Mourning Over the Pierced Lord

“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 … as one weeps over a firstborn” (v. 10).

- Zechariah 12

We come today to one of the most difficult chapters in Zechariah. Chapter 12 relates an oracle from the prophet that reveals a series of events that are hard to place in time. Did Zechariah reveal what was going to happen to Jerusalem during or shortly after his lifetime? The phrase “I am about to make” in verse 2 seems to answer this question in the affirmative. Or, did Zechariah reveal what lay far in the future, namely, the full and final destruction of all of the enemies of His people? Verse 9 apparently refers to this last battle.

Answering these questions is difficult. On the one hand, because the Bible can use the term Jerusalem to refer to God’s people, His bride the church (Rev. 21:1–2), it could be that the text should not be taken as referring to history at all and that Zechariah is referring to the victory that the redeemed covenant community enjoys over its foes. Certainly, such victory is guaranteed; however, it does not seem that the language points in that direction. Although the text uses some metaphors (Zech. 12:2, 6), the overall impression one gets from reading the passage is one of a literal, physical battle. Furthermore, because John 19:37 tells us that Jesus’ crucifixion—an actual visible and historical event—fulfills the prophet’s words about God being pierced (Zech. 12:10), it seems that we should view the rest of Zechariah 12 as describing visible, historical events.

The main difficulty with seeing the chapter as a reference to the far future is the “I am about to make” of verse 2. Yet, the Hebrew can also be translated “I am making,” which would make the time at which the events are to occur indeterminate. We can therefore easily apply this text to a future time, the time of the final battle between God and His enemies. On that day, the Lord will show Himself so powerfully that the weakest Judahite will be like the mighty king David and the mighty Davidic king will be like God Himself (vv. 1–9).

Such strength will come only when the “house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem” mourn for the pierced one (vv. 10–14). This pierced one is none other than the Lord Himself, particularly the incarnate Son of God, as John teaches. The mourning is to come when our Creator pours out a “spirit of grace and pleas for mercy” (v. 10). What we likely have is a prophecy of the restoration of the Jews to their God. Just before the final day and last battle with God, there will be a large number of Jews who turn to Christ, mourn over their sin, and beg for mercy on account of having rejected Him at His first advent.

Coram Deo

Today’s passage says that the full restoration of all things cannot happen until the Jews recognize their Messiah. John Calvin seems to have held this view, and many others have taught it as well. In any case, Zechariah is teaching that physical renewal cannot occur without true spiritual renewal of all of God’s covenant people. That is why missions and evangelism are so important. As people turn to Christ, we get closer to the time when the restoration of all things will occur.

Passages for Further Study

Isaiah 14:1–2
Jeremiah 30
Romans 11
2 Peter 3:1–13

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