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God’s Servant and Branch

In ancient Israel, the three major offices were prophet, priest, and king. The prophet delivered God’s word, the priest presided over worship, and the king ruled God’s people. Previously, we have seen how Jesus fulfilled the role of prophet. Today’s reading points to Christ as priest and king.

Through Zechariah, God promised to send “my servant the Branch” (3:8). On that day, guilt will be removed from the land and “every one of you will invite his neighbor . . . under his fig tree” (3:10). Later in Zechariah, we learn that in some way Joshua the high priest himself represents the Branch: “He will be clothed with majesty and will sit and rule on his throne. And he will be a priest on his throne” (6:13). The promised servant will harmoniously combine the office of priest and king.

Zechariah’s immediate message is about Joshua the high priest; yet, as Christians we can see that it is also about Christ. Jesus actually fulfills Zechariah’s words about the servant and Branch. In John 1, for example, as Jesus began gathering disciples, Philip called Nathanael while sitting under a fig tree (remember Zech. 3:10). When Jesus pointed this out, Nathanael realized the significance. He proclaimed Jesus as “Son of God” and “king of Israel” (John 1:48–49). The promised Branch had arrived!

Likewise, the book of Hebrews pro- claims Jesus as the great high priest in fulfillment of all priests (Heb. 7:11–28), and His church as the new temple (see 1 Cor. 3:16–17). The book of Revelation depicts Jesus as the glorious “king of kings and lord of lords” (Rev. 19:16). In short, the Scriptures abound with the idea that Jesus is the promised “servant and Branch” of Zechariah. In Him are fulfilled the offices of priest and king.

Apply the Word

With the coming of God’s “servant and Branch,” Scripture promises that “every one of you will invite his neighbor” (3:10). Philip did this with Nathanael, and countless others did the same after encountering Jesus. Whom do you know through work, at school, or in the neighborhood who needs to hear the good news of Christ?

BY Bryan Stewart

Bryan A. Stewart is associate professor of religion at McMurry University in Abilene, Texas. His particular interests are the history of Christian thought and the way that early Christians interpreted the biblical canon. He is the editor of a volume on the Gospel of John in The Church’s Bible series (Eerdmans), and he has done extensive research on the ways that the early Church preached on this Gospel. He is an ordained minister. 

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