Gospel Gazette, Bible Articles

Vol. 1, No. 3 Page 9 March 1999

Gospel Gazette, Bible Articles

"Behold the Man . . ."

By Wayne Jackson

In the dark hours preceding his crucifixion, Jesus was led through a series of quasi-legal proceedings that flaunted any sense of justice. In one of those phases, Pilate, the Roman governor, had Christ brutally whipped. Subsequently, the soldiers placed a crown of plaited thorns upon his brow and mockingly clothed him in a purple robe, feigning regal adoration. Pilate then paraded Jesus before the crowd and exclaimed, "Behold, the man!" (John 19:5). Significantly, this very phrase is found in an Old Testament prophecy that heralds the coming of Israel's Messiah.

The Historical Background

In 606/5 B.C., the southern kingdom of Judah was taken into captivity by the Babylonians. Their accumulating sins across the centuries finally exhausted the patience of their benevolent God. Thus, for their own good, divine discipline was necessary. Jeremiah had declared that this period of incarceration would last seventy years (25:12; 29:10). In 536 B.C. the first of three major returns to the homeland was effected. The long trek was led by Zerubbabel, whose principal mission was to encourage the rebuilding of the sacred temple (destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 B.C.). In conjunction with Zerubbabel's labor, Zechariah's efforts would be focused upon encouraging the people to re-establish their familial relationship with Jehovah.

It was characteristic of the prophets, as they were addressing the weaknesses of the nation, to sweep across the centuries, giving brilliant glimpses of the great Deliverer, the Messiah, and the glories that would adorn his administration. This feature was certainly common to Zechariah's writing.

In Chapter Six, after a series of visions involving colorful chariots, employed as symbols of various divine judgments, Joshua, the high priest, was adorned with "crowns" of silver and of gold. It was actually one crown (LXX) with dual circlets (Theo Laetsch, The Minor Prophets, St. Louis, Concordia, 1956, p. 438.). These were visual suggestions of the twofold nature of the Messiah's role (regal and priestly). It was within this context that the following prophecy was uttered.

Behold, the man whose name is Branch: and he shall grow up out of his place; and he shall build the temple of Jehovah; even he shall build the temple of Jehovah; 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 (6:12-13).
Jewish opinion (e.g., the Aramaic Targum, the Jerusalem Talmud, and the Midrash) considered these passages to be messianic in thrust. There are six major points of emphasis in this narrative. Let us consider them.

The Branch

The prophet begins by announcing: "Behold, the Branch." The term "Branch," which denotes a "bud" or "growth," was a symbol of prosperity (Genesis 49:22), and formerly had been used both by Isaiah and Jeremiah of the coming Messiah (cf. Isaiah 4:2; Jeremiah 23:5; 33:15). Jeremiah, for example, declared that the Branch would: (1) Come from David's lineage; (2) be a righteous person; (3) reign as king; (4) exercise wisdom; (5) execute justice and righteousness (Jeremiah 23:5). Some argue that the term Branch, as used in prophetic literature, sets forth four different aspects of the Messiah's character: (1) King (Jeremiah 23:5-6); (2) Servant (Zechariah 3:8); (3) Man (Zechariah 6:12); and, (4) Jehovah's Branch. It has been suggested that this corresponds to the fourfold picture of Jesus as presented by the Gospel writers, Matthew (king), Mark (servant), Luke (man), and John (deity). (See Walter Kaiser, Hard Sayings of the Old Testament, Downers Grove, IL, InterVarsity, 1988, p. 239.)

Grow Up Out Of His Place

Zechariah contends that the Branch "shall grow up out of his place." This phrase is a bit ambiguous. It literally means "from beneath." It may suggest his rise from the nation (Isaiah 11:1; Jeremiah 23:5), or from the land. (C.F. Keil, The Minor Prophets, Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1978, p. 299; cf. Exodus 3:23.) Palestine is referred to as Immanuel's "land" (Isaiah 8:8). Incidentally, Palestine does not belong intrinsically to the Jews; they lost their "deed" to it (Joshua 23:14ff).

On the other hand, the expression may be a reference to Jesus' humble origin (Kenneth Barker, "Zechariah," The Expositor's Bible Commentary, Frank Gaebelein, ed., Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 1985, p. 640), somewhat analogous to Isaiah's descriptive: "For he [Christ] grew up before him [Jehovah] as a tender root our of dry ground" (Isaiah 53:2). A "tender root" in "dry ground" represents a situation that seems unlikely to be productive, as humanly viewed. One cannot but think of the many circumstances associated with the Lord's life that defied all odds of success, e.g., the dangerous early years (Matthew 2:3ff), his youth in a despised city (Matthew 2:23; John 1:46), Jesus' lack of formal rabbinical training (John 7:15), his absence of wealth (2 Corinthians 8:9), etc. (For more concerning this, see the discussion of the Mustard Seed in my book, The Parables in Profile.) The significant point is this: He was ever under the watchful eye of his Father (Isaiah 53:2).

To Build Jehovah's Temple

The prophet, with great emphasis (the thought is repeated), affirmed that the man whose name is Branch would "build the temple of Jehovah." The reference is not to the construction of a material edifice; rather, this foretells the establishment of a spiritual temple, namely, the church. Not long before his crucifixion, Jesus declared: "Upon this rock I will build my church" (Matthew 16:18). That spiritual organism was generated on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2). Later, inspired apostles would depict the church as God's temple. The saints in Corinth were described as "a temple of God" (1 Corinthians 3:16). The Christians in Ephesus were of the "household of God," and each saint was "fitly framed together," ever growing into "a holy temple in the Lord" (Ephesians 2:19-22). Peter represented Christians as the "living stones" of a "spiritual house" (1 Peter 2:5).

The church is characterized as a temple because: (1) Just as God's presence was focused in the temple of Old Testament times (Exodus 25:22), so the church today is the "habitation of God" (Ephesians 2:22). The Lord does not promise that his benevolent presence will abide with those who refuse to obey the Gospel (2 Corinthians 6:16-18). (2) The temple was the place wherein sacrifices were offered to atone for sin. Today, those who constitute the living temple have been purified from their sins by the blood of Jesus (Acts 20:28; Ephesians 1:7), the true lamb of God (John 1:29; 1 Peter 1:19). (3) As the temple provided an appropriate environment for the exercise of divinely prescribed worship, even so, the church is authorized to offer the service of spiritual sacrifice to the Lord by means of regulated acts of worship (cf. Romans 12:1; Hebrews 1:15; John 4:24).

Branch To Bear The Glory

The prophet foretold that the man called Branch would "bear glory." There are at least three sense in which Christ was to bear the glory.

First, Jesus exists as the "effulgence" (ASV) or "brightness" (KJV) of the Father of glory. The Greek term apaugasma (to shine from) means "radiance." The RSV takes it in a passive sense, i.e., that Jesus was the "reflection" of God's glory; the ASV, supported by patristic evidence (Kittel, p. 87), suggests that Christ radiates the glory directly. Even in the days of his flesh, the glory of Jesus was manifest. John says that "the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld [theaomai - careful and deliberate observation] his glory" (John 1:14).

Second, there is that glory the Lord was to receive upon his ascension back into heaven following the resurrection. In his intercessory prayer, Jesus petitioned that he might again be glorified with the glory which he shared with the Father before the world existed (John 17:5). To certain disciples, who were confused because the Savior had been killed, Jesus said: "Was it not necessary that the Christ suffer these things, and to enter into his glory?" (Luke 24:26). Peter spoke of the sufferings of the Son of God and the "glories that should follow" (1 Peter 1:11; cf. 21). At the time of his ascension, Jesus was "received up into glory" (1 Timothy 3:16).

Third, thee is the glory that shall accompany Christ at the time of his return. "But when the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the angels with him, then shall he sit on the throne of his glory: and before him shall be gathered all nations . . ." (Matthew 25:31-32). The term "throne" here must not be confused with the mediatorial throne which the Savior began to occupy when he returned to heaven following his resurrection (Luke 1:32-33; Acts 2:30ff; 1 Corinthians 15:25; 1 Peter 3:22). Rather, this is the throne of judgment at which point Jesus will be glorified universally. "For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, to me every knee shall bow, and every tongue shall confess to God" (Romans 14:11; cf. 2:5).

A Priest Upon His Throne

Under the Old Testament economy, the priesthood came from the lineage of Aaron (Exodus 28:1), while Judah's kings, from Solomon onward, were out of the loins of David. The functions of the priests and the kings were separate entirely. The monarchs administered the civil affairs of the nation, while the priests directed the religious life of the people. With the coming of the Christ, however, the two offices were to be joined. Melchizedek, the ancient contemporary of Abraham, typified this circumstance (Genesis 1:18; Hebrews 7:1ff; cf. Psalms 110). As king Jesus exercises regal authority over a spiritual domain (Matthew 28:18); as priest, he atones for our sins (Hebrews 10:19ff). What a wonderful arrangement God provided.

There are two matters worthy of further reflection at this point. This context, which shows that Jesus would be a priest while upon his throne, is devastating to the dogma of premillennialism--the notion that the Lord's reign was postponed when he was rejected by the Jews, and is to be implemented at the time of the Second Coming. Note these points:

(1) The Bible makes it clear that that Christ cannot function as priest while on earth (Hebrews 8:4). But he is to be a priest upon his throne (Zechariah 6:13). Therefore, his throne could not be on earth.

(2)If Christ is to operate as priest and king simultaneously, as Zechariah affirms, and he is not now reigning as king, as millennialist allege, then he is not functioning as our priest currently--which means we are without atonement!

These are consequences of the false notion of premillennialism.

Acceptance Of The Gentles

Finally, Zechariah announces that they who are "afar off" eventually will come and build "in the temple of Jehovah." It is hardly a point of controversy that the "afar off" ones are the Gentiles. Peter so characterized them in his sermon on Pentecost (Acts 2:39), as did Paul in his epistle to the church at Ephesus (2:13, 17). The prophecy was fulfilled, of course, when Peter taught the Gospel to Cornelius and his associates (Acts 10), and subsequently to others of their kind, thus fully implementing the "great commission" (cf. Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16).

When, therefore, Pilate sarcastically introduced Jesus with: "Behold, the man!"--he said far more than he knew. "Behold, the man!"--indeed!

[This excellent article first appeared in the pages of brother Jackson's journal, Christian Courier (December 1998), and we appreciate his permission to employ his articles from time to time in Gospel Gazette Online. We heartily recommend Christian Courier and brother Jackson's books. He also sells a variety of useful biblical books by other authors. Please visit Wayne Jackson's webpages at http://www.christiancourier.com. Subscription to the printed journal, Christian Courier, is a mere $5 per year. ~ Louis Rushmore, Editor]


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