It’s common to hear during communion the phrase, “Jesus’ body broken for you.” Some denominations actually break the wafer, but for most it is symbolic. Yet did anyone stop to think that this phrase contradicts scripture?
Was Jesus’ Body Broken During the Crucifixion?
The answer is no, Jesus’ body was not broken on the cross in fulfillment of the scriptures.
Jesus was the sacrificial passover lamb. The lamb, according to passover, had to be whole, without blemish, and none of the bones could be broken. This is seen as the precursor to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
We do know, from John, that none of Jesus’ bones were broken.
But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. He who saw it has borne witness—his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth—that you also may believe. For these things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken.”[John 19:33-36
It was common during this time period for soldiers to speed up the death process during crucifixion by breaking legs. We know that the following day was the Sabbath, and that all those being crucified needed to be dead by then (as no work was to be done on the Sabbath). Breaking legs sped up death because with broken legs, all the person had holding them up were their arms. The body eventually gave out from exhaustion.
Furthermore, it was Roman custom that before crucifixion, the accused would be scourged (whipped) thirty-nine times which would weaken the body. The scourging wasn’t enough to kill a person, but it was one lash away from it.
Scouraging a person also sped up death upon crucifixion because the body was already in a weakened state. When you combine this with carrying your own cross, the body is significantly deteriorated before even being hung on a cross.
In Jesus’ case, they didn’t have to break his legs because He was already dead. So to prove His death, they merely pierced His side- in which blood and water came out.
It is interesting to note, however, that in Psalms 34:20 Jesus’ death was prophesied. We know that David wrote most of the Psalms, and him to prophesy his direct descendant’s death is quite remarkable.
Again, in this scripture, it references that not one of Jesus’ bones would be broken.
So Where Did This Phrase Come From?
Some of the confusion may be stemming from the phrase, “And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19). Some deem the term, “broke” as symbolic of Jesus’ body begin broken. Upon further inspection of the scripture, however, it is clear that the bread was broken, not Jesus.
Further references include:
Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body”Matthew 26:26
And as they were eating, he took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body”Mark 14:22
and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me” (1 Corinthians 11:24)1 Corinthians 11:24
It is interesting to note that there is a textual variation in the King James Version. 1 Corinthians 11:24 does read, in some scriptures, “This is my body broken for you.” However, when we take all of the scriptures into account, this variation might be in the translation.
Matthew, Mark and Luke all concur that the reference is to the bread- not Jesus. John is also very clear in the recounting of Christ’s crucifixion that no bones were broken, and is supported by a reference in Psalms. If we want a true picture, we need to examine all of the scriptures as a whole, which seem to concur that Jesus’ bones were indeed not broken. Therefore, we can safely conclude that Jesus’ bones were not broken for us, it was the breaking of bread.