Our Easter focus is on the meaningful remembrance concerning the summation of the Savior’s trials, humiliation, and the events on Calvary. We study His crucifixion with gratitude, wonder, and sadness; but we don’t reflect often on the details between death and the tomb.
A person subjected to crucifixion is alternated from standing to relieve the suffocating force on the lungs and sinking to try to assuage pain from the nails. Instinctively, He would lift himself in order to exhale excess carbon dioxide built up in the lungs and blood. Imagine the scourges on his back as he moves up and down against knotty, rough wood. The pain and strain taxing the heart are immeasurable. Christ had to ‘stand up’ through one of these pain cycles to voice each word he spoke – including the request to forgive the soldiers. He suffered just for them at that moment very poignantly, as a type of how he suffers individually for each of us.
This was Friday afternoon, and timing was a factor in the crucifixion. Followers of the Savior wished to prepare his body before the Sabbath for the sake of obedience to Sabbath work and worship. Thus, Roman soldiers would break the bones in the legs of the crucified, causing a terrifying but faster death by asphyxiation over several minutes.
John illuminates the significance and prophecies surrounding this event. Soldiers returned to Golgotha and found the crucified thieves flanking Jesus to be yet alive – so they broke their legs accelerating their deaths. Jesus appeared lifeless. They presumed Him dead, and they instead put a spear into his side to verify. It’s important to note this occurred after Jesus willingly gave His life. John, whose Gospel was written toward instructing the saints, found this imagery noteworthy and alludes to scriptures in Exodus and Numbers indicating the sacrificial offering in the law of Moses should be pure and without blemish or broken bone. The prophecy of the Lamb of God is fulfilled entirely.
We then see John’s reference to Zechariah – wherein the Lord promises that He will protect Jerusalem from destruction and then the city “shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn…”
Another reference for Christ is Second Adam (or Last Adam). During the creation, while Adam slept, a rib was taken (literally or figuratively) from his side to form Eve, to whom he would be side-by-side, twain throughout their existence. In parallel, the spear scarred the side of the sleeping Savior, near his heart, signifying his love for all men and particularly the Church, referred to often as his bride in allegory.
The spear to Christ’s side spilled blood and water. When blood is spilled, the Earth cries as a witness against those that offended. Why did this involve both water and blood? Christ shed his blood for the redemption of man, and was ‘living water.’ Jehovah parted the Red Sea (water and blood both signified) to save Israel. Through Moses, the Lord changed the Nile to blood to deliver His people. Jesus turned barrels of water to wine so the Jews would witness his divinity. Today, the sacrament ordinance uses water to signify and remember Christ’s blood.
Christ’s suffering, sacrifice, and love for man is full of realism and symbolism. He kept the seven scars received at the cross – a significant number symbolizing completion and spiritual perfection – on his witnessed resurrected body. [Seven years Jacob worked for Rachel, Elisha commanded Naaman to wash seven times in the river, seven baskets of excess food after the fish and loaves miracle].
He will show these marks to those in His house at His coming, and they’ll realize that HE IS the unblemished offering who was the ultimate sacrifice, having been pierced by those whom he called his friends.
And through him, the rightful King, death hath no sting, nor grave any victory. Because HE LIVES today, so will you again, and so will I. We can prepare now to have an experience like one treasured by the Bountiful Nephites who went forth one by one until they had all thrust their hands into his side and bear record.
- “Broken Things to Mend” -Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, April 2006
- “The Atonement: Our Greatest Hope” -President James E. Faust, October 2001
- “None Were with Him” -Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, April 2009
You can follow Rock Flag Eagle on Twitter @FiverMacGyver.