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Sunday School Lesson

 
 

April 13

 Lesson 7

 A Messianic Priest-King

Devotional Reading: Hebrews 7:11-19

Background Scripture: Jeremiah 23:5, 6; Zechariah 6:9-15;
John 19:1-5; Hebrews 7:13

Jeremiah 23:5, 6

5 Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth.

6 In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, The Lord our Righteousness.

Zechariah 6:9-15

9 And the word of the Lord came unto me, saying,

10 Take of them of the captivity, even of Heldai, of Tobijah, and of Jedaiah, which are come from Babylon, and come thou the same day, and go into the house of Josiah the son of Zephaniah;

11 Then take silver and gold, and make crowns, and set them upon the head of Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest;

12 And speak unto him, saying, Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, saying, Behold the man whose name is The BRANCH; and he shall grow up out of his place, and he shall build the temple of the Lord:

13 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.

14 And the crowns shall be to Helem, and to Tobijah, and to Jedaiah, and to Hen the son of Zephaniah, for a memorial in the temple of the Lord.

15 And they that are far off shall come and build in the temple of the Lord, and ye shall know that the Lord of hosts hath sent me unto you. And this shall come to pass, if ye will diligently obey the voice of the Lord your God.

John 19:1-5

1 Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged him.

2 And the soldiers platted a crown of thorns, and put it on his head, and they put on him a purple robe,

3 And said, Hail, King of the Jews! and they smote him with their hands.

4 Pilate therefore went forth again, and saith unto them, Behold, I bring him forth to you, that ye may know that I find no fault in him.

5 Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe. And Pilate saith unto them, Behold the man!

Key Verse

The soldiers] said, Hail, King of the Jews! and they smote him with their hands. —John 19:3

Lesson Aims

After participating in this lesson, each student will be able to:

1. List what Pilate and the soldiers did to Jesus.

2. Explain the significance of "branch" imagery as applied to Jesus.

3. Attend a Good Friday service in the week ahead.

Lesson Outline

Introduction

A. Branches

B. Lesson Background

I. The Righteous Branch-King (Jeremiah 23:5, 6)

A. Heir of David (v. 5)

B. Savior of Israel (v. 6)

II. The Building Branch-King (Zechariah 6:9-15)

A. Crowns of Gold and Silver (vv. 9-11)

What Our Crown Cost

B. Temple of Glory and Peace (vv. 12-15)

III. The Broken Branch-King (John 19:1-5)

A. Brutalized (vv. 1-3)

B. Ridiculed (vv. 4, 5)

Price vs. Value

Conclusion

A. Here Is the Man!

B. Prayer

C. Thought to Remember


Introduction
A. Branches

When my family lived in the Seattle area, we occasionally hiked a favorite trail that wound through a forest of red cedar trees. Such trees are cousins of the giant redwoods of California and can easily reach 200 feet in height. That little forest, now protected, had been logged in the nineteenth century. Today, one can still see the colossal, dead stumps—some over 6 feet wide—of giant trees cut down long ago.

But not all of the stumps died. Some have sprouted, and some of the resulting trees are now over a century old. The newer trees are not yet 200 feet tall, but eventually they will be if left alone. The seeds of the stumps yielded both the possibility and the fact of new life. That is the vital imagery of this week's lesson.

B. Lesson Background

The Old Testament portions of our lesson come from Jeremiah and Zechariah. The ministry contexts of those two prophets were discussed in lessons 6 and 5, respectively, so that information need not be repeated here. Instead, we will take a brief look at the Old Testament's puzzling way of referring to the promised Messiah as the branch.

For some, the word branch creates a mental image of a tree limb that has fallen in the yard during a windstorm, a fallen branch. Others may envision a suburban bank, a branch office. Still others may think of a subfield of a major field of study, such as microbiology as a branch of biology.

None of these ideas really captures the biblical concept of the Messiah as the branch. The concept is more along the lines of new growth—a fresh, green manifestation of life. It is an idea of "the new coming out of the old."

A vivid example is found in Isaiah 6. Many of us are familiar with verses 1-8 of that chapter, which describe the prophet's dramatic call. But the verses that follow may not be as familiar: Isaiah's ministry was to be met with hard hearts, and devastation would result. But then comes a glimmer of hope. Though fallen Israel would be like the mere stump of a once-great tree, within this seemingly dead stump was "the holy seed" (v. 13) This was the latent branch, the sprout, the hope for Israel's renewal and restoration: the Messiah.

The apostle John was an eyewitness to the ministry of Jesus, and John was very familiar with Old Testament prophecies about Jesus (example: John 19:37). John probably wrote his Gospel after the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple in AD 70 by the Romans, creating some interesting parallels between John's perspectives and those of the prophets who worked centuries before him.

I. The Righteous Branch-King

                                                                            (Jeremiah 23:5, 6)

The overall tone of the book of Jeremiah is that of doom and warning. Expressions of "woe" are frequent (examples: Jeremiah 4:13; 10:19) as befitting Jeremiah's life situation. Yet there are passages in his book that reveal a sparkling, vibrant hope for the future, and 23:5, 6 is one of them.

A. Heir of David (v. 5)

5. Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth.

There are several places in the Old Testament where the coming Messiah is referred to as a (or the) Branch (examples: Isaiah 4:2; Zechariah 3:8), but the passage before us gives us the fullest picture of the one to come. We are told first that the Branch will be raised up by the Lord, provided by God himself. Second, this person will be unto David, meaning an heir in the line of that king.

Third, this heir will be righteous, one who follows God in heart and conduct. Fourth, the Branch will be a King whose reign will be prosperous. Fifth, the Branch will also be a judge, called to enact justice. Surely there has never been one yet to rule as the Branch will!

B. Savior of Israel (v. 6)

6. In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, The Lord our Righteousness.

Both the person of the Branch and the time of His arrival are important. Here we are told that He will appear at the appropriate time (in his days), at a time of crisis when Judah/Israel needs to be rescued from danger. This timing is determined by the Lord, for He is the one who sends the Branch on the rescue mission.

The way the Branch is identified is significant for Jeremiah's people. The king of Judah at the time is Zedekiah, whose name means "righteousness," and he is the last king of Judah (see Jeremiah 21:1; 24:8). The designation of the branch-king as our Righteousness comes across rather literally from the Hebrew as Zedkenuah. The similarity between that designation and the name Zedekiah is therefore a rebuke to Zedekiah, who follows the evil ways of previous kings (2 Kings 24:19). His eventual rebellion against the king of Babylon leads directly to the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC.

Zedekiah's selfish and stubborn ways reveal his lack of trust in the Lord. The coming king, by contrast, will speak for all the people in His right words and right actions; He truly will be The Lord our Righteousness.

What Do You Think?

How will you allow the Lord to become "your
righteousness" more and more on a daily basis? Why is it important for this to happen?

Talking Points for Your Discussion

Psalm 45:7

Matthew 5:20

1 Timothy 4:7

Titus 2:12

II. The Building Branch-King

                                                                              (Zechariah 6:9-15)

We now move to Zechariah, a prophet in Jerusalem after the return from exile of 538 BC. His book divides into two main parts. The first part (1:7-6:8) describes a series of night visions on February 15, 519 BC, in Jerusalem. Their overall theme is that God has arranged everything needed for the temple rebuilding to be finished, a task the people accomplish in 515 BC. Today's text marks the beginning of the second main part of the book.

A. Crowns of Gold and Silver (vv. 9-11)

9. And the word of the Lord came unto me, saying.

This short verse tells us that what is about to follow is an oracle, a communication received directly from the Lord himself (see also Zechariah 4:8; 7:4; 8:1, 18). In this case, the oracle is a directed action, as we shall see.

10, 11. Take of them of the captivity, even of Heldai, of Tobijah, and of Jedaiah, which are come from Babylon, and come thou the same day, and go into the house of Josiah the son of Zephaniah; then take silver and gold, and make crowns, and set them upon the head of Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest.

Zechariah is instructed to receive three Jewish leaders who also have returned to Jerusalem from captivity. The men Heldai, Tobijah, and Jedaiah are difficult to identify. The listing here is not quite the same as in verse 14, and some students think that these are titles rather than proper names. The wording of these verses is rather complicated, but the sense seems to be that these three men are to supply the silver and gold that Zechariah is to use to make crowns.

How to Say It

Heldai Hell-day-eye.

Helem Hee-lim.

Hilkiah Hill-kye-uh.

Jedaiah Jeh-day-yah.

Jehozadak Jeh-hawz-uh-dak.

Josedech Jahss-uh-dek.

Tobijah Toe-buy-juh.

Zechariah Zek-uh-rye-uh.

Zedekiah Zed-uh-kye-uh.

Zedkenuah Zed-keh-new-uh.

Zerubbabel Zeh-rub-uh-bul.

 

This action is to take place in the house of Josiah the son of Zephaniah. Zephaniah is the name of a prophet who lived over 100 years before this episode (Zephaniah 1:1), but we don't know if there is any connection between that man and the son mentioned here. This son, Josiah, may be a metalsmith who is capable of working gold and silver into suitable crowns. This Josiah also seems to be a returnee from exile, and he has been in Jerusalem long enough to establish a house and home.

More than one crown is fashioned, and at least one of these is to be placed on the head of Joshua the son of Josedech. We say "at least one" because the plural word them does not appear in the Hebrew. Many printings of the King James Version indicate such absent words in italics—words for which the translators have to make a "best guess" for smooth reading—and that is the case here.

Ezra 3:8 and Haggai 1:14 tell us that the Joshua in view is the high priest who returned with Zerubbabel to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. This Joshua is a direct descendant of Hilkiah, a high priest in the seventh century BC (see 1 Chronicles 6:13-15, where Josedech's name is given as Jehozadak). In his day, Hilkiah was a leader of the reforms resulting from his finding "the book of the law" in the temple, which was probably a copy of Deuteronomy (see 2 Kings 22:8; 23:24).

In Ezra's account of the return from exile, Zerubbabel and Joshua are seen as partners in the project to restore the temple (see Ezra 5:2). To place a crown on Joshua's head does not make him a king—the action is symbolic. It may signify Joshua's equal partnership with Zerubbabel, who is the governor (Haggai 1:1) and is in the royal lineage of David (Matthew 1:12, 13). Christians understand the placing of this crown on a priest as a prophetic act that points to Jesus the Messiah, who will be both priest and king.

What Our Crown Cost

In 1907, King Edward VII of England called on the Royal Asscher Diamond Company in Amsterdam to cut and polish the famed Cullinan diamond. That procedure was necessary to make the resulting, smaller stones suitable for inclusion in Great Britain's crown jewels. At 3,106 carats (almost 1 pound, 6 ounces), the Cullinan was the largest diamond discovered up to that time.

Before an audience, Joseph Asscher struck the stone. But his blade broke, leaving the diamond unchanged. After making stronger tools, he tried again. Asscher later said his adrenaline was so strong that he had to check the result several times before he could believe that he had done it right.

Today's text tells us nothing about Josiah's adrenalin level or state of mind as he set about his task of working with gold and silver to make suitable crowns. But we do have very accurate information about what Jesus went through mentally and physically as He endured the agony of the cross in order that we might have "the crown of life" (James 1:12) and "a crown of glory" (1 Peter 5:4). May we never forget what our crowns cost the Lord of glory, the one who wears "many crowns" (Revelation 19:12).—C. R. B.

B. Temple of Glory and Peace (vv. 12-15)

12. And speak unto him, saying, Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, saying, Behold the man whose name is The Branch; and he shall grow up out of his place, and he shall build the temple of the Lord.

A fuller purpose of the crown-making is now given: the crowns are in preparation for The Branch. This designation recalls the prophecies of Isaiah and Jeremiah concerning the coming Messiah. We wonder if Zechariah anticipated that the branch-king would be revealed in his day. Historical hindsight tells us that his prophecy was of one greater than either Zerubbabel the governor or Joshua the high priest.

Zechariah's description of the branch-king is very striking. For one thing, Zechariah uses the word for the noun branch as a verb when he says he shall grow up. Very literally, we could translate this as "the branch will branch out." The branch-king is not passive, but active and dynamic.

A second striking feature of this verse is Zechariah's prophecy that the branch-king will be a temple builder. The temple of Zechariah's day is only partially rebuilt at this point in time, but it will be finished in four years or less. When that happens, everyone who is aware of this prophecy at the time should realize that that temple is temporary. The coming branch-king will build the true, eternal temple of the Lord (see Mark 14:58; compare Acts 7:48).

Perhaps the most startling thing in this verse, though, is the command Behold the man, which is an eerie foreshadowing of Pilate's words about Jesus (see John 19:5, below). The clarity of Zechariah's vision speaks to the prophet's knowledge of the future as revealed to him by God.

Visual for Lesson 7. Point to this visual as you introduce the discussion question associated with verses 4, 5.

13. 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.

The temple of the coming branch-king will be something far greater than the sanctuary in Jerusalem. This new arrangement will have three distinctives. First, the branch-king, who occupies the temple, shall bear the glory. While this language might be applied to an ordinary king, it speaks more to the honor and glory given to God as king (see Psalm 104:1, 2; compare John 1:14).

Second, the new temple will contain a throne room (see Psalm 9:7), a suitable place from which the branch-king can reign; this was not a feature of the temple of Solomon or the temple as rebuilt by Zerubbabel. Third, the king in the new temple will also be a priest. This combination of priest and king is unthinkable for the Jews of Zechariah's day. To them, the king needs to be from the tribe of Judah and a descendant of David, while a priest must be from the tribe of Levi. The authors of the New Testament see these two offices combined in the person of Jesus (see Hebrews 7:14-17).

The Jerusalem temple is not a royal palace for a Jewish king, but serves as a kind of dwelling for God, something of Heaven on earth (Exodus 25:8; Psalm 132:7, 8). In the day of the branch-king, temple and palace come together (the counsel of peace shall be between them both). Zechariah foresees a king who dwells in the temple as His palace, for He will be the Lord God.

What Do You Think?

As part of the "holy priesthood" serving in "a spiritual house," what "spiritual sacrifices" can you offer to God this week that will be most pleasing to Him (1 Peter 2:5)? Be specific.

Talking Points for Your Discussion

Time investment in prayer

Time investment in Bible study

Time investment in the lives of others

Romans 12:1

14. And the crowns shall be to Helem, and to Tobijah, and to Jedaiah, and to Hen the son of Zephaniah, for a memorial in the temple of the Lord.

After the crowns are placed on the head of Joshua the high priest, they are to be taken to the temple by the three men mentioned here and displayed for a memorial. Perhaps this is a way of helping the people remember that it is the Lord who has allowed them to return to Jerusalem and rebuild His house, the temple. Helem seems to be another name for Heldai, and Hen seems to be a nickname for Josiah (v. 10).

15. And they that are far off shall come and build in the temple of the Lord, and ye shall know that the Lord of hosts hath sent me unto you. And this shall come to pass, if ye will diligently obey the voice of the Lord your God.

Zechariah now shifts back to his vision of the future temple of the branch-king. A new detail is included: this temple will be constructed with the assistance of they that are far off. While it is possible that this refers to the Jewish exiles still in Babylon, it is more likely that it refers to those who are "far off" in a spiritual sense, meaning non-Jewish (Gentile) peoples. This future temple will be comprised of all people (compare 1 Corinthians 3:16, 17; Ephesians 2:19-22). The Messiah will be the king of all nations, not just Israel, and His house will be for all people, not just the Jews (Revelation 11:15).

What Do You Think?

Who are the "far off" groups that your church is or should be trying to reach? What differences in approach are needed to reach these?

Talking Points for Your Discussion

Those "far off" in distance but not in culture

Those "far off" in culture but not in distance

Those "far off" in both culture and distance

III. The Broken Branch-King

                                                                              (John 19:1-5)

We now move about 550 years forward in time to the trials of Jesus. These trials witness a power struggle between the Jewish authorities, who demand Jesus' death, and Pilate, the Roman governor who uses the occasion to humiliate both them and Jesus. A focus of their debate is the claim that Jesus is a king (John 18:33, 37; compare 19:15, 19).

A. Brutalized (vv. 1-3)

1. Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged him.

We are at the point in the drama where Pilate has Jesus brutally whipped by soldiers. The Romans use whips embedded with pieces of bone or metal to increase the pain and bodily harm.

2, 3. And the soldiers platted a crown of thorns, and put it on his head, and they put on him a purple robe, and said, Hail, King of the Jews! and they smote him with their hands.

Roman legionnaires are battle-hardened and desensitized to violence. They are known for their cruelty and thus are feared by occupied peoples such as the Jews. These men follow the governor's orders in flogging Jesus (probably ripping the flesh of His back raw), but then take their brutality further: they weave a wreath of thorny branches and jam it onto Jesus' head. This "crown" probably does not feature small thorns such as we find on rosebushes; rather, it more likely consists of the two-inch thorns of the acacia bush. Even if Jesus has a full head of hair, that will not protect Him from the thorns penetrating His scalp.

The soldiers add to this mocking coronation by dressing Jesus in a purple robe. This is a costly garment and indicates that their cruel fun is also quite serious (compare Luke 23:11). They then disrespect Jesus further by pretending to honor Him as the King of the Jews as they strike Him. It is obvious that there is no real honor in their actions, and they are not inclined to show honor to a Jewish king under any circumstances. They are mocking both Jesus and the Jews at the same time.

What Do You Think?

What is it about human nature that tempts people to "join the crowd" in wrongdoing? How do you resist that temptation?

Talking Points for Your Discussion

Exodus 23:2; 32:1-6

Numbers 25:1-3

Matthew 20:31

Luke 23:18, 19

Acts 14:19; 19:29; 21:27-32

B. Ridiculed (vv. 4, 5)

4, 5. Pilate therefore went forth again, and saith unto them, Behold, I bring him forth to you, that ye may know that I find no fault in him. Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe. And Pilate saith unto them, Behold the man!

It is difficult to know Pilate's intentions here. Is he trying to placate the Jews by punishing Jesus but not executing Him? Or is he ramping up the intensity of the situation to show them his absolute power over both Jesus and them? If an innocent man can be brutalized this way, what protection does any Jew have from these Romans?

In any case, John presents Jesus in a way that should drive us to tears. Here is a man who has done nothing wrong, by Pilate's own admission. Yet Pilate not only orders Jesus to be horribly abused, but also presents Him as an object of ridicule. Unwittingly, Pilate ties this all to Zechariah's prophecy with the striking statement, Behold the man! Here He is indeed, the sacrificial Lamb who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). The mighty branch of Jeremiah and Zechariah is here, and Pilate ironically speaks of Him as a king (19:15). But there is no majesty and glory for Jesus—not yet.

What Do You Think?

How will you help people "behold the man" Jesus this week as He lives in you? Be specific.

Talking Points for Your Discussion

In acts of sacrificial love

In use of the tongue

Other

Price vs. Value

Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) is credited with defining a cynic as "a man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing." We can see in this definition a focus on the short term (price) at the expense of the long term (value).

Pilate demonstrated this trade-off. He coldly weighed the price to himself of allowing an innocent man to go free when his Jewish subjects wanted the prisoner crucified. In so doing, Pilate set aside the bigger pictures of the value of the accused man, the value of right judgments, etc.

The question for us is whether we do the same thing. Does our behavior testify that we value our relationship with Christ more than the earthly price of following Him (Acts 5:27-29, 40-42)?—C. R. B.

Conclusion
A. Behold the Man!

Pilate and Jesus were real men. The real soldiers were sadistic brutes. The blood on the pavement was really that of Jesus. The crown of thorns caused real pain. This all really happened.

Behold the man! He suffered and died for you and for me. As the prophecies confirm, this was God's plan for our salvation: a king who would die, rise again, and be exalted to reign forever. He did, and He does.

B. Prayer

O God, may we see past the cost of the momentary sufferings of this life as we value Jesus as our king forever. We pray in His honored name, amen.

C. Thought to Remember

We serve a king who suffered for us.