This is one subject of debate especially when it comes to identifying those who would wee the return of the Lord Jesus to the earth. There are many who believe that it is a clear and general reference to the Jews especially to those living in our time and age that would eventually know that Jesus is the Messiah that they didn’t recognize in their first coming when it occurred two thousand years ago.
It would only stand as a misapplication of justice if God would punish a generation of people 2,000 years after an unfortunate event. This doesn’t speak of the graciousness of God and neither does it exalt the finished work of Jesus with regards to the judgment of sin.
Why would God go and a witch-hunt on a people that would last over 2,000 years. I don’t think He is a serial killer and neither is he Anti-Semitic.
I had someone told me that those who pierced the Lord was the Romans. He arrived at that because of the fact that it was the Romans that carried out the execution. He looked to be right but at the same wrong when you consider the fact that the Romans did not wake up one morning and declare Jesus a criminal that must be killed.
Lets look at this phrase and judge who was being described here without trying to force an interpretation to support our existing belief system.
Zechariah gives us an insight into the life of the Messiah which includes his journey to the cross. In chapter 13:6 he says
“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.’
Verse 7 also tells us
“Awake, sword, against my shepherd, against the man who is close to me!” declares the LORD Almighty. “Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered,…”
This is clearly speaking to us about Jesus, the betrayal he experienced, the sad and painful journey to the cross where he was crucified. Jesus even identified his place in prophecy and also quotes Zachariah to his disciples before he was betrayed and handed over to the Jewish leaders. The wounds in him arms was a picture of his crucifixion on the cross.
Earlier on in chapter 12 the prophet also tells us about a morning for one who was pierced in all the cities of the land of Israel.
10 “And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn.11 In that day there shall be a great mourning in Jerusalem, like the mourning at Hadad Rimmon in the plain of Megiddo.[b] 12 And the land shall mourn, every family by itself: the family of the house of David by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of the house of Nathan by itself, and their wives by themselves; 13 the family of the house of Levi by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of Shimei by itself, and their wives by themselves; 14 all the families that remain, every family by itself, and their wives by themselves”.
After God had poured the Spirit of grace on his people, the result should have been celebration and life. But we see otherwise. There is a mourning which is not far connection from the fact that there was a rejection of the Spirit of grace as testified by the Hebrews writer
28 Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?
The Spirit of grace would have given refuge to those who were to transit from living by the law into the liberty of the Son. Their refusal was extended to the persecution of the sent ones by the Lord in announcing the goodnews for them to come to banquet prepared by the Father.
So was it the Romans that pierced him? The answer is No.
It will only be proper to say that the Jews instigated and demanded it so. The Romans acted in their role as executors of those convicted by the Jews. It was the Jews that sought for his death on numerous occasions. At his trial they even brought false witness against him and try to incriminate him. The sad thing was that after reviewing their case, Pontius Pilate still could not find him guilty. When Pilate tried to free him, they had him in a difficult position to save his office by executing Jesus.
Jesus Himself made it clear to Pilate: “…he who delivered Me up to you has the greater sin” (John 19:11). This was referring to his brothers the Jews.
Peter in his first message to the Jews in Acts 2
22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know— 23 Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken[c] by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death;
36 “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”
14 But you denied the Holy One and the Just, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, 15 and killed the Prince of life, whom God raised from the dead, of which we are witnesses. (Chap. 3)
In Acts 5:30 he declared:
“The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you had put to death by hanging Him on a cross.”
Stephen in his own message told the Jews that
“Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who had previously announced the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers y have now become. ”
Paul in his letter to the church at Thessalonica said
14 For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God which are in Judea in Christ Jesus. For you also suffered the same things from your own countrymen, just as they did from the Judeans, 15 who killed both the Lord Jesus and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they do not please God and are contrary to all men, 16 forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they may be saved, so as always to fill up the measure of their sins; but wrath has come upon them to the uttermost. (1 Thessalonians 2)
He confirmed that his people the Jews were the ones who killed Jesus, now they were also doing the same to the disciples. He tells them that all this would see them fill up the measure of their sins which he links to a coming wrath. This absolutely confirms what Jesus said in Matthew 23 about a coming judgment on the Old Jewish world and system.
“31 “Therefore you are witnesses against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers’ guilt. 33 Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell? 34 Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, 35 that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. 36 Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.” (Matthew 23)
Those who pierced him were to suffer a judgment. Those who pierced him was that generation in Jesus time. Judgment was to fall on that generation that would lead them to a state of mourning. This is not our time or in our future as some profess. To do so would be to ignore the relevant audience to whom it was written to. If it didn’t mean anything to them, why should it mean something to us.
This is theme of the book of Revelation; The coming of the son of man in judgment over a system, over those who rejected and denied their covenant partner. They refused to enter the covering of the “hen over her chicks” they condemned themselves through their unbelief and could not step into the kingdom unveiled in the new covenant. They saw themselves drowned in the Red sea of blood and erased in the fires of Sodom and Gomorrah.
We are those for whom he was pierced. His justification is now ours. There is no fearful judgment or wrath stored up for us anymore. That age has passed and we are living in the glorious splendor of His kingdom spreading forth in power. Halleluyah.