|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 32-34. - Then came the soldiers, and brake the legs of the first - two of the quaternion employed on the one deed, and two on the other - and of the other which was crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was already dead, they brake not his legs. Their barbarous mercy was unnecessary, and John caw in this another correspondence with the sacred symbolism and prophetic anticipations of the Old Testament. But one of the soldiers pierced - gashed, probably, for the word ἔνυξεν is used in both senses - his side with a spear (λόγχῃ, a lance, a heavy formidable weapon) to give him the coup de grace, should their expectation not be actually realized, and forthwith came there-out blood and water. We do not enter into the numerous physiological reasons which have been advanced by Gruner, Bartholinus, and Dr. Stroud ('Physical Cause of the Death of Christ') for this event, but regard it as one of the great portents of the Crucifixion, which cannot be entirely explained as some physiologists have done. Dr. Schaff appears willing to accept the hypothesis that the extravagated blood, being first separated into its two constituents, was thus liberated from the pericardium - a phenomenon that might seem to justify the supposition of the evangelist, that it was blood and water. Dr. Stroud endeavored, with much medical learning, to show that this might follow the side-piercing if the Lord's physical death had followed, as he argued, from rupture of the heart due to his intense agonies. Sir R. Bennett has accepted this solution. Nor, further, do we see here any reference to the sacramental system of which John elsewhere says so little; but we do see a token miraculously given of the twofold power of his redemptive life and work
(1) renovation, refreshment, rivers of living water issuing from the κοίλια of Christ, the first great rush of spiritual power which was to regenerate humanity; and
(2) the expression of that redemptive process which was effected in the positive shedding of his precious blood. It was, moreover, a proof and sign given to Roman soldiers that their Victim was actually dead. We cannot think, with Westcott, that it was a kind of sign of the commencement of the resurrection-life, which goes perilously near to the assertion that he never really died. Moulton argues that the phenomena were physiologically possible if the-event occurred immediately after death. There is nothing in the narrative to prevent such juxtaposition. That John should have witnessed it, and been unable to understand it, and therefore put it down among the marvels of the Crucifixion, corroborates the veracity of the eye-witness (Webster and Wilkinson). The interesting catena of patristic interpretations given by Westcott ('Additional Note') shows that the earliest writer who refers to the marvel, Claudius Apollinaris, regarded it as expressive of λόγος and πνεῦμα, "the Word and the Spirit." Origen showed that from a corpse such a phenomenon could not occur; and so even in his death there are still the signs of the living one. Cyril of Jerusalem saw the two baptisms of blood and water; Chrysostom, the two sacraments, or the mysteries of baptism and of the flesh and blood. Macarius Magnes and Apollinarius saw an allusion to the side of Adam, from which Eve, the source of evil, was taken; that now the side of the second Adam should give forth the means of salvation and deliverance. Tertullian dwells on the two baptisms of water and blood; so Jerome; while Augustine sees in it the laver and the cup. That there was some special, abnormal phenomenon seems specially noticeable from the emphasis which the eye-witness lays upon the observation and record of the fact.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Then came the soldiers,.... Pilate having granted the Jews what they desired; either the soldiers that crucified Christ, and the others with him, and watched their bodies, being ordered by Pilate, went from the place where they sat; or a fresh company, which were sent for this purpose, came from the city:
and brake the legs of the first; they came unto, which whether it was he that was crucified on his right hand, and was the penitent believer in him, as some have thought, is not certain:
and of the other which was crucified with him; who, if the former is true, must be he that reviled him; and was this their position, it was a lively emblem of the last day, when the sheep shall stand at the right, and the goats on the left hand of Christ.
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