“thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day” (Luke 24:46)
Jesus spoke these words to his disciples who were gathered together and were wondering as to what had happened to their Lord. The sudden demise of their Lord had caught them unaware, though the Lord had told them about all these things beforehand. Added to all these, talks about his resurrection and appearance to some were going on. The rumors of his body being stolen were also doing the rounds. They had all kinds of perplexing questions in their mind. Why was their Lord crucified? If he was the expected Messiah, why would he suffer and die? What about his kingdom? What about all this news of the resurrection of the Lord? Jesus entered into the room where his disciples were gathered together and says to them, “all things must be fulfilled which were written…” Luke 24:44. Jesus then explains that the Scriptures bear witness that it was necessary for Christ to suffer and rise from the dead the third day.
Jesus came as a long time fulfillment of the Messianic hope of the Old Testament. The idea of a Messiah (savior), though is hinted in Psalms, the ideal of a Messianic King could be traced back to the prophesies of Isaiah, Micah and many other prophets. But even these prophesies gave only a few glimpses of the coming Messiah. The prophetic image of the Messiah was that of an ideal figure who would save his people. The mission, suffering and the resurrection of the Messiah could be gleaned from these prophetical literatures. The Scriptures record that Jesus fulfilled all those prophesies about him. Let us examine the Scripture portions that prophesied the cross and resurrection of our Lord Jesus.
Prophecies fulfilled in the cross of Jesus
There are numerous prophecies which point directly or indirectly to the cross and the suffering of Christ. These prophecies are important as they are a powerful evidence of the accuracy of the Bible and its divine inspiration. Even though these prophecies were written by several different authors, they were divinely fulfilled! These prophecies are significant as they point to the fact that Jesus came as fulfillment of God’s promises and that God had ordained and prepared the history of humankind for the mission of His Son. The mission of Jesus was not something that came out of the blue, as if it was an afterthought that came in the mind of God to make his Son to die for the world. The cross of Jesus was preordained by the Father, and it was communicated to His people. Let us examine some of these Scriptures that speak about the cross of Jesus.
Isaiah 53 is a classic prophecy about the suffering Messiah. “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and familiar with sufferings.(vs.3) But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.(vs. 5)” The entire chapter is a graphic portrayal of the crucifixion of the Lord.
Psalms 22:1-2 – “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” was fulfilled on the cross as Jesus cried, “Eloi, Eloi, Lama Sabchthani?”
Zechariah 13:7 – “Awake, O sword, against My Shepherd, And against the Man who is My companion” declares the Lord of hosts. “Strike the Shepherd that the sheep may be scattered; And I will turn My hand against the little ones.” was fulfilled in Matthew 26:56. “But all this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets may be fulfilled. Then all the disciples left Him and fled.”
Isaiah 50:6 – “I gave My back to those who strike Me, And My cheeks to those who pluck out the beard; I did not cover My face from humiliation and spitting.”
Psalm 22:16 – “They pierced my hands and my feet.”
Psalm 22:18 – “They divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.”
Psalms 34:20 – “He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken” was fulfilled in John 19:33; “but coming to Jesus when they saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs… For these things came to pass that the Scriptures might be fulfilled, not one of His bones shall be broken.”
Zechariah 12:10 – “…so they will look on Me whom they have pierced” was fulfilled as the soldiers pierced the side of Jesus with a spear (John 19:34-37).
Prophesies fulfilled in the resurrection of Jesus
The raising of Jesus from the dead was unlike all the other restorations to life mentioned in the Bible. The raising up of Lazarus and the daughter of Jairus are described as returning to ordinary life only to die again, but Jesus is portrayed as conquering death, was glorified and taken to heavenly glories. Though the resurrection of Jesus is not prophesied as such in the Old Testament yet some of the OT sayings have been applied by the New Testament writers as prophetical statements referring to the resurrection of the Lord. That the OT Scriptures does speak about the resurrection of the Lord is clearly evident from Jesus’ admonishing the disciples concerning their failure to understand the prophecies concerning His suffering and resurrection (Luke 24:44f). Let us examine some of these OT references to resurrection of Christ.
The resurrection of the coming savior is prophesied in Isaiah 53. After describing His sufferings the prophet promises that “when thou shall make His soul an offering for sin…He shall prolong His days, and the pleasures of the Lord shall prosper in His hand” (Isaiah 53:10). Then he goes on to say, “He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many. For He shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great…” (Isaiah 53: 9, 12)
A prophecy that was used by the apostles when they first began proclaiming Christ’s resurrection is found in Psalms 16:9-11 (quoted in Acts 2:25-28; 13:35-37). “My flesh also shall rest in hope. For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou wilt show me the path of life: in thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Psalm 16:9-11). These verse poetically describe about the resurrection of Jesus.
Psalm 110:1 give special insight concerning His ascension after the resurrection. “The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.” The Hebrew reads: “Jehovah said unto my Adonai,” referring to God the Father speaking to the Son. This verse has been applied to Christ numerous times in the New Testament.
Zechariah 12:10 is also noteworthy concerning Jesus’ resurrection, “They shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for Him, as one mourns for his only son.”
These are some of the explicit prophecies which Jesus fulfilled through his suffering on the cross and his resurrection. However the people of God, the Jewish nation, could not believe in the Messiah and his cross (ignoring the resurrection totally), as their hearts were hardened to understand the meaning of these Scriptures. Even the disciples failed to grasp the significance of these prophesies and they repeatedly were puzzled by the very thought of Messiah being crucified. The preconceived notions about the Messiah as their national deliverer had such a strong influence on the Jewish people (of whom the disciples were also part) that after the death of Jesus we hear the despairing statement of the disciples on the road to Emmaus, “But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel” (Luke 24:21). Furthermore even when Jesus appeared to them after resurrection, the idea that Jesus would now restore the kingdom to Israel still lingered in their hearts. It was only after the infilling of the Holy Spirit that they could clearly understand and figure out their faith in the Jesus as their Lord.
What are the implications of these prophetic fulfillments of OT prophecies about the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ?
1. The mission of Jesus Christ was promised by the Scriptures and Jesus fulfilled each of those prophetic promises. Jesus is the hope of the humankind and the only Way to eternal life prepared and preordained by God. The plan of God, set before the foundation of the world, could be seen unfolding in the life, suffering and resurrection of the Savior.
2. That the people of God, the Jews, could not recognize the Messiah, is a sharp reminder for us today that there is a possibility for us to miss the second coming of the Savior and be locked out of the unfolding of the eternal purpose for God’s creation. With all our charts prepared about the future events, but without our hearts prepared for the Lord’s will, and with all our preconceived ideas about the future kingdom but without perceiving the true essence of God’s kingdom; there is a lurking danger that we may be caught unaware of Christ’s second coming.
It is a matter of irony that when the little boy Jesus was brought to the Jerusalem Temple for dedication, the ‘holy hands’ of the Priests who were dedicating Jesus and the scholarly minds of the Scribes and Pharisees could not behold Jesus as the Son of God, but He was revealed to eyes of the old man Simon and the old woman Anna. They were the commoners in the Temple but their hearts were burning with the Messianic prophecies, their eyes waiting to see the Messiah, ears tuned to the voice of the Spirit and mouth eager to speak about redemption promised by the Lord.