Why was the shepherd of God’s people struck? Why did Jesus relate Zechariah’s message to himself and the scattering of his little flock?
Open Zechariah 13:1-6 and Matthew 26:31-32.
The night he was arrested, Jesus expected his friends to abandon him. He knew they would because the prophets said so.
Matthew 26:31 Jesus told them, “This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written: ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’” (NIV)
Reading Zechariah 13, it’s not immediately obvious why Jesus would apply this to himself. To make sense of how Jesus understood the text, we need to read the prophets in the context of the story they were telling.
Who was “my shepherd” in Zechariah 13:7?
Continue reading “Strike the shepherd (Zechariah 13:7-9)”
“They will look on me, the one they have pierced.” What does this mean in its OT context? How does it relate to the Messiah?
Open Zechariah 12:10-14.
How do you understand this astounding statement from the Old Testament?
They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son (Zechariah 12:10).
There’s a strong temptation to simply read this through the lens of the cross: Jesus the Father’s only Son, God pierced for us. That may be how the story plays out (compare John 19:37), but we miss the richness if we don’t ask what it meant in Zechariah’s context.
When Zechariah says, “They will look on me”
- they = “the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem” (12:10a).
- me = God, since Zechariah is speaking for God (“the word of the Lord” 12:1).
How could they pierce me?
And how can God’s people piercing him be compared to grieving for a firstborn son?
Zechariah is unfolding a very specific story: the story of God’s anointed (the Davidic king) representing heaven’s authority (the kingdom of God) in a world where people (both the inhabitants of Jerusalem and the nations) resist God’s reign.
Continue reading “The one they pierced (Zechariah 12:10-14)”
How the temple valued Jesus’ leadership is no different to how they valued God’s leadership in the past.
Zechariah 11:12–13 (NIV)
12 I told them, “If you think it best, give me my pay; but if not, keep it.” So they paid me thirty pieces of silver.
13 And the Lord said to me, “Throw it to the potter” — the handsome price at which they valued me! So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them to the potter at the house of the Lord.
Thirty silver pieces? Isn’t that the price Judas got for Jesus? Is there a connection? We’ll need to see what this means in Zechariah first, to understand what Matthew 27:3-10 makes of it.
Continue reading “Thirty pieces of silver (Zechariah 11:12-13)”
How does Jesus fulfil the promises of Zechariah 9 about dealing with their enemies and restoring divine kingship?
The humble king, riding into Jerusalem on a donkey. Zechariah 9:9 is an outstanding prophecy, worth exploring in context.
The previous eight verses say that God was opposed to their neighbours to the north (Syrians) and south (Philistines). How does that fit with Jesus? Didn’t the previous chapter promise that the nations would come to seek the Lord? (8:20-23) As always, we need to appreciate the wider context.
Continue reading “The king is coming (Zechariah 9)”
Zechariah uses the same name for God 18 times in one chapter. What was he saying? How does this help us understand Christ and our life in him?
What does it mean to call God the Lord of hosts? What are the hosts under his control? Angels? People? Armies? Israelites? Foreigners? How does this relate to Christ? And what is our role in relation to the Lord of hosts?
Continue reading “Lord of hosts (Zechariah 8)”
With a chapter never quoted in the NT, we see how Jesus fulfilled what God promised through the Prophets.
The hope Jesus proclaimed was deeply rooted in the promises of the prophets. Matthew keeps telling us that Jesus fulfilled the prophets, using phrases from Zechariah far more than we do today.
Many of us struggle to make sense of how the NT writers used the prophets. Read Zechariah in context, and it may not sound like predictions. For example, the blood of the covenant in Zechariah 9:11 seems to refer back to the Sinai covenant (Exodus 24:8), yet Jesus used the phrase for his Last Supper (Matthew 26:28).
Maybe our understanding of “context” is too narrow. You probably know to check a few verses either side of a quotation, so as not to take it out of context. In a limited sense, that’s true. But for Jesus and the New Testament writers, context was much broader — their place in the story of God.
When Jesus announced the good news of the kingdom, his context was the Jewish world that had not been a kingdom since the exile. Most of them lived in other countries, scattered like sheep without a shepherd. That’s how Zechariah had described them 500 years earlier (Zechariah 10:2; 13:7 etc), and it still described their context in Jesus’ day (Matthew 9:36; 10:6; 15:24).
Jesus fulfilled the prophets not merely by doing some particular thing they predicted. That happened, but it was far more: everything God promised to restore was finally fulfilled in his Anointed. That’s the scope of what Jesus fulfilled: All the promises of God find their Yes in him (2 Corinthians 1:20).
So, let’s take a chapter the NT writers never quoted. How is Zechariah 8 fulfilled in Christ?
Continue reading “How Jesus fulfils the prophets (Zechariah 8)”
Two olive trees supporting the menorah? How does this relate to Jesus?
Read Zechariah 4.
Matthew promotes Jesus’ agenda — the kingdom of God — as the fulfilment of the promises God gave through the prophets, with numerous allusions to Zechariah. We’re looking at how Zechariah’s visions informed Jesus’ agenda.
When the kingdom fell apart and the people were exiled to Babylon, Zechariah delivered God’s call for the exiles to return (1:3), declaring that God would lead them home like a new exodus (2:6-12). He said they would see the twin signs of God’s leadership over them: Joshua the cleansed high priest in God’s house, and “the Branch” of David’s house who would reign as God’s anointed (3:8).
Continue reading “Rulers of the restored kingdom (Zechariah 4)”
How does Zechariah’s story about a high priest in filthy rags relate to Jesus?
Read Zechariah 3.
The prophets inspired Jesus’ kingdom vision. After God’s nation disintegrated in the exile, prophets like Zechariah delivered God’s promise to restore his kingdom. He said that God had scattered them among the nations because of their unfaithfulness, and God would gather them as his kingdom again because of his covenant faithfulness (Zechariah 1–2).
The two markers of God’s kingship in Jerusalem were gone: the house of God (the palace for his throne), and the house of David (the anointed kingship representing his reign). Zechariah addresses these two problems in Chapters 3 and 4.
Continue reading “Priest of the restored kingdom (Zechariah 3)”
Prophets like Zechariah delivered God’s promise to restore his kingdom after the exile. What they said informed Jesus’ kingdom ministry.
Jesus was not the first to proclaim the kingdom of God. That was already Israel’s story when God anointed David to rule on earth, and when God established Israel as his nation at Sinai. It was the hope for the nations promised to Abraham. It was the covenant God made with all people through Noah. By design, humans exist as images of the heavenly sovereign in his earthly creation.
What was unique was Jesus’ vision of how the kingdom of heaven would be restored to the earth. There was a whole history of getting off-track in the generations of Adam, Noah, Israel, and David. Then it completely fell apart when Babylon took the nation into captivity, destroying the symbols of God’s kingship: the house of God (with the ark that represented his throne), and the house of David (the anointed kings who that represented his reign).
So, how did Jesus envision the restoration of God’s reign? In part, his kingdom vision was shaped by the promises God gave through the prophets, particularly Zechariah.
Continue reading “Zechariah’s hope of kingdom restoration (Zechariah 1–2)”
Understanding the Bible is all about understanding the relationships. Jesus shows us how with his puzzle about the people in Psalm 110:1.
My wife loves relationships movies. She’s not looking for action scenes, spy plots, or superheros bringing everybody to heel. She loves stories that explore how people relate.
I think that’s how Jesus heard the Bible. Academics can focus on the form and structure of the text or making theology systematic, but for him it was all about relationships.
Matthew 22 gives example after example where his interpretation was relational:
- God’s people live because I AM. Knowing Scripture means knowing God, his life-giving power (see on 22:29-32).
- Loving God and loving people — those relationships are the whole Bible (the Law and the Prophets) (see on 22:34-40).
- To understand a Psalm, explore the relationships between the people (22:43-45).
Now, I know this isn’t how we usually read Scripture. Jesus’ approach sounded just as foreign to the Pharisees as it does to us. Can we learn the relational hermeneutic Jesus used? In this post, we’ll take the third example (based on Psalm 110) as our tutorial.
Notice the question Jesus asks:
Continue reading “David’s Lord (Matthew 22:41-46)”
What’s the most important thing God ever told us to do? The answer describes kingdom life, what the king intends for his community.
The fight is on!
Jesus is in one corner. Opposing him is a tag team of Israel’s leading fighters. They’ve stopped fighting each other to bring down the people’s champion. Three rounds:
- Pharisees lead the attack by testing his support for Caesar. Jesus sends them back in their corner: give Caesar the currency in his name, but he’s not the ultimate authority (22:15-22).
- Next, Sadducees take a swing at his resurrection hope, but Jesus finds their vulnerability. They failed to factor in God’s power, the I AM, the life-giving Being (22:23-33).
- Then an unnamed hand gathers reinforcements to bring down God’s anointed.
This fight is the final week of Jesus’ life. It’s building towards the final assault on God’s anointed. He’s been in this fight since he was born, when Herod gathered together all the ruling priests and scribes of the people to investigate this king of the Jews (2:4). Now the leaders are gathered against him by an unspecified hand (same verb, passive voice):
Continue reading “Loving God and people (Matthew 22:34-40)”
“I am the God of Abraham” proves the resurrection?
Like you, I want to understand Scripture better, so we can live it well. It matters, because we’re living in God’s story. One way to learn is to watch how Scripture handles Scripture (i.e. intertextuality informs hermeneutics).
For example, in Matthew 22:31 Jesus quotes this text to convince his opponents about the resurrection:
Exodus 3:6 I am the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.
Huh? How does that verse prove the resurrection? I might have gone for something like this:
Continue reading “The God who raises the dead (Matthew 22:31-32)”
How does the nation of Israel fit into God’s plans today?
They were God’s chosen people in Old Testament times. Now gentiles (non-Jews) are included in God’s people, for the Jewish Messiah is God’s anointed ruler for the world. So, what about the Jews: do they still have a special place, a special future?
For 2000 years, Christians have disagreed over this question. Some say the church has replaced Israel as the people of God, treating Jews as now irrelevant … or worse. Anti-Semitism reached its peak under Hitler, in a country that claimed to be Christian.
The holocaust tipped public opinion in favour of re-establishing Israel as a nation. After 1800 years with no homeland (2500 under foreign rule), some viewed this return as the fulfilment of God’s promise through Ezekiel when they first went into exile:
Continue reading “Is Israel God’s kingdom today? (Matthew 21:40-46)”
Look through the window of Jesus’ stories, and you see the world framed as God’s kingdom:
Matthew 21 33“Listen to another parable: There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and moved to another place. 34When the harvest time approached, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his fruit.” (NIV)
The earth is the Lord’s. We don’t own it. We rent a space for a few years, but ownership remains with the one who lives forever. That’s our security, our meaning. It’s where we belong, our hope.
Continue reading “Tenants in God’s vineyard (Matthew 21:33-44)”
Little voices make a world of difference.
O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! (Psalm 8:1 ESV)
The Psalms proclaim heaven’s sovereignty over the earth. In effusive joy and struggling lament, they declare the reality of God’s reign over us all.
The more we recognize God’s regal authority, the more it develops us. Witness the word of praise expanding as ripples on a pond:
Continue reading “How majestic! (Psalm 8)”
The Palm Sunday crowd declared the gospel: heaven and earth reconciled in “the one who comes in the name of the Lord.”
Jesus’ triumphal entry was the greatest recognition Jerusalem ever gave its king.
Matthew has been proclaiming Jesus’ kingship since the beginning: the son of David (1:1), born into their captivity (1:17), to save his people from their disobedience (1:21). Jesus has been announcing the good news of the kingdom and using his authority to release his people from their sufferings. Eventually his followers realized who was king (16:16), and others began to recognize him as the son of David (20:30-31).
A growing crowd streams into the capital from the east, accompanying the one they proclaim as the son of David, returning to reign in Jerusalem. They lay their garments on the road to honour their king, cutting branches to mark the festal celebration.
What they say is the most astounding declaration of the gospel. Matthew summarizes their joyful shouts with three statements that declare the reconciliation of heaven and earth in him:
Continue reading “Hosanna: the king who saves his realm (Matthew 21:6-9)”
God’s king has a different authority to what we’ve known.
The king of peace is so different. When the disciples first recognized Jesus as God’s anointed, he told them to keep it quiet (16:16-20). Now others have had their eyes opened to the son of David, and they cannot be silenced (20:30-34). This growing crowd forms a festal procession, celebrating the return of the son of David to the capital in the name of the Lord (21:9).
Yet, this son of David does not look like the kings who came before him. Solomon had 12,000 horses and 1,400 chariots to defend his kingdom (2 Chronicles 1:14). Jesus doesn’t even have a donkey. If he’s to be carried into Jerusalem, he must borrow a pack-animal for this occasion — the return of the king to Jerusalem after 600 years.
Continue reading “The king who comes in peace (Matthew 21:1-9)”
This should trigger discussion in your small group: What does it mean to love God?
I mean, it might be important if Jesus placed it in the top two: love God + love people.
Continue reading “How do you love God?”
Armour of God? When did he wear it?
The armour of God: something God provides for us, or something God himself wears?
Isaiah 59:17 describes the Lord putting it on:
He put on righteousness as his breastplate,
and the helmet of salvation on his head.
When did God put armour on? Understanding how God used it might help us to use it too.
Continue reading “When did God wear armour? (Ephesians 6:11)”