They Shall Look on Him They Have Pierced

Also, another Scripture says: They will look at the One they pierced. (John 19:37)

The apostle John inserts this remark at the foot of the cross. Only John, of all the disciples, stood at the foot of the cross with Mary, Jesus’ mother, and the other women who followed Jesus. He is actually reciting an Old Testament prophet, Zechariah, one of the post-exilic prophets in the 5th-4th centuries BC.

“Then I will pour out a spirit of grace and prayer on the house of David and the residents of Jerusalem, and they will look at Me whom they pierced. They will mourn for Him as one mourns for an only child and weep bitterly for Him as one weeps for a firstborn. (Zechariah 12:10)

This is a sad moment for the followers of Jesus, but something about this “piercing” has always bothered me. Why is “piercing” the operative word here? Certainly when Jesus was crucified, his hands and feet were “pierced” by nails and His side was “pierced” by a spear. And even after His resurrection, the evidence of these “piercings”
are still evident (John 20:25-27). Long after, in Revelation 5:6, Jesus’ appearance is as “a slaughtered lamb” standing in Heaven.  Forever Jesus bears the evidence of his crucifixion, the piercings in his hands and feet and side. But why? Couldn’t Jesus have chosen to rise in a body that doesn’t bear evidence of such trauma?

I believe part of this answer is found in the Law.

But if your slave says to you, ‘I don’t want to leave you,’ because he loves you and your family, and is well off with you, take an awl and pierce through his ear into the door, and he will become your slave for life. Also treat your female slave the same way.  (Deuteronomy 15:16-17)

Slaves who wished to stay with their masters after their term of slavery was up (seven years) were pierced with an awl in their ear. This means in symbol they were physically attached to your house, they belonged to you and your family for life. With our modern conceptions, this may seem a barbaric practice. But a slave, who previously sold himself to pay off debt, may find himself in a much better position serving someone else and their household, than by trying to make his own way. He may have found love and family in this new situation, and accepting the piercing was a permanent reminder of their decision.

Jesus was willing to be pierced as a slave. We had all been sold into slavery as sinners (Romans 6:17) and had no hope of redemption since no one could resist temptation and be free. Sin held us down and trapped us in death, and we have no hope without Jesus. In fact, slavery is a powerful image often employed in the New Testament to illustrate our plight.

Now since the children have flesh and blood in common, Jesus also shared in these, so that through His death He might destroy the one holding the power of death–that is, the Devil– and free those who were held in slavery all their lives by the fear of death.  (Hebrews 2:14-15)

But how did Jesus take all of our slavery upon Himself? He became a slave and bore the penalty of our sins. He had never sinned Himself, but offered Himself, His perfect sinless life, as payment for our debt. In exchange for His permanent enslavement, He was pierced, according to the Law. Instead of his ear to the doorpost, it was his hands and feet to the cross. As long as He lived, he would bear the payment of our sin.

But wait, Jesus died. Doesn’t that mean He is no longer a slave? Yes. But you see His payment was once for all.

so also the Messiah, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him.  (Hebrews 9:28)

Now He is alive, and no longer the slave. He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. However, He still bears the marks of our slavery in His own flesh. Those are marks He received not because of necessity, but because of His love for us. Just as the slave gladly received the piercing to continue to be a part of the family, so Jesus accepted the piercing so that we could become part of His.

Interestingly, John again quotes the Zechariah passage above, but more completely in the book of Revelation.

Look! He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, including those who pierced Him. And all the families of the earth will mourn over Him. This is certain. Amen. (Revelation 1:7)

Perhaps all the families will mourn because of the coming judgment, and that is certainly a part of what Revelation is about. But maybe many will mourn, remembering the sacrifice Jesus made for them, because they see the piercings in His hands and feet. They will see the piercings and weep because Jesus paid all of their debt and all they can give is their gratitude. Jesus was “pierced for our transgressions” and still bears the mark of His piercing.


P.S. I want to warn anyone who has ever had a Near Death Experience or talked to someone who has. Many of these people who die in the operating room or under similar circumstances may claim to have seen Jesus, be filled with peace and light and so on. If they have claimed to see Jesus, ask this simple question: Did you see the marks on his hands? Only the true and authentic Jesus bears these marks. That was how He proved Himself to Thomas. Any other Jesus is false cannot be trusted. And beware the false Jesus and his teachings.

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I've been in ministry in the Christian Churches/ Churches of Christ for 20+ years. Finished my doctorate in Biblical Studies in 2015. Serve today as a Hospital Chaplain.

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