AS THE END OF THE DAY DREW NEAR, the chief priests became anxious. The two thieves were still alive and appeared likely to hold on for several hours more; but the Law forbade that the bodies of those executed be left unburied overnight, and in this case, if the bodies were to be disposed of without violation of the Sabbath, the task had to be completed by sundown. The priests therefore asked Pilate to permit the crurifragium, the breaking of the condemned men’s legs in order to bring on the death agony.
Pilate consented, and a new squad of soldiers was sent to perform this barbaric function. They smashed the legs of the two thieves, but passed over Jesus, as He was already dead. However, as a precaution, one of the soldiers-he whom tradition has named Longinus, the Lancer-thrust his spear into Jesus’ breast; and as the weapon was withdrawn, a stream of blood and water flowed from the wound. Thus, two other prophecies were fulfilled, namely, that “Not a bone of Him shall you break,” and that “They shall look upon Him whom they have pierced.”
While these things were taking place, Joseph of Arimathea, a wealthy man and a high-ranking member of the Sanhedrin, was making arrangements for the burial of Jesus. He was a disciple of Jesus and had not taken part in the plotting of the Sanhedrin, but he had kept his faith in Christ a secret because he was afraid his colleagues on the Council would condemn him. Now, however, the time had come for him to proclaim his allegiance, regardless of the consequences.
Returning to Jerusalem, he went to the praetorium and boldly asked Pilate for permission to take away the body of Jesus. The procurator was surprised to hear that Jesus was already dead; and he sent for the centurion whom he had assigned to supervise the crucifixion. When the captain arrived, he certified that the “King of the Jews” had died several hours before, and Pilate, convinced by the testimony of this unbiased witness, gave Joseph permission to remove the body.
Meditation: In the Book of Genesis we read that, as Adam slept, God formed Eve from his side. Just as Eve, the mother of all the living, came forth from the open side of the sleeping Adam, so the Church, the new Eve, the new mother of all the living was born from the open side of the new Adam, Christ, sleeping in death on the Cross. The Church through which we receive the life of grace had its birthday on Good Friday!
Information from The Life of Christ “Our Lord’s Life with Lesson in His Own Words for Our Life Today” The Catholic Press, Inc. 1959. 285-286. © 1954 edited by Reverend John P. O’Connell, MASTD and Jex Martin, following mainly A Chronological Harmony of the Gospels by Stephen J Hartdegen OFM NIHIL OBSTAT John A McMahon; IMPRIMATUR Samuel Cardinal Stritch, Archbishop of Chicago August 1, 1953. Print. Drawing by Albert H Winkler.