Since it was the day of Preparation, and so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken and that they might be taken away. So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who had been crucified with him. 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.” And again another Scripture says, “They will look on him whom they have pierced.” (John 19:31–37 ESV)
We have been looking at pictures of what Christ would do when he came to the world. The book of Zechariah was written about 500 years before Jesus was born. This book contains prophecies of our hope for what God will do to help and rescue his people. In Zechariah 9 we see that the moment Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, he had come to redeem his people through the blood of the covenant. In chapter 10 the picture is that Jesus came to bring us back home. In chapter 11 we see Jesus came to bring us favor and union, to shepherd his people so that they would no longer be doomed for the slaughter. In Zechariah 12-13 we are giving multiple pictures of the work of Jesus when he came.
Before we start considering the text before us in depth, I want to observe an important feature found in these two chapters. There is a repetition of the phrase “On that day.” Notice how many sentence begin with the phrase, “On that day.” You can see it nine times in Zechariah 12:3,4,6,8,9,11 and Zechariah 13:1,2,4. Please also notice that this continues into Zechariah 14:4,6,8,9,13,20,21 where it happens seven more times. We will not have the opportunity to get a closer look at chapter 14 today. But I want you to see the continuity of these three chapters because they are pointing to a particular period of time. I am putting before you now that this is pointing to the time when Jesus came in the first century and the prophet is describing all that this meant when he came. I intend to prove this assertion to you as we go through chapters 12-13 of Zechariah.
God Strengthens His People (12:1-9)
There are a lot of pictures that are given in the first nine verses of chapter 12 of Zechariah that show God with his people, helping his people, and strengthening his people. An important help as you read chapters 12-13 is that when you read Jerusalem, do not think of the physical city in Israel with walls. Rather, like in Revelation 21, Galatians 4:26, and Hebrews 12:22, Jerusalem is referring to the people of God. You can see this in Zechariah 12:5. “The people of Jerusalem are strong, because the Lord Almighty is their God.” So this section reveals the powers of the world coming against the people of God (12:2-3). But God makes his people like an immovable rock (12:3). God will watch over his people (12:4). God will save his people (12:7) and consume those who come against his people (12:6,9). The Lord will be a shield for his people (12:8). But the picture I want you to gravitate toward is found in the middle of verse 8. In speaking about those who belong to God, notice what the prophet says.
The feeblest among them will be like David, and the house of David will be like God, like the angel of the Lord going before them (12:8).
The scriptures are constantly telling us that we are able to be strong in the Lord (Ephesians 6:10-17). This is exactly what we see in David’s life. David is a nobody. But because the Lord was with him, he was able to bring Goliath down. David was a nobody, but God chose him to be king over his people. David was a nobody, but God made David powerful and all future kings were measured by his reign. God says that he can take the weakest among us and make us like David. The strength and help you need is not in yourself, but in the Lord. God is with his people and makes them immovable and victorious, just like when you read in the scriptures how the angel of the Lord led the people of Israel. No nation could stop them. No nation could overpower them. When Christ came, he gave us the victory. The apostle John proclaimed this very truth.
For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world — our faith. (1 John 5:4 ESV)
Christ has come to give you what you need to endure this life, overcome the spiritual Goliaths that stand against you, and bring you home to his glory.
God Transforms His People (12:10-14)
The second picture begins in verse 10. God is going to generate within the people a desire for grace and mercy. God is going to soften the people’s hearts so that when they look on the one that they pierced, they are going to bitterly grieve and mourn. The people are going to be so devastated in the heart that it would be the mourning as if one has lost their only child. There is going to be a repentant sorrow when the people look at the one whom they pierced. What moment is this pointing to? At the beginning of this lesson we read from John 19:31-37 where this text is quoted. The horrifying crucifixion of the Son of God is to cause people to look to that moment, to look to that day, and look on him whom we have pierced. The crucifixion of Jesus is to prick our hearts so that we are mourning over our sins, seeking grace from God and pleading with him for mercy.
The cross is the defining moment for every person. The crucifixion of Jesus is the defining moment for the heart of every person. Everyone is supposed to come to the foot of the cross, look on the one whom they have pierced, and plead with the Lord for grace and mercy. Only hard hearts would not be moved by the message of the cross. We killed him. Every sin we committed is why he had to be nailed to the cross. Isaiah states what happened very clearly.
But he was pierced because of our rebellion, crushed because of our iniquities; punishment for our peace was on him, and we are healed by his wounds. We all went astray like sheep; we all have turned to our own way; and the Lord has punished him for the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:5-6 CSB)
Why was he pierced? It was for our rebellion and for our sins. The punishment he endured was the way to bring us peace and healing. Our Lord gave up his Son to death so that could be brought to life. This is to cause us to be devastated when we see him whom we pierced and transform us to desire grace and mercy from our Lord. Repentant sorrow is pictured from God’s people.
God Cleanses His People (13:1-6)
The third picture begins in Zechariah 13. The first verse begins, “On that day….” What day have we been talking about? We have been talking about the time when Christ came into the world and gave his life for the sins of the world. We are still in that same time frame. Verse 1 tells us that on that day a foundation will be opened for God’s people to be cleansed from their sins and impurity. This is the achievement of the cross: the cleansing of sins. Please love the imagery God uses. A fountain of forgiveness is opened. A fountain is opened to wash away your sins.
Notice what else this transforming cleansing accomplishes in verse 2. The idols will be banished from the land and the people will not remember those idols. Remember that Zechariah 10 described God as the giver of all blessings to all people but we seek after ourselves and our idols rather than God (10:1-2). God says his people will not do that anymore. His people will be so transformed by the cross and experience such a cleansing that they will not want those idols anymore. They will not look to those worthless shepherds to lead them but to the good shepherd who leads them to life. They will not look to their own ways but to God’s ways. Please look at the end of verse 2. The prophets and the unclean spirits will be removed. What do we see Jesus doing while he walked the earth? He is casting out unclean spirits. What Jesus was doing was showing that he had the power over Satan and sin. He was fulfilling these pictures that he is the one who will open the fountain of forgiveness to all who come to him. No more prophets were needed. No more unclean spirits would be around. Jesus removed them all.
God Answers His People (13:7-9)
So when would all of this happen? If you have been tracking with me in this lesson you can see that everything has been pointing to birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. But Zechariah now makes it very clear when we are talking about at the end of chapter 13. Look at verse 7. The sword will be awaken against the shepherd. When the shepherd is struck, the sheep will be scattered. When will God come to his people? When will God transform his people? When will God forgive his people? God will do these things when the shepherd is struck and the sheep are scattered. On the night of Jesus’ betrayal and arrest, he was on the Mount of Olives. Listen to what he tells his disciples.
Then Jesus told them, “This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written: ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.” (Matthew 26:31–32 NIV)
This moment is also a defining moment. You will notice in verses 8-9 that there will be judgment and blessing. Most are going to experience God’s judgment for sins. But there is a remnant, depicted here as a third, who will be refined and tested. They will call on the name of the Lord and the Lord will answer them. They will call the Lord their God and the Lord will call them his people. Everyone is going to experience hardships and difficulty in this life. No one will be immune from it. But those who are strengthened by the Lord, transformed by the Lord, and cleansed by the Lord will be refined rather than consumed by trials. In those times they will call to the Lord for their help, for mercy, and for rescue and God will answer.
Let’s end by returning to verse 7. Who strikes the shepherd? We noted earlier that the reason the shepherd is struck is because of our sins. But who does it? It is interesting that television will ask this question. They will try to blame the Jews or blame the Romans. They certainly have responsibility according to Acts 4:27. But notice who is striking the shepherd. The Lord Almighty is the one. He makes the declaration to strike the shepherd. The scripture in Isaiah that we read earlier said the same thing.
The Lord has punished him for the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:6 CSB)
What happened to our shepherd was not by accident but by God’s plan and will. He did this so he could be your immovable rock. He did this so he could make you like David. He did this so that you can be led in life like Israel was led by the angel of the Lord in the wilderness. He did this so you would look upon him and be moved with repentant sorrow. He did this so you would seek his mercy and grace. He did this so you could experience a fountain of forgiveness poured out on you, washing your sins away. He did this to remove those idols and worthless shepherds from your life. He did this so that you would be refined rather than destroyed by life’s trials. He did this so that when you call, he can answer you. He did this so you would say that the Lord is YOUR God and that you would hear in your ears and in your heart that you are his people. Come to Jesus today and find the fountain of mercy opened for you.