Summary: On Good Friday when Jesus died on the cross, the soldiers did not break his legs but pierced his side.
Christ’s Pierced Side
John 19:17-37: Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). 18 Here they crucified him, and with him two others--one on each side and Jesus in the middle. 19 Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: jesus of Nazareth, the king of the Jews. 20 Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek. 21 The chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate, "Do not write 'The King of the Jews,' but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews." 22 Pilate answered, "What I have written, I have written."
23 When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom. (They didn’t tear the seamless garment, but God tore the temple curtain from top to bottom at about the same time.) 24 "Let's not tear it," they said to one another. "Let's decide by lot who will get it." This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled which said, "They divided my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing." So this is what the soldiers did. 25 Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, "Dear woman, here is your son," 27 and to the disciple, "Here is your mother." From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.
The Death of Jesus
28 Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, "I am thirsty." 29 A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, (the same plant used to sprinkle the blood on the doorposts at the first Passover) and lifted it to Jesus' lips. 30 When he had received the drink, Jesus said, "It is finished." With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. (We are going to look particularly at these verses):31 Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jews did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. 32 The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. 33 But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34 Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus' side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. 35 The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe. 36 These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: "Not one of his bones will be broken," 37 and, as another scripture says, "They will look on the one they have pierced.
We all know that the motive or goal of any crucifixion was to cause the most excruciating death possible. No one ever survived a crucifixion; the pulverizing of the thighs with a sledge hammer was an addition for the sake of honoring Jewish Sabbath law so that death would be hastened and so the victim would not hang on a cross during the Sabbath.
Most times, the bodies of the crucified were left hanging for public view until death and decay occurred and birds would pick away at the corpses…THEN they were taken down. But this was not to be the case with the Lord Jesus; God had promised in Psalm 16:10 had promised, “You will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay.”
The type of scourging that Jesus received by the hands of the Roman tormentors was often fatal to the recipient, which I guess would have been a blessing rather than continuing on to be nailed and suspended on a cross in the heat of the day and subjected to even more humiliation and pain, but it was not God’s will that Jesus be spared this additional torture.
The soldiers were going to break the legs of the three at the request of the Jewish leaders in order to guard the sacredness of the Sabbath: The religious leaders were always following the letter of the law, but endorsed the crucifixion of Jesus in whom the secular leaders could find no fault. But when they came to Jesus, they saw that He was already dead. The upward piercing with a fierce upward thrust of the long pointed spear under the rib cage of Jesus, penetrating His heart, provided the proof, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water.