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Sermon - February 8, 2015

Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC)                                                           Sermon #1200

February 8, 2015                                                                                            Zechariah 12:9-13:1

Dr. Ed Pettus


“At the Foot of the Cross”


            At our last Presbytery meeting we had three candidates preaching as part of their ordination process.  This is one of the highlights of the weekend and one sermon in particular struck a chord with me partly because it was based in the Old Testament but also because it lifted a characteristic of conversion that we rarely affirm today – mourning and grief.  So let me first give credit to Dustin Jernigan who is soon to be ordained as assistant pastor at Christ Community Church in Montreat, NC.  He lifted this passage as a way to reach out in witness to young people today.  I wanted to share it with you today in hopes that it might pierce your heart as it did mine.

            Zechariah.  You may not have spent a great deal of time or energy in Zechariah’s prophetic word.  He was a contemporary of Haggai around 520 BCE, and while Haggai was most interested in rebuilding the temple in Jerusalem, Zechariah was more interested in the conduct and well being of the people of Israel.  520 BCE is roughly 65 years after the exile.  Israel returned and began to rebuild the temple around 538 or so.  Even though Israel had returned home, they still fell short of obedience to God.  Zechariah begins his word with a plea in chapter 1 that the people not become like their ancestors who rebelled against God.  God called them to repent and return to God.  Now, in Zechariah, speaks of God’s desire to show mercy and to once again choose Israel.  Israel is told to render true judgments, show kindness, and show mercy.  Zechariah encourages them to love truth and peace.  There is within Zechariah a fairly large occurrence of foreshadowing of Christ.  Zechariah speaks to God’s work in his day and that same voice will echo to the coming of Jesus Christ. 


1)On that day…

a.The day of the Lord


            This brings us to the passage in question this morning, Zech 12, beginning at verse 9.  You see a lot of the phrase “on that day” which is a common phrase among the prophets.  On that day may refer to a particular day dealing with whatever the prophet is speaking referring to.  It is sometimes in reference to the day of the Lord, or judgment day.  It is sometimes reference to the day of salvation or some specific act of God to come.  In this case it refers to a day when the Lord will destroy any nation that comes against Jerusalem, that is, God will protect his people. 


2)I will pour out…

a.Spirit of grace

b.Pleas for mercy

i.Look on me - Whom they have pierced

ii.They shall mourn


On that day God will pour out on Jerusalem two things: a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, cries for mercy.  Why does God pour out grace and please for mercy?  So that when they look upon the one whom they have pierced they will mourn.  This is God speaking!  What is interesting about this word from the Lord given through Zechariah, God says he has been pierced.  Of course, this is a metaphor at this point, because Israel’s behavior, Israel’s disobedience, has pierced the heart of God. 

Have you ever had a time when you said something or did something that hurt another person in your life and you realize right away that you have pierced their heart?  Your heart is also pierced when you realize the pain caused.  God in this case is the offended One.  Now I don’t mean the kind of offense we hear about all the time these days, so many are offended by anything and everything.  I am talking about true offense against God, sin.  Disobedient action against God.  It pierces his heart and causes grief.  What is really interesting to me about this verse is the order of the spirit and the mercy.  It seems like you would want to plea for mercy in order to receive grace, but what happens here in this reading is that grace and cries for mercy are in the opposite order or perhaps given at the same time.  Maybe grace and pleas for mercy are a mixed bag.  But grace and mercy are given for a particular reason.  Look at the verse, grace and mercy are given so that we would mourn.  Amazing.  This mourning is deep, personal, painful.  Look at the last part of verse 10…  “as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn.”  To mourn the death of a child is one of the deepest grieves we know.  At the funeral of a child we often talk about how parents should never outlive their children.  The proper order of things is for parents to go first.  It is such a devastating pain to lose a child.  And this depth of mourning is compared to the sin that we commit against God that caused a piercing.  Grace and mercy comes so that we might mourn that piercing.  “Oh God, what have we done?”  It grieves our heart and we get that terrible sinking feeling that leaves us perhaps as hurt as the one we offended.  I think this is what can happen when we disobey God as Israel did time and time again.  God is “pierced” by our betrayal and when we “look upon him whom we have pierced”, we mourn. 


3)All who mourn


b.Each family

c.Host of names


Zechariah then gives us several verses, 11-14, naming specific people and a situation of mourning, the situation – “as great as the mourning for Hadad-rimmon in the plain of Megiddo.”  This was most likely a time of loss for Israel, perhaps a leader and the loss caused great mourning.   But then you see that in verse 12, the land shall mourn.  What does it mean for the land to mourn?  One fascinating connection is found in Hosea 4, listen to this:

Hear the word of the Lord, O children of Israel,
    for the Lord has a controversy with the inhabitants of the land.
There is no faithfulness or steadfast love,
    and no knowledge of God in the land;
there is swearing, lying, murder, stealing, and committing adultery;
    they break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed.
Therefore the land mourns,
    and all who dwell in it languish,
and also the beasts of the field
    and the birds of the heavens,
    and even the fish of the sea are taken away.


Do you see the connection between sin and the land?  No faithfulness, no love, no knowledge of God…there is swearing, lying, murder, stealing, adultery.  This is the Ten Commandments and when commandment is broken the land mourns, it suffers, and it is thrown into chaos.  Sin affects more than humans.  It affects the land and nations and creation itself.  Sin breaks down all things. 


Back to Zechariah!  The land mourns that which has pierced God.  Each family by itself, David’s family, Nathan’s family…they all mourn.  Sin touches land, families, and God’s heart to the point of piercing it.  Part of the depth of our sin that grieves God’s heart causes everything to mourn. 

Now, notice the details in verses 12-14, each family name, wives, each by themselves.  Such a curious description.  John Calvin comments that this may demonstrate that this is not a grief that people see in others and follow suit.  This is not a grief that a nation shares because they have been called to a common repentance.  But this is something that touches everyone in the same way even before anyone knows how another person responds.  That is, as each looks to the one whom they have pierced the response is all the same – mourning.  The power and depth of this mourning is common to all people. 


4)On that day…

a.Fountain  (Ezek. 47:6-9 river)

b.Cleansing (Ezek. 36:25)


On that day, Zechariah 13:1, there shall be a fountain opened.  Turn with me to Ezekiel 47:6-9.


And he said to me, “Son of man, have you seen this?” Then he led me back to the bank of the river. As I went back, I saw on the bank of the river very many trees on the one side and on the other. And he said to me, “This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah, and enters the sea; when the water flows into the sea, the water will become fresh. And wherever the river goes, every living creature that swarms will live, and there will be very many fish. For this water goes there, that the waters of the sea may become fresh; so everything will live where the river goes.


Water is a life giving agent.  Everywhere the river flows there is life.  Zechariah’s image of a fountain is for the purpose of life, the life giving water and the water that cleanses us from the sin that causes our mourning. 

Now flip back a few pages to Ezekiel 36:25,


25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you.


This is where we get our permission to sprinkle at baptism!  J  The sacrament of baptism is the symbol of our washing. 


On that day God will protect Jerusalem.  On that day God will pour out grace and mercy that we might mourn and on that day a fountain will be opened and we will be cleansed! 


5)John 19:37

a.Look on me - Whom they have pierced (Rev 1:7)

b.They shall mourn


Turn now to John 19:31,

31 Since it was the day of Preparation, and so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken and that they might be taken away. 32 So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who had been crucified with him. 33 But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34 But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. 35 He who saw it has borne witness—his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth—that you also may believe. 36 For these things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken.” 37 And again another Scripture says, “They will look on him whom they have pierced.”


Pierced his side – and at once there came out blood and water.  Blood and water.  The sacrificial image of the blood of the lamb for the remission of sin and the cleansing water to wash away our sins.  Look on me whom they have pierced.  We pierced him with our sin!  Look at him.  What is our response at the foot of the cross when Jesus has died and his side is pierced?  God’s only son, dead on the cross.  How can our response be anything less than mourning?  Mary and John and the disciples and those close to Jesus, each by themselves, stricken with grief.  How can we not grieve?  So often we race ahead to the resurrection, but we really need to spend more time at the foot of the cross that we might mourn deeply as one mourns for an only child.  “Oh God, what have we done?”  What happened on that day?


6)On that day…

a.Fountain  (Rev. 22:1-2 river)

b.Cleansing (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)


On that day…look with me at Revelation 22:1-2,


Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.


Water brings life. 


On that day…1 Corinthians 6:9-11,


Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters…nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.


We were unrighteous, but we were washed and therefore sanctified and justified in the name of Jesus Christ and by the Spirit, that same spirit of grace poured out in Zechariah, on that day.  All that we mourn of Jesus on the cross leads to the cleansing of our sins.  When we see Jesus on that cross we may cry out for mercy, receiving God’s grace, and entertaining a period of mourning.  We call it Good Friday because our sins are forgiven, but to see him there and read of his piercing should first be a response of grief. 


7)Mourning to Joy

a.But seldom joy first – Luke 8:4-15

b.Mourning at the foot of the cross


One more scripture, look in Luke 8, the parable of the sower.  I want to focus just on verse 13, And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away.”  Joy is not our first response.  If it is then we may not have any roots deep in grace and mercy.  Now the parable is not about our response to the cross, but in receiving the word and that is close enough! 


At the foot of the cross we find the suffering of Christ, but we also find pleas for mercy from our own lips and we discover a spirit of grace.  The mourning of our hearts is met by the utter grace of God and our mourning is turned into dancing.  But before we dance, we grieve.  Our sins exposed bring us grief and only by God’s grace do we know the cleansing of that sin.  It may sound like a strange word of encouragement, but I want us to consider a time of mourning as we gaze upon the one whom we have pierced, at the foot of the cross.  Amen.