of Longinus, the soldier, is not acknowledged by the Greeks; but the Latins commemorate it on different days; some on the 15th of March, some on the 1st of September, others on the 22nd of November; or 11th of December.” We thus see how little this offspring of credulity and superstition merits the attention of the readers of the Gospel.Granville Penn’s Annotations.
Since their prayers, whenever they call on God, rest on such intercessors, what, I ask, will they ever be able to obtain? But they who despise Christ, and seek the intercessions of the dead, deserve that the devil should drive them to ghosts and phantoms.

And immediately there came out blood and water. Some men have deceived themselves by imagining that this was a miracle; for it is natural that the blood, when it is congealed, should lose its red color, and come to resemble water. It is well known also that water is contained in the membrane which immediately adjoins the intestines. What has led them astray is, that the Evangelist takes so much pains to explain that blood flowed along with the water, as if he were relating something unusual and contrary to the order of nature. But he had quite a different intention; namely, to accommodate his narrative to the passages of Scripture which he immediately subjoins, and more especially that believers might infer from it what he states elsewhere, that Christ came with water and blood, (1 John 5:6.) By these words he means that Christ brought the true atonement and the true washing; for, on the one hand, forgiveness of sins and justification, and, on the other hand, the sanctification of the soul, were prefigured in the Law by those two symbols, sacrifices and washings. In sacrifices, blood atoned for sins, and was the ransom for appeasing the wrath of God. Washings were the tokens of true holiness, and the remedies for taking away uncleanness and removing the pollutions of the flesh.

That faith may no longer rest on these elements, John declares that the fulfillment of both of these graces is in Christ; and here he presents to us a visible token of the same fact. The sacraments which Christ has left to his Church have the same design; for the purification and sanctification of the soul, which consists in newness of life, (Romans 6:4,) is pointed out to us in Baptism, and the Lord’s Supper is the pledge of a perfect atonement. But they differ widely from the ancient figures of the Law; for they exhibit Christ as being present, whereas the figures of the Law pointed out that he was still at a distance. For this reason I do not object to what Augustine says, that our sacraments have flowed from Christ’s side; for, when Baptism and the Lord’s Supper lead us to Christ’s side, that by faith we may draw from it, as from a fbuntain, what they represent, then are we truly washed from our pollutions, and renewed to a holy life, and then do we truly live before God, redeemed from death, and delivered from condemnation.

36. A bone of him shall not be broken. This citation is made from Exodus 12:46, and Numbers 9:12, where Moses treats of the paschal lamb. Note, Moses takes for granted that that lamb was a figure of the true and only sacrifice, by which the Church was to be redeemed. Nor is this inconsistent with the fact, that it was sacrificed as the memorial of a redemption which had been already made; for, while God intended that it should celebrate the former favor, he also intended that it should exhibit the spiritual deliverance of the Church, which was still future. On that account Paul, without any hesitation, applies to Christ the rule which Moses lays down about eating the lamb:

for even Christ, our Passover, is sacred for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with, the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth,
(1 Corinthians 5:7, 8.)

From this analogy, or resemblance, faith derives no ordinary advantage, for, in all the ceremonies of the Law, it beholds the salvation which has been manifested in Christ. Such is also the design of the Evangelist John, when he says that Christ was not only the pledge of our redemption, but also the price of it, because in him we see accomplished what was formerly exhibited to the ancient people under the figure of the passover. Thus also the Jews are reminded that they ought to seek in Christ the substance of all those things which the Law prefigured, but did not actually accomplish.

37. They shall look on him whom they pierced. This passage is violently tortured by those who endeavor to explain it literally as referring to Christ. Nor is this the purpose for which the Evangelist quotes ib but rather to show that Christ is that God who formerly complained, by Zechariah, that the Jews had pierced his heart, (Zechariah 12:10) Now, God speaks there after the manner of men, declaring that He is wounded by the sins of his people, and especially by their obstinate contempt of his word, in the same manner as a mortal man receives a deadly wound, when his heart is pierced; as he says, elsewhere, that his Spirit was deeply grieved, 188188     Here Calvin’s Latin Copy refers to the words of our blessed Lord in Matthew 26:38, My soul is sorrowful, even to death; but the French Copy refers to Isaiah 63:10, But they rebelled, and Grieved His Holy Spirit. — Ed. Now, as Christ is God manifested in the flesh (1 Timothy 3:16,) John says that in his visible flesh was plainly accomplished what his Divine Majesty had endured from the Jews, so far as it was capable of enduring; not that God can be at all affected by the outrages of men, or that the reproaches which are cast at him from the earth ever reach him, but because by this mode of expression he intended to declare with what enormous sacrilege the wickedness of men is chargeable, when it rises in rebellion against heaven. What was done by the hand of a Roman soldier the ]Evangelist John justly imputes to the Jews; as they are elsewhere said to have crucified the Son of God, (Acts 2:36,) though they did not lay a finger on his body.

A question now arises as to this passage taken from the prophet, 189189     “On fait une question sur ce passage du prophete.” Does God promise to the Jews repentance to salvation, or, does he threaten that he will come as an avenger? For my own part, when I closely examine the passage, I think that it includes both; namely, that out of a worthless and unprincipled nation God will gather a remnant for salvation, and that, by his dreadful vengeance, he will show to despisers who it is with whom they have to do; for we know that they were wont to treat the prophets as insolently as if the prophets had told nothing but fables, and had received no commission from God. God declares that they will not pass unpunished, for he will at length maintain his cause.


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