Rejection of the Good ShepherdZechariah 11:1-17Theme: Unbelief.This week’s lessons remind us of the danger of denying the Savior. LessonVerse 9 seems to describe the horrors of the siege of Jerusalem: the “dying” of the warriors, the “perishing” of those who (presumably) were stricken by plague and illness, the eating of “one another’s flesh” by the starving.
Verse 11 may be a specific prophecy of an unusual event that took place during this siege. This verse speaks of God’s revoking the covenant of favor which had been established with the people, which is clear enough if the passage is referring to the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple. But then it goes on to say: “So the afflicted of the flock who were watching me knew it was the word of the Lord.” These “afflicted of the flock” may be the Christians who were in Jerusalem at the time of the Roman siege. When Titus unaccountably raised the siege for a few days, Christians remembered Jesus’ warning to flee to the mountains (Matt. 24:16) and left the city for Pella. They thereby escaped the fate of those who remained and thus proved the words of this prophecy to be true. The next verses (vv. 12-13) describe the final rejection of the good shepherd. Thirty pieces of silver was the price of a servant who was gored by an ox (cf. Exod. 21:32). So to pay Zechariah this sum was to say that at any time the people could buy a slave that would be as useful as he had been. Zechariah ironically calls it a “handsome price.” So also was the Lord of glory valued, Judas betraying him for a similarly insulting amount. When Judas later wished to return the blood money and ended up by throwing it down before the priests in the temple, he quite unintentionally fulfilled verse 13.
It is hard to leave this elaborate development of the shepherd theme in Zechariah 11 without thinking of the use Jesus made of it in the teaching recorded in John 10. So far as we can tell, Jesus did not refer to Zechariah specifically, any more than he referred to Psalm 23 or any other of the great Old Testament passages that use this imagery. But he knew these passages, and they were all undoubtedly in his mind as he explained to his disciples: “I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice” (John 10:1-5).
In this parable the thieves and robbers are the false shepherds of Israel, which is what Zechariah called them. The sheepfold is Judaism. The ones who hear Christ’s voice and respond to his call are those of his own within Israel. (The man born blind, whose story is told in the immediately preceding chapter of John’s Gospel, is one example. Those who believed Christ and fled from Jerusalem at the time of its encirclement by the armies of Titus are others.)
Which part of verses 12-13 foreshadows Christ’s life?
In what context did Jesus use the sheep imagery?
ReflectionWhy is it important to be aware of statements in the Old Testament that foreshadow Jesus’ life?