Jesus Our Lord: His Wounds
April 17th, 1981 @ 12:00 PM
JESUS OUR LORD: HIS WOUNDS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
4-17-81 12:00 p.m.
The theme for the series of messages this week is: “Jesus, Our Lord”: on Monday, His Face; on Tuesday, His Shoulders; on Wednesday, His Hands; yesterday, His Tears; and today, the day He was crucified, His Wounds, His blood.
In the nineteenth chapter of the Book of John, beginning in verse 31, John 19:31: “The Jews therefore, because it was the Preparation,” in modern Greek language, that’s the name of the day Friday in their language. Because it was “the Preparation,” because it was Friday, “that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath day (for that Sabbath day was a high day).” It was not only the Sabbath, but it was the Feast of Unleavened Bread, that followed immediately the Passover. “Besought Pilate that their legs should be broken, and that they might be taken away” [John 19:31]. The dead defiled the land, unburied. So they besought Pilate that they might be dispatched and buried.
So, there came the soldiers, and brake the legs of the first, and of the other which 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 pierced His side, and forthwith came there out blood and water.
And he that saw it bare record, and his record is true; and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe.
The events of the day are so familiar to us. When the Lord was crucified, they drove a nail through one of His hands, and then through the other of His hands, and through His two feet. That made four wounds. And finally, the spear thrust in His side made five wounds. Usually it took two to three days of indescribable suffering and agony for anyone who was crucified to die. But Jesus died after He had been on the cross just six hours.
And Mark 15:44, describes Pilate’s amazement that Jesus was already dead. And he called the centurion who presided over the execution to verify that Jesus had died. When the Jewish people came to Pilate and besought the removal of those three crucified, lest their unburied presence dishonor and defile the land and because of the high day on Saturday, the Sabbath day, why they asked Pilate to dispatch, to murder the three that they might be taken away [John 19:31].
That was not an unusual custom. The Romans call that a crucifragium, a crucifragium. In it, soldiers took mallets and they beat and broke up the bodies of the crucified sometimes, lest they might escape because they were very much alive for two or three days. And friends might come and take them down, for other reasons that crucifragium to beat and break up the bones. So the soldiers who had presided over the execution came and, with heavy mallets and heavy pieces of wood, they beat the first and he died. And they beat the second, the other one, and he died. But, when they came to Jesus and saw that He was dead already, they didn’t break up His body [John 19:32-33].
John says that was to fulfill the prophecy that no bone shall be broken. In the sacrifice of the Passover lamb, no bone was ever broken [Exodus 12:46, John 19:36]. And they didn’t beat up and break up and mutilate the body of the Lord Jesus. But one of the soldiers, just to be very sure—one of the soldiers took a spear and thrust it into His heart. And when he did so, there poured forth blood and water [John 19:33-34].
It made a profound impression upon John. He says that “I saw it, and I bear record, and the record is true, and I write it that ye might believe” [John 9:35]. So deep and indelible was that impression upon the beloved apostle that when he was toward one hundred years of age, he writes of that scene. In 1 John 5, verse 6 and verse 8, he says:
This is He that came by water and by blood, Jesus the Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth.
And there are three that bear witness in earth—to the deity and the saviorhood of Christ—the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.
[1 John 5:6, 8]
The Spirit of God bearing witness to the atoning sacrifice of our Lord [1 John 5:6].
The water, which so many times in the New Testament is a type of, and a sign of, and a figure of, the cleansing of the gospel message, the Word of the Lord. For example, the Lord will say in John 15:3: “Now you are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.” And Paul will write in Ephesians 5:26: “Now we are sanctified, we are cleansed with the washing of water by the word.”
Our Lord came as a witness to the saving grace of the gospel of God. And it was avowed and affirmed in His baptism, in the washing in water, when the voice of the Father was heard and the Holy Spirit in bodily form as a dove came upon Him [Matthew 3:16-17]. John never forgot that.
The water that poured out of His ruptured heart and the blood that followed after [John 19:34]—when you talk to a physician about that, he will say that it is not an uncommon phenomenon. Around the heart, the anatomist will explain, there is a membrane called the pericardium, a cardiac sac. It’s a membrane that holds the heart. And the heart beats within that membrane.
And when the heart of Jesus was ruptured by the thrust of that spear [John 19:34], the blood poured out into the membrane, into the pericardium. And being there for a while, the lipid serum, the white water part of the blood, separated from the coagulum. And thus it was that, when the heart was pierced, the pericardium was pierced, why, there flowed out water and blood [John 19:34].
I think the doctor may be unconsciously correct because the psalmist, in Psalm 69:20 wrote of our suffering Savior: “Reproach hath broken my heart.” He died of a broken heart, literally. “Reproach hath broken my heart… I looked for some to take pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none. They gave me gall… and in my thirst, they gave me vinegar to drink” [Psalm 69:20-21]. Fulfilling that Scripture, our Lord died of a broken heart [Matthew 27:32-50].
I speak now of the atoning sacrifice of our Savior, His wounds, His blood. First, it is actual blood. This is no metaphor. This is no hyperbole. This is no simile. This is no spiritualization. This is no figure of speech. This is actual blood. It is the crimson of the life our Lord poured out upon this dark and evil world. It is actual blood. You could put your finger in a puddle of it at the foot of the cross. You could have wiped it from His face with your handkerchief. You could have caught it in a basin, as it poured out of His heart. It is actual blood.
In Leviticus 17:11, in the Mosaic legislation, Jehovah said, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls; for it is the blood: that maketh atonement for the soul.” This is actual blood. It is the crimson of the life of our Lord poured out.
Number two: it is an actual substitution. I repeat, this is no figure of speech. This is no metonymy or metaphor. This is no poetic, fanciful, philosophical, dramatic presentation. This is an actual suffering, atoning substitution. In the law of God, and these two are always wedded together. In the law of God, “The soul that sins shall die” [Ezekiel 18:20]. “The wages of sin is death” [Romans 6:23]. It is God that welded those two together. When I sin, I face the judgment of inevitable and inexorable death. “The soul that sins shall die” [Ezekiel 18:20].
And in the Old Testament typology, in the Mosaic covenant, when one sinned, he brought to the altar a sacrifice to die in his place. It could be a bullock or a goat or a lamb. And the animal was tied to one of the horns, at each one of the four corners of the altar. And there the suppliant, the sinner would put his hands over the head of the sacrificial animal, identifying himself with it. And in the confession of his sins, the animal was as though it were he. And when the animal was sacrificed, when its blood was poured out [Leviticus 4:27-30], it was received as atoning payment for the sinner’s debt [Leviticus 17:11]. The thing was paid in full. The debt was paid. In the sacrifice of life, a death had paid the penalty [Hebrews 9:22].
We have that every day. When we read in the papers when there is a death, no matter what the crime, the book is closed. The penalty has been paid. So it was in the Mosaic legislation. Sin brought death. And the substitute for the sinner was an animal sacrificed, a bull, a goat, a lamb [Leviticus 4:14, 28, 32].
In the ninth chapter of the Book of Hebrews, the author says that the blood of a bull or of a goat could never suffice to wash away our sins [Hebrews 9:9-12, 10:1-2]. And he said, in the ninth chapter of Hebrews, that the sacrifice but brought to remembrance, each time it was made, our dereliction and our shortcoming and our transgression [Hebrews 10:3-4]. And it had to be repeated again and again and again.
But, he said, in the death of Christ, in the substitutionary death of our Lord, one time He died for us at the end of the world, in these last days [Hebrews 9:26-28]. These last times—we live in the last age of the history of this world. And in it, Christ died one time [Matthew 27:32-50]. We don’t need the blood of a bull or of a goat or of a lamb, which was a type of the real substitutionary death of the Son of God. He died once for all [Hebrews 9:11-12]. “And unto them that look for Him shall he appear apart from sin unto salvation” [Hebrews 9:28].
I have always thought that the man who had the clearest idea of the atoning substitutionary death of Christ our Lord was Barabbas [Matthew 27:15-26]. A Roman legionnaire comes to the door of the dungeon and calls, saying, “Which one is Barabbas?” And the keeper of the prison points out to a murderer and an insurrectionist, a violent man, and says, “That is he.”
And the Roman legionnaire says, “Bring him forth.” And the keeper of the prison, with his helpers and guards, drags out Barabbas to death, to execution. But when he comes to the door, the Roman legionnaire announces to Barabbas, “You’re free. You’ve been forgiven. You’ve been pardoned. You may go.” He leaves in amazement and in astonishment! And as he walks away, he sees a throng. He joins the crowd. And at the head of the throng is a meek and lowly Man, bearing a heavy cross. He follows the throng to a hill called Golgotha. And there, Barabbas looks. On one side is one of his fellows. And on the other side is one of his friends—insurrectionists, fellow murderers, transgressors. And as he watches, the cross in the middle is raised. And on it is Jesus, the Lord [Matthew 27:36-38]. No one, I think, who ever lived, could have a clearer picture of the substitutionary death of Christ as did Barabbas. That was his cross, and the Lord died for him [Matthew 27:15-26].
How is it that Jesus could die for us all? Because of who He is: God with us, God in us [Matthew 1:23]. And we all can feel—we are made in His image [Genesis 1:27]—we all can feel the presence of God in us. And it is that Lord who died in our stead [Romans 5:8; 2 Corinthians 5:21]. It is an actual substitution for us. He died for me, for us [1 Corinthians 15:3].
Last: it is an actual salvation—experiential, pragmatic. It brings to us an actual salvation. In Exodus 12:13, the Lord said: “When I see the blood, I will pass over you.” This night God said, “The angel of death will pass over the land of Egypt. But, when I see the blood on the front of the house, publicly displayed, publicly confessed, placed there in the form of a cross, the lintel on top and the door posts on either side—when I see the blood, I will pass over you” [Exodus 12:22-23].
I can well imagine one seated in a house, under the blood, that awesome night. And he begins to wonder, as you and I sometimes wonder, “Have I repented aright? Is my faith genuine enough? Is my service to God acceptable? Is my love deep and everlasting? Am I worthy to be saved, and what if, at the last, just before the end, I fall into transgression? Will I be ultimately saved?” How many things come into our hearts!
God said, “When I see the blood,” not when I see your worthy repentance, not when I examine the quality of your faith, not when I judge the depth of your love or service. “When I see the blood, I will pass over you” [Exodus 12:13]. I’m not saved by the quality of my righteousness or the understanding of my mind or my advancement in theological perception. I am saved in the simple act of trusting in the atoning sacrifice, the saving grace of my Lord: His blood [Romans 3:25].
And when I get to heaven, I’ll not shout and say, “O worthy is the Lamb and me, for we did it, Jesus and I. Worthy is the Lamb and my repentance. Worthy is the Lamb and my faith. Worthy is the Lamb and my good works. Worthy is the Lamb and my pristine character.” It will be, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, who hath redeemed us to God by His blood” [Revelation 5:9-12].
“When I see the blood, I will pass over you” [Exodus 12:13]. We are saved by the blood of the Crucified One. What can wash away my sins? My repentance can? My faith can? My good works can?
What can wash away my sins?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
Oh, precious is the flow
That makes me white as snow.
No other fount I know.
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
[“Nothing But the Blood of Jesus,” Robert Lowry]
It is He, and He alone, who saves us [Acts 4:12; John 14:6]. And my life is to flow out in love and praise and gratitude now, tomorrow, in heaven and forever for what Jesus has done for me: an actual salvation.
I thought this day, if you would—usually, I just pray a brief prayer and we’re dismissed. I thought today, in loving gratitude to what Christ has done for us, that we would kneel before His cross and thank Him in a deeper way.
Our wonderful, wonderful Lord, whose name is Wonderful [Isaiah 9:6], O how we praise Thee and love Thee for the grace [Ephesians 2:8], the unmerited favor that brought Thee down from heaven to this earth and to die on the cross in our stead [Hebrews 10:5-14]; we are the ones who have sinned, not our Lord. We are the ones who should have been judged, not our Lord. We are the ones who should face eternal judgment and separation and damnation from God. The wages of sin is death [Romans 6:23], and we have sinned [Romans 3:23]. O Lord, the depths of the richness of the glory of the grace of God in Christ Jesus [Romans 11:33],
See from His head, His hands, His side, His feet,
Sorrow and grace flow mingled down!
Did e’er such sorrow and mercy meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?
Were all the realm of mercy mine,
That would be a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.
[adapted from “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross,” Isaac Watts]
And from this sacred place and this precious moment may we walk forth in a new way, loving our wonderful Savior and praising His incomparable name; amen.
JESUS OUR LORD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
A. The Scripture narrative
1. The five wounds
2. Request of Jewish leaders to dispatch the three (Mark 15:41)
3. Spear thrust into Jesus’ heart
B. Blood and water
1. Made an impression on John (John 19:35, 1 John 5:6, 8)
a. Water a sign of the cleansing of the gospel (John 15:3, Ephesians 5:26)
2. He died of a broken heart (Psalm 69:20-21)II. Actual blood
A. No figure of speech, simile, metaphor
B. Tangible (Leviticus 17:11)III. Actual substitution
A. Sin and judgment wedded together (Ezekiel 18:20, Romans 6:23)
B. Old Testament atoning sacrifices
C. Death of Christ once for all (Hebrews 9:28)IV. Actual salvation
A. “When I see the blood, I will pass overâ€¦” (Exodus 12, 13)