“A Messianic Priest-King”
Lesson Text: Jeremiah 23:5, 6; Zechariah 6:9-15; John 19:1-5
Background Scripture: Jeremiah 23:5-6; Zechariah 6:9-15; John 19:1-5; Hebrews 7:13
Devotional Reading: Hebrews 7:11-19
Jeremiah 23:5, 6 (KJV)
5 Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth.
6 In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, The Lord our Righteousness.
9 And the word of the Lord came unto me, saying,
10 Take of them of the captivity, even of Heldai, of Tobijah, and of Jedaiah, which are come from Babylon, and come thou the same day, and go into the house of Josiah the son of Zephaniah;
11 Then take silver and gold, and make crowns, and set them upon the head of Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest;
12 And speak unto him, saying, Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, saying, Behold the man whose name is The BRANCH; and he shall grow up out of his place, and he shall build the temple of the Lord:
13 Even he shall build the temple of the Lord; and he shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon his throne; and he shall be a priest upon his throne: and the counsel of peace shall be between them both.
14 And the crowns shall be to Helem, and to Tobijah, and to Jedaiah, and to Hen the son of Zephaniah, for a memorial in the temple of the Lord.
15 And they that are far off shall come and build in the temple of the Lord, and ye shall know that the Lord of hosts hath sent me unto you. And this shall come to pass, if ye will diligently obey the voice of the Lord your God.
1 Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged him.
2 And the soldiers platted a crown of thorns, and put it on his head, and they put on him a purple robe,
3 And said, Hail, King of the Jews! and they smote him with their hands.
4 Pilate therefore went forth again, and saith unto them, Behold, I bring him forth to you, that ye may know that I find no fault in him.
5 Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe. And Pilate saith unto them, Behold the man!
To understand the significance of “branch” imagery as applied to Jesus
To know that Jesus, our King-Priest, was crucified to atone for our sins.
To share what we know of Jesus and what He has done for us.
In the Seattle area, there is a known hiking trail that winds through a little forest of red cedar trees. Such trees are cousins of the giant redwoods of California and can easily reach 200 feet in height. That little forest, now protected, had been logged in the nineteenth century. Today, one can still see the colossal, dead stumps—some over 6 feet wide—of giant trees cut down long ago.
But not all of the stumps died. Some have sprouted, and some of the resulting trees are now over a century old. The newer trees are not yet 200 feet tall, but eventually they will be if left alone. The seeds of the stumps yielded both the possibility and the fact of new life. That is the vital imagery of this week's lesson.
Times: between 597-586 B.C., 519 B.C., and A.D. 30
Places: Jerusalem; Jerusalem; Jerusalem
The Old Testament portions of our lesson come from Jeremiah and Zechariah. The ministry contexts of those two prophets were discussed in the previous two lessons, respectively, so that information need not be repeated here. Instead, we will take a brief look at the Old Testament's puzzling way of referring to the promised Messiah as the branch.
For some, the word branch creates a mental image of a tree limb that has fallen in the yard during a windstorm, a fallen branch. Others may envision a suburban bank, a branch office. Still others may think of a subfield of a major field of study, such as microbiology as a branch of biology.
None of these ideas really captures the biblical concept of the Messiah as the branch. The concept is more along the lines of new growth—a fresh, green manifestation of life. It is an idea of "the new coming out of the old."
A vivid example is found in Isaiah 6. Many of us are familiar with verses 1-8 of that chapter, which describe the prophet's dramatic call. But the verses that follow may not be as familiar: Isaiah's ministry was to be met with hard hearts, and devastation would result. But then comes a glimmer of hope. Though fallen Israel would be like the mere stump of a once-great tree, within this seemingly dead stump was "the holy seed" (v. 13). This was the latent branch, the sprout, the hope for Israel's renewal and restoration: the Messiah.
The apostle John was an eyewitness to the ministry of Jesus, and John was very familiar with Old Testament prophecies about Jesus (example: John 19:37). John probably wrote his Gospel after the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple in A.D. 70 by the Romans, creating some interesting parallels between John's perspectives and those of the prophets who worked centuries before him.
The Righteous Branch Foretold (Jeremiah 23:5, 6)
1. What did the Lord reveal to Jeremiah about the “righteous Branch” (Jeremiah 23:5)?
Jeremiah denounced all the leaders (“pastors” or shepherds) of Judah for the ruthless way they treated the helpless people (Jeremiah 23:1-4). Instead of leading the flock in love, they drove it mercilessly and exploited it. The shepherds didn't visit ("care for") the sheep, but God would visit the leaders with punishment. Because the leaders disobeyed the Law and refused to trust God, they destroyed the nation and scattered the flock among the Gentiles. God, however, promised to regather His people and transform the remnant into a nation.
The Lord revealed through Jeremiah that future peace would come when God raised up David’s “righteous Branch” (Jer. 23:5). This is the King and Messiah from David’s family tree. There are several places in the Old Testament where the coming Messiah is referred to as a (or the) Branch (examples: Isaiah 4:2; Zechariah 3:8), but the passage before us gives us the fullest picture of the one to come. We are told first that the Branch will be raised up by the Lord, provided by God himself. Second, this person will be unto David, meaning an heir in the line of that king.
Third, this heir will be righteous, one who follows God in heart and conduct. Fourth, the Branch will be a King whose reign will be prosperous. Fifth, the Branch will also be a judge, called to enact justice. Surely there has never been one yet to rule as the Branch will!
David's "family tree" might have been cut down, but a "Branch" (shoot) would grow from the stump and become Ruler of the nation (Isa. 11:1; 53:2).
2. What kind of security will the Messiah bring to Judah and Israel? (Jeremiah 23:6)
Jeremiah 23:6 points to a future day when under the rule of the Messiah, Judah and Israel would be reunited. In contrast to the unrighteous kings Jeremiah had been describing, this King will be righteous and rule justly. The kingdoms of Israel (northern) and Judah (southern) will be united into one nation; they will experience salvation and they will live in peace and safety. The name of this King is Jehovah Tsidkenu—“The Lord our Righteousness” (see Jer. 33:15-16). According to 1 Corinthians 1:30 and 2 Corinthians 5:21, this exalted name applies only to Jesus Christ. When you put your faith in Jesus Christ, His righteousness is put into your account and you are declared righteous before God. This is called “being justified by faith” (Rom. 3:21-5:11).
The godly remnant in Judah must have been encouraged when they heard Jeremiah's words, and the promises must have sustained them during the difficult days of the captivity. The return of the Jews to their land after the captivity was but a foreshadowing of the great worldwide regathering that will occur in the last days when “He shall send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other” (Matt. 24:31).
Crowns of Gold and Silver (Zechariah 6:9-11)
We now move to Zechariah, a prophet in Jerusalem after the return from exile of 538 B.C. His book divides into two main parts. The first part (1:7-6:8) describes a series of night visions in 519 B.C., in Jerusalem. Their overall theme is that God has arranged everything needed for the temple rebuilding to be finished, a task the people accomplish in 515 B.C. Today's text marks the beginning of the second main part of the book.
3. What was Zechariah to take from the exiles returning from Babylon? (Zechariah 6:9-11)
The Lord instructed Zechariah to seek out three Jewish leaders who also have returned to Jerusalem from captivity, bringing gold and silver offerings to the Lord for the building of the temple. The men Heldai, Tobijah, and Jedaiah would stay at the home of Josiah, who had the wonderful nickname "Hen," which means "gracious one" (v. 14). After they arrived in Jerusalem, Zechariah went to see them.
We can only imagine what transpired when the prophet told them what God had commanded him to do: to take the silver and gold offerings and make an elaborate crown. He was then to put this crown, not on the head of Zerubbabel the governor, who was of the royal line of David, but on the head of Joshua the high priest! (v. 11). He was the son of Josedech (see Ezra 3:8 and Haggai 1:14), who had been taken into exile by Nebuchadnezzar (see 1 Chron. 6:15). This crown represented royalty; it was not the crown of a high priest. The purpose of this coronation (ceremony) was to keep alive the people’s hope of a Messiah who would serve as both king and priest. Joshua was only a figure of the future king-priest. He never served as a king.
The Priestly Reign of the Messiah (Zechariah 6:12-15)
4. What did the Lord tell Zechariah to say about “the man whose name is the Branch” (Zechariah 6:12)?
Now a fuller purpose of the crown-making is now given: the crowns are in preparation for The Branch. This designation recalls the prophecies of Isaiah and Jeremiah concerning the coming Messiah.
Then Zechariah explained God's message to the high priest and the witnesses (v. 12). He must have told them that both Zerubbabel and Joshua were men symbolic of things to come (Zech. 3:8). Even though Zerubbabel was from David's line, he wasn't the one God chose to be crowned. God chose Joshua and for the first time in Jewish history, the Lord united the monarchy and the priesthood.
Perhaps the most startling thing in Zechariah 6:12, though, is the command “Behold the man,” which is an eerie foreshadowing of Pilate's words about Jesus (see John 19:5). The clarity of Zechariah's vision speaks to the prophet's knowledge of the future as revealed to him by God. Jesus Christ is “the man whose name is the Branch” (Zechariah 6:12; 3:8). Looking down to the time of the kingdom, God announced that Messiah would be both King and Priest.
Today, Jesus Christ serves in heaven as both King and Priest, ministering “after the order of Melchizedek” (Heb. 7-8). This is in fulfillment of the Father's promise to the Son recorded in Psalm 110:4.
5. What two offices will the Messiah combine in Himself (Zechariah 6:13)?
During the reign of Christ on earth, there will be a restored temple and priesthood (Isa. 2:1-5; 27:13; Ezek. 40-48; Zech. 14:16), and Jesus Christ will sit on the throne of His father David as King and Priest (Luke 1:32, 33).
The statement in Zechariah 6:13 that “the counsel of peace shall be between them both” means that in the kingdom, there will be perfect peace and justice because all civil and religious authority will be harmonized in one Person, Messiah, the King and Priest.
6. What did God instruct Zechariah to do with the crowns (Zechariah 6:14, 15)?
As directed, Zechariah placed the crowns in the temple as a memorial (reminder) to future generations of their hope for the Messiah – The Lord's promise of a King-Priest who would bring peace and holiness to His people.
Just as these exiles came from Babylon, in a future day, people would also come from distant lands and assist in rebuilding the Lord’s “temple” (v. 15). The sense is that Gentiles would contribute wealth and materials for the construction of this future sanctuary, just as they did for the second temple (see Isa. 60:4-7). All of this was certain to happen, especially as God’s people were careful to heed His commands.
The Messiah’s Crucifixion (John 19:1-5)
We now move about 550 years forward in time to the trials of Jesus. These trials witness a power struggle between the Jewish authorities, who demand Jesus’ death, and Pilate, the Roman governor who uses the occasion to humiliate both them and Jesus. A focus of their debate is the claim that Jesus is a king (John 18:33, 37; compare 19:15, 19).
7. How was Jesus treated by the Roman soldiers? (John 19:1-3)
We are at the point in where Pilate has Jesus brutally whipped by soldiers. Roman legionnaires are battle-hardened and desensitized to violence. They are known for their cruelty and thus are feared by occupied peoples such as the Jews. These men follow the governors’ orders in flogging Jesus with a scourge.
The scourge was a leather whip, knotted and weighted with pieces of metal or bone; and many a prisoner never survived the whipping. It pains us to think that the sinless Son of God was subjected to such cruelty. He was innocent, yet He was treated as though He were guilty; and He did it for us. He was slapped in the face before Annas (John 18:22), and spat on and beaten before Caiaphas and the council (Matt. 26:67). Pilate scourged Him and the soldiers smote Him (John 19:1-3); and before they led Him to Calvary, the soldiers mocked Him and beat Him with a rod (Mark 15:19). How much He suffered for us!
They then take their brutality further: they weave a wreath of thorny branches and jam it onto Jesus’ head. This “crown” probably does not feature small thorns such as we find on rosebushes; rather, it more likely consists of the two-inch thorns of the acacia bush. Even if Jesus has a full head of hair, that will not protect Him from the thorns penetrating His scalp. Sin had brought thorns and thistles into the world (Gen. 3:17-19), so it was only fitting that the Creator wear a crown of thorns as He bore the sins of the world on the cross.
The soldiers add to this mocking coronation by dressing Jesus in a purple robe. This is a costly garment and indicates that their cruel fun is also quite serious (compare Luke 23:11). They then disrespect Jesus further by pretending to honor Him as the King of the Jews as they strike Him.
8. How would you evaluate the actions of Pilate? (John 19:4, 5)
For the third time, Pilate went out to face the people (John 18:29, 38; 19:4), this time bringing Jesus with him. Surely the sight of this scourged and humiliated prisoner would arouse some pity in their hearts; but it did not. It is difficult to know Pilate's intentions here. Is he trying to pacify the Jews by punishing Jesus but not executing Him? Or is he ramping up the intensity of the situation.
In any case, John presents Jesus in a way that should drive us to tears. Here is a man who has done nothing wrong, by Pilate's own admission. Yet Pilate not only orders Jesus to be horribly abused, but also presents Him as an object of ridicule. Unwittingly, Pilate ties this all to Zechariah's prophecy with the striking statement, Behold the man! Here He is indeed, the sacrificial Lamb who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). The mighty branch of Jeremiah and Zechariah is here, and Pilate ironically speaks of Him as a king (19:15). But there is no majesty and glory for Jesus—not yet.
POINTS TO PONDER
The cross involves much more than an exhibition of innocent suffering. On that cross, the Son of God paid the price for the sins of the world and thereby declared the love of God and defended the holiness and justice of God. We are not saved by feeling pity for Jesus. We are saved by repenting of our sins and trusting Jesus, the sinless Substitute. "If Christ was not actually doing something by His death," wrote Dr. Leon Morris, "then we are confronted with a piece of showmanship, nothing more."
This does not mean that it is wrong for the believer to contemplate the cross and meditate on Christ's sufferings. The familiar hymn "When I Survey the Wond'rous Cross" helps us realize afresh the price that Jesus paid for us, but we must not confuse sentimentality with true spiritual emotion. It is one thing to shed tears during a church service and quite something else to sacrifice, suffer, and serve after the meeting has ended. We do not simply contemplate the cross; we carry it.
Behold the Man!
Pilate and Jesus were real men. The real soldiers were sadistic brutes. The blood on the pavement was really that of Jesus. The crown of thorns caused real pain. This all really happened.
Behold the man! He suffered and died for you and for me. As the prophecies confirm, this was God's plan for our salvation: a king who would die, rise again, and be exalted to reign forever. He did, and He does.
O Heavenly Father, may we see past the cost of the momentary sufferings of this life as we value Jesus as our King forever. We pray in His honored name, amen.
THOUGHT TO REMEMBER
We serve a King who suffered for us.