John 13:36-38: Shepherd Friend of God

JeffIn a sobering interchange between the Messiah and one of His closest students during a pinnacle Pesakh (Passover) celebration, Yeshua challenged Simon Peter to truly become a key shepherd, foretold by prophet Zechariah, by becoming such a friend of God that he wouldn’t fear being persecuted to death.

“Simon Peter said to Him, ‘Lord, where are You going?’ Jesus answered, ‘Where I go, you cannot follow Me now; but you will follow later.’ Peter said to Him, ‘Lord, why can I not follow You right now? I will lay down my life for You.’ Jesus answered, ‘Will you lay down your life for Me? Truly, truly, I say to you, a rooster will not crow until you deny Me three times.’ (John 13:36–38)

Both Mark and Matthew note (Matt. 26:31-35; Mark 14:27-31; cp. Luke 22:31–34) Yeshua’s quotation from Zech. 13:7:

“I will strike down the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered.”

This verse wasn’t quoted just to make a good word, it was meant to bring to mind the context of the quotation as well. Educated Jewish men were required to memorize large portions of Scripture, so anyone who quoted a verse would point the listeners or readers to the context of the verse. 

We will look at all of Zechariah 13 to understand what Yeshua was saying. The chapter is part of an oracle — the “burden” starts in Zech. 12:1 — of the Word of the Lord about Israel.  

The phrase “in that day” is an idiom for the Day of the Lord. The Apostle Paul uses the phrase in the same sense in his writings. In the midst of this oracle, a Messianic prophesy has been inserted. You have a suffering servant Messiah juxtaposed with a Davidic conquering Messiah. These are the dual roles of the Messiah. 

“In that day a fountain will be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for impurity.” (Zechariah 13:1 NAS95)

God’s purification through washing was foretold by Isaiah as a function of the Messiah (Isa. 4:2-6). In that passage, you can see a number of references back to Israel’s history. The “canopy” and the “flame” hint at the Exodus and the 40 years in the wilderness. God was with them at different points in their history when life looked really bad. 

God has had to put up with His people repeatedly betraying Him, they have stabbed Him in the back several times yet He still wants to work with us. This fountain is associated with the water pouring ceremony on the seventh day of Sukkot. 

Another passage that touches on this is Ezek. 36:22-32 (cf. Jer. 31:31-34). It tells us more about the Fountain and the spiritual car wash. This is part of the “new covenant.”

Going back to Zechariah 13, we see that God is going to clean out the illicit prophets and unclean spirits. We saw in the history of the kings examples of false prophets. In the Messianic age, there will be no doubt about which prophets speak for God and which ones are speaking for themselves. 

“’And one will say to him, “What are these wounds between your arms?” Then he will say, “Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends.”‘” (Zechariah 13:6)

The phrase that is translated as “the house of my friends” is literally, בֵּית מְאַהֲבָי beyt m’ahavi, “in the house of those who love me.”

Just as the Lord would “smite” (נָכָה nakah, H5221, “to strike, lightly or severely, literally or figuratively”) His “Associate-Shepherd … and … the little ones” (i.e., the “flock” of followers, v. 7), the spokesmen of God would be “smitten” (נכה) for their loyalty to God by those closest to them.

“Awake, O sword, against My Shepherd, And against the man, My Associate,” Declares the LORD of hosts. Strike the Shepherd that the sheep may be scattered; And I will turn My hand against the little ones.”(Zechariah 13:7)

This word that is translated as associate is the word עָמִית ’amit, (Strong’s H5997) which means neighbor, friend. The Hebrew word is used elsewhere in the TaNaKh (Torah, Prophets and Writings) only in Leviticus (5:21; 18:20; 19:11, 15, 17, 19; 24:17; 25:17). This also means “neighbor,” which brings to mind the injunction to love our neighbors as ourselves, but a different Hebrew word is used for “neighbor” in the “second-greatest commandment” of Lev. 19:18: רֵיעַ re‘a (H7453, friend, companion, fellow).

This Shepherd is called a friend of God. Several people in Scripture, including Abraham and Moses, who were called or described as God’s friend. This not speaking of a head-knowledge of God but a close relationship with God.

These Messianic prophecies aren’t just about our past 2,000 years ago but about our future as well. 

God has taken this idea of the shepherd to a very personal level. The shepherd of Israel becomes a neighbor, a friend. 

As we go through the Gospels, the Messiah ben Joseph went to the house of those who loved the Messiah, were eagerly looking for him but they betrayed Him because He wasn’t the Messiah they were looking for. But that has been a theme throughout Israel’s history. 

“It will come about in all the land,” Declares the LORD, “That two parts in it will be cut off and perish; But the third will be left in it. And I will bring the third part through the fire, Refine them as silver is refined, And test them as gold is tested. They will call on My name, And I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are My people,’ And they will say, ‘The LORD is my God.”’ (Zechariah 13:8–9)

We all have found that when we go through a difficult time, we will find out who our real friends are and find that they are actually few. God has experienced the same thing. 

God is going to refined His people silver, and test them like gold. (Isa. 1:25; 48:10; Mal. 3:3; Matt. 3:7–12; 1Cor. 3:10–15)

“The refining pot is for silver and the furnace for gold, But the LORD tests hearts.” (Prov. 17:3)

God is not looking to create a BBQ but He is looking to refine and purify. God is looking to burn off those things that get in between our friendship with the Messiah. God remembers us and we are to remember Him. He wants us to remember Him as a friend, as someone who has our best interest in mind. 

The question is what kind of friend? An acquaintance or someone who is like family. Yeshua is calling the Apostles to be the kind of friends who are like family. 

Speaker: Jeff. Summary: Tammy. 

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