Though written long before Christ, Zechariah’s passage finds its complete meaning only in Christ. Jesus and his pierced side is that to which this passage ultimately refers. He has been pierced and is to be mourned as an only son, a son of Israel, mourned as the son of the human race and mourned as the only son of the eternal Father. He is still mystically mourned by each of us in our
prayer encounters with Jesus and the realization of sin.
The earliest Christians, following the resurrection, recognized in this passage a clear echoing of the mind of Jesus who understood that his death would bring about a divine cleansing as Zechariah foretold, “On that day there shall be open to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, a fountain to purify from sin and uncleanness.” Jesus’ life, death and resurrection will be this lasting fountain of mercy. The opening of the Book of Revelation will use this image to vision persons viewing the coming of Christ in judgment and will have them looking “on him whom they have pierced.”
It was scripture passages like this from Zechariah that confirmed in the prayerful mind of Jesus his unique path as Messiah. He would be an offering for sin and from this, life would be poured out for all. This offering would be one of great suffering and it is clear that Christ trusted the Father to be faithful. This is evident in Christ’s allusion to resurrection. In a reflective moment of prayer Jesus seeks to get a read on how the people perceive him as he asks the question, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” After the litany of answers he aims the question directly at the disciples. Peter answers correctly. Then drawing from Isaiah, Hosea and other passages we hear Jesus’ summary of his own understanding as remembered by his disciples, “The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.” Luke’s Gospel follows this summary with sayings marking this as the mysterious path of every disciple who wishes to enter eternal life.
This purification from sin achieved in Christ Jesus for all peoples places the human race on an equal playing field when it comes to relating with God. As St. Paul says, “Through faith you are all children of God in Christ Jesus … There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free … if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendent.” The favor of God no longer rests solely on an ethnic blood line, but now where it most rightly should, with the love of God who has first loved us. This love is made visible in the suffering and resurrected Christ who is given for us as the means of return to the Father. The Christian’s life is anchored in the ongoing acceptance of this love even when life’s events seem to speak a contrary message. This is our spiritual lot in a fallen and yet redeemed world.
Questions for Reflection
1. Have I reconciled the sadness of life with the truth of God?
2. Have I personally mourned the sufferings of Jesus?
3. Have I accepted forgiveness through reconciliation?
Fr. Vander Steeg is pastor of St. Mary Parish, Greenville, and St. Edward Parish, Mackville.