Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jewish leaders did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other.John 19:31-37
But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe. These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken,” and, as another scripture says, “They will look on the one they have pierced.”
So much was happening in the moment the soldier pierced Jesus’s side that we need to slow down to take it all in. There are so many layers of meaning here that are easy to miss.
First, we need to remember that when Jesus had finished all He came to accomplish, “he bowed his head and gave up his spirit” (John 19:30). Jesus gave His life, no one took it from Him. The other two men who had been crucified with Jesus had not died. Their legs had to be broken to speed up the process of suffocation. With broken legs, they couldn’t push up on the spike that went through their feet. Pushing up would have allowed their lungs some space to breathe. With broken legs, their suffocation would begin quickly.
In this way, we see Jesus fulfill Old Testament prophecies about himself. The first prophecy, “Not one of his bones will be broken,” is about how to prepare the Passover lamb without a braking any of its bones (Exodus 12:46; Numbers 9:12). This foreshadowed what would happen to Jesus on the cross. The second word fulfilled, “They will look on the one they have pierced,” was from the prophet Zechariah about Jesus’s side being pierced (Zechariah 12:10).
But there is even more happening here than fulfilled prophecy. They pierced Jesus’s side to make sure He was dead. If they saw both blood and water, they knew He had already died. But this blood and water meant so much more than that. Blood and water came from His side. This is important because Jesus had become the second Adam (Romans 5:12-21). When God made Eve, He put Adam to sleep and pulled a rib from his side (Genesis 2:21-22). As the second Adam, Jesus was put to sleep and God birthed the Church, the Bride of Christ, from Jesus’s side. Blood and water is what is released when there is a birth. As Jesus’s side is pierced, we see the blood and water flow from the birthing of the Church.
Blood and water was not only found at a birthing but also in the purification rites of the Temple priests. Priests would enter the Holy Place by first cleansing themselves with the blood of sacrifices and by washing with water in the wash basins. Blood washed them clean from sin. Water washed them clean from “uncleanness.” Sin was a wrong action they had done. Uncleanness/unrighteousness was just the contamination they experienced from living in a broken world. Blood took care of one and water took care of another. Once they were cleansed, they could enter the Holy Place. And the high priest, once a year on the Day of Atonement, could enter the Most Holy Place.
The blood and water from Jesus’s side represented Jesus’s own cleansing as He became our High Priest, entering the Most Holy Place of the tomb on the ultimate Day of Atonement, to take away the sins of the world. Not only that, but this blood and water from Jesus’s side allows us to be forgiven of our sin and cleansed from our unrighteousness. The blood deals with our sin. The water deals with our uncleanness/unrighteousness.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.1 John 1:9
So there Jesus hung, dead on the cross, blood and water flowing from His side. But as we picture Him hanging there, do we see the fullness of what was happening? Look again. Do you see that this was a new Passover Lamb, His blood on the horizontal and vertical beams of the cross instead of a doorframe, not a single bone broken? Do you see that this was a new Day of Atonement, our new High Priest purified with blood and water, so that we could be purified and cleansed by His blood and water? Do you see that this was a new Garden of Eden with the Second Adam painfully giving birth to the Church, the Bride of Christ?
All of this was happening in a moment. All of these Old Testament promises and types were fulfilled in a moment. Layer upon layer upon layer of meaning, flowing from our Savior’s side! All of this was because of His love for you and me. Thank you Jesus!