In “Behold the Lamb!”, we took a detailed look at the sacrifice of the Passover lamb. There we saw that the lamb was to remain whole, its entire body roasted and eaten in one night. Other offerings, like the sin and peace offerings, were quartered, waived, and divided up among various people. But not the Passover lamb. It retained its integrity, and by its unity signified a unity of sacrifice by the people who ate it and a union with YHWH. In a somewhat similar fashion, doves were never divided because they were symbolic of the Holy Spirit and there is one Spirit even as there is one Lord. In these sacrificial animals, God was telling His people that one Lamb sacrificed would bring them the liberty of the one Spirit outpoured. But the injunction on the preparation of the Passover lamb went beyond just quartering.

Exodus 12:46
In one house shall it be eaten; thou shalt not carry forth ought of the flesh abroad out of the house; neither shall ye break a bone thereof.

Even in consuming the lamb it wasn’t permissible to break any of its bones. This meant that the meat had to be carved off the bone[1] and served. It was important to God that the frame of the animal remained intact. If you have ever butchered an animal, you know how easy it can be to lose track of body parts. Unless you are an experienced meat carver, bones and flesh become indistinguishable from one another after a while. Is this the shoulder or the hindquarter? But when the Passover meal was done, the entire company could look at the carcass and see clearly from the intact bones that it was a lamb they had eaten. They hadn’t feasted on the same part of many animals or different parts of the same animal. One animal was their meal and they all shared in it.

John 19:31
The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, 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.

Crucifixion was a painfully slow death. Because of the position of the arms and legs, it was difficult to breathe. The convict could get slight relief in this constant struggle for air by lifting his body with his legs. Of course, this meant that they had to put full weight on their nailed feet or ankles; it wouldn’t take long for pain to overcome the desire for easy breathing. Once more the criminal would slump, his scourged back scraping against the rough wood of the cross and putting weight on his nailed hands or wrists.[2] This process continued until the victim eventually suffocated. When the Romans wanted to speed the process, they would take a club and break the legs of the convict. This would ensure that they couldn’t lift their body to release the tension on their rib cage and suffocation could come in a matter of minutes; but, oh, what agonizing minutes. Truly even the mercies of the wicked are cruel![3]

John 19:32-33, 36
32 Then came the soldiers, and brake the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with him.
33 But when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, they brake not his legs:
36 For these things were done, that the scripture should be fulfilled, A bone of him shall not be broken.

John 19:36 is the only New Testament interpretation of Exodus 12:46. As the Passover Lamb, none of Jesus’ bones could be broken. It was important to God that His frame remained intact. Odd, isn’t it? His flesh was ripped, pierced, and beaten beyond human recognition.[4] And yet His bones remained intact; no broken ribs, no broken nose, no broken legs. Talk about dying at the right time! If He had kept His life just a few more minutes, His fulfillment of the Passover lamb would have been marred; Scripture itself would have been broken. But as the Living Word, He could not allow this. They would not take His life. He would give it. With His last breath He said, “It is finished” and gave up the ghost. Moments later, a Roman soldier stood at His side all clubbed up and nowhere to break. What was so important about the bones?

Luke 24:39
Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.

It was to His flesh and bones that Jesus appealed in proof of His resurrection. “It’s me, boys! Take a look, check it out, poke and prod. It’s really me. I beat death just like I told you I would!” Bones stand for the entirety of a man; they are his frame and substance. Our bones determine our shape, size, and health. They are among the first parts of the body to form[5] and the last to rot.

In faith and hope of the resurrection, Joseph commanded the children of Israel to take his bones out of Egypt and bury them in the land of his inheritance.[6] The Lord showed Ezekiel a valley full of dry bones and asked him, “Son of man, can these bones live?” “Only You know, Lord,” the prophet said. “Prophesy to these bones, son of man,” the Lord commanded. And bone to bone, flesh and ligaments, skin on flesh, and breath in body they stood up a mighty army of God.[7] In this detailed picture of the resurrection, the Lord began with the bones!

Elisha the prophet died and was buried. In the spring of the year, the Moabites invaded the land. Two men of Israel were burying a third when they saw the advancing column of the marauders. In fear and haste, they lowered the body into Elisha’s sepulcher. When the body touched Elisha’s bones, the man came back to life![8] The life of the flesh is in the blood and the blood is made in the marrow and the marrow is in the bone. Make no mistake; in the resurrection, our bones will be reconstituted. They are the touchstone of our life and identity.

[1] Ps 22:17; 129:3
[2] Biblically speaking, the wrist belongs to the hand and not the arm. The Romans typically nailed through the arm at the wrist near the conjunction of the ulna and radius, thus severing the median nerve and causing continual and severe pain. See Dr. Mark Eastman’s article “Medical Aspects of the Crucifixion: The Agony of Love” available on- line at http://www.khouse.org. Accessed on December 5, 2004.
[3] Prov 12:10
[4] Is 52:14 NIV
[5] Eccl 11:5
[6] Gen 50:24-25; Josh 24:32; Heb 11:22
[7] Ezek 37:1-13
[8] 2 Kings 13:20-21

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