John XIX. 31-37.
1. After that the Lord Jesus had accomplished all that He foreknew required
accomplishment before His death, and had, when it pleased Himself, given
up the ghost, what followed thereafter, as related by the evangelist, let
us now consider. "The Jews therefore," he says, "because it was the preparation
(parasceve), that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the Sabbath-day
(for that Sabbath-day was an high day), besought Pilate that their legs
might be broken, and that they might be taken away." Not that their legs
might be taken away, but the persons themselves whose legs were broken
for the purpose of effecting their death, and permitting them to be detached
from the tree, lest their continuing to hang on the crosses should defile
the great festal day by the horrible spectacle of their day-long torments.
2. "Then came the soldiers, and brake the legs of the first, and of
the other who was, crucified with Him. But when they came to Jesus, and
saw that He was dead already, they brake not His legs: but one of the soldiers
with a spear laid open His side, and forthwith came there out blood and
water." A suggestive word was made use of by the evangelist, in not saying
pierced, or wounded His side, or anything else, but "opened;that thereby,
in a sense, the gate of life might be thrown open, from whence have flowed
forth the sacraments of the Church, without which there is no entrance
to the life which is the true life. That blood was shed for the remission
of sins; that water it is that makes up the health-giving cup, and supplies
at once the layer of baptism and water for drinking. This was announced
beforehand, when Noah was commanded to make a door in the side of the ark,
whereby the animals might enter which were not destined to perish in the
flood, and by which the Church was prefigured. Because of this, the first
woman was formed from the side of the man when asleep, and was called Life,
and the mother of all living. Truly it pointed to a great good, prior to
the great evil of the transgression (in the guise of one thus lying asleep).
This second Adam bowed His head and fell asleep on the cross, that a spouse
might be formed for Him from that which flowed from the sleeper's side.
O death, whereby the dead are raised anew to life! What can be purer than
such blood? What more health-giving than such a wound?
3. "And he that saw it," he says, "bare record, and his record is true;
and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye also might believe." He said
not, That ye also might know, but "that ye might believe;" for he knoweth
who hath seen, that he who hath not seen might believe his testimony. And
believing belongs more to the nature of faith than seeing. For what else
is meant by believing than giving to faith a suitable reception? "For these
things were done," he adds, "that the scripture should be fulfilled, A
bone of Him ye shall not break. And again, another scripture saith, They
shall look on Him whom they pierced." He has furnished two testimonies
from the Scriptures for each of the things which he has recorded as having
been done. For to the words, "But widen they came to Jesus, and saw that
He was dead already, they brake not His legs," belongeth the testimony,
"A bone of Him ye shall not break:" an injunction which was laid upon those
who were commanded to celebrate the passover by the sacrifice of a sheep
in the old law, which went before as a shadow of the passion of Christ.
Whence "our passover has been offered, even Christ," of whom the prophet
Isaiah also had predicted, "He shall be led as a lamb to the slaughter."
In like manner to the words which he subjoined, "But one of the soldiers
laid open His side with a spear," belongeth the other testimony, "They
shall look on Him whom they pierced;" where Christ is promised in the very
flesh wherein He was afterwards to come to be crucified.