To help us understand the true import of the old covenant prophecies, we have periodically looked at how the New Testament writers point out how these prophecies are fulfilled in the work of Christ at his first advent, through the current new covenant age, and in his return. Zechariah's prophecy of the shepherd being struck is referred to in each of the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), so it is well worth our time to look briefly at how the prophet's words came true in the ministry of Jesus.
As we have seen, the prophecy of the shepherd being struck and his sheep being scattered (Zech. 13:7ï¾–9) occurs in a context that ties this striking to the final salvation of God's people. It is part of a complex series of events that include the people mourning in repentance over the one whom they had pierced and the opening of a fountain that cleanses the house of David and his royal subjects from their sin (12:10ï¾–13:1). Thus, the striking of the shepherd is somehow associated with a Davidic king being disciplined for the sins of his household and the establishment of his eternal kingdom in which the subjects whom he represents enjoy peace and glory, events that are alluded to when the Lord made His everlasting covenant with David (2 Sam. 7:1ï¾–17).
The striking of the shepherd must therefore be associated with the final salvation of God's people, and the Synoptic Gospels reflect this reality. Jesus spoke of Himself as laying down His life as a "ransom for many" (Mark 10:45), and His arrest led finally to His death outside of the camp at the hands of the Jewish and Gentile authorities. In this arrest, the Shepherd was struck and His sheep scattered. The disciples who had been faithful, by and large, to their Lord showed themselves to be cowards and ran (14:26ï¾–50). Even Peter, who had proclaimed his willingness to die for Jesus, did not stay at His master's side (vv. 66ï¾–72).
Although the disciples, aside from Judas, played no active role in the death of Christ, their cowardice and denial no doubt served to pierce the Good Shepherd. As part of the spiritual, emotional, and physical agony that our Savior endured between the Last Supper and His death on Good Friday, those closest to Him denied Him. Yet in His grace, Christ did not finally reject those who pierced Him. Those, like Peter, who mourned in repentance over what they had done to Jesus were restored to fellowship with Him (John 21:15ï¾–19). Today Jesus continues to receive back all who have denied Him when they turn from their sin.
Jesus solemnly warns us that He will deny before the Father those who deny Him before the world (Matt. 10:32–33). This should strike fear into our hearts and lead us to pray for the strength to confess Him in all circumstances. Yet His words should not cause us to despair, for His statement is not an absolute one. Christ will only deny those who continue to deny Him, but He will always receive back into fellowship those who have denied Him if they repent of their betrayal.