Losing King Josiah: How the disciples mourned when Christ was pierced

Jesus is pierced with a lance in this 1620 oil painting, which is in the National Gallery of Slovenia. The Evangelist John compares the scene to the prophetic fulfillment of Zechariah 12:10 and the mourning of the death of Israel’s good King Josiah.

Jesus is pierced with a lance in this 1620 oil painting, which is in the National Gallery of Slovenia. The Evangelist John compares the scene to the prophetic fulfillment of Zechariah 12:10 and the mourning of the death of Israel’s good King Josiah.

Hit movies love to use catchphrases. Some of these catchphrases become so memorable that one only has to repeat it and immediately the whole movie comes to mind. “I’ll be back…” evokes the Terminator. “Play it again, Sam” evokes Casablanca.

In the first century, the Jews knew the Old Testament like we know hit movies. A single reference to an Old Testament text would immediately bring to mind the text referenced. In some rare cases, more than one text can be referenced. A fascinating example of this double-reference is found in the Gospel of John.

John recounts how, at the crucifixion, the Roman soldiers did not break Jesus’ legs, but pierced his side with a lance. John says this was to fulfill two Old Testament passages: “Not a bone of it will be broken” (Exodus 12:46, Numbers 9:12) and “They will look upon him whom they have pierced”  (Zechariah 12:10). The first text refers to the requirements for the Passover lamb. The second fulfillment refers to a prophecy in Zechariah. This second fulfillment is most interesting.

Zechariah 12:10-11 reads, “I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn. In that day there will be great mourning in Jerusalem, like the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the plain of Megiddo.”

What’s interesting about this text is that the Hebrew and Latin speak in the first person — “They will look on Me whom they pierced” — who does “me” refer to? In context, it refers to God. God is pierced. For non-Christians, this causes a problem: How can God be pierced? For the Christian, this causes no problem because Christ is a Divine Person, the Second Person of the Trinity.

The last verse makes reference to yet another event: “… there will be great mourning in Jerusalem, like the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the plain of Megiddo.” Everyone knows what happened in the plain of Megiddo, right? If you don’t, trust me, you’re not alone.

The plain of Megiddo is where one of the greatest kings of Judah, King Josiah, was fatally wounded. Josiah’s reign was a time of great hope. Judah was a vassal of Assyria, which was growing weak. Josiah instituted a series of reforms that detached Judah from the clutches of Assyrian and native pagan worship. He destroyed the pagan idols and cleansed the temple of them (2 Kings 23:4-14) and reformed the priesthood (2 Kings 23:5). He also discovered “the book of the Law” in the Temple and re-inaugurated the covenant between God and His people (2 Kings 23:1-3, 2 Chronicles 24:29-33). He also revived the celebration of Passover (2 Kings 23:21-22, 2 Chronicles 35:1-35).

All these reforms stoked a nationalist feeling among the people with hopes that Judah would once again be freed from foreign domination. All this ended in 609 B.C., when Josiah ignored God’s

Gary Michuta

Gary Michuta

warning and set out to battle Neco II of Egypt in Megiddo. Josiah was fatally wounded and later died in Jerusalem. Judah’s hopes were dashed.

Zechariah says such would be the mourning over the pierced one, and this connection could not be more accurate. Like Josiah, Jesus was a son of David. Where Josiah discovered the Law, Jesus disclosed the New Law at the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus cleansed the Temple and instituted the New Passover, where He made new priests, and He inaugurated a New Covenant.

Also just like Josiah, Christ’s followers believed He would usher in an era of political independence. But they didn’t understand that Christ came as the Suffering Servant, not the conquering King, and His death, being pierced by a sword, dashed all hopes of a political restoration just like in the days of Josiah.

This chain of references from John to Josiah really says a lot for only a few words.


Gary Michuta is an apologist, author and speaker and a member of St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Livonia. Visit his website at www.handsonapologetics.com.