on John 19 :34
With a spear pierced his side - The soldier who pierced our Lord's side has been called by the Roman Catholic writers Longinus, which seems to be a corruption of λογχη, lonche, a spear or dart, the word in the text. They moreover tell us that this man was converted - that it was he who said, Truly this was the Son of God - that he traveled into Cappadocia, and there preached the Gospel of Christ, and received the crown of martyrdom. But this deserves the same credit as the other legends of the Popish Church.
Whether it was the right or the left side of Christ that was pierced has been a matter of serious discussion among divines and physicians; and on this subject they are not yet agreed. That it is of no importance we are sure, because the Holy Ghost has not revealed it. Luke Cranache, a famous painter, whose piece of the crucifixion is at Augsburg, has put no wound on either side: when he was asked the reason of this - I will do it, said he, when I am informed Which side was pierced.
Blood and water - It may be naturally supposed that the spear went through the pericardium and pierced the heart; that the water proceeded from the former, and the blood from the latter. Ambrose, Augustin, and Chrysostom, make the blood an emblem of the eucharist, and the water an emblem of baptism. Others represent them as the emblems of the old and new covenants. Protestants have thought them the emblems of justification, which is through the blood of the Lamb, and sanctification, which is through the washing of regeneration; and it is in reference to the first notion that they mingle the wine with water in the sacrament of the Lord's supper. The piercing appears to have taken place because his legs were not broken; and, as the law in this case stated that the criminals were to continue on the cross till they died, the side of our Lord was pierced to secure the accomplishment of the law; and the issuing of the blood and water appears to be only a natural effect of the above cause, and probably nothing mystical or spiritual was intended by it. However, it affords the fullest proof that Jesus died for our sins. Dr. Lightfoot thinks that there is a reference here to the rock in the wilderness which Moses smote twice, and which, according to the Jews, Shemoth Rabba, fol. 122, "poured out blood at the first stroke, and water at the second." Now St. Paul says, 1 Corinthians 10:4, That rock was Christ; and here the evangelist says, the soldier pierced his side, and there came out blood and water. St. John therefore, in what he asserts in the 35th and 36th verses, wishes to call the attention of the Jews to this point, in order to show them that this Jesus was the true Messiah, who was typified by the rock in the wilderness. He knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe.
on John 19 :34
One of the soldiers - One of those appointed to watch the bodies until they were dead. This man appears to have doubted whether he was dead, and, in order to see whether he was not yet sensible, he pierced him with his spear. The Jews designed that his legs should be broken, but this was prevented by the providence of God; yet in another way more satisfactory proof was obtained of his death than would have been by the breaking of his legs. This was so ordered, no doubt, that there might be the fullest proof that he was truly dead; that it could not be pretended that he had swooned away and revived, and so, therefore, that there could not be the least doubt of his resurrection to life.
With a spear - The common spear which soldiers used in war. There can be no doubt that such a stroke from the strong arm of a Roman soldier would have caused death, if he had not been already dead; and it was, doubtless, to furnish this conclusive proof that he was actually dead, and that an atonement had thus been made for mankind, that John mentions so particularly this fact. Let the following circumstances be remembered, showing that death must have ensued from such a wound:
(1) The Saviour was elevated but a little from the ground, so as to be easily reached by the spear of a soldier.
(2) the wound must have been transversely upward, so as to have penetrated into the body, as he could not have stood directly under him.
(3) it was probably made with a strong arm and with violence.
(4) the spear of the Roman soldier was a lance which tapered very gently to a point, and would penetrate easily.
(5) the wound was comparatively a large wound. It was so large as to admit the hand John 20:27; but for a lance thus tapering to have made a wound so wide as to admit the hand, it must have been at least four or five inches in depth, and must have been such as to have made death certain. If it be remembered that this blow was probably in the left side, the conclusion is inevitable that death would have been the consequence of such a blow. To make out this fact was of special importance, probably, in the time of John, as the reality of the death of Jesus was denied by the Gnostics, many of whom maintained that he died in appearance only.
Pierced his side - Which side is not mentioned, nor can it be certainly known. The common opinion is that it was the left side. Car. Frid. Gruner (Commentatio Antiquaria Medica de Jesu Christi Morte, 30-36) has attempted to show that it must have been the left side. See Wiseman's Lectures, pp. 161, 162, and Kuinoel on John 19:34, where the arguments of Gruner are fully stated. It is clear that the spear pierced to the region of the heart.
And forthwith came ... - This was evidently a natural effect of thus piercing the side. Such a flowing of blood and water makes it probable that the spear reached the heart, and if Jesus had not before been dead, this would have closed his life. The heart is surrounded by a membrane called the pericardium. This membrane contains a serous matter or liquor resembling water, which prevents the surface of the heart from becoming dry by its continual motion (Webster). It was this which was pierced and from which the water flowed. The point of the spear also reached one of the ventricles of the heart, and the blood, yet warm, rushed forth, either mingled with or followed by the water of the pericardium, so as to appear to John to be blood and water flowing together. This was a natural effect, and would follow in any other case. Commentators have almost uniformly supposed that this was significant; as, for example, that the blood was an emblem of the eucharist, and the water of baptism, or that the blood denoted justification, and the water sanctification; but that this was the design there is not the slightest evidence.
It was strictly a natural result, adduced by John to establish one fact on which the whole of Christianity turns that he was truly dead. On this depends the doctrine of the atonement, of his resurrection, and all the prominent doctrines of religion. This fact it was of importance to prove, that it might not be pretended that he had only suffered a syncope, or had fainted. This John establishes. He shows that those who were sent to hasten his death believed that he had expired; that then a soldier inflicted a wound which would have terminated life if he had not been already dead; and that the infliction of this wound was followed by the fullest proof that he had truly expired. On this fact he dwells with the interest which became a subject of so much importance to the world, and thus laid the foundation for undoubted assurance that the Lord Jesus died for the sins of men.
on John 19 :34
19:34 Forthwith there came out blood and water - It was strange, seeing he was dead, that blood should come out; more strange, that water also; and most strange of all, that both should come out immediately, at one time, and yet distinctly. It was pure and true water, as well as pure and true blood. The asseveration of the beholder and testifier of it, shows both the truth and greatness of the miracle and mystery.