(6) The piercing of the side, with its significance—the final close of the life of earth.
And again another Scripture saith . The second of the Old Testament quotations is in several ways important and noteworthy. They shall look on him whom they pierced ( εἰς ὅν ἐξεκέντησαν ). The original passage is ( Zechariah 12:10 ), וּדקָדָּ רשֶׁאֲ־תאֵ ילִאֵ , "They shall look upon me whom they pierced." The evangelist altered the ME into HIM , which, as it stands in the old oracle, and regarded as the language of Jehovah, is sufficiently surprising. The LXX . had felt the difficulty, and translated it ἐπιβλέψονται πρός με ἀνθ ὧν κατωρχήσαντο , i.e. "They shall look towards me, because they have insulted me." Their repentance and misgiving shall be aroused, because in response for those things which they have done contemptuously against me. It is interesting to see that John is more accurate in his Greek translation of this prophetic passage, viz. ὄψονται or ὃν , "They shall look" with love and grace and repentance "on him whom ( ἐξεκέντησαν ) they pierced." This Greek rendering of the Hebrew is followed by Aquila, Theodotion, and Symmachus, and is quoted by Justin Martyr; it is also found in Revelation 1:7 , forming a link of connection between the Gospel and the Apocalypse. Moreover, it is most impressive to find that the awful tragedy does not close even in the hands of this writer without a word of promise and hope. Zechariah 12:8-14 is clearly in the mind of the apostle. The merciful Lord waits for the repentance of Israel, of those who, by instigating Roman power for his destruction, pierced him by their trenchant ingratitude as well as by the Roman spear. It will be fulfilled more completely when every eye shall see him, and the full revelation of his majesty shall smite the whole world with penitence or despair. This remarkable event and its issue, whatever may have been the precise physiological fact, establishes:
The breaking of the legs.
It was usual for the Romans to leave the dead on the cross to the ravages of wild beasts. A providential event changed the usage in this case.
I. THE ANXIETY OF THE JEWS FOR THE REMOVAL OF THE BODIES . "The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day (for that sabbath was an high day), besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away."
1. The Jews had accomplished their purpose, and were now anxious to carry out the letter of the law . The bodies ought, in any ease, to be removed before night'; but there was a special necessity on account of the day of the Crucifixion preceding a great festival.
2. Mark their hypocrisy . They regarded themselves as strictly bound to observe the outward ceremony, but they had no scruple in crucifying the Son of God. The ceremonial part of religion was of greater moment to them than the moral.
II. PILATE 'S CONCESSION TO THEIR DEMANDS . "Then came the soldiers, and brake the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with him."
1. Though a cruel act, it was designed to shorten the sufferings of the crucified. Gangrene was the immediate result. The breaking of the legs, together with crucifixion itself, was abolished by Constantine, the first Christian emperor.
2. The soldiers treated Jesus in an exceptional manner . "But when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, they brake not his legs."
(a) It could not be said hereafter that he had merely swooned, and that his disciples had come in the night and taken him away.
(b) The pierced side was the subject of prophecy. "They shall look on him whom they pierced?
(c) The blood and water had a figurative application. "This is he who came not by water only, but by water and blood" ( 1 John 5:6 ).
( α ) The blood indicated life sacrificed.
( β ) Water was the symbol of the spiritual life. The death of Christ secured at once the cleansing away of sin, and the quickening of dead souls by the Spirit.
III. THE TESTIMONY OF THE APOSTLE JOHN TO THESE FACTS . "And he that saw it bare record, and his record is true."
1. It was the testimony of an eyewitness .
2. It was designed to support the faith of the world in the facts of our Lord's death.