[Note: This is the prepared text for a sermonette given to the Portland, Oregon congregation of the United Church of God on Sabbath, February 8, 2020.]
How much foreknowledge does the Bible offer us in its prophecies? There are hundreds of prophecies about Jesus Christ that are present in the Old Testament. Today I would like to look at one of the more obscure ones that provides a lot of insight into both the first and second coming of Jesus Christ. As we are approaching the Passover, I would like to focus on the implications of this particular prophetic passage for Jesus’ first coming and the way that this passage provides insight on the price that had to be paid in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for our sins. The insights we can gain from this passage for the second coming will be left for another time. What passage are we going to look at? Let us turn to Zechariah 12:10-14. Although this passage is only five verses long, it provides a lot of implications about the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and its implications for other people. Zechariah 12:10-14 reads: ““And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn. In that day there shall be a great mourning in Jerusalem, like the mourning at Hadad Rimmon in the plain of Megiddo. And the land shall mourn, every 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 Shimei by itself, and their wives by themselves; all the families that remain, every family by itself, and their wives by themselves.”
Even if we limit ourselves to only looking at the first coming of Jesus Christ, this passage still has a lot to say about it that connects with the Bible and provides some important foreknowledge Jesus’ life and ancestry and death. Some of this foreknowledge involves mere information, so let us briefly discuss some of the information that can be gathered from this verse about the identity and background of Jesus Christ. Of the four families that are listed as mourning for themselves, Jesus was descended from three of them. Matthew 1:6 relates that legally Jesus was descended from the House of David. Luke 1:36 informs us that Mary, Jesus’ mother, was related to Elizabeth, who like her husband Zecharias was a part of the House of Levi, namely through the Aaronic priesthood. In addition to that, Luke 3:31 tells us that Jesus was descended from the obscure House of Nathan, a cadet branch of the House of David about which little is known, as Nathan was a younger brother of Solomon that was apparently named after David’s favorite loud-mouthed court prophet. In addition to that, the information we have about Jesus being both the firstborn of many brethren as well as the only begotten son of God connect with this verse. That said, all of this information, although interesting, is secondary to our main purpose in looking at this passage today, which is to discuss the foreknowledge that this particular practice has concerning the sorrow that would be connected with the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. When we read at Zechariah 12:10-14, it is impossible to avoid the frequent repetition of mourning that goes on, where the members of various parts of the people of Israel mourn by themselves. We tend to find in life that mourning is something that can greatly isolate us from others. When we are grieving the loss of friends or relatives, our suffering can be difficult for others to relate to, and that is precisely what we find here. We also find it mentioned in this passage that “they will look upon Me whom they pierced.” How aware was Mary about the manner of piercing that would be connected with Jesus’ sacrifice?
It so happens that this particular matter was mentioned to Mary and Joseph at the very beginning of Jesus’ life. Let us turn to Luke 2:25-35. Here we read about Simeon and his blessing in the Temple. Luke 2:25-35 tells us: “And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. So he came by the Spirit into the temple. And when the parents brought in the Child Jesus, to do for Him according to the custom of the law, he took Him up in his arms and blessed God and said: “Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation which You have prepared before the face of all peoples, a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel.” And Joseph and His mother marveled at those things which were spoken of Him. Then Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary His mother, “Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against (yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”” In the midst of providing a tale of the glory that would come from Jesus Christ bringing the opportunity for salvation to humanity, Simeon tells Mary that a sword will pierce through her heart, a reminder that with the glory of salvation comes the suffering that accompanies Jesus’ role as the sacrificial Passover lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
And it so happens that this piercing is an important aspect of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ that fulfilled the prophecy Simeon had given to Mary and Joseph when Jesus was brought to the temple for the purification ritual after Jesus’ birth. In John 19:31-37, immediately after having given his mother into the care of his cousin, John records the fulfillment of Zechariah 12:10-14 as it relates to the first coming of Jesus Christ. John 19:31-37 tells us: “Therefore, because it was the Preparation Day, that the bodies should 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. Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who was 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 immediately blood and water came out. And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you may believe. For these things were done that the Scripture should be fulfilled, “Not one of His bones shall be broken.” And again another Scripture says, “They shall look on Him whom they pierced.””
It is telling that even though it was a Roman soldier who pierced Jesus’ side, it is the people of Israel that were said to have pierced him. And the piercing of Jesus’ side was a great part of the suffering of Jesus that pierced the heart of Mary to see her eldest son serve as a sinless and perfect sacrifice for the sins of humanity. Rightly we celebrate the graciousness that God has given us through forgiving us of our sins and adopting us as His children and giving us His Holy Spirit so that we may become like Him. But those blessings came with a heavy price, and that price was known to those who read and studied the Bible hundreds of years before. It is our custom to take the time leading up to Passover seriously and to use it as an opportunity for us to reflect upon the state of our lives and to examine ourselves. Let us use this time as well to reflect upon the willingness God had to be so generous to us despite knowing ahead of time the mourning that would accompany that gracious blessing of Jesus Christ serving as the payment for the wages of sin that we and all humanity have richly earned through the course of human history.