Zechariah 12:10

‘“I will pour on David’s house, and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem,
the spirit of grace and of supplication;
and they will look to me whom they have pierced;
and they shall mourn”’
(Zechariah 12:10)

This is one of Zechariah’s extraordinary Messianic prophecies, written several hundred years before the time of Jesus.

The ‘“I”’ and ‘“me”’ are God speaking directly, in what Zechariah describes as a ‘revelation: Yahweh’s word’(Zechariah 12:1ff.). So it’s striking that God describes Himself as being ‘“pierced”’. Then, a few verses later, He mentions a ‘“sword, against my shepherd… the man who is close to me”’(Zechariah 13:7). Obviously Jesus’ crucifixion makes sense of this, as the apostle John explained: ‘these things happened that the Scripture might be fulfilled… “They will look on Him whom they pierced”’(John 19:36-37), the ‘“Him”’ being Jesus, who was/is ‘God’(John 1:1, cf. v14).

John’s immediate context is the soldiers having pierced Jesus’ ‘side with a spear’(John 19:34), but of course He was ‘pierced’(Psalm 22:16, cf. John 20:25-27) in other ways too. That psalm prophesies much about Jesus’ crucifixion, such as: ‘They divide my garments among them. They cast lots for my clothing’(Psalm 22:18, cf. John 19:23-24). No doubt that’s why He quoted it from the cross, notably the first line, ‘“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”’(Mark 15:34; Psalm 22:1), and probably the last line too: ‘“It is finished”’(John 19:30), i.e. ‘He has done it’(Psalm 22:31).

This prophesy from Zechariah can help us to reflect on what Jesus completed and achieved on the cross, and how we should respond.

First the mourning. Partly this refers simply to how the disciples would mourn before Jesus’ resurrection. He prepared them for this shortly beforehand: ‘you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy’(John 16:20). However, the mourning here also foresees how some of the wider crowds would feel after the resurrection, at Pentecost. On realising who Jesus really was, through Peter’s preaching, they ‘were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do? Peter said… “Repent…”’(Acts 2:37-38). Later, the apostle Paul referred to ‘godly sorrow’(2 Corinthians 7:10) that leads to repentance, which is how ‘about three thousand’(Acts 2:41) did respond on that day.

Peter’s crowd were lamenting having literally crucified the ‘“Lord… Christ… Jesus”’(Acts 2:36)! However, before we place ourselves outside of that category, we should note Isaiah’s similar prophesy, which points out that Jesus would be ‘pierced for our transgressions… the iniquity of us all(Isaiah 53:5-6). As Paul put it, ‘Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures’(1 Corinthians 15:3) – meaning these earlier Scriptures like Isaiah, and Zechariah here. So this mourning / godly sorrow is for us all. It’s not just the cries of ‘“Crucify him!”’(Mark 15:14) from a first century crowd that nailed Jesus to the cross, but the transgressions of us all – a sobering thought, which should cut us all to the heart.

And so to the ‘“supplication”’, meaning a prayerful plea for mercy. Jesus taught about this in His parable of the pharisee and the tax collector, who ‘“standing far away, wouldn’t even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’”’(Luke 18:13). As John explained later, if we ‘confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us the sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness’(1 John 1:9).

As already noted, the very means of that cleansing is the death of Jesus, or blood shed through this piercing, ‘“poured out for many for the remission of sins”’(Matthew 26:28). That’s the ‘“grace”’ mentioned here, and why God/Zechariah link the piercing with the grace poured out, adding a few verses later: ‘“In that day there will be a spring opened… for sin and for uncleanness”’(Zechariah 13:1).

However, we should note the ‘“spirit”’ mentioned too, flowing with both the supplication and the grace. This is the regenerating work of the ‘Holy Spirit… poured out on us richly’(Titus 3:5-6, cf. John 3:3ff.), which ignites the faith led supplication, the very means of our being ‘justified by His grace’(Titus 3:7), i.e. ‘by grace… through faith… the gift of God’(Ephesians 2:8). Moreover, this ‘“Holy Spirit”’(Acts 1:8, cf. 2:38) anointing graciously empowers us with spiritual gifts as well, to ‘employ’(1 Peter 4:10, cf. Ephesians 2:10 & Titus 3:8) in fruitful Christian service.

Then, in the fullness of time, this prophetic ‘“day”’(Zechariah 12:11 etc., cf. 14:7-9 & 2 Peter 3:8-13) will dawn to completion, but with a warning, that any who have not mourned as above ‘will mourn’(Revelation 1:7ff.), with ‘“weeping and gnashing of teeth”’(Luke 13:28ff.), forever.

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