Like many Old Testament prophets, Zechariah was instructed by God to enact a “living parable” as a way to illustrate God’s message to His people. In today’s reading, God told Zechariah to take the role of a shepherd to demonstrate God’s relation to Israel.
This was not a happy task. Zechariah was to care for a flock “marked for slaughter” (11:4, 7) as a symbol of God’s last dealings with His people. Despite Zechariah’s care for them he was met with opposition. The “flock detested me” (11:8). Then Zechariah broke the symbolic rods, Favor and Union, illustrating the flock’s disarray and lost favor with God. In the end, Zechariah was removed and his worth set at thirty pieces of silver, the value of a lowly slave (11:12; cf. Ex. 21:32). Later, in Zechariah 13, the fate of the shepherd and flock is predicted: “Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered” (13:7).
Without help from the New Testament, these passages would be difficult to understand. According to Scripture, however, Zechariah’s actions portray the coming shepherd-Messiah, Jesus. We have already seen that Jesus fulfilled the role of shepherd for God’s people. Matthew 26 demonstrates Christ’s fulfillment of the rejected shepherd and the scattered sheep of Zechariah.
Throughout Jesus’ ministry, there was mounting opposition from the religious leadership. In the end, Jesus’ own disciple—Judas Iscariot—handed Him over to the chief priests. The price of that transaction is a clear echo of Zechariah 11: “They counted out for him thirty pieces of silver” (Matt. 26:15). Later, Jesus predicted His own coming arrest and the disciples’ scattering, quoting Zechariah 13 directly (Matt. 26:31). It is sobering, but true: Christ the Shepherd’s rejection, betrayal, and abandonment all fulfilled God’s words in Zechariah.
Apply the Word
How amazing that Christ came two thousand years ago knowing that He would be rejected, betrayed, and abandoned! Yet that was not the end of the story. His rejection became our salvation, and those scattered disciples soon became fearless evangelists to the world. Thank God today that He can turn our brokenness into His glory!