Updated: Jul 27
Zechariah 12:1 – 13:1
Rev. Erik Veerman
On the Day: The Gospel of Zechariah
We are in the home stretch in Zechariah. Chapter 12 begins the final section. And as I read, listen for the phrase “On that day.” You’ll hear it multiple times. Really, it’s what ties these final three chapters together.
For Zechariah’s audience, it was a promise of a future day of salvation. For them, it was all in the future. For us, though, we’re living 2500 years later. Part of the future promise has already been fulfilled. Salvation has come. But part of the promise is still in the future. And it’s really important for us to distinguish the difference. What has been fulfilled already versus what is yet to be fulfilled. As we work through these final chapter, that will be part of our goal.
So, listen for the phrase “on that day.” As you hear it, listen for what it’s connected to.
Turn in your Bibles to Zechariah 12. In the pew Bible, you’ll find that on page 950.
This is God’s inspired Word. It’s sufficient and authoritative and he’s given to us. Please stand as I read.
Reading of Zechariah 12-13:1.
A few years ago, I had the opportunity to visit Jerusalem. I was in the area for work and had some free time. A friend was with me and we weren’t on a holy lands tour, so we could just wander around.
And so, we walked from the old city to the Mount of Olives. It’s only a quarter of a mile walk east from the city walls. You walk down to the Kidron valley and then up to the Mount of Olives. In Jesus’ day, the mountain had many trees. A lot of olive trees. There are still some here and there. There’s an area they call the Garden of Gethsemane with some very old olive trees.
But most of the trees are gone. Can you guess what they are replaced with? Graves. Tombs. All the way up the side of the Mount of Olives. One grave after another. Some are large, but most are the size of a coffin. Many of the tombs are stacked one on top of another. And it goes on and on. There are approximately 70 to 150 thousands graves on the Mount of Olives. We walked in and out of them. From most of the cemetery, you can see the temple mount area, where the temple used to be, and actually you can see much of the city of Jerusalem.
Why all those tombs? Why would someone want to be buried there? Why spend a lot of money for such a burial?
Well, if your theology of the future is connected to the physical city of Jerusalem, then yes, you would want to be there. If you are Jewish, it’s where the messiah will finally come. It’s where the earthly kingdom will be restored. It will be the center of the world again. If you are a Christian with a similar perspective on Jerusalem, you would want to be there when Jesus returned. You’d be first in line for the resurrection. One person said there’s a “special holiness” there… you would be “one-up” on everyone else when the resurrection happens – “first in line” as this person said.
An important question is this: when the Old Testament talks about Jerusalem in the future, to what is it referring? Is it referring to the city found in the central part of Israel, that’s still there today? It is referring to a future city in heaven, one with literal streets of gold? Or is it referring not to a physical place on earth or in heaven, but instead referring to a people? God’s people on earth or in heaven?
Well, part of the answer is found in our text today. There are 12 direct references to Jerusalem.
Just take the first part of chapter 12.
In verse 2 it says, God is “going to make Jerusalem a cup of staggering to all the surrounding peoples.” That means Jerusalem will cause all the people opposed to her to stagger… falter.
Or take verse 3. “On that day I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone for all the peoples. All who lift it will surely hurt themselves.”
Over and over in multiple verses, Jerusalem will be victorious. The city will be reinhabited – verse 6. Salvation will come – verse 7. God will protect Jerusalem – verse 8. The enemy peoples will be destroyed – verse 9.
And it’s all tied up with that phrase “on that day.” Now, when we hear that phrase, it’s natural for us to think it refers to a single day. But in actuality, that phrase is used all throughout the prophets in the Old Testament. Rather than a single day, it’s broader. It refers to something in the future that will begin on a single day, but includes the time period that the day ushers in. It’s like we sometimes say, “a new day has dawned or has come.” And we mean that something has radically changed for us. In fact, the phrase “on that day” often refers to some kind of salvation. Or deliverance. We see that here. Salvation from enemies. Peace and protection. “On that day… declared the Lord.” In other words, “I am going to do something for you like I’ve never done before”
Now, just like we’ve seen in other prophecies, part of this prophecy gets fulfilled in the near term. 30 or so years after Zechariah writes this second half of his book, Nehemiah comes on the scene. And he leads the effort to reconstruct Jerusalem’s wall. It’s a great day, just like when the temple rebuild was complete. But it’s still a shadow of the great salvation promise of these verses.
Most Jewish people today still see Zechariah 12 as a future promise about a future city. They would say, Jerusalem will be fully restored and more glorious than it ever was. They believe there will come a day when a Mosque will no longer be on the temple mount. Instead, a new temple will be built. They believe a Messiah will finally come who will be king over this new Jerusalem and will establish Judah’s reign.
In fact, many Christians today also believe that Zechariah 12 refers to the physical city of Jerusalem. They similarly believe that the day will come when Jerusalem will be the center of Christianity. Some would even connect it to Jesus’ return. They consider that when Jesus comes back, he will reign in Jerusalem. Some believe the temple sacrifices will even be restarted.
For either group, they want to be there. Right in the middle action. Buried next to the city where it will all take place.
But is that what these verses teach us? When we read that word “Jerusalem” in connection with the future promise, does that refer to a physical city of Jerusalem on earth? Will she be a staggering to the surrounding people? Will the people in the city be like king David again? Verse 8. Like God with the angel of the Lord going before them?
They’re legitimate questions. How we interpret the passage impacts how we see Jerusalem, the city, and how we apply this chapter to ourselves and the church.
And I want to argue that these references to Jerusalem do not, in fact, ultimately refer to a physical city of Jerusalem. Rather I want to argue that they broadly refer to the church. To God’s people.
One main reason is that these references to Jerusalem are connected to the phrase “on that day.” Jerusalem is connected to a future salvation, verse 7, which will be inaugurated by a future event that will usher in a period of God’s grace, verse 10.
To be sure, I am not saying that any or every reference to Jerusalem in the Old Testament or in the book of Zechariah refers to the future church. No, I am specifically referring to references that connect Jerusalem with salvation and God’s people in the future.
So, why do I say that? What is my case that Jerusalem here refers to the universal church?
Well, it revolves around this: Zechariah 12:1 - 13:1 portrays the saving work of Christ on the cross, the result of Jesus’ sacrifice, and what faith in Jesus means. In other words, these verses give us a picture of salvation accomplished and salvation applied… It’s a picture of the Gospel. This chapter is like one of the Gospel accounts. Matthew, Mark, Luke, John… and Zechariah!
Let’s look at these verses from two perspectives.
• First, redemption accomplished - how these verses point to Christ and his atoning work on the cross. How he accomplished salvation.
• Second, redemption applied - how that salvation is applied to people. To us. How we come to believe in and receive that salvation.
And once you see those two aspects of the Gospel in these verses, I think you’ll decide not to spend $30,000 for a grave plot on the Mount of Olives.
Ok, redemption accomplished - the act of God in securing salvation.
The first thing to note is how Zechariah 12 begins. It’s just like the Gospel of John. In John, he writes, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.” That’s referring to Christ as God. And then it says, “All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.” So, all of the heavens and the earth were made by God, through Christ in his role in the Trinity. Then John says, “in him was life, and the life was the light of men.” That’s a testament to the work of God in the life of all mankind, of each of us and all people. John is teaching that all creation and especially the creation of human life has happened through Christ.
Again, that’s the beginning of John’s Gospel. But look at verse 1 of Zechariah 12. It’s very similar. “The Lord, who stretched out the heavens and founded the earth and formed the spirit of man within him.” It’s not directly referencing the Messiah, but it parallels John’s Gospel account which points to Christ’s involvement in creation.
Now, you may be thinking, “Wait a second! That’s a stretch. After all, there are a lot of Old Testament verses that talk about God in general as the creator, without reference to Christ.”
Let me try to answer that objection. Jump down to verse 10. Remember, this is the Lord speaking through Zechariah. He get’s personal here. He says, “And I,” again, this is the Lord, “I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy…” We’re going to come back to that part later. The Lord continues, “so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced.” The Lord is connecting this whole oracle to himself, and he identifies himself as the one who was pierced.
We read John chapter 19 earlier in the service. You already know, then, that verse 10 is fulfilled by Jesus who is the Messiah, the Christ. John 19 quotes this Zechariah verse. So, Christ the Lord is the one, truly God, involved in creation and in accomplishing redemption.
That word “pierced” used here and in John 19 means an implement piercing the skin of a person. The nails pierced Jesus’ hand and feet on the cross. The solder’s spear pierced Jesus’ side.
But what did that accomplish? Meaning the piercing - the death of the Lord himself. What purpose did the Lord’s death on the cross serve? That’s a critical question.
And it’s answered in the first verse of Zechariah 13. Look there. It begins, “On that day” which is connected back to verse 10, the day of piercing… “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.” A cleansing from sin. It does not use the word blood here, but the reference to fountain implies blood. A fountain of blood. The Old Testament sacrifices connect blood with cleansing. The fountain of Jesus’ blood, flowing from his pierced hands and feet and side, cleanses us from sin. It’s referring to Christ’s death, which accomplished forgiveness from our sin - making us pure and holy.
You see, God has done it. He accomplished salvation. Zechariah’s audience looked forward to that day. But it’s a day, which we look back on. The day when the fountain of blood once and for all cleansed us from our sin.
But that’s only half of what these verses promise. The other half is how God applies that salvation in hearts and minds. In other words, how do you receive salvation?
Well, first, that salvation needs to go forth… needs to be proclaimed. Look how it’s worded in verse 7. “The Lord will give salvation to the tents of Judah first.” It’s a salvation that’s given by God and it’s a salvation that would first go to the “tents of Judah.” That refers to the people living in Judah or Judea, as it’s know in the New Testament. And when the Gospel came, where did it first go to? It first went to the people of Jerusalem and Judah. Verse 10 alludes to the Holy Spirit being poured out on the people in Jerusalem. It says, I will “pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy.” The people who lived in Judah would be the first ones to hear of Jesus and receive his Spirit, this promise. But then, that salvation with God’s Spirit would go to the ends of the earth.
How is that salvation applied to people? God will give us his Spirit and cause us to cry out to him for mercy. This is an Ezekiel 36 kind of work. We also read that earlier. God will put his Spirit in us, his Holy Spirit, and give us a new heart. And with that new heart he will cause us by faith to call out to him for forgiveness.
And look at what happens at the end of chapter 12. The people are weeping. They are mourning. Which people? The people and families listed take us back to the united kingdom, to united Israel. David, Nathan, Levi, the Shimeites, which goes back even further. It indicates fulness of God’s restored people. And notice their mourning and weeping is repeated over and over. Why? Why are they so overwhelmed? It’s because they pierced him. Middle of 10. “when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him…” They were complicit in the death of Jesus, the Lord, and they would realized it.
These verses are full of references to other parts of the Bible… Old Testament and New Testament, some of which we’ve already considered. We don’t have time to work through all of them, but I do want to consider verse 11. It says, “On that day the mourning in Jerusalem will be as great as the mourning for Hadad-rimmon in the plain of Megiddo.”
Kids, what if you were anointed king or queen at the age of 8? Like, in charge of a whole country. That would be both interesting and a little scary. I guess that would mean you’d be in charge of your parents. “Hey mom, please go clean my room” or “Dad, it’s your night to do the dishes.” You’d have a lot of things in your control.
Well, Josiah was anointed king of Judah at age 8. And he was an amazing young king - spiritually mature, well beyond his years. In the first few years of his reign, he had all the places of false worship destroyed. He directed people to worship God and not false things. He was humble but firm about the people’s need to return to God. Kids, you are never too young to pursue spiritual maturity and take a stand for God’s truth and grace.
Ok, well, sad story. When King Josiah was 39 years old, he travelled with Judah’s army to the plain of Meggido. A plain is a flat area. It’s northwest of Jerusalem with a mountain range on one side. It was a common place for battles. And Judah came up against Egypt’s army and they fought. Well, King Josiah was disguised so he wouldn’t be a target. But a stray arrow from far away pierced him. He was in a chariot at the time in the Hadad-rimmon part of the plain. Verse 11 is referencing what happened.
Josiah didn’t die immediately, but they took him back to Jerusalem where he did die. The king’s death overwhelmed the people. They had loved Josiah and all his spiritual reforms. They greatly mourned and wept at his death.
Verse 11 is saying that the lamenting for the death of the pierced one would be as great as the lamenting for the death of King Josiah.
The prophecy is that there will be mourning for the death of Jesus. But it’s more than just that Jesus died. They realized that they killed the Lord… they were mourning because they had rejected the Savior.
Beloved, we are complicit. We are Israel here, the people. The New Testament reveals how the true descendants of Abraham are descendants not by flesh, but by faith (Galatians 3:7). Or take Romans 9, the promises to Israel are fulfilled in spiritual Israel, those who believe in Christ by faith.
It’s speaking about the church. We pierced him. No, we weren’t there at Jesus’ death, but because of our sin, Christ died. Our sin is a rejection of God and Jesus - it’s against his Word and commands. And the mourning here in these verses is a mourning for our sin. It’s godly sorrow. You see, these verses are about repentance. Being grieved about our sin and turning from it. Repentance is a necessary part of receiving the Gospel.
As you can see, these verses also reveal how redemption is applied. The Gospel goes forth (verse 7), people are given God’s Spirit (verse 10), they believe in the pierced one, Jesus (also verse 10), which involves sorrow for their sin and a heart desire to turn from it (the last 5 verses).
Redemption accomplished and redemption applied. The work of Christ to achieve salvation and the way that salvation is received.
This is ultimately not a prophecy about a future Jerusalem! No, this prophecy has been fulfilled in the finished work of Christ on the cross, and it is being fulfilled in how that redemption continues to be applied to each believer in Christ.
And when you see that, this whole chapter gets unlocked. The references here to Jerusalem and the house of David, and Israel, are references to the church. It refers to us today.
Certainly, Jerusalem was used by God in many ways… I’m not taking away form that… but if we look to the physical city of Jerusalem as part of God future plans, then we miss out on the promises here for the church today.
All the promises found in verses 2-9 are promises for the church.
• The promise in verses 2-5 of protection from enemies is a promise for the church. The gates of hell will not prevail against her. The church will stand forever.
• Verse 6 promises that Jerusalem will be inhabited. That is fulfilled in the church. She will be full of people from every tribe, tongue, and nation.
• The verse 8 promise that the Davidic kingdom will be restored is fulfilled in Jesus. He is reigning, as the resurrected king, in David’s line and will reign forever.
• Verse 9 - in the end, all the enemies of faith will be destroyed. That is a promise for the true church.
In closing, 1 - you don’t need to be buried in Jerusalem. 2 – God has accomplished salvation in Christ, which he promised he would do; 3 – God is at work calling a people to himself, through his Spirit, by faith, into the new Jerusalem, the church. 4 – God will protect his church, his people, forever.