Strike the Shepherd
Zechariah 13:7–9 (ESV) “Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, against the man who stands next to me,” declares the Lord of hosts. “Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered; I will turn my hand against the little ones. In the whole land, declares the Lord, two thirds shall be cut off and perish, and one third shall be left alive. And I will put this third into the fire, and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested. They will call upon my name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘They are my people’; and they will say, ‘The Lord is my God.’ ”
On Maundy Thursday, just after instituting the Lord's Supper and explaining that He would give His body and shed His blood for the forgiveness of the sins of the world, Jesus led the apostles to the Mount of Olives and said, “You will all fall away, for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee” (Mark 14:27-28). Peter and the others vehemently (and vainly) denied that they would fall away, but they also clearly disbelieved that Jesus would arise and go before them to Galilee, since Easter Sunday finds them huddled together in Jerusalem, fearful of the Jews.
Like Judas’ betrayal of Jesus, the apostles’ falling away from Him was a result of their own sin, so they bore guilt for it. However, this also happened in order to fulfill the Scripture, which required the death of the Good Shepherd. Just as God had “given up” Jesus to crucifixion, so also would He Himself strike down Jesus on the cross in order to spare us from eternal death. Jesus cites the Scripture from Zechariah 13:7, which prophesied this.
If the apostles had recalled this whole passage, they would not have protested so much about what was to come. Or they could have recalled Jesus' own Words to them: "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep... For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father" (John 10:11, 17-18).
If the apostles had had their minds on the things of God rather than on the things of men (Mark 8:33), they would have realized that Jesus’ upcoming death had to happen and was for their benefit. They would have “believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken” (John 2:22), and they would not have denied the truthfulness of His Word.
While it is shocking that the Lord Himself would strike down the Shepherd (the Father strikes down the Son), this was the way God fulfilled all righteousness for us, and Zechariah 13:7–9 actually ends on a happy note, with a remnant of God’s people who will say, “The Lord is my God,” which sounds strikingly similar to Thomas' confession to the resurrected Jesus: "My Lord and my God!"
O ever be our guide,
Our shepherd, and our pride,
Our staff and song.
Jesus, O Christ of God,
By Your enduring Word
Lead us where You have trod;
Make our faith strong. (LSB 864:4)
Prayer requests: for Bessie Mahaffey and Alma Gause, under hospice care; for our homebound members: Joe and Lynn Cottle, Carolyn Dube, Duane Gruetzner, Delma Roitsch, Willard and Ann Teinert, Joycelynn Harvey, Virginia Wilkins, Cheryl Kieschnick, Wilbur Gaskamp, Doris George, Alice Kovar, Helen Ray Gustafson, Uce Gruetzner, Ruth Wissen.