During these weeks before Good Friday and Easter I am asking readers to ponder the fulfillment of biblical prophecies related to the death of Jesus on the cross. John the apostle draws our attention to several Old Testament scriptures as he describes the crucifixion.
In John 19:34 he wrote, “One of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water.” In verse 37, John says this was a fulfillment of the prophecy of Zechariah which said, “They will look on the one they have pierced.” (John also referenced this prophecy when he described his vision of the risen and victorious Jesus in Revelation 1:7.)
If you study Zechariah 12:10 closely, you learn that the prophet foresaw Israel’s national deliverance in the last days. The physical restoration of his nation is dependent upon their spiritual renewal. He depicts the nation mourning in repentance over their sins. This is accompanied by a spiritual cleansing from sin (Zechariah 13:1).
In this remarkable prophecy the Messiah says, “They will look on me, the one they have pierced.” Messiah has been speaking throughout Zechariah’s prophecy. The New Testament teaches us that this is none other than the Lord Jesus. He is the one who will accomplish Israel’s final restoration as he ushers in his glorious earthly kingdom.
Charles Ryrie wrote, “At the second coming of Christ, Israel will recognize Jesus as her Messiah, acknowledging with deep contrition that He is the One whom their forefathers pierced.” This is what John had in mind when he recognized the partial fulfillment of Zechariah’s words in the sufferings of Jesus.
Jesus’ body was also pieced by nails. This too was prophesied. Psalm 22:16 says “They pierce my hands and my feet.” This graphic depiction of what happened at a crucifixion was written hundreds of years before crucifixion was invented as an instrument of execution.
Archaeologists have unearthed evidence of the Roman practice of crucifixion. In 1968 they discovered a heel bone pierced with an iron spike. It is the bone of a crucified man found in a Jerusalem ossuary, dating from the first century. The Jewish historian Josephus wrote that the Romans executed thousands of victims. It was an agonizing, torturous way to die.
One of the Lord’s disciples, Thomas, did not at first believe in Jesus’ resurrection. He said to the other disciples, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand in his side, I will not believe” (John 20:25). A week later the Lord came among the disciples and gave Thomas an opportunity to do that very thing. When the skeptical Thomas saw the risen Lord he bowed in worship exclaiming, “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28). This is how it will be at the second coming when Israel recognizes and worships King Jesus.
It is doubtful that Zechariah the prophet grasped the full significance of his words, or the use that a disciple of Messiah would make of them 500 years later (1 Peter 1:10-11). But he knew that he was being motivated and guided by a burden from God as he wrote. He was prophesying the death of Jesus as Isaiah had done years before.
Isaiah’s words provoke reverence and gratitude. “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). It was for our sins that Jesus died. He took our place and suffered the penalty we deserved to have to pay. We can only worship and love him for that.
Pastor Randy Faulkner