JESUS IN AND ON PROPHECY IN THE PROMISES
The people of Israel were afraid to face God and petitioned Moses to ask God to raise up prophets that were fit to speak to God in their behalf. Moses was informed, “What they say is good. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers; I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him. If anyone does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name, I myself will call him to account” (Deut. 18:17-19). There were many that God called and the last one according to Jesus was John the Baptist (Mt. 11:13). Jesus himself was God’s final and last word to mankind; that was what the writer to the Hebrews believed (Heb. 1:1-4).
To John Zebedee, Jesus was the very “Word of God” that created everything (Jn. 1:1-3). To Matthew he was “Immanuel – God with us” (Mt. 1:23). To John the Baptist He was “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn. 1:29). Nathanael called Jesus, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel” (Jn. 1:49). Nicodemus recognized Jesus as, “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him” (Jn. 3:2). To Peter Jesus was “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mt. 16:16). And to Paul, there was no single word or phrase that defined Jesus the Christ. He was “the only access” to God the Father for a person to get back on good terms with God (Ro. 5:1-11).
Jesus was concerned about his identity. He asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is” Mt. 16:13)? He referred to himself as “The Son of Man.” At the trial and only in Mark, when the High Priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?” Jesus said, “I am” (Mk. 14:61-62). Matthew has Jesus reply, “You say I am” (Mt. 26:64; in Luke, Jesus answered, “If I tell you, you will not believe me, and if I asked you, you would not answer” (Lk. 22:67). In John, in order to crucify Jesus, the Jewish leaders used their own interpretation of the law to kill Jesus, “We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God;” but, the Romans did not allow the Jews to kill anyone, so they turned Jesus into a king who opposed Caesar (Jn. 18:31; 19:7,15). Jesus admitted that He was a king but not over a kingdom in this world (Jn. 18:36-37). When Pilate told Jesus that he had power to free or execute him, Jesus informed him, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above” (Jn. 19:11). “No one takes it (my life) from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father” (Jn. 10:18). Jesus knew He was the one Moses spoke of (Jn. 5:39-41). He began His ministry with the Spirit of the Lord being upon him (Lk. 4:16-21). He was willing to be sent down from heaven to do the will of his Father (Jn. 6:38). After a short stay, He would return to the One that sent him (Jn. 7:33). Jesus shared the same heavenly nature with the Father (Jn. 10:30, 38; 14:9-10). Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that He had come from God and was returning to God (Jn. 13:3). He promised his disciples, “I am going away and I am coming back to you” (Jn. 14:28). ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me.” Jesus was not looking to his second coming but to his return from the grave that would bring great joy (Jn. 16:16-22) and for indwelling his followers with his glorified presence or the Holy Spirit (Jn. 14:23).
The real and primary reason for the Son of Man being in the world was, “He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again” Mk. 8:31). Again, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise” (Mk. 9:31). And a third time, “We are going up to Jerusalem,” he said, “and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise” (Mk. 10:33-34). The reason why Jesus “must” (Greek dei) suffer and die, “For the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mk. 10:45). Both, Matthew (16:21-28) and Luke (9:22) agree with Mark and used the word “must” (dei). There was no alternative route for Jesus to take. For the rising or being resurrected, Mark consistently used “anastenai. It had to do with getting up, or coming back from an inactive condition with the help of someone else. In that sense, Jesus did come back from the dead. Matthew used “egerthenai” indicating being energized to wake up from slumbering or a coma. Luke appeared to be aware of the difficulty to explain Jesus’ return from the dead by using both words “anastenai” and “egerthenai.” Regarding the dual nature of Christ, it took the first Christians more than three centuries of debates that without faith Jesus the Christ remained a divine mystery. Faith makes the wisest foolish and the foolish that believe the wisest. “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (I Cor. 1:18-31).
Moses was not the only one that predicted the coming of the man to bring us God’s last message. There are many references that remind us of someone like Jesus. Here are just a few. Some 35 years before Jerusalem was leveled, the dwellers of that city struck the shepherd (Zech. 13:7). One of his own betrayed him (Ps. 41:9). With his blood money they bought the Potter’s Field (Zech. 11:12-13; Jer. 32: 6-9). They drove him to utter despair in Gethsemane (Mt. 27:46; Ps. 22:1). They crucified him with two robbers (Isa. 53:12). They divided his garments (Ps. 22:18). They did not break his bones (Ex. 12:46; Num. 9:12; Ps. 34:20). They pierced his side and then looked at their handiwork (Zech. 12:10). All of the above was done because “They hated me without a cause” (Ps. 35:19; 69: 4). This, then, was the reward for having come to take their infirmities and diseases (Isa. 53:4; Ho. 10:8). Isaiah 53 was a forecast of Mark 10:45. One has to be severely blinded not to see a portrait of the life, mission and redemptive suffering of Jesus the Servant of God. Please read and amaze yourself. It is stunning! The mystery of all mysteries was that God had become a man for our sake in order to show us that a human being could redeem himself and others in this sinful and fallen world. Jesus proved with his life that a person could believe and become a worthy recipient of a life with God. Jesus did not preach what was impossible, but what was possible. His followers then and even today believe it is impossible (Mk. 10:27). Those that hate a good person do not want to know how good one can be. The guards that were sent to arrest Jesus reported, “No one ever spoke the way this man does.” And when Nicodemus asked, “Does our law condemn a man without first hearing him to find out what he was doing?” Their reply was that he was not coming from the right place (Jn. 7:45-52). When the Jewish leaders dragged Jesus before Pilate, he concluded his examination and declared, ”I find no basis for a charge against him” (Jn. 18:38). By Roman law, he had to release Jesus. His last plea was, “Shall I crucify your king?” The chief priests insisted that they were loyal to Caesar and therefore Jesus had to be removed. Then, “Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified” (Jn. 19:14-16). Who were the “them?” When the chief priests appealed to Caesar, Pilate no longer could crucify Jesus but should have sent him to Rome like Paul was later on. Instead, he did the only thing he could do was hand Jesus back to the Jews and put them in charge. The eyewitness insisted that what he wrote was the truth (Jn. 21:24) and so did the Roman officer in charge of this illegal execution when he too was convinced, “Surely he was the Son of God” (Mt. 27:54). For the other evangelists, who were not eyewitnesses, the shifting of guilt to the Romans was easier to live with. Jesus did not accept the shifting of guilt. “Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin” (Jn. 19:11).
His rejection by his own people was an illegal and inhumane act and the attempt by an enemy governor to free him must have been an unbearable shock to the Jewish leaders. Even heaven hid its face from the people that once were designated as the people of God. Not even the fall of Adam was that heinous. I am not making this up. Read for yourself what took place on that infamous day. The night before he was betrayed and arrested, “Jesus was troubled in spirit” (Jn. 13:21). In prayer at Gethsemane He begged the Father, if it were at all possible to take the cup from him; but it was not (Mk. 14:32-42). On his way to the cross, He told his mourners, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children. For the time will come when you will say, ‘Blessed are the barren women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed’” (Lk. 23:28-29). In spite of the rejection and inhumane treatment, Jesus pleaded, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Lk. 23:34). While He was being nailed to the cross, “From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over the land. About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? My God, my God, why have you forsaken me” (Mt. 27:45-46)? Luke has, “the sun stopped shinning and the curtain in the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out in a loud voice, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.’ When he had said this, he breathed his last” (Lk. 23:45-46). Then, “The earth shook and the rocks split. The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus’ resurrection they went into the city and appeared to many people” (Mt. 27:51-53). This was the beginning of a prediction Jesus had made during his ministry. “I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself” (Jn. 5:25-26).
The greatest of all the promises is life itself. God allows us to live first before we shall be held accountable. We are in the world to seek his kingdom and do his will. We are told that if Christ is for us then no one can be against us. But, if we are against Christ then who can be for us? Can He defend us if we deny everything He instructed us to do? He is the only voice that echoes God’s will for us. And He is not willing to let anyone of us perish. If we do perish then it is our fault; for Christ has done everything possible on God’s side. Now it is up to us to hear his voice and come back to God.