“TELL ME THE STORY OF JESUS”: THE STORY OF JESUS IN PROPHECY
By Wayne S. Walker
In 1880, the famous hymn writer Fanny J. Crosby penned the words to the well-known gospel song “Tell Me the Story of Jesus” with music by John R. Sweney. In that song, she mentioned several aspects of Jesus’s life on earth, such as His earthly incarnation, His virgin birth, His temptations, His years of labor and ministry, His sorrows and suffering that He bore, His death upon the cross, and His resurrection from the dead. All these facts about Jesus and their meaning to us are revealed in the New Testament. But consider what Jesus said in Luke 24:44-46:
“Then He said to them, ‘These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.’ And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures. Then He said to them, ‘Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day.’” Throughout the Hebrew Scriptures there are numerous predictions concerning the coming of the Messiah or Christ. In this article, we want to go back to the Old Testament and look at the story of Jesus in prophecy.
The purpose of His coming is revealed in Genesis 3:15. God told the serpent, who represented the devil, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.” The Seed of the woman (Galatians 4:4) would crush the head of the serpent. Jesus Himself declared that He must first bind the strong man, Satan, and then He could spoil his goods or cast out his demon (Matthew 12:22-29). The writer of Hebrews 2:13-15 says of Christ that He died to “destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil.” And John tells us, “…For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8). Paul makes an interesting reference to this prophecy in Romans 16:20. “And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly….”
The lineage of His coming is also predicted. The Messiah was to be of the seed of Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3, 22:17-18); of the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:10); and a descendant of David (2 Samuel 7:12-13). All three of these individuals are mentioned as ancestors of Jesus in Matthew 1:1-3. Regarding the seed of Abraham, Paul wrote, “Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, ‘And to seeds,’ as of many, but as of one, ‘And to your Seed,’ who is Christ” (Galatians 3:16). It is argued in Hebrews 7:12-14 that there must be a change in the law because Christ is a high priest not from the tribe of Levi but of Judah. And in Acts 2:29-30, Peter points out that Jesus was the fruit of David’s body.
The manner of His coming is predicted in Isaiah 7:14. The prophet Isaiah said to King Ahaz of Judah, “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.” It would be a virgin birth. Sometimes people wonder how this would be a sign to Ahaz. “…[I]t could be saying that a God who is powerful enough to have even a virgin conceive a son is powerful enough to save His people from their enemies.” However, there is no doubt as to how the inspired New Testament writers understood it. When Joseph found that his fiancée Mary was pregnant and knew that he was not the father, an angel appeared to tell him what was going on, and then Matthew explained, “So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: ‘Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,’ which is translated, ‘God with us’” (Matthew 1:18-23). Mary herself confirms this when an angel appears to tell her what was happening and she replied, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?” (Luke 1:26-35). If anyone was in a position to know if she were a virgin, it was Mary herself.
His suffering and death are predicted in Isaiah 53:1-9. In this chapter, the prophet Isaiah presents the Messiah as Suffering Servant. Notice a couple of specific examples of fulfillment. “Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted” (v. 4). This is quoted in Matthew 9:16-17 as being fulfilled in the healings which Christ did as a foreshadowing of His compassion leading to the provisions which He made for our forgiveness. “He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth” (v. 7). While this verse is never actually quoted in the New Testament, it is clear from the context that Isaiah is talking about a trial (v. 8), and when Jesus stood before both the high priest and Pilate, it is said that He “kept silent” and “He answered him not one word” (Matthew 26:62-63, 27:12-14). Furthermore, we know that Isaiah’s prophecy was fulfilled in Jesus because in Acts 8:26-35, when the Ethiopian eunuch was reading from Isaiah 53, “Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him.”
His resurrection is predicted in Psalm 16:9-11. Notice especially v. 10, “For You will not leave my soul in Sheol, nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.” The Bible affirms that Jesus “rose early on the first day of the week” (Mark 16:9). In Acts chapter two, on the day of Pentecost, the inspired apostle Peter, in preaching about the resurrection of Jesus, quoted from Psalm 16, pointed out that the writer David was still dead and buried in the tomb, and then claimed that David “spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption” in fulfillment of Psalm 16 (vv. 22-28, 31-32). And this fact is very important to the faith of Christians. Paul wrote, “Concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead” (Romans 1:3-4).
The place of His coming is predicted in Micah 5:2. “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting.” The coming Ruler of Israel, whose goings are from everlasting, would be born in Bethlehem, formerly known as Ephrathah. This town is first mentioned in Genesis 35:19 as the place of Rachel’s death and burial. There were other Bethlehems in Israel, especially one in the tribe of Zebulon used as a boundary marker (Joshua 19:15). However, when the Wise Men came to Jerusalem asking where the King of the Jews would be born, the chief priests and scribes knew exactly where to turn for the answer and said that it would be Bethlehem—not in Zebulon but in Judah (Matthew 2:1-6). And even though Joseph and Mary lived in Nazareth of Galilee, by God’s providence this specific Bethlehem was precisely where Jesus was born (Luke 2:1-7).
When Peter was preaching to the crowd gathered at Solomon’s Porch of the temple following the healing of the lame man at the Gate Beautiful, he said, “For Moses truly said to the fathers, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your brethren. Him you shall hear in all things, whatever He says to you. And it shall be that every soul who will not hear that Prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people.’ Yes, and all the prophets, from Samuel and those who follow, as many as have spoken, have also foretold these days” (Acts 3:22-24). Yes, all of the prophecies concerning the coming of the Messiah or Christ were fulfilled completely by Jesus of Nazareth.
—in Search for Truth; Aug. 30 and Sept. 5, 2015; Vol. VII, Nos. 5 & 6