One prophecy‑surely unique in its minute and intricate details amazingly fulfilled - shines out like a star. It is a money transaction, in which a small and exact sum is named; it is the actual price paid for the sale of God; it is paid down by the hands of the Israelitish nation, through its recognized leaders, and paid officially in the Temple courts; the money strangely finds its way into the hands of a potter, in exchange for his field; while the whole transaction is so critical, so charged with spiritual significance, that it involves, and actually produces, the ruin of the Jewish nation. For smallness and commonness of detail, combined with all the crisis and tragedy of a universe, both being fulfilled to the letter though five centuries intervened, it is unsurpassed;. and the very insignificance of the sum makes the evidence the more conclusive, because it reveals a foreknowledge so minute that it betrays the mind of the Creator.*
* Various explanations are given why Matthew (26: 15) attributes the prophecy in Zechariah (11: 12) to Jeremiah. It occurred in a work of Jeremiah which has been lost (Origen); it was an oral statement of that prophet (Calovius); the Jews have expunged the passage from the Book of Jeremiah (Eusebius). It may be that Jeremiah (as Matthew says) spoke the words, and Zechariah either recorded or repeated them.
On the Mount of Olives, after the Supper, the Lord Jesus vividly saw Himself as the Shepherd, and as the Shepherd already betrayed, and about to be smitten: for it is written, He said, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered abroad (Mark 14: 27). So in Zechariah the Great Shepherd is photographed as He stands on the threshold of the supreme crisis. He stands before Israel, after He has fed the flock for years, and demands a Shepherds recompense, even as Jesus stood before the Figtree, seeking fruit:- and I said unto them, If ye think good, give me my hire (Zech. 11: 14): weigh up the years of my seeking lost sheep on the mountains of Israel; my miracles, My compassions, My teachings: judge the price a Good Shepherd asks, the confidence and love of his sheep; - repentance, and faith, and a response to the marvellous Love. GIVE ME MY HIRE.
Now the drama begins. The Lord was already standing on the outer
But more subtle correspondences
follow, utterly impossible except to foreknowledge. The transaction of Judas was an actual sale of
Christ: it was not only a wage they weighed for MY HIRE thirty pieces of silver - but a
price the goodly PRICE that I was priced at of them. So Judas said:- What are ye willing to give me, and I will deliver him unto
you? that is, it was the bodily delivery of the Lord for which he
received the actual paid-down cash. And
it is remarkable that thirty shekels was the price paid for a slave (Exod. 21: 32); and as this estimate of the
Lords value was the estimate made by the Priests, not by Judas, it is possible
that they had in mind what thirty shekels thus purchased under the Law. For he emptied himself, taking the form of A SLAVE (Phil. 2: 7). Consciously or
The actual spot of the bargain
is indicated in the Divine forecast with a concentrated accuracy beyond all
coincidence. And the Lord said unto me, Cast it unto the potter. And I took the thirty pieces of silver and
cast them unto the potter, in the house of the Lord. The
But just here an enormous
revelation is embedded in a single word.
Jehovah said unto
me, The goodly price that I was priced at of them. The Great Shepherd throughout Zechariah is
Jehovah; and therefore the Good Shepherd sold on the slopes of Olivet - for He
is the same Person - is no less than Jehovah Himself. The
good shepherd, our Lord Himself said, layeth down his life
for the sheep (John 10: 2); and
the sheep are the flock of God, which he purchased WITH HIS
OWN BLOOD (Acts 20: 28). But there is a careful distinction of
transition from the first person to the third (Zech. 12: 10) points
to the fact that the person slain, though essentially one with Jehovah, is
personally distinct from the Supreme God (Keil and Delitzsch). So later
Now the silver, through the joint act of Judas and the Priests, arrives at its destination. It was cast down by Judas, violently, as it had been cast down centuries before by the Prophet; it had, in both cases, been thrown down inside the Temple; and now, through the refusal of the Priests to use the money in the Treasury, it reaches the Potter. Their opportunity of revoking the transaction and cancelling the purchase by keeping the restored money, they reject with scorn. And the chief priests took counsel, and bought with them the Potters field, to bury strangers in (Matt. 27: 7). The apparently trivial and meaningless command cast it to the potter - becomes, after centuries, a lightning flash of Divine omniscience.
So then the final seal is now set on the exactly detailed and perfectly adjusted prophecy and its fulfilment. Wherefore that field was called, The field of blood unto this day. The expression which Judas used after our Lord had been condemned I have betrayed innocent blood - reveals that he saw that his act would be the Lords death, and that a violent death: he already sees the blood flowing from his slaughtered Master, and so that his betrayal is murder: he realizes that what he has been paid is the price of blood; and popular judgment endorsed it with the name it gave The Field of Blood, that is, the field bought with Blood.
So the Chief Priests deliberately say:- It is the price of blood (Matt. 27: 6): the price given for shedding blood, the wage of a murderer (Alford).* In the fuller truth of the Gospel, the field is the world (Matt. 13: 38); and Jesus selleth all that he hath - the man who gives his blood, his life, gives his all and buyeth that field (Matt. 13: 44). Judass sale of Christ was Christs purchase of the world, and the Gospel is extraordinarily disclosed in the entire tragedy.
* Not only were the thirty silver shekels the purchase price of
a slave (Hos. 3: 2), but, still more remarkably, it was the
sum fixed as compensation for a slave gored by a beast (Exod. 21: 32):
that is, it was the price of a slaves blood.
It is reported (we do not know with what truth) that the price of a
murder by a
Finally, throughout is revealed the overmastering power of God. The whole drama is not only a crowning proof of prophecy, intricately exact and accurately accomplished beyond all challenge, but it is a sheer triumph of God. The Priests themselves accomplish the fact of the sale of God, and end by certifying the fact in exquisitely detailed imagery. So Judas, betraying Christ, only lays our Sacrifice upon the Altar; and simultaneously - while every instinct of a desperate man would be to exonerate himself by inculpating his Victim - he gives as valuable a tribute to the Lamb as ever fell from human lips:- I have betrayed innocent blood. Of all that the Jews have charged Him with for two thousand years, Judas says He is innocent. We are absolutely impotent to thwart God: our worst crimes are so adjusted into the machinery of God that, instead of thwarting Him, they themselves accomplish Divine aims hundreds and thousands of years old. We can do NOTHING against the truth, but for the truth (2 Cor. 13: 8). Peter sums it all up after the suicide of Judas thus:- Jesus, being delivered UP BY THE DETERMINATE COUNSEL AND FOREKNOWLEDGE OF GOD, ye by the hand of lawless men did crucify and slay (Acts 2: 23). Man does what must be, but not because he must: whether by good or evil, whether in heaven or hell, we fulfil to the letter every word of the Most High: our very effort to thwart the truth is part of the truth - the part embodied in prophecy, our opposition only verifying and establishing the prediction.*
* Human foolishness in handling the Word of God is aptly seen in the Jews explanation of the thirty shekels: - the thirty precepts given to the sons of Noah; or thirty dignities of royalty; or the thirty righteous in each generation, etc, But Christian expositors can be even less believing. A really great Commentary (we refrain from hurting it by naming it) has these astounding words:- Why these words should have been referred to by the Evangelist Matthew, and applied to Christ and Judas, I cannot explain, nor can anyone else. But, with the amazing penetration of all Divine utterance, the prophecy itself says that THF POOR of the flock that gave heed unto me knew that it was the word of the Lord (Zech. 11: 11). Fishermen believed it, and turned the world upside down.