God Pierced, A Fountain Opened, A People Cleansed
Passage: Zechariah 12:10–13:1
Sermon from Zechariah 12:10-13:1 by Bret Rogers, Pastor
Series: Zechariah: Restoration & Return (Part 19)
Delivered on February 14, 2016
12:10And 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, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn. 11On that day the mourning in Jerusalem will be as great as the mourning for Hadad-rimmon in the plain of Megiddo. 12The land shall mourn, each family by itself: the family of the house of David by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of the house of Nathan by itself, and their wives by themselves; 13the family of the house of Levi by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of the Shimeites by itself, and their wives by themselves; 14and all the families that are left, each by itself, and their wives by themselves. 13:1On that day there shall be a fountain opened for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and uncleanness.
Step 1: Final Battle Won in Two Comings of Jesus
So here’s what I want us to do this morning. I want us to take four big steps toward the message of this passage. And the first big step is this: I want to correct a shortcoming in the message that I preached last week. We covered verses 1-9 last Sunday, and the major emphasis of my sermon was that the final battle of verses 1-9 refers only to the return of Jesus Christ. But several observations from the Bible have persuaded me to clarify that the final battle is actually fought and won through two comings of Jesus, and not just the final coming.
One of those observations came with how the New Testament writers use Psalm 2. Psalm 2 is another place that speaks of the nations gathering against God and his anointed one, and by the end of Psalm 2, Jesus goes to battle and smashes the nations with a rod of iron. But here’s the interesting part: the apostles use Psalm 2 to speak about Jesus’ cross and Jesus’ return.
Acts 4:25-26 quotes Psalm 2:1-2 to say that the nations gathered against God and his Messiah at the cross of Jesus Christ—to do to Jesus whatever God’s hand and plan had predestined to take place (Acts 4:28). Hebrews 1:5 quotes from Psalm 2:7 to speak about Jesus’ resurrection (cf. Acts 13:33; Heb 1:2; 5:5). So we have the apostles saying that Psalm 2 applies both to the cross and the resurrection. But then Revelation 19:15-19 also uses Psalm 2 to speak about Jesus’ final return—when the nations will once again gather against God for battle, and Christ then defeats them with his people (cf. Rev 2:26-27; 12:5). So it appears that the apostles saw the victory of God and his Messiah against the nations unfolding in two comings, not just one.
Something else that grabbed my attention is the bigger picture that Zechariah painted for us in verses 1-9. Picture this with me again just briefly: a day when nations gather against God in vain (12:1-4); a day when God pours out his wrath on the nations (12:2, 9); a day when God acts decisively to save his own covenant people (12:4, 7-8); a day when God makes even the feeblest of his people glorious and mighty—especially because of their union with David’s house (12:6-7); and a day when God’s people will be reestablished at Jerusalem (12:6).
According to the apostles, this is exactly what was inaugurated at the cross of Jesus Christ. The nations did gather against God in his Son (Acts 4). God did pour out his wrath on the nations—he just did it the first time in Jesus’ bloody body hanging on the cross (Rom 3). And through the death of Jesus, God also acted decisively to save his own covenant people (Rom 15). And then through Jesus’ resurrection, God also made his people glorious and mighty for the spiritual battle they’d face against the nations (Eph 6; Col 2; Heb 2); and he established them as the heavenly Jerusalem that can never be shaken—which is the church according to Matthew 16 and Galatians 4 and Hebrews 12. So, even if the final battle isn’t over, the victory for God’s people has begun.
Then one more thing is this—and this one is straight from our passage—notice the repetition of the phrase “on that day.” It’s repeated six times in verses 1-9, and we noted last week that it functions like a code-word pointing to God’s end-time salvation. But notice this in particular: it doesn’t stop with verse 9. It carries over to the events described in the rest of the passage, and it even gets repeated again in 12:11 and 13:1. Which means that the events of verses 1-9 and the events of verses 10 and following are all included within the time-frame of “on that day.” Interestingly enough, the apostle John uses Zechariah 12:10 to speak of Jesus’ cross and of Jesus’ return.
We’ll look at that more in just a moment, but I mention it now to help you see the shortcoming of my message last week. The final battle is actually fought and won through two of Jesus’ comings, and not just one—which means it looks more like this [show picture on the power-point]. “On that day” encompasses the whole of God’s end-time salvation—there’s some thickness to it, which includes Jesus’ victory at the cross and all the time until Jesus’ victory at his return…
Which, I don’t know if you guys caught it, but that’s exactly how Dale kicked off the Lord’s Supper last week—with the battle Jesus fought at the cross. You’ve got to love a plurality of elders: one elder picks up where the other is slacking. That’s big step number one, and I think it will give you a better framework for understanding today’s passage.
Step 2: Understanding Zechariah 12:10-13:1
Big step number two: we need to walk through these verses. And we might break them down into three headings: the piercing, the mourning, and the cleansing.
Let’s look at the piercing first. Everything in this passage revolves around the piercing of an unique individual in verse 10. And the way that the ESV translates verse 10 indicates that this individual is very near to God: “I will pour out…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.” He seems to be a representative, so that to look on God, or “me,” is simultaneously to look on him.
We could think of other places in the Old Testament where a representative who is close to God gets pierced. We might think of the Suffering Servant in Isaiah 53:5—he represents God and gets pierced for our transgressions. We might also think of David in Psalm 22:16—David represents God and says, “they have pierced my hands and feet.” But Zechariah 12:10 is actually going further in its claim.
In our study of Zechariah, we’ve seen this back and forth between God coming to save his people and the King coming to save his people (e.g., Zech 2:10 // 9:9). Sometimes you can’t even distinguish between the two—both the King and Yahweh bring salvation (Zech 8:7, 13; 9:9, 16); both establish peace (Zech 8:12; 9:10); both possess universal dominion (Zech 9:10, 14-15; 14:1-21); both receive worship by the end of chapter 14 (Zech 14:9, 16, 17). So are they one and the same or distinct, is the tension.
Building on that tension—or better, bringing that tension together in one person—comes Zechariah 12:10. And I want you to listen to the way the NASB translates it. It says, “I will pour out…the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him.” The emphasis there is that God himself is the one pierced, and not merely his representative. It brings out the uniqueness and the radical offense of Zechariah’s prophecy: how could the immortal God dare say of himself that he would be pierced?
And that’s exactly how it landed on early Jewish translators of the Old Testament, who try to alleviate God from this piercing—even changing the way the Bible reads sometimes in their translations. They never have a problem with God’s representative getting pierced in Isaiah 53 or in Psalm 22. But they got really big problems when it comes to Zechariah 12:10, because they know what it’s saying, and they don’t have a theological category for it. It’s a total mystery to them—how could God say such a thing about himself?
Unless, you embrace Zechariah’s tension between God and his King—mysterious though it may be—and then find it’s fulfillment in the person of Jesus Christ. That’s the way the apostle John understands the tension in Zechariah to find its relief. The mystery is answered in the person of Jesus Christ, who is not just a representative of God—though he certainly is that too; Jesus Christ is also God in the flesh.
John 1 says that he forever existed with God and was God, and then he took to himself a human nature (John 1:1, 14). That’s what Christians mean when they say, “incarnation”—God himself took on flesh in the person of Jesus, and by taking on flesh, he made himself killable, pierce-able. And when John sees this, he’s able to connect the dots when Jesus gets pierced on the cross. John 19:37 says that when the soldier pierced Jesus with his spear, it fulfilled the prophecy of Zechariah 12:10.
This is how God is pierced. Now, just to be careful, when we say that God is pierced—or, as we sung earlier that “Thou my God should die for me”—we’re not saying that God, in his very essence was pierced or had died. We’re saying that God the Son in his humanity suffered and died for us. But since his divine and human nature can never be divided, then it’s in some sense appropriate to speak of our God being crucified for us, or, as Acts 20:28 puts it, that God obtained the church with his own blood. It was God’s blood that was spilt for us. It was God as he is in the Son who was pierced for us.
So this prophecy looks to a day when God would be pierced, and it finds its fulfillment in the person of Jesus Christ. But two further things surround this piercing.
One of them is mourning—not morning verses evening, but mourning as an expression of sorrow. You can see in verse 10 that it’s the covenant people themselves who have pierced God—he calls them “the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem.” They look on what they’ve done in piercing God, and they mourn over him “as one mourns for an only child,” or “as one weeps over a firstborn.”
These two images of an “only child” and a “firstborn”—we might think of Abraham and Isaac. Isaac is Abraham’s only child in whom all the promises of God were bound up—to lose Isaac was to lose everything (Gen 22:2, 12, 16). Or we might think of when God kills the firstborn in Egypt to rescue Israel out of Egypt (Exod 4:22, 23; 11:5; 12:12, 29-30)—there was a great cry over the death of all the firstborn. This is no light-hearted mourning but one of deep sorrow over what they’ve done.
And as you keep reading in verses 11-14, the mourning spreads throughout the covenant people. Verse 11: “On that day the mourning in Jerusalem [so the whole city is now in view] will be as great as the mourning for Hadad-rimmon in the plain of Megiddo.” Hadad-rimmon is tricky, because we don’t find it anywhere else in the OT. But we do find several regions called Rimmon (e.g., Josh 15:32; Judg 20:45-47); one of them even comes in Zechariah 14:10, and speaks of it as a region south of Jerusalem. So we’re likely dealing with a region here.
Also, if we go back in our Bibles to 2 Kings 23:29, we find that one of the significant kings in David’s line, King Josiah—he gets killed at Megiddo. And then 2 Chronicles 35:24-25 tells us that all of Israel lamented his death for decades and decades. They even made the lament over Josiah’s death a regular custom in Israel. Zechariah is picking that up and saying, “Look, there’s coming a day when you will mourn for the piercing of God just like you mourned over King Josiah.” This may be a subtle way of saying that the pierced God will also be a King from David’s line—which we also know was true of Jesus Christ (Matt 1:1).
The mourning then spreads even further to the whole land. He mentions first the royal line by mentioning David and one of his sons, Nathan in verse 12 (2 Sam 5:14; 1 Chron 3:4; Luke 3:31). Then he adds the priestly line in Israel with Levi and part of his lineage, the Shimeites in verse 13 (Exod 6:17; Num 3:21). So both royal and priestly lines are together mourning over what they’ve done. And then verse 14 sweeps everybody else into the picture: “and all the families that are left, each by itself, and their wives by themselves.”
If you wonder why there’s this repetition of first the “house” and then “their wives by themselves”—it comes from Jeremiah 44:9-10. At that point Israel has been exiled to Egypt, and rather than turning to God in repentance over the exile, they start joining the Egyptians in idol worship. So God comes to them and says, “Have you forgotten the evil of your fathers, the evil of the kings of Judah, the evil of their wives, your own evil, and the evil of your wives…They haven’t humbled themselves…”
What we’re getting in Zechariah is a reversal of that kind of attitude toward God. Here we see a people humbled before God and mourning over what they’ve done to him. Nobody is pointing the finger at the other; everybody is one their face to confess their own sin. What changed them? What brought them to this place of repentance and sorrow over sin?
The answer is back in verse 10: the grace of God. The grace of God in the piercing and the grace of God in pouring out his Spirit, so that his people see the piercing for what it truly is—their salvation.
Last week we saw that God promised to conquer all the rebel forces surrounding his covenant people. What’s going on here? What do you see here that’s different? We see this: God isn’t just concerned with the rebel outside of us, but the rebel inside of us. Sure, he’s a God that conquers the pride without, but he also conquers the pride within. And how does he do it?
By pouring out the Spirit of grace and pleas for mercy. I wish we had time to read through all the passages where this idea of “pleas for mercy” occurs in the Old Testament. This is a plea that rises to God such that if he didn’t act to save you, then your soul would perish in Sheol (Ps 28:2), then you would be cut off from God’s sight (Ps 31:22), the snares of death would swallow you whole (Ps 116:1), and the wrath of God would consume you altogether (Ps 143:1-2; cf. Ps 86:6; 140:6).
Each of those are examples of where this idea occurs in the Psalms. Psalm 130:1-4 is probably one of the best examples: “O Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy! If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.” You see the situation: you have no chance of standing before God in your sin, unless he forgives you—and so your cry goes up to him, “Lord save me!” That’s the kind of cry that God’s grace inspires in his people.
It’s the cry that comes with the outpouring of God’s Spirit upon you (Ezek 39:29; Joel 2:28-32). The Spirit opens your eyes to see what your sins have caused—the death of God’s only Son—and you weep and cry out for his forgiveness. Isn’t this what you feel over your sins as a child of God? Some of you think that something is wrong when you’re grieved over your sins. Friends, grief over your sins is a gift from above. We should turn our grief over sin into thanksgiving that God poured out his Spirit of grace on us. Had he not done so, we would stay blind and doomed. Turn your times of grief into occasions of thanksgiving and cries for mercy.
And you know why? Because God has opened a fountain of cleansing for you—13:1: “On that day there shall be a fountain opened for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and uncleanness.” These expressions “from sin and uncleanness”—they appear in contexts where an animal is sacrificed as a sin-offering for the purpose of atonement or cleansing before God (e.g., Lev 4:3, 14, 32-33; Ezek 43:19-20, 22). We are sinners; sin separates us from God; and we need a sacrifice, a substitute to cleanse us from sin. Our sacrifice for cleansing comes through the piercing of God in 12:10, and the cleansing is then given to the people mourning.
And the cleansing isn’t just a little dab with a cloth here and there—like a mom might do to her child after dinner. No, it comes to us as a “fountain”—same word that Jeremiah uses to talk about God himself, the fountain of living water (Jer 2:13; 17:13; cf. Ps 36:9; Prov 14:27). It has an inexhaustible supply of cleansing for you. Barry Webb puts it this way: “No sin will be too heinous, and no stain too stubborn for this fountain to deal with.”
Again, God is not merely interested in rescuing us from external problems; he’s interested in rescuing us from our internal, moral problem called sin. This is the kind of God we worship and we serve—he pours out grace on those who pierce him. He takes those who are guilty for piercing him; and when they look upon him and cry out for mercy, he cleanses them from their sin and from their uncleanness.
This is exactly how John presents the death of Jesus in his Gospel. When Jesus is pierced with the soldier’s spear, John witnesses a flow of blood and water from Jesus’ side. He doesn’t say that just to emphasize that Jesus is really, really, dead. He mentions the blood and water flowing from Jesus’ side so that we interpret those events in light of this fountain (John 19:34-37; cf. Zech 12:10).
The blood and water from Jesus’ side are a signal for us that God opened this fountain of cleansing from sin and uncleanness in the death of Jesus. Blood in John’s Gospel is what takes away sin (John 6:53-54; cf. 1:29). And water throughout John’s Gospel is associated with the Spirit (John 3:5; 4:10, 14; 7:38-39). It is the Spirit who comes and gives enteral life by applying the benefits of Jesus’ death to us. When the Spirit applies the blood of Jesus, you are cleansed, my friend (cf. John 13:5ff).
You remember the plea for mercy we looked at earlier. Well there’s another one I want to show in light of this cleansing, and it comes from Jeremiah 31. In Jeremiah 31:9, God promises to bring his people back from exile with “pleas for mercy.” And then we actually get an example of a “plea for mercy” in Jeremiah 31:18-19.
It sounds like this: “I have heard Ephraim grieving, ‘You have disciplined me, and I was disciplined, like an untrained calf; bring me back that I may be restored, for you are the LORD my God. For after I had turned away, I relented, and after I was instructed, I struck my thigh; I was ashamed, and I was confounded, because I bore the disgrace of my youth.” Many of you are in that place this morning—ashamed over a harsh word you spoke this week; ashamed over your laziness; ashamed over the way you keep falling into some sin; ashamed that you’re still enticed by things you wish you weren’t enticed by anymore.
Listen to how God then responds in 31:20: “Is Ephraim my dear son? Is he my darling child? For as often as I speak against him, I do remember him still. Therefore my heart yearns for him; I will surely have mercy on him, declares the LORD.” God responds the same way to you when you look upon his Son, Jesus, and cry out to God for mercy. All who are in Christ by faith, God can say of you—“Dear son, darling child, I remember you. My heart yearns for you. I will surely have mercy on you.” This is the grace of your God in Christ. Look upon him and cry out to him.
The people who experience God’s grace—that’s what they’re doing here. They’re looking upon Jesus and crying out for mercy. That’s what John’s Gospel encourages us to do as well: “Everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life” (John 6:40; cf. 3:15-16; 19:35, 37). What does it mean to “look on” him? Looking is a metaphor for faith. It’s seeing with the eyes of your heart that there’s no one else who can save you but Jesus, the pierced God (cf. John 1:14; 3:15-16). It’s a transformative contemplation that produces less and less self-reliance and more and more Christward dependence. It contemplates who this bleeding One is and what his blood has achieved for you. You contemplate who Jesus is and what he’s done, and the Spirit uses the contemplation of that reality to convict you and save you and transform you and to increase your dependence on and your love for Jesus.
Step 3: Don’t Wait to Look Upon the Pierced One
Step number three: look upon the pierced God now by faith, so that you don’t have to look upon him later with dread. As we’ve seen, John quotes Zechariah 12:10 to speak about Jesus’ cross. But he also uses Zechariah 12:10 to speak about Jesus’ return. Revelation 1:7 says this: “Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him.”
This is different from the mourning we see in Zechariah 12. The mourning in Revelation 1:7 is not one of heart-felt contrition and brokenness over sin. Rather, it reflects the weeping and wailing of the unbelieving nations who spurn the Son of God. They’ve got nothing to shield them from the wrath of Jesus who comes with the clouds of heaven (cf. Rev 6:16-17; 18:9).
You see, John is interpreting Zechariah 12:10 in light of Jesus’ two comings. He’s teasing out its implications for both the covenant community and the unbelieving world. And by doing so, he makes an incredible point: if you want to experience cleansing from sin, if you want to be part of God’s covenant people, then you must not wait to look upon Jesus at his return. You must look upon Jesus now. If we look now, we will be saved. If we wait, we will perish. If we mourn now, our mourning will be turned into joy at Jesus’ coming (cf. Jas 4:9). But if we coddle our sin and grow content with ungodliness, then we will experience great dread at Jesus’ return (cf. Luke 6:25).
This was the message the apostles preached in the book of Acts. Jesus was pierced, the Spirit was poured out, and what happens to the people in Peter’s preaching? Acts 2:37, “they were cut to the heart…and said…‘What shall we do?’” And Peter’s response wasn’t, “Oh just wait, you’ve still got some time;” it was, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Act 2:38). The day of salvation is now. The Spirit of grace is poured out now. So look upon Jesus and be saved.
Some of you, perhaps, have never looked upon Jesus in this way before. You have not understood him to be God. You’ve not understood that his sacrifice cleanses you from sin. Perhaps you didn’t even know that God was this gracious to sinners who ask for mercy. Perhaps you’ve known all those things—and can articulate the sound doctrines of the church—bet never in a transformative way.
Please do not leave today without crying to God for mercy. Jesus was pierced by a spear in his first coming, so that you wouldn’t be pierced by God’s sword in his second coming. Come to him this morning. Members of this church would even count a joy to talk with you more about God’s grace in Christ. Don’t fear stopping one of them to pray with you on your way out.
Step 4: Specific Takeaways for Our Church
Finally, step number 4: there are several specific things that I want our church to take away from this message.
Look upon Jesus every day
To begin, looking upon Jesus isn’t limited to something you do to get saved. It’s not a one-time deal. Looking upon Jesus is something for every day until we see him face-to-face. Nate Byford sent me a text message last Monday as a way to encourage me and Dustin. It was a quote from Henry Law, in his book Christ is All, that goes like this:
O my soul, “Christ died” is all your hope—your plea—your remedy—your life. “Christ died” opens your path to God. “Christ died” turns every frown into approving smiles. When the law thunders, and conscience quakes, and Satan accuses, interpose “Christ died,” and fear no more. When the grave opens, whisper “Christ died,” and sleep in peace. When the white throne is set, shout “Christ died,” and take the crown of righteousness!
I don’t know about you, but I need to hear words like that every day. Because every day I am a sinner in need of more grace and more cleansing and more assurance and more hope. Look upon the pierced God every day. Sometimes we call this “preaching the gospel to yourself.” Make room in your life for transformative contemplation on the death of Jesus for you. What’s most important is God and having more of him, but we can only have more of him if we stop and look and plead.
Help each other look upon Jesus
Of course, that’s not something we do alone. God united us with his people, so that they can help us look upon the Pierced One too. That’s why you get commands like this in the New Testament: “exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Heb 3:13).
Help each other look to Christ. On Tuesday this week, I was on the verge of my weekly breakdown over how much there is to get done and how little time there is to do it. And about lunch time that day, I get this text message from Chris Cronenworth: “Hey bro, are you experiencing God’s peace today? Remember, nothing you face today is beyond the purview of God’s all-sufficient grace and surpassing peace! See Ephesians 2:14-18. I praise God for Christ who is our peace and His gracious work on our behalf!”
Amen and amen to that. You see what this brother was doing? Taking the eyes of my heart and pointing them to Jesus. And when I looked to Jesus, and I remembered who he is and what God has done for me in Jesus, the weight was gone, the worry was gone, the contentment returned. I noted who Jesus was, and the Spirit used it to transform me. This should be the pattern of our life together. Regardless of how it happens, in a text, a phone call, a Facebook message, a lunch meeting, a care group meeting—may our days be full of helping each other look upon Jesus. It takes work, it takes thinking, it takes effort, but he’s so worth it.
Pray for God’s Spirit to produce godly sorrow
Also, pray that God pours out his Spirit on us. This is an every-member ministry—prayer. Brokenness over sin only comes by the gift of God. It is not something that we can produce on our own. We can talk about sin all we want—we can intellectualize it and define it precisely, we can explain how it effects our whole being, we can even confess it to others when it happens. But we can’t produce brokenness. We can’t create contrition and humility. We can’t force godly sorrow. That only comes as a gift of God’s gracious Spirit.
Wives, you should pray this for your husbands. Husbands, you should pray this for your children, and show patience when you cannot create this demeanor in them. Their hearts are in God’s hands. Grandpas, you can pray this for your family members. Older women, you can pray this for the younger women in this church. Singles, you can pray this outpouring comes on us. Pray this for your lost friends and family members—and sleep well at night, knowing that only God changes the heart, not you. Everyone can pray for God’s grace to make us sorrowful over sin.
Take courage in the Pierced One’s return
Finally, take courage in the Pierced One’s return for you. As we saw from the beginning, God’s final victory takes place in two comings. That’s even seen in the way John 19:37 and Revelation 1:7 use Zechariah 12:10. And Revelation 1:7 shows us that the Pierced One will return for us. If he spilt his blood for us, then he will return for us. The Lamb will receive the reward of his suffering. On the third day, God raised Jesus from the dead; and he is now seated in heaven with all power and authority till the day he returns to put all his enemies beneath his feet. When you look upon the Pierced One, do not see a God-man still in the grave. See the God-man who overcame the grave and is coming with the clouds of heaven to rescue you and finish the battle in which he’s already claimed the victory.