We read in Acts 2 that when Peter preached to the huge crowd that gathered on the Day of Pentecost he shared with them prophecies about how Messiah had to rise from the dead. The Bible says he talked with them for a long time (where he no doubt explained with example after example how Jesus fulfilled the prophesies written about Messiah). After he went through these prophecies showing how Jesus fulfilled each one, the Bible says that about three thousand people recognized Jesus as God’s promised Messiah, their Savior. From this example we see that Messianic prophecies help non-Christians recognize Jesus as God’s promised Messiah, the Savior of the world.
Let’s look at a small sampling of these prophecies (There are 191 specific Messianic prophecies. If you include the symbolic prophecies too there are over 300):
First let’s look at PROPHECIES ABOUT MESSIAH’S ANCESTRY.
- After a flood wiped out the vast majority of earth’s inhabitants God repopulated the earth through Noah’s three sons: Ham, Shem and Japheth. God told us that His Messiah would come through the line of Shem.
- Shem had kids, grandkids, great grandkids, etc. And of all Shem’s descendants God said that Messiah would come through a man named Abraham.
- Abraham had Isaac. Isaac had Jacob. And Jacob had 12 sons that became the twelve tribes of Israel. God said that Messiah would come through the tribe of Judah.
- And of the hundreds if not thousands of families in the tribe of Judah, God said Messiah would come through the family of David.
- God was specific: The Messiah would come through the line of Shem…through the line of Abraham…from the tribe of Judah…from the family of David.
- Now in Luke 3 you read this long genealogy about Jesus. If you’ve ever come across it you’ve probably skipped it thinking “This is worthless.” But actually, that’s there for the sole purpose of showing you that in fulfillment of biblical prophecy, Jesus descended from the line of Shem, then more specifically through the line of Abraham, then more specifically through the tribe of Judah, then even more specifically through the family of David.
- That’s why Luke 3 says that Jesus was the son of Shem (v.36), the son of Abraham (v.34) and the son of David (v.31).
Second, let’s look at PROPHECIES ABOUT MESSIAH’S BIRTH.
- God told us through his prophets that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem Ephrathah – that is, Bethlehem Judah.
- You see, each of the 12 tribes of Israel received a tribal allotment of land. Judah got land, Zebulun got land, Rueben got land, etc. Well, there was a Bethlehem in both Judah and in Zebulun, just as there’s a Springfield here in Massachusetts and a Springfield in Missouri.
- Not wanting to be vague, God said ahead of time that Messiah would come from the Bethlehem in Judah, not some other Bethlehem (like the one in Zebulun).
- Well as we know from history, Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the one in Judah. And what’s so impressive about this is that Jesus’ parents lived in Nazareth which was about 75 miles away from Bethlehem. The only reason Jesus was born in Bethlehem and not Nazareth was because Caesar Augustus commanded that a census be taken of the whole Roman empire and all the Jews had to head back to their tribal headquarters.
- Well since Joseph was from the tribe of Judah, he headed to Bethlehem in Judah, where the registration for the tribe of Judah was taking place.
- And when they arrived, Mary, a virgin, gave birth to Jesus fulfilling yet another prophecy about Messiah.
Third, let’s look at PROPHECIES ABOUT MESSIAH’S BETRAYAL.
- God told us in advance that Messiah would be betrayed by a close friend. That this betrayer would be paid 30 pieces of silver and that after betraying Messiah, he would return the money with remorse for what he had done.
- As we know, Judas betrayed Jesus, was paid 30 pieces of silver to do it and then afterwards went to the chief priests and confessed: I have sinned. I have betrayed innocent blood. The chief priests (compassionate men they were) said: What’s that to us? That’s your problem. With great remorse, Judas threw the 30 pieces of silver on the Temple floor…then went out and hung himself for what he had done to Jesus.
Fourth, let’s look at PROPHECIES ABOUT MESSIAH’S CRUCIFIXION.
- God said Messiah would die with sinners. Jesus was crucified with a criminal to his right and to his left.
- God said Messiah would be mocked by those who killed him. Those who crucified Jesus mockingly put a crown of thorns on his head and put a sign over his cross that said “King of the Jews.”
- God said Messiah would pray for the very people that killed him. On the cross Jesus prayed: Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.
- God said that additionally, Messiah’s clothes would be gambled for. During Jesus’ crucifixion the Roman soldiers gambled for Jesus’ clothes.
Finally, let’s look at PROPHECIES ABOUT MESSIAH’S BURIAL AND RESURRECTION.
- God said Messiah would be buried. Now the Romans typically disposed of the bodies of crucified criminals by feeding them to the wild dogs. But though Jesus was crucified as a criminal, he wasn’t fed to the dogs, rather was buried.
- God said that Messiah would be buried with the rich. Who buried Jesus? The Bible says it was a rich man named Joseph who was from Arimathea (who had become a disciple of Jesus).
- But God also said that no tomb would be able to hold the Messiah, for he would conquer death by rising from the grave. Consequently, when the disciples were at Jesus’ tomb wondering what happened to his body, two angels appeared and said to them: “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen!
God’s intent has always been that through these prophecies we would recognize that Jesus is God’s promised Messiah.