In this series of posts, we began with the prophecy of Daniel, which predicted the destruction of the second Jewish temple, and predicted the coming of the Messiah around the time that Jesus lived. We then examined some Old Testament passages, written hundreds of years before Jesus’ birth, which looked just like descriptions of his passion and death. But there is more!
In this final post, we will look at another one of Isaiah’s “Servant” passages. In Isaiah 49:5-7, there is another description of what the Servant will accomplish. It says that he would “restore the preserved ones of Israel,” that he would be a light to the nations by taking God’s salvation to the ends of the earth, that he would be despised by the nation (that is, by Israel), but that kings and princes would pay him honor. So the servant in this passage can’t be Israel. It also doesn’t apply to Isaiah. Does it fit with Jesus?
If you stop and think about it, you will realize that through the work which Jesus started, the Jewish Scriptures have been spread all around the entire world. He has been despised and rejected by most of the Jewish people, but throughout history kings and princes have indeed given him honor and glory as the King of kings. It is no exaggeration to say that he is the world’s most famous Jew. For most of earth’s inhabitants, history is literally divided into the time before his birth and after his birth. Through his life and ministry, countless millions of people have become followers of the God of Israel.
Someone might object that Jesus himself didn’t take the message to all the nations; it was his followers who did that. While the Christian could answer that Jesus was, in fact, present through the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers, that would require assuming that the stories are all true. But even if one simply understands that the teachings of Jesus in the New Testament have been taken to the ends of the earth, and that his name has been proclaimed the world over, the fulfillment of Isaiah 49 is clear.
So if Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah, the question then becomes this: Why didn’t most of the Jews recognize this? Some of them, of course, did; all of the earliest followers of Jesus were Jews. But most Jews did not, at least in part because Jesus did not fulfill many prophecies that seemed to speak of the Messiah ruling and reigning over all the earth, and bringing about universal peace. The New Testament teaches that Jesus does reign as Lord of all, that he conquered sin and death, and that one day He will rule and reign visibly over the whole world. This is a radical re-interpretation of some parts of the messianic prophecies. But isn’t it just a cop-out?
Well, the proof that it isn’t just a cop-out involves not only the very clear fulfillment of many of the messianic prophecies, but also the evidence that Jesus rose from the dead and appeared to many of His followers afterwards. This brief set of posts has only looked at the evidence for the former, by giving a small but significant taste of how Jesus fulfilled the prophecies of the Old Testament. Could it all be coincidence? That is highly unlikely based just on the prophecies that we have looked at – and there are many others that we could include. Nevertheless, I hope this has been an encouragement for you this Christmas season as a reminder of why we celebrate the birth of the Messiah who was foretold in the Scriptures: Jesus Christ.