If Christianity was cunningly devised by human intellect it’s doubtful the script would have started off by arranging the death of its hero. If you’ve followed earlier posts in this blog, the next point won’t be a surprise: the Jewish scriptures predicted that their Messiah would be dealt a mortal blow. Consider the following statements from their Prophets:
“…they will look on Me [i.e. Jehovah] whom they pierced” (Zechariah 12:10)
“Awake, O sword, against My Shepherd, Against the Man who is My Companion,” Says the LORD of hosts. “Strike the Shepherd, And the sheep will be scattered (Zechariah 13:7)
“And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself (Daniel 9:26)
In addition to plain predictions like these, the scriptures record a number of pictures of Christ’s death that in retrospect make sense of otherwise obscure historical events. In Genesis 22 God commanded Abraham to sacrifice to Him his only son Isaac, whom he deeply loved. In the end Abraham was not asked to follow through. The episode’s primary purpose was to probe Abraham’s faith: did he trust God to fulfil the promises He made to Abraham – which relied on Isaac staying alive and having a family. Read Hebrews 11:17-19 to get the answer. But the idea of a father willing to sacrifice his son is exactly what happened when Jesus died on the cross. Deliberately putting a loved one in a position of suffering is unthinkable to our minds. Yet that is how far God went in His love toward us. He sent Jesus Christ, His only Son whom He loved, into this world – to the shame and pain of death on a cross – to meet our deepest need (John 3:16).
In addition to predictions and pictures, the scriptures also contain particulars of His death – tiny details about how He would die. John draws attention to four scriptures that found a fulfilment at the cross (John 19:24, 28, 31-36, 37). Ponder one of them: John’s record of the purely functional act undertaken by the Roman soldiers, to speed up the death of the three people crucified that day:
Therefore, because it was the Preparation [Day], that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and [that] they might be taken away. Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who was crucified with Him. 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 immediately blood and water came out. And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you may believe. For these things were done that the Scripture should be fulfilled, “Not [one] of His bones shall be broken.” And again another Scripture says, “They shall look on Him whom they pierced.” (John 19:31-37).
The reference to unbroken bones appears at least twice in the scriptures, first in Exodus 12:46 which in context gives instructions to the Jews on how to treat their Passover lamb. This reference implies that the death of Jesus Christ fulfilled the meaning of the Passover ceremony and provided redemption from sin. An unbroken bone reference also appears in Psalm 34:20 which in context describes God’s care of the “righteous”. This reference hints at the tender care of God toward His righteous Son even at the moment He was suffering crucifixion, at the moment men were treating Him as unrighteous by awarding Him a criminal’s death.
There is a great irony in Jesus’ death – His own people turned against Him because they did not want to accept Him as their Christ (John 10:33). Yet in crucifying Him in blind rage they fulfilled their own scriptures. Instead of crushing His claim to be Christ, they confirmed it (Acts 13:27-29)! The Roman soldiers could hardly be accused of having an agenda to fulfil the Jews’ scriptures – they were simply doing their job, unaware that their actions were prophetically significant. Taken in isolation, one fulfilled prediction might be regarded as coincidence. However when many prophecies are fulfilled the odds of them all being coincidental are mind-boggling.
What do you think? Have we shown you enough evidence yet in this blog series to convince you that Jesus is the Christ?