6. Why the Messiah Came
In the last chapter we saw that God foretold the coming of the Messiah to be the Deliverer and the Savior from sin. Now we must examine some prophecies which have been misunderstood by millions of people despite the fact that the prophecies themselves are quite straightforward. Although all these predictions are found in the Hebrew Scriptures, the Jews somehow formed a completely wrong idea of the purpose of the Messiah’s coming. They thought that He would come as a military and political leader to destroy their enemies and establish Jewish sovereignty over all the nations. Because of this belief they rejected Jesus Christ and continue to reject to this day the Christian belief that Jesus is the Messiah. Muslims reject the story of the death of Jesus Christ and the Christian doctrines connected with it. To Muslims, it is impossible to believe that a holy prophet (as they believe Jesus to be) could suffer and die such a cruel and shameful death as crucifixion. There is no point in arguing about such things; we must see what the Bible says.
We cannot form valid opinions of our own about the Messiah, what He would be like and what He would do, unless we realize one thing. It is the Old Testament which tells of the coming of the Messiah. Therefore we must look to the Old Testament to find out what it says about the Messiah. This is the supreme authority on the matter. Does it say that Messiah would be a mighty military conqueror? Does it say that He would come with pomp and majesty? Does it say that He would never suffer defeat? In fact, the prophets foretold some very unexpected facts about the coming Savior.
PROPHECIES ABOUT THE MESSIAH
1. The Messiah would come in humility, not with pomp and pride.
Read what Zechariah says, Rejoice greatly, daughter of Zion! Shout, daughter of Jerusalem! Look! Your king is coming to you: he is legitimate and victorious, humble and riding on a donkey—on a young donkey, the foal of a female donkey (Zechariah 9:9). Now compare this with what actually happened. Now when they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, telling them, “Go to the village ahead of you. Right away you will find a donkey tied there, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, you are to say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet: “Tell the people of Zion, ‘Look, your king is coming to you, unassuming and seated on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’” So the disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road. Others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those following kept shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” (Matthew 21:1-9). Jesus came, not as a military or political leader, but with humility and gentleness. Matthew 11:29 says, Take my yoke on you and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
2. The Messiah would be despised and rejected by men.
The prophet Isaiah foretold, He was despised and rejected by people, one who experienced pain and was acquainted with illness; people hid their faces from him; he was despised, and we considered him insignificant (Isaiah 53:3). Jesus was despised and rejected by the Jews. Matthew says, But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus killed. The governor asked them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas!” Pilate said to them, “Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Christ?” They all said, “Crucify him!” He asked, “Why? What wrong has he done?” But they shouted more insistently, “Crucify him!” (Matthew 27:20-23).
He was also rejected by the Gentiles, the non-Jewish people. We read, Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the governor’s residence and gathered the whole cohort around him. They stripped him and put a scarlet robe around him, and after braiding a crown of thorns, they put it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand, and kneeling down before him, they mocked him: “Hail, king of the Jews!” They spat on him and took the staff and struck him repeatedly on the head. When they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes back on him. Then they led him away to crucify him (Matthew 27:27-31).
In Psalm 2 it was predicted that kings and rulers and common peoples would unite in rejecting Christ. The fulfillment is recorded in Acts 4:27-28 which says, For indeed both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, assembled together in this city against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, to do as much as your power and your plan had decided beforehand would happen.
3. The Messiah would be betrayed for 30 pieces of silver.
The prophet Zechariah wrote Then I said to them, “If it seems good to you, pay me my wages, but if not, forget it.” So they weighed out my payment—thirty pieces of silver. The Lord then said to me, “Throw to the potter that exorbitant sum at which they valued me!” So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them to the potter at the temple of the Lord (Zechariah 11:12-13). This was the sum of money paid to Judas to betray Jesus. Matthew tells us, Then one of the twelve, the one named Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What will you give me to betray him into your hands?” So they set out thirty silver coins for him. From that time on, Judas began looking for an opportunity to betray him. (Matthew 26:14-16). When Judas saw that Jesus was condemned, he threw the money down in the temple, to be used by the priests for buying the potter’s field. We read, Now when Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus had been condemned, he regretted what he had done and returned the thirty silver coins to the chief priests and the elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood!” But they said, “What is that to us? You take care of it yourself!” So Judas threw the silver coins into the temple and left. Then he went out and hanged himself. The chief priests took the silver and said, “It is not lawful to put this into the temple treasury, since it is blood money.” After consulting together they bought the Potter’s Field with it, as a burial place for foreigners. For this reason that field has been called the “Field of Blood” to this day. Then what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: “They took the thirty silver coins, the price of the one whose price had been set by the people of Israel, and they gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord commanded me.” (Matthew 27:3-10). This explains the reference made prophetically to the potter’s field by Zechariah.
4. The Messiah would be insulted, beaten and spat on.
The Old Testament prophet wrote, I offered my back to those who attacked, my jaws to those who tore out my beard; I did not hide my face from insults and spitting (Isaiah 50:6). Jesus was scourged (beaten on the back with a steel-tipped whip), struck in the face and spat upon. The record reads, Then he released Barabbas for them. But after he had Jesus flogged, he handed him over to be crucified. Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the governor’s residence and gathered the whole cohort around him. They stripped him and put a scarlet robe around him, and after braiding a crown of thorns, they put it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand, and kneeling down before him, they mocked him: “Hail, king of the Jews!” They spat on him and took the staff and struck him repeatedly on the head. (Matthew 27:26-30).
5. The Messiah would suffer and die for the sins of others.
This is clearly stated by the prophet Isaiah, But he lifted up our illnesses, he carried our pain; even though we thought he was being punished, attacked by God, and afflicted for something he had done. He was wounded because of our rebellious deeds, crushed because of our sins; he endured punishment that made us well; because of his wounds we have been healed. All of us had wandered off like sheep; each of us had strayed off on his own path, but the Lord caused the sin of all of us to attack him. He was treated harshly and afflicted, but he did not even open his mouth. Like a lamb led to the slaughtering block, like a sheep silent before her shearers, he did not even open his mouth (Isaiah 53:4-7). The whole of the New Testament explains His death was a sacrifice for the sins of mankind. Here are a few examples, Because Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, to bring you to God, by being put to death in the flesh but by being made alive in the spirit (1 Peter 3:18). For I passed on to you as of first importance what I also received—that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:3). Now he did not say this on his own, but because he was high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the Jewish nation, and not for the Jewish nation only, but to gather together into one the children of God who are scattered (John 11:51-52).
6. The Messiah could die for the sins of others because He had no sin of His own.
He was sinless. The prophet Isaiah foretold of Him, They intended to bury him with criminals, but he ended up in a rich man’s tomb, because he had committed no violent deeds, nor had he spoken deceitfully (Isaiah 53:9). The apostle Peter, who had lived with Jesus, wrote, He committed no sin nor was deceit found in his mouth (1 Peter 2:22). Thus Christ’s death was to be an offering for sin. Isaiah 53:10 says, Though the Lord desired to crush him and make him ill, once restitution is made, he will see descendants and enjoy long life, and the Lord’s purpose will be accomplished through him. Hebrews 10:12-14 says, But when this priest had offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, he sat down at the right hand of God where he is now waiting until his enemies are made a footstool for his feet. For by one offering he has perfected for all time those who are made holy.
7. The Messiah would die by crucifixion.
Crucifixion was not a Jewish form of execution and therefore it is most remarkable that such a form of death would be predicted a thousand years before it took place under the Romans. Yet read this statement from Psalm 22:16, Yes, wild dogs surround me—a gang of evil men crowd around me; like a lion they pin my hands and feet. The Messiah would have His hands and feet pierced! In Psalm 34:20 we read, He protects all his bones; not one of them is broken When Jesus was crucified all this came true. His hands and feet were nailed to the cross, His side was pierced by a Roman spear, but no bone was broken even though the Roman governor had given orders to break His legs to hasten death. This historical fact is recorded as follows: There they crucified him along with two others, one on each side, with Jesus in the middle (John 19:18). Then, because it was the day of preparation, so that the bodies should not stay on the crosses on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was an especially important one), the Jewish leaders asked Pilate to have the victims’ legs broken and the bodies taken down. So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the two men who had been crucified with Jesus, first the one and then the other. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and blood and water flowed out immediately (John 19:31-34).
8. The Messiah’s clothing would be divided by gamblers at His death.
Here is what the Old Testament prophet said, They are dividing up my clothes among themselves; they are rolling dice for my garments (Psalm 22:18). The fulfillment of this is recorded in Matthew 27:35 which says, When they had crucified him, they divided his clothes by throwing dice.
9. The Messiah would die in the company of criminals.
Isaiah foretold, So I will assign him a portion with the multitudes, he will divide the spoils of victory with the powerful, because he willingly submitted to death and was numbered with the rebels, when he lifted up the sin of many and intervened on behalf of the rebels (Isaiah 53:12). Jesus was crucified between two thieves as Mark tells us, And they crucified two outlaws with him, one on his right and one on his left (Mark 15:27-28).
10. The Messiah would be buried in a rich man’s tomb.
The prophet said, They intended to bury him with criminals, but he ended up in a rich man’s tomb, because he had committed no violent deeds, nor had he spoken deceitfully (Isaiah 53:9). Normally a crucified person was buried by the Romans in a criminal’s grave. But Jesus was placed in a new tomb by Joseph. Matthew tells us what happened Now when it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who was also a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered that it be given to him. Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut in the rock. Then he rolled a great stone across the entrance of the tomb and went away (Matthew 27:57-60).
11. The Messiah would rise from the dead.
Psalm 16:10 foretold this in the words: You will not abandon me to Sheol; you will not allow your faithful follower to see the Pit. Isaiah also said, he will swallow up death permanently. The sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from every face, and remove his people’s disgrace from all the earth. Indeed, the Lord has announced it (Isaiah 25:8). Read the story of what happened in Matthew chapter 28, Mark chapter 16, Luke chapter 24, John chapter 20. Here again the written records are too long to reproduce in their entirety but read them for yourself in your Bible. Peter who knew all these matters first hand says, For David says about him, ‘I saw the Lord always in front of me, for he is at my right hand so that I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart was glad and my tongue rejoiced; my body also will live in hope, because you will not leave my soul in Hades, nor permit your Holy One to experience decay. You have made known to me the paths of life; you will make me full of joy with your presence.’ “Brothers, I can speak confidently to you about our forefather David, that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. So then, because he was a prophet and knew that God had sworn to him with an oath to seat one of his descendants on his throne, David by foreseeing this spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was neither abandoned to Hades, nor did his body experience decay (Acts 2:25-31). And Paul, who became convinced of the truth of Christ’s resurrection only after he had actually seen the risen Christ himself, says, For I passed on to you as of first importance what I also received—that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles (1 Corinthians 15:3-7).
12. The Messiah would give the Holy Spirit to those who believe in Him.
The prophet Isaiah foretold this as he did so many other details concerning the Messiah. He said, The Lord’s spirit will rest on him—a spirit that gives extraordinary wisdom, a spirit that provides the ability to execute plans, a spirit that produces absolute loyalty to the Lord. . . . For I will pour water on the parched ground and cause streams to flow on the dry land. I will pour my spirit on your offspring and my blessing on your children (Isaiah 11:2; 44:3). Jesus, too, promised that He would give the Holy Spirit and did so. John one of His immediate followers says And after he said this, he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. (John 20:22). A short while later, on the day of Pentecost (an annual ancient Jewish religious festival day) the Holy Spirit came as promised. The full story is recorded in Acts 2:1-18 together with a description of what effect this event had on the followers of Jesus and on the people of Jerusalem.
13. The Messiah would send His message of salvation to all nations.
This refers back to the promise in Genesis 22:18, All the nations of the earth will pronounce blessings on one another using the name of your descendants. Several Old Testament prophets amplified this theme, Isaiah in particular. He said, “I, the Lord, officially commission you; I take hold of your hand. I protect you and make you a covenant mediator for people, and a light to the nations, to open blind eyes, to release prisoners from dungeons, those who live in darkness from prisons. . . . he says, ‘Is it too insignificant a task for you to be my servant, to reestablish the tribes of Jacob, and restore the remnant of Israel? I will make you a light to the nations, so you can bring my deliverance to the remote regions of the earth.’ . . . . ‘Arise! Shine! For your light arrives! The splendor of the Lord shines on you! For, look, darkness covers the earth and deep darkness covers the nations, but the Lord shines on you; his splendor appears over you. . . . For the sake of Zion I will not be silent; for the sake of Jerusalem I will not be quiet, until her vindication shines brightly and her deliverance burns like a torch.’” Nations will see your vindication, and all kings your splendor. You will be called by a new name that the Lord himself will give you (Isaiah 42:6-7; 49:6; 60:1-2; 62:1-2). Now note the words of the Lord Jesus after His resurrection. He said, Then Jesus came up and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20). Read also the following Scriptures. He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). And repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem (Luke 24:47). But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the farthest parts of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
SOME PRACTICAL OBSERVATIONS
These are by no means all the prophecies which could be given for there are many more. These, however, are sufficient to show that predictions made by the prophets centuries before the time of Christ were fulfilled in the death and resurrection of Christ. And, as we have noticed with all the predictions we have studied, when the prophets wrote their predictions, no one could possibly have understood what they really meant; the meaning of the prophecies was made perfectly plain by their obvious fulfillment in the life and death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The absurd suggestion, made by some, that these prophecies were fabrications intended to deceive people scarcely merits a reply. The Jews themselves, to whom they were given, did not understand their meaning as referring to the coming Messiah so how could they have written them to deceive people?
Let us now summarize the facts briefly. The Old Testament prophets foretold the astonishing fact that the Messiah, when He would finally come to the people of Israel who had expected Him for centuries, would not be recognized by them. He would not fit in with their political aspirations and religious ideas, and so they would reject Him. The fulfillment of this is plainly stated in Acts 13:26-30 where we read, Brothers, descendants of Abraham’s family, and those Gentiles among you who fear God, the message of this salvation has been sent to us. For the people who live in Jerusalem and their rulers did not recognize him, and they fulfilled the sayings of the prophets that are read every Sabbath by condemning him. Though they found no basis for a death sentence, they asked Pilate to have him executed. When they had accomplished everything that was written about him, they took him down from the cross and placed him in a tomb. But God raised him from the dead.
How strange it is that people who profess to believe in the teachings of the holy prophets have failed to understand these amazing predictions which show that the death of Jesus was not a tragic disaster, but was a definite plan which God had foretold in the Scriptures.
The death of Jesus Christ is a fact of history. It was foretold in the writings of the prophets with scores of precise details to make the fulfillment easy to recognize. The fulfillment is recorded in the New Testament by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John who recount the details of the rejection, trial, crucifixion, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus as facts which were witnessed by hundreds of people. The rest of the New Testament, beginning from Acts chapter 2, makes frequent reference to these facts, and explains them as being planned by God in order that men might be saved from sin and set free from the power of Satan.
In spite of this, millions of people still refuse to believe that Jesus died on the cross as a sacrifice for sin. They are thus rejecting the Savior whose coming was promised for thousands of years, with many convincing prophecies all of which were dramatically fulfilled in the few short years that Jesus lived on earth. By refusing to believe the evidence of holy prophets and apostles, men are refusing to believe the word of God, and thus are guilty of the serious sin of rebellion against their Creator. You must either believe or reject God’s Word about the Savior. No one can remain neutral in this.