For this week’s Insight, rather than following the schedule of the RMM reading plan, we’ll take the opportunity to dwell on another portion of our most recent preaching text, in particular the prophecy quoted by Jesus in 14:27.
As Jesus leads his disciples to the Mount of Olives after their Passover meal, he quotes from the prophet Zechariah:
And Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away, for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ (Mark 14:27)
Often when we read a passage like this, we probably think: “Oh cool, Jesus is fulfilling another prophecy again. I should really check that out sometime.” Let’s take a few minutes to do that together, by going to Zechariah 13.
This is part of the final recorded prophecy of Zechariah, which extends from Ch. 12-15. Here the Lord speaks judgement against Israel, with imagery of total destruction and devastation, with much mourning and weeping to come. This is describing the “Day of the Lord”, the ultimate and final judgment.
In 12:7-9, the Lord describes Israel as a flock of sheep cared for by a shepherd. In the judgement that would come, their shepherd would be struck and the sheep would be scattered. As a result, two thirds of the flock would be destroyed, and only one third preserved, as the flock is refined, like gold by fire.
Bring that image from Zechariah 12 back to Mark 14. When Jesus quotes a prophecy, he is usually calling to our minds the whole of that prophecy. He’s not just pointing us to that one verse about sheep scattering, but to the entire image.
Let’s notice three things that this shows us about Mark 14:
1. The Day of the Lord
Since Jesus is the shepherd of Zechariah 12, the moment of his death is in a real way the “Day of the Lord,” the ultimate judgement that the prophets anticipated. And although there is more judgement to come when Christ returns, in his death, the Lord poured out his wrath. That was indeed the “Day of the Lord.”
2. The Refining of the Flock
When the shepherd is struck, the flock is refined. In Zechariah, only a third remained. After Jesus died, we know only 120 people or so awaited the coming of the promised Holy Spirit, from the crowds of thousands that listened to his teaching, and watched him die. The flock was refined, and the church was born as through fire.
3. The Sovereignty of God
In Zechariah, the actor who “strikes the shepherd” is not identified. We only read:
“Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered;” (Zechariah 12:7a)
Yet when Jesus quotes it, what does he say?
“I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.” (Mark 14:27)
As only Jesus can do when quoting Scripture, he identifies the one who strikes the Shepherd, as the one who speaks the prophecy – God himself. Ultimately God is the one who “strikes” the Shepherd Jesus Christ, afflicting suffering and death upon His Son, for our sake.
Praise be to God, that Jesus our Good Shepherd faced the wrath of the Day of the Lord on our behalf, preserves his Church as the faithful remnant, and is sovereign over all things, even his own death.
Jesus we thank you for the many prophecies you fulfilled, demonstrating your divinity, and identity as the Messiah, and Saviour of the world. We praise you as our Good Shepherd, the one who cares for us more than any other, and will never leave us or forsake us. Lord would you give us strength and faith to endure when we go through trials of various kinds, that at the end we may be found faithful.