International Bible Lessons Commentary
Jeremiah 23:1-6 & Zechariah 6:9-15
& John 19:1-6
International Bible Lesson
An Innocent Man Condemned and Cursed
International Bible Lessons
Sunday, April 13, 2014
L.G. Parkhurst, Jr.
The International Bible Lesson (Uniform Sunday School Lessons Series) for Sunday, April 13, 2014, is from Jeremiah 23:1-6; Zechariah 6:9-15 & John 19:1-6. Please Note: Some churches will only study Jeremiah 23:5-6. Some will only study John 19:1-6 or John 19:1-5 or some other combination of these three books of the Bible. Questions for Discussion and Thinking Further follow the verse-by-verse International Bible Lesson Commentary below. Study Hints for Thinking Further, a study guide for teachers, discusses the five questions below to help with class preparation and in conducting class discussion; these hints are available on the International Bible Lessons Commentary website. The weekly International Bible Lesson is posted each Saturday before the lesson is scheduled to be taught.
International Bible Lesson Commentary
(Jeremiah 23:1) Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! says the LORD.
The LORD told the prophet Jeremiah to warn the political and religious leaders and the people of the Kingdom of Judah (the southern kingdom) about His forthcoming punishment if they did not repent of their sins and turn back to God. By their selfish and unjust behavior, the leaders of the kingdom did not care about God’s people, about teaching them to obey God, about leading them to obey God’s moral laws through the just enforcement of God’s laws. Instead, they themselves disobeyed God, robbed God’s people materially and spiritually, and led them to worship idols – which eventually led to their destruction.
(Jeremiah 23:2) Therefore thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who shepherd my people: It is you who have scattered my flock, and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. So I will attend to you for your evil doings, says the LORD.
God labels the behavior of Israel’s leaders as more than “unjust.” God called their actions “evil” (which were of course “unjust”). These leaders did the opposite of what the LORD expected of them and what the people needed from them. The LORD identified himself specifically as “the God of Israel” – the God of all Jacob’s descendants – the “God of the Bible” (as we might speak of the true God today). As Isaiah warned the Kingdom of Israel, the God of Israel punished them through the Assyrian invasion in 722 BC. And as Jeremiah warned Judah, the God of Israel sent the false shepherds and many people of Judah into exile in Babylon in 587-586 BC (except for those who died in battle or by starvation first).
(Jeremiah 23:3) Then I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the lands where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply.
After 70 years of exile in Babylon, God led His people (those left from the Kingdom of Judah) back to Jerusalem under godly leadership. By the time they returned, all of the evil shepherds had died. Through Jeremiah, God promised to bring “a remnant” or “a small number” (a “remnant” is a small piece of cloth left over from a larger piece of cloth after something has been made; such as, a dress or shirt) of faithful people back to the Promised Land. After 70 years of exile, they had learned to worship the true God only and He led them back home. The descendants of those God drove out of the Kingdom of Israel (the northern kingdom) in 722 BC, will also return home to the Promised Land someday. Some believe God began to bring His people back to begin the complete fulfillment of this prophecy in 1948, when the modern State of Israel was created.
(Jeremiah 23:4) I will raise up shepherds over them who will shepherd them, and they shall not fear any longer, or be dismayed, nor shall any be missing, says the LORD.
In beginning to fulfill this prophecy, after their time in exile two good shepherds stand out in the Old Testament. First, Ezra — the Book of Ezra describes how he led the Judean exiles back from Babylon to Jerusalem and enforced the observance of God’s laws. Second, Nehemiah — the Book of Nehemiah describes how he returned and led the people to rebuild of the walls of Jerusalem. Nehemiah did not fear others, but trusted in God. He was not dismayed, and he rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem while overcoming much opposition from Judah’s neighbors. Jesus also fulfilled this prophecy, and continues to do so in the lives of those who trust in Him.
(Jeremiah 23:5) The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.
Though verses three and four were substantially fulfilled by Ezra and Nehemiah and Jesus the Messiah when He came the first time, verse five will not be fulfilled completely until Jesus the Messiah comes again. The “righteous branch” would be a descendant of King David. Jesus qualified in this respect (see Matthew 1:1). In all Jesus did in His first coming, He demonstrated the qualities of leadership that verse five describes. Believers now long for His second coming to fulfill this prophecy over all the earth.
(Jeremiah 23:6) In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. And this is the name by which he will be called: “The LORD is our righteousness.”
Jesus came to save His people from their sins. He accomplished this through His first coming by His death and resurrection, and by His sending the Holy Spirit to empower believers to obey His commands and teachings. He is the righteousness of believer’s through His cleansing them from sin and His empowering and indwelling them to obey God by His Spirit. When Jesus returns, His people will live in safety because of His righteous leadership and their righteous ways of living through faith in Jesus Christ.
International Bible Lesson Commentary
(Zechariah 6:9) The word of the LORD came to me:
The word of the LORD (Yahweh or Jehovah) came to Zechariah and told him to take actions in his historical situation that would also point toward the coming of the Messiah, also called the Branch. His actions would be symbolic and only better understood when the Messiah, Jesus, finally came.
(Zechariah 6:10) Collect silver and gold from the exiles—from Heldai, Tobijah, and Jedaiah—who have arrived from Babylon; and go the same day to the house of Josiah son of Zephaniah.
These three virtually unknown Jews came from Babylon after Darius had freed the Jews following seventy years of exile as determined by God as punishment for their sins. They were to take their offering of silver and gold to the governor of the Jews in Jerusalem, who would be responsible for receiving all gifts for the rebuilding of the city and the temple.
(Zechariah 6:11) Take the silver and gold and make a crown, and set it on the head of the high priest Joshua son of Jehozadak;
Through the prophet Zechariah, God said He wanted a crown of silver and gold that some believe were two circles fitted together to make a royal crown. The name Joshua means Savior, which is also the name of the man who led God’s people into the Promised Land and the name of Jesus the Messiah. A high priest is not crowned: the symbolic action here indicates that the Messiah would serve God as both King and Priest. Jesus rules as King and Priest, seated at the right hand of God.
(Zechariah 6:12) say to him: Thus says the LORD of hosts: Here is a man whose name is Branch: for he shall branch out in his place, and he shall build the temple of the LORD.
The Jews were accustomed to symbolic actions made by the prophets. The LORD said the Branch or the Messiah would come and not only rule militarily but as Priest He would build the temple of the LORD or the Church. Jesus’ rule as High Priest comes first as He builds His Church on earth. His visible rule as King on earth will happen after Jesus comes again. The Apostle Paul also wrote, “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16).
(Zechariah 6:13) It is he that shall build the temple of the LORD; he shall bear royal honor, and shall sit upon his throne and rule. There shall be a priest by his throne, with peaceful understanding between the two of them.
The temple that Zerubbabel worked on was nearing completion in Jerusalem. The temple of the LORD or the Church would be built by the Messiah who has “royal honor” and who rules from His throne in heaven (see Ephesians 2:19-22 and 1 Peter 2:5). The one on the royal throne and the priest by His throne are the same person, Jesus the Messiah. The New American Standard Bible translates this verse more literally: “Yes, it is He who will build the temple of the Lord, and He who will bear the honor and sit and rule on His throne. Thus, He will be a priest on His throne, and the counsel of peace will be between the two offices.” The King James Version says almost the same as the NASB: “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.”
(Zechariah 6:14) And the crown shall be in the care of Heldai, Tobijah, Jedaiah, and Josiah son of Zephaniah, as a memorial in the temple of the LORD.
The crown was not to remain on the head of Joshua the high priest. The symbolic action indicated that the Messiah was to be crowned priest and king. The crown was taken from Joshua and placed in the rebuilt temple as a visible reminder to all that the Branch, the Messiah, would come and He would the One to wear the crown. When Jesus the Messiah came the first time, He was crowned with a crown of thorns. Now, Jesus wears the crown of a priest and king in heaven.
(Zechariah 6:15) Those who are far off shall come and help to build the temple of the LORD; and you shall know that the LORD of hosts has sent me to you. This will happen if you diligently obey the voice of the LORD your God.
Those who were far off in Zechariah’s day were the Jews left in Babylon and the Jews scattered when the Kingdom of Israel fell in 722 B.C. When Jesus came and after the Holy Spirit filled the Apostles on the Day of Pentecost, Jesus began to build His Church with those who were from “far off.” When Peter and Paul led the way, the Gentiles (who the Jews would have considered “far off” from being God’s children) were welcomed into the Church, “the temple of the LORD.” Those who accept Jesus Christ as Savior, and who expect Him to intercede for them as High Priest at the right hand of God, need to “diligently obey the voice of the LORD your God,” because Jesus rules as King of the universe and He wants to reign as King of our hearts.
International Bible Lesson Commentary
(John 19:1) Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged.
After a mock trial before the high priest (a mock trial because the Jewish leaders had already decided to murder Jesus; so they brought forward false witnesses against Him), they took Jesus to Pilate, the Roman governor, for Pilate to sentence Jesus to death by crucifixion. Hoping to satisfy the Jewish leaders with something less than death, Pilate ordered Jesus to be flogged.
(John 19:2) And the soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they dressed him in a purple robe.
The soldiers probably flogged Jesus with a whip that had several ends to which bits of rock or metal were tied in order to bruise and break the skin. They wove a crown of thorns and pressed it upon His head, which would have resulted in much bleeding. They put a purple robe that symbolized royalty upon His back. Later, when the robe was torn from Him, the dried, bloody wounds would have reopened. Jesus would have lost a lot of blood before they crucified Him.
(John 19:3) They kept coming up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and striking him on the face.
They mocked Jesus and the Jews by calling Jesus “King of the Jews” as they whipped and beat Him. Each time they struck His face, the thorns from His crown would dig deeper into His skin. God the Father would eventually return Jesus true kingly crown to Him after Jesus rose from the dead and ascended into heaven. Amazingly, but true to His moral and spiritual character, when they crucified Him, Jesus prayed that the Father would forgive those who crucified, flogged, and mocked Him.
(John 19:4) Pilate went out again and said to them, “Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no case against him.”
Pilate then brought Jesus out to face the religious leaders and the crowd. Pilate declared that he could find no case or legal evidence against Jesus, and he hoped the cruel beating would satisfy Jesus’ bloodthirsty enemies. Pilate believed that Jesus had suffered enough, but the religious leaders would be satisfied with nothing less than Jesus’ death. The crowd, bitterly disappointed that Jesus had not overthrown their brutal Roman oppressors, probably felt that Jesus had deceived them.
(John 19:5) So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Here is the man!”
One can only imagine the pain and suffering of Jesus up to this point, and the shock of His appearance before the chief priests, the Jewish guards who had arrested Jesus and brought Him to Pilate, and the crowds of onlookers. Dressed as a king with a purple robe, humiliated by the Roman guards, and covered with blood Jesus did not fulfill the expectations of the hopeful crowd who looked for a conquering hero Messiah.
(John 19:6) When the chief priests and the police saw him, they shouted, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him; I find no case against him.”
Not satisfied with Jesus’ suffering up to this point, the chief priests and the arresting guards cried out for more punishment and suffering. They shouted, “Crucify him!” Pilate emphasized again that Jesus had done nothing wrong according to Roman law and his own judgment. He told them that if they were so determined to kill Jesus that they could crucify Jesus themselves. Jesus’ eventual crucifixion fulfilled Scripture: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree” (Galatians 3:13 & Deuteronomy 21:23).
(John 19:7) The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has claimed to be the Son of God.”
The Jews wanted Jesus dead because He threatened their power and wealth. Jesus never sinned. Jesus made no false claims or gave false testimony. During three years of public ministry Jesus proved He was the Messiah. Only the true Son of God could have done all that He did and teach what He taught. The Jews misused the Law that stated: “Take the blasphemer outside the camp; and let all who were within hearing lay their hands on his head, and let the whole congregation stone him” (Leviticus 24:14).
An Innocent Man Condemned and Cursed
International Bible Lesson
“When the chief priests therefore and officers saw him, they cried out, saying, Crucify him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Take ye him, and crucify him: for I find no fault in him” (John 19:6—KJV).
“When the chief priests and the police saw him, they shouted, ‘Crucify him! Crucify him!’ Pilate said to them, ‘Take him yourselves and crucify him; I find no case against him’” (John 19:6—NRSV).
Pilate declared twice that he found no case against Jesus. If Jesus had broken any Roman laws, certainly the religious leaders would have made these accusations against Jesus too. Perhaps Pilate hoped that when they saw Jesus suffering after His severe flogging and mocking that would satisfy His accusers. However, the religious authorities were so intent on the “legal” murder of Jesus they shouted back to Pilate, “Crucify him!” The Jewish law stated specifically how the Jews were to execute someone convicted of a serious crime, but only after a legal trial with two or more witnesses: “Take the blasphemer outside the camp; and let all who were within hearing lay their hands on his head, and let the whole congregation stone him” (Leviticus 24:14). Later, in a rush to judgment, the religious leaders and people stoned Stephen to death (Acts 7:56-60). In fulfillment of prophecy, the Messiah was not to be stoned but hanged from a tree (the wooden cross was the preferred method of Roman execution). Quoting Deuteronomy 21:23, the Apostle Paul wrote: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree’” (Galatians 3:13). The prophets foretold the method of Jesus’ execution; still, those who hated Jesus bore responsibility for their thoughts and actions. Jesus told Pilate, “you would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above; therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin’” (John 19:11).
Begin or close your class by reading the short weekly International Bible Lesson.
Questions for Discussion and Thinking Further
The International Sunday School Lesson for April 13, 2014 is from Jeremiah 23:1-6; Zechariah 6:9-15; and John 19:1-7. The “Thinking Further” Questions below are from these three lessons.
1. What are some of the ways believers today can proclaim: “The LORD is our righteousness”?
2. Why is it important for the followers of Jesus Christ to study the Old Testament prophets even when they seem difficult to understand?
3. Why might it be important that Pilate found and declared no legal case against Jesus?
4. What reason did the Jews give Pilate when they insisted that Pilate have Jesus crucified? Do you think the reason they gave was the real reason? If not, what do you think their real reason might have been?
5. In your opinion, what did the high priests, scribes, and Pharisees who insisted that Pilate crucify Jesus really think about the Law of God and how did they treat it?
— © Copyright 2014 L.G. Parkhurst, Jr.
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