|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
19:31-37 A trial was made whether Jesus was dead. He died in less time than persons crucified commonly did. It showed that he had laid down his life of himself. The spear broke up the very fountains of life; no human body could survive such a wound. But its being so solemnly attested, shows there was something peculiar in it. The blood and water that flowed out, signified those two great benefits which all believers partake of through Christ, justification and sanctification; blood for atonement, water for purification. They both flow from the pierced side of our Redeemer. To Christ crucified we owe merit for our justification, and Spirit and grace for our sanctification. Let this silence the fears of weak Christians, and encourage their hopes; there came both water and blood out of Jesus' pierced side, both to justify and sanctify them. The Scripture was fulfilled, in Pilate's not allowing his legs to be broken, Ps 34:20. There was a type of this in the paschal lamb, Ex 12:46. May we ever look to Him, whom, by our sins, we have ignorantly and heedlessly pierced, nay, sometimes against convictions and mercies; and who shed from his wounded side both water and blood, that we might be justified and sanctified in his name.
Verses 31-37. -
(6) The piercing of the side, with its significance - the final close of the life of earth. Verse 31. - The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation; that is, the day before the sabbath (Mark 15:42). This note of time certainly blends both the synoptists and John in the assurance that the crucifixion took place on a Friday. It was also, according to the previous statement, the preparation of the Passover, which, we have seen, is better understood in that literal sense than in the sense of "the Friday of Passover week." Consequently, there was a twofold sanctity about that particular sabbath, seeing that the sabbatic rest of the day following the Paschal meal coincided with the ordinary weekly sabbath; (for great, or high, was the day of that sabbath) (cf. Exodus 12:16; Leviticus 23:7; and notes on John 13:1; 18:28; 19:14). It was a "great" and "high" day in a sense far more profoundly impressive than any that could be derived from the ceremonial enactments of the Hebrew code. The sabbath of his rest came at length. The toil, the agony, are over, the whole world is transformed during its hours into his resting-place. There has been no such sabbath since the creative Word rested from all his work. In order that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the sabbath. This statement, with the events which followed, strongly confirms our interpretation of the day of the Crucifixion. The Jews would scarcely have justified a crucifixion on the first sabbatic day of the feast, if they shrank from the proceeding here described as in danger of taking place on the ordinary sabbath. They follow the law (Deuteronomy 21:22, 23) so far as it would apply, and hasten the dissolution of the crucified, if it had not already occurred. (They) asked Pilate that their legs might be broken (crushed) [κατεαγῶσιν, the same as aorist passive, κατάγνυμι (Winer, Eng. trans., p. 85), ἀρθώσιν, first aorist passive], and that they might be taken away, as polluting corpses. The σκελοκοπία, equivalent to crurifragium, is a Roman custom, as it is clearly established by numerous authorities (Suet., 'Aug.,' 67; Seneca, ' De Ira.,' 3:32; see Wettstein); - a brutal custom, which added to the cruel shame and torment, even though it hastened the end.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation,.... That is, either of the passover, as in John 19:14 which was the Chagigah or grand festival in which they offered their peace offerings and slew their oxen, and feasted together in great mirth and jollity; or of the sabbath, the evening of it, or day before it, as in Mark 15:42
that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day; which was now drawing near: according to the Jewish law, Deuteronomy 21:22 the body of one that was hanged on a tree was not to remain all night, but to be taken down that day and buried; though this was not always observed; see 2 Samuel 21:9. What was the usage of the Jews at this time is not certain; according to the Roman laws, such bodies hung until they were putrefied, or eaten by birds of prey; wherefore that their land might not be defiled, and especially their sabbath, by their remaining on the cross, they desire to have them taken down:
for that sabbath day was an high day; it was not only a sabbath, and a sabbath in the passover week, but it was the day in which all the people appeared and presented themselves before the Lord in the temple, and the sheaf of the first fruits was offered up; all which solemnities meeting together made it a very celebrated day: it is in the original text, "it was the great day of the sabbath"; which is the language of the Talmudists, and who say (d),
"is called the great sabbath", on account of the miracle or sign of the passover;''
and in the Jewish Liturgy (e) there is a collect for the "great sabbath": hence the Jews pretending a great concern lest that day should be polluted, though they made no conscience of shedding innocent blood,
besought Pilate that their legs might be broken; which was the manner of the Jews (f), partly to hasten death, since, according to their law, the body was to betaken down before night; and partly that it might be a clear point that the person was rightly executed; for this was not the Roman custom, with whom breaking of the legs, or rather thighs, was a distinct punishment, and was done by laying a man's legs or thighs upon an anvil, and striking them with an hammer (g); which could not be the case here; this seems to have been done by striking the legs of those that were crucified, which were fastened to the cross, with a bar of iron, or some such instrument. Nonnus suggests that their legs were cut off with a saw or sword; but the former seems more reasonable:
and that they might be taken away; which it seems the Jews had not power to do, but must be done by the Roman soldiers, or by leave at least from the Roman governor; and therefore they make their request to him.
(d) Piske Tosephot Sabbat, art. 314. (e) Seder Tephillot, fol. 183. 2. &c. Ed. Basil. (f) Lactantii Divin. Institut. l. 4. c. 26. (g) Lipsius de Cruce, l. 2. c. 14. p. 110, 114.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Joh 19:31-42. Burial of Christ.
31-37. the preparation—sabbath eve.
that the bodies should not remain—over night, against the Mosaic law (De 21:22, 23).
on the sabbath day, for that sabbath day was an high day—or "great" day—the first day of unleavened bread, and, as concurring with an ordinary sabbath, the most solemn season of the ecclesiastical year. Hence their peculiar jealousy lest the law should be infringed.
besought Pilate that their legs might be broken—to hasten their death, which was done in such cases with clubs.
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