And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplication; and they shall look unto me whom they have pierced; and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his first-born (Zechariah 12:10).
One of the continual themes of the prophets features God’s desire for Israel to come to some real understanding of what they have done. God has great confidence that when Israel does so, they will deeply mourn and lament all that they have done against Him. In many ways, that is what God wants most from Israel: an understanding of past sins so that they can now serve God again.
Zechariah imagines a day when God will again protect Jerusalem from any and all nations that come against her (Zechariah 12:1-9). On that day, when the inhabitants of Jerusalem understand that God has delivered them yet again, they will have the type of realization that eluded their ancestors in the days of Isaiah (cf. Isaiah 1:1-9): they will perceive all the sins they have committed and how they have pierced God with them. They will mourn deeply for their transgression.
One could perhaps identify some moments in history when something of this sort took place– perhaps in the days of the Maccabees– but Zechariah’s image finds its final, thorough fulfillment in the events that surrounded the death of Jesus of Nazareth.
The Jews therefore, because it was the Preparation, that the bodies should not remain on the cross upon the sabbath (for the day of that sabbath was a high day), asked of Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. The soldiers therefore came, and brake the legs of the first, and of the other that was crucified with him: but when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, they brake not his legs: howbeit one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and straightway there came out blood and water. And he that hath seen hath borne witness, and his witness is true: and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye also may believe.
For these things came to pass, that the scripture might be fulfilled, “A bone of him shall not be broken.”
And again another scripture saith, “They shall look on him whom they pierced” (John 19:31-37).
We can easily overlay much of what Zechariah has said over this event. The enemies of Israel– indeed, all of mankind– have surrounded Jerusalem as Jesus, the Lamb of God, drinks the full cup of evil and suffering (cf. Ephesians 6:12, Matthew 26:39). Jesus destroys the power of sin and death through suffering His death and, ultimately, obtaining the glory of the resurrection (Romans 8:1-4). On that day, to testify to His death, a Roman soldier pierced Jesus– the Immanuel, God the Son, God in the flesh– with his spear. The soldiers, the women, and the Apostle John looked upon Jesus who was pierced.
Yet where is the outpouring of grace and supplication? While it may be true that some of the women lamented, where is the city wide lament? And how is it that “they” have pierced Jesus when it was really the Roman soldier who pierced Jesus?
The beauty and the power of Zechariah’s image comes from its complete spiritual understanding. It is not just about that one moment and what the Roman soldier does. We do well to ask ourselves– why exactly is Jesus on that cross? Is it really because of the Romans? As it is written:
But God commendeth his own love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).
[Jesus], who his own self bare our sins in his body upon the tree, that we, having died unto sins, might live unto righteousness; by whose stripes ye were healed (1 Peter 2:24).
Jesus is on the cross because of our sin. Jesus was wounded because of our transgressions. We may not have physically pierced His flesh on Golgotha on that April day so long ago, but on account of our sins, we, as Israel, have pierced God.
God has poured out upon mankind grace and supplication through Jesus (cf. Romans 5:6-11) to the end that we mourn for our sins and the cost that they demanded– God being pierced on an object of torture and execution. And we are to look upon Him.
For I received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which he was betrayed took bread; and when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you: this do in remembrance of me.”
In like manner also the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood: this do, as often as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.”
For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink the cup, ye proclaim the Lord’s death till he come (1 Corinthians 11:23-26).
We can be the new Jerusalem; we have the opportunity weekly to look with eyes of faith upon Him whom we have pierced by our sin, and it is appropriate for us to mourn, lament, and experience the bitterness that comes from understanding the pain and suffering our sin caused our Lord. In so doing, we are able to do, as the new Israel, what God always wanted out of Israel according to the flesh: an understanding of just what we have done to Him by our sin so that we can turn from them and serve Him according to His will.
It may have taken place physically almost 2000 years ago, but we are still called upon to look at our Savior with eyes of faith and look upon Him whom we have pierced for our sin. Let us do so in lamentation, turning again to life through the Son!
Ethan R. Longhenry