Jesus: Him Whom They Have Pierced
Finding Jesus In The Old Testament • Sermon • Submitted
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Introduction: The Mysterious Prophecy of Zechariah
Introduction: The Mysterious Prophecy of Zechariah
Welcome everyone to week seven of our “Finding Jesus in the Old Testament” sermon series. Personally I’ve really enjoyed taking a fresh look at some of the Old Testament scripture looking for what they teach us about Jesus and how they equip us to be better disciples and to better make discipels.
The series focuses on three kinds of passages in the Old Testament, Prophecies about Jesus, Types of Jesus and Christophanies. This week we will be looking at a few prophecies about Jesus found in the book of Zechariah.
Prophecy you’ll remember is when a human speaker or writer is given a message from God, sometimes these messages are lessons for the present, sometimes they are predictions of the future and sometimes they are both. Zechariah in particular as a prophet is one of the most “messianic” of prophets. In other words he has a number of prophecies that predict aspects of who the coming Messiah would be. We will be looking at a few of these predictions found in three chapters.
Now typically this is where I would read the whole section of the Bible in order to give the full context of the verses, but today we’re going to do a little bit of jumping around because it would be a very long reading and there’s a lot of intervening stuff here that of course is good useful scripture but not relevant to our specific focus on what this passage teaches us about Jesus.
So we’ll start with Zechariah 11:4-14
Thus said the Lord my God: “Become shepherd of the flock doomed to slaughter. Those who buy them slaughter them and go unpunished, and those who sell them say, ‘Blessed be the Lord, I have become rich,’ and their own shepherds have no pity on them. For I will no longer have pity on the inhabitants of this land, declares the Lord. Behold, I will cause each of them to fall into the hand of his neighbor, and each into the hand of his king, and they shall crush the land, and I will deliver none from their hand.” So I became the shepherd of the flock doomed to be slaughtered by the sheep traders. And I took two staffs, one I named Favor, the other I named Union. And I tended the sheep. In one month I destroyed the three shepherds. But I became impatient with them, and they also detested me. So I said, “I will not be your shepherd. What is to die, let it die. What is to be destroyed, let it be destroyed. And let those who are left devour the flesh of one another.” And I took my staff Favor, and I broke it, annulling the covenant that I had made with all the peoples. So it was annulled on that day, and the sheep traders, who were watching me, knew that it was the word of the Lord. Then I said to them, “If it seems good to you, give me my wages; but if not, keep them.” And they weighed out as my wages thirty pieces of silver. Then the Lord said to me, “Throw it to the potter”—the lordly price at which I was priced by them. So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the house of the Lord, to the potter. Then I broke my second staff Union, annulling the brotherhood between Judah and Israel.
Then we’ll jump down to Zechariah 12:10-13:1
“And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn. On that day the mourning in Jerusalem will be as great as the mourning for Hadad-rimmon in the plain of Megiddo. The land shall mourn, each family by itself: the family of the house of David by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of the house of Nathan by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of the house of Levi by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of the Shimeites by itself, and their wives by themselves; and all the families that are left, each by itself, and their wives by themselves. “On that day there shall be a fountain opened for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and uncleanness.
By way of explanation Zechariah was a prophet of Israel who lived from approximately 500-600 years before Jesus was born. Interestingly enough his name means “Yahweh Remembers” which is very appropriate for a prophet who predicts the coming Messiah who will save Israel. He wrote during the exile of the Jewish people after God had judged them for their sins and let their nation be taken over by foreign powers because of their failure to keep the promises they made in a covenant with God in the days of Moses. He wrote God’s message to the Israelites further convicting them for their continued failure to keep God’s law but also to give them hope that God would keep His promise to restore Israel and send a “chosen one” or Messiah.
The passages that we will be focused on today are fascinating and meaningful passages that predict the gospel that we know today. It shows the intentional plan of God from beforehand and it shows that the suffering of Jesus would open the way for us to be cleansed from sin and uncleanness. In the words of Andrew Knowles in “The Bible Guide”
There is a medley of gospel themes here. One day Jesus will come as the good shepherd, challenging all phoney, careless and oppressive leaders. Tragically, he will be rejected by the very people he has come to save. When Judas betrays Jesus to his enemies, he will be paid a familiar sum: thirty pieces of silver.
The Israelites were in exile and oppressed by idolatrous nations. We are not literally enslaved by other nations, but we live under the slavery of sin and death apart from Christ. We like his original audience can feel subject to the whims of sometimes corrupt leaders and helpless against our sin nature and the looming shadow of death.
This passage gives us hope just as it did them, it teaches us that:
God Made His Messiah Unmistakeable
God Moves Us to Respond to the Sacrifice of Jesus
God Makes a Way for Us to be Made Clean
1. God made His Messiah unmistakeable
1. God made His Messiah unmistakeable
Now to a modern audience like you and I reading Zechariah 11:12-13 it might strike you as a bit strange.
Then I said to them, “If it seems good to you, give me my wages; but if not, keep them.” And they weighed out as my wages thirty pieces of silver. Then the Lord said to me, “Throw it to the potter”—the lordly price at which I was priced by them. So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the house of the Lord, to the potter.
Now in context this is a part of the narrative of the book of Zechariah. See there are a few different kinds of prophecies that the prophets would give. One thing that was common was that they would act out these sort of “living parables” where God asks them to do something in order to represent some kind of moral or lesson to the Israelites. In chapter 11 of Zechariah God asks Zechariah to get hired as a shepherd over a flock of sheep who are doomed to be slaughtered. The flock is so bothersome to Zechariah that he quits and asks for whatever pay they’ll give him for the work that he’s done for three months. So they give him thirty pieces of silver. Zechariah sarcastically calls it a “lordly price” and God tells him to “throw” it to the potter in the temple.
This raises a lot of questions. Why does he give the money to a potter? Why does he give the money to the potter in the temple? Why is he told to “throw” it to the potter rather than “give” it to the potter?
Well there are a few explanations. First of all there’s the theory that the word translated as “potter” is very close in spelling to the hebrew word for “treasury” and is written as such in some of the existing manuscripts of the Old Testament. However our oldest and best ones have it as potter and when the New Testament quotes this passage it does so using the word “potter.” Another theory I’ve read is that the potter was in the temple because he was producing vessels for use in the temple. This is a bit more compelling to me. Why the potter? Perhaps because of how he felt insulted by the price of thirty silver pieces since that was the price you paid for injuring a slave in the Old Testament law. Since a potter was one of the lowest castes of workers in their society it would be seen as an act of contempt for the money. That would also explain why the word “throw” is used rather than “give,” because the word “throw” implies contempt.
Regardless of the immediate context there is a more important context that concerns us today. God has a plan, and even this seemingly insignificant little aside about giving money to a potter because a beautiful facet in the unveiling of Yahweh’s plan for our salvation. We read in Matthew 27:3-10
Then when Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he changed his mind and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” They said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.” And throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, he departed, and he went and hanged himself. But the chief priests, taking the pieces of silver, said, “It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, since it is blood money.” So they took counsel and bought with them the potter’s field as a burial place for strangers. Therefore that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken by the prophet Jeremiah, saying, “And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him on whom a price had been set by some of the sons of Israel, and they gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord directed me.”
Think about how specific a prophecy this is when applied to the Messiah. Someone has to in some way pay thirty pieces of silver for him, and then that price has to be rejected by the payee and thrown to the potter in the temple. How does one make that happen? If someone wanted to pretend to be Messiah how would they force this turn of events?
They couldn’t. You see when God announced his coming Messiah He made sure that He made His chosen unmistakeable. Some prophecies just say he’ll be a human male, some narrow it down to a specific family, but then you have prophecies like this one. So incredibly specific.
By the way, if you were confused by the fact that Matthew calls this a prophecy of Jeremiah one possible explanation is that Jeremiah came first in the section of the Hebrew Bible that Zechariah is in, so they sometimes referred to anything in this section of the Bible as a prophecy of Jeremiah.
This isn’t the only very specific prophecy about the Messiah as I’ve alluded to. There are by some counts as many as 456 prophecies about Messiah in the Old Testament. Jesus fulfills all of them. How likely do you think it is that anyone could accidentally fulfill those prophecies about Messiah?
A Christian mathematician named Peter Stoner decided to test this out with the help of some of his students.
After examining only eight different prophecies, they conservatively estimated that the chance of one man fulfilling all eight prophecies was one in 10^17. To illustrate how large the number 10^17 is (a figure with 17 zeros), [Peter Stoner] gave this illustration: If you mark one of ten tickets, and place all the tickets in a hat, and thoroughly stir them, and then ask a blindfolded man to draw one, his chance of getting the right ticket is one in ten. Suppose that we take 10^17 silver dollars and lay them on the face of Texas. They’ll cover all of the state two feet deep. Now mark one of these silver dollars and stir the whole mass thoroughly, all over the state. Blindfold a man and tell him that he can travel as far as he wishes, but he must pick up the one silver dollar that has the special mark on it. What chance would he have of getting the right one? Just the same chance that the prophets would’ve had of writing these eight prophecies and having them all come true in any one man, from their day to the present time.
In financial terms, is there anyone who would not invest in a financial venture if the chance of failure were only one in 10^17? This is the kind of sure investment we’re offered by God for faith in His Messiah.
From these figures, the professor concludes the fulfillment of these eight prophecies alone proves that God inspired the writing of the prophecies – the likelihood of mere chance is only one in 10^17. Another way of saying this is that any person who minimizes or ignores the significance of the biblical identifying signs concerning the Messiah would be foolish.
But, of course, there are many more than eight prophecies. In another calculation, the professor used 48 prophecies (even though he could have used Edersheim’s 456), and arrived at the extremely conservative estimate that the probability of 48 prophecies being fulfilled in one person is the incredible number 10^157. How large is 10^157? 10^157 contains 157 zeros!
The professor gives an illustration of this number using electrons. Electrons are very small objects. They’re smaller than atoms. It would take 2.5 TIMES 10^15 of them, laid side by side, to make one inch. Even if we counted 250 of these electrons each minute, and counted day and night, it would still take 19 million years just to count a line of electrons one inch long. With this introduction, let’s go back to our chance of one in 10^157. Let’s suppose that we’re taking this number of electrons, marking one, and thoroughly stirring it into the whole mass, then blindfolding a man and letting him try to find the right one. What chance has he of finding the right one? What kind of a pile will this number of electrons make? They make an inconceivably large volume.
2. God moves us to respond to the sacrifice of Jesus
2. God moves us to respond to the sacrifice of Jesus
So we know from the myriad specific prophecies that Jesus is Messiah. God made sure that this was abundantly clear. Yet it is not enough to just know this. We are not meant simply to go “aha, so the Messiah is a man named Jesus, fun fact.” There is more to it than that. We read in Zechariah 12:10-11
Zechariah 12:10–11 (ESV)
“And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn. On that day the mourning in Jerusalem will be as great as the mourning for Hadad-rimmon in the plain of Megiddo.
There’s so much here. First this prophecy does an interesting thing with pronouns. In verse 12 God says that he will pour out a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy on Jerusalem “so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him.” Isn’t that interesting? Yahweh is speaking as though this person who will be pierced both is and isn’t God Himself. Try to imagine you don’t already know what you know about Jesus being God and man. You don’t even know who Jesus is. What impression would you get from reading this?
Often prophecy in the Old Testament uses a strange way of writing. They’ll mix together different tenses and different pronouns making what they’re saying obscured slightly. Perhaps before the coming of Jesus people thought of this as just a stylistic mysterious thing. Yet God fills everything that he does with meaning. Here we are getting a preview of the doctrine of the incarnation. The messiah would be God himself, but also distinct from the Father. The people would weep for Messiah “as one weeps over a firstborn” and we now know that Jesus is the firstborn of God the father.
The New Testament confirms this prophecy to be about Jesus in John 19:34-37
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.” And again another Scripture says, “They will look on him whom they have pierced.”
Let’s not miss the greater message though, which is that “[God] will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy.” Or in other words God will move their hearts to respond to Jesus’ death with mourning and regret. God gives the spirit of repentance.
Now there are basically two views of how this works and I’m not going to way in on which one is correct because for our purposes it doesn’t matter how God gives a spirit of repentance, it just matters that He does. But the two views are the Calvinist and Arminian views. Both believe that mankind are totally fallen because of the sin of Adam and therefore cannot come to repentance by their own ability. The Calvinist would say that God elects or chooses those who will be saved and moves them to repentance. An Arminian would say that God freely gives the ability to repent, often called ‘previnient grace,” which makes us able to either accept or reject the salvation given to us.
Either way the important thing to know is that salvation is completely and totally a work of God. There’s nothing at all that you and I can do to save ourselves. We can’t even mourn our sins and repent in our own strength. Not only did God as Jesus die for our sins and pay the penalty on our behalf, but He even gives us the repentance itself in one way or another.
This should be the ultimate innoculation against pride in the church. Ephesians 2:8-9
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
So we should never as disciples of Jesus come across as “holier than thou” or act as though we are in some way better than people who aren’t disciples of Jesus, in the same way that someone who has been cured of a terminal disease isn’t any better than someone still afflicted by the disease.
3. God makes a way for us to be made clean
3. God makes a way for us to be made clean
Yet it’s not enough to be moved by the death of Jesus. We need to be made clean, washed from our sins so that we can be restored to relationship with God. Zechariah 13:1
“On that day there shall be a fountain opened for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and uncleanness.
So not only does God move us to mourning and repentence at the death of Jesus but He also through the death of Jesus makes a way for us to be made clean and therefore made right with God.
Repentence leads quite naturally into being cleansed. It’s not until you notice the dirt and dust that you feel motivated to be made clean. This passage is fulfilled beautifully in Acts 2:37-38 when the Jewish people hear Peter telling them that Jesus is the Messiah that they’ve been waiting for and that they’ve crucified Him injustly.
Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
This is why God instituted baptism for believers. This is also why Jesus participated in baptism despite His not having any need to be made clean Himself, so that through it we could participate in the death of Jesus and be made clean.
Conclusion: Come to the Fountain
Conclusion: Come to the Fountain
A lot of the time when I look back at the Old Testament from the perspective of someone in the New Covenant living after Jesus came and fulfilled all the prophecy it makes me go “how they heck did they miss this?” It seems so obvious in retrospect, but then many things do. Oftentimes we struggle to understand things that God made clear until one day it clicks and you kick yourself and go “aw, how did I miss that?”
God made His plans for Israel pretty clear. Maybe their preconcieved notions about what God’s blessing looked like, or their rose coloured glasses looking at their past as a nation inspired them to turn a blind eye. But we learn from this passage in Zechariah that God’s plan had been clear for a long time.
We learn that the prophecy about Messiah is so specific that it’s hard to doubt that any man who would fit the bill was appointed beforehand by God, and Jesus fits the bill to the t. We learn from this prophecy that God moves our hearts to respond to the message of the cross and that therefore faith is completely a gift from God and we have no right to boast as Christians. We’ve also learned that our mourning pleas for mercy should inspire us to come to the fountain to be washed clean from our sins and uncleanness.
I hope it doesn’t seem to repetitive to you guys if I say once againt that the main application of this sermon is to come to Jesus. If you’re still wandering lost and covered in dirt and dust come to the fountain, repent and be baptized. I’m not sure how long it takes to fill that baptismal but I’ve got time today if you’re ready. We’ll drop what we’re doing right now and get on it just say the word.
If you’re already a disciple of Jesus trying your best to live by the Spirit and obey the teachings of Jesus well chances are you’ve picked up some more dirt and dust along the road. We’re never done coming to Jesus. You don’t need to be baptized again but we should all make a regular habit of confessing our sins and being washed by Jesus blood.
If you’re callouses are building and you’re no longer feeling the pain and regret you’re supposed to feel when you sin than ask God to move you again. Ask God to help you mourn for His firstborn again and see anew the weight and cost of your sin. Ask Him to give you a new heart and new passion for Him.
Let us never let the amazing gift of the good news of Jesus Christ become just a background feature of our lives. Let’s renew our passion for growing together as disciples every day, and show the world how great it can be and inspire them together to want to be disciples too.