Now that we’ve figured out why we need Jesus and why God sent Him to earth in human form, there’s actually much more to this story.
God-man didn’t just “show up” one day to let us know that things were finally going to start looking up for us. When royalty come to town, they let people know they’re coming, and people get ready. God let us know when, where, and how Jesus was coming. And if you’re thinking, “No big deal. He just sent a messenger ahead of him or something,” think again.
Around 700 years before Jesus was born, this prophecy was given:
Isaiah 7:14 Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.
A virgin will be pregnant … how? Nobody knew. And yet 700 years before it happened, God instructed Isaiah to write it down so that everyone would know. By the way, “Immanuel” means “God with us.”
The New Testament tells us that “Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be?’ And the angel answered, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:26–35).
So, right from the get-go, Jesus’ life on earth was a miracle. That’s pretty amazing, isn’t it? But it gets way better.
After the “how,” the “where”: a full 800 years before Jesus was born, the prophet Micah foretold the exact village where the Messiah would be born:
Micah 5:2 But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting.
It may not be the easiest thing to do, but try and picture this: 800 years before the fact, God said Jesus would be born in Bethlehem. A hundred years later, He lets one of His prophets, Isaiah, know that Jesus would be born of a virgin.
The Lord chooses Mary, and she becomes pregnant miraculously. But Mary and Joseph live about a hundred miles from Bethlehem, in Nazareth, and without the kind of transport we have today, that was no doubt a pretty long journey.
God engineered things so Jesus’ birth happened just as it had been prophesied so many hundreds of years earlier. Caesar (all the way over in Rome) makes a decree that everyone needs to go back to the city of their ancestors to be taxed. Joseph’s ancestors were from Bethlehem, so off he goes with his pregnant wife, and they get to Bethlehem just in time for the baby to be born.
In that same prophecy about where the Messiah would be born, it also says that the Messiah “has been of old, from days of eternity.” Another way to say that is “the Messiah has always been around, but He’s going to be born in Bethlehem.”
While Jesus was on earth, He said, “Before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58). Abraham lived about 2,000 years before Jesus was born to Mary. So Jesus was talking about His pre-earth existence with God before His life on earth in the form of a man.
So now we have the where and the how of the Messiah’s arrival. But God gave many, many more prophecies about different aspects of Jesus’ time on earth. Let’s look at a few more.
Another prophecy about the Messiah was given by King David over 1,000 years before Jesus was born. In his prophecy, David gives details of a cruel and painful death:
Psalm 22:14-18 I am poured out like water, And all My bones are out of joint; My heart is like wax; It has melted within Me. My strength is dried up like a potsherd, And My tongue clings to My jaws; You have brought Me to the dust of death. For dogs have surrounded Me; The congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me. They pierced My hands and My feet; I can count all My bones. They look and stare at Me. They divide My garments among them, And for My clothing they cast lots.
Who was King David talking about? Well, he wasn’t talking about himself, as he died a peaceful, natural death. This is a very accurate prophecy about the cruel death of the Messiah. Let’s look at some of the details in the above prophecy:
I am poured out like water … My heart is melted within Me. The New Testament tells us that shortly after Jesus died, while He was still hanging on the cross, “one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water flowed out” (John 19:34).
Medical science has confirmed that, because of the way Jesus was put to death, things could have happened to His heart that caused a watery liquid to form around it, so that when the soldier pierced His side, it “poured forth like water.”
Oh, and by the way, that bit about the soldier piercing Him? Also a prophecy. (See Zechariah 12:10.)
All My bones are out of joint. That’s one of the things that happens during crucifixion; the limbs get out of joint.
For dogs have surrounded Me; The congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me. This one is easy to picture when you know that a bunch of the people who condemned Jesus to death were standing around mocking and making fun of Him while He was dying.
They pierced My hands and My feet. Remember who gave this prophecy? King David, right? Well, at the time of King David, no one in Israel was killed in that way. People who were executed were usually stoned, as that was the law for criminals. But this prophecy specifically talks about hands and feet being pierced.
They divide My garments among them, And for My clothing they cast lots. Did this happen? Well, let’s look at these verses:
John 19:23–24 Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took His garments and made four parts, to each soldier a part, and also the tunic. Now the tunic was without seam, woven from the top in one piece. They said therefore among themselves, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be,” that the Scripture might be fulfilled which says: “They divided My garments among them, And for My clothing they cast lots.” Therefore the soldiers did these things.
Another prophecy about the events surrounding Jesus’ death was given through Zechariah, almost 500 years before it happened:
Zechariah 11:12 Then I said to them, “If it is agreeable to you, give me my wages; and if not, refrain.” So they weighed out for my wages thirty pieces of silver.
The Gospels tell us that on the night that Jesus was arrested by His enemies, Judas went to the chief priests and said to them, “’What will you give me if I deliver Him to you?’ and they counted out for him 30 pieces of silver” (Matthew 26:14, 15).
It’s pretty amazing that 500 years before it happened, Zechariah wrote down the exact amount. But that’s not all. The next verse says:
Zechariah 11:13 And the Lord said to me, “Throw it to the potter”—that princely price they set on me. So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the house of the Lord for the potter.
Do you remember what happened to those 30 pieces of silver after Judas betrayed the Lord? Well, Judas goes back to the priests and throws the silver in the temple. The priests can’t put it into their treasury because it’s blood money—money that was involved in the spilling of blood—and so they’re wondering how to use it, and they decide to buy a field from a potter so that they can bury foreigners in it.
How accurate is that for a 500-years-before-the-fact quote: “Cast to the potter in the house of the Lord” is exactly what happened!
Back to Isaiah. Here is yet another prophecy about the Messiah: In 712 BC, Isaiah predicted that the Son of God would be given “a grave with the wicked, but with the rich in His death” (Isaiah 53:9). Jesus was condemned as a criminal, a “wicked man,” and when He died, the Bible tells us “two robbers were crucified with Him” (Matthew 27:38). A rich man named Joseph of Arimathea went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus, and when Joseph had taken the body, he laid it in his own new tomb (Matthew 27:57–60).—A “grave with the rich!”
And now back to King David: 1,000 years before Jesus was born, the Spirit of God prophesied through King David that the Savior would be resurrected from the dead:
Psalm 16:10 KJV For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.
King David died and was buried in a grave, so his flesh saw corruption. But Jesus was raised from the grave three days after His death!
Now that we’ve looked at these prophecies, let’s take a step back and look at the implications. To make sure that everyone knew who Jesus was when He came, God put several hundred prophecies into the Old Testament about what the Messiah would do, including the prophecies that we have just read.
The real puzzler is this: if Jesus was “just a man,” how could he choose where he is born? Or what mortal man can—or would—cause the officials of a foreign government to order his death by an extremely painful execution? How could anyone make their bitter enemies pay a specific price to betray them, and mock them while they are dying? Can a normal person cause a band of soldiers to gamble for his clothing while he’s dying, then make them pierce his side after he died? What kind of man could convince a rich man to bury his body in the rich man’s own personal tomb—all just because he wanted to prove that his existence was the fulfillment of prophecies that were given and recorded several hundred years earlier?
Remember, only by fulfilling all of these prophecies could Jesus really prove that He was who He claimed to be.
And besides these prophecies, there are over 300 more recorded prophecies related to Jesus that were also fulfilled, which include many details of Jesus’ birth, life, ministry, death, and resurrection! The bottom line is that there is only one person whose life was ever foretold with such specific detail, and this one person is the Son of God.
There have been many great religious leaders through history—Mohammed, Buddha, Confucius, Moses, and many more—but not one of these ever claimed to be God, or the Son of God. That is a very important fact to remember, because this is the greatest difference between Jesus and all the other great teachers throughout the ages.
Many teachers spoke of love and understanding, but Jesus was the only one who rightfully claimed that He was God and that He was love—God’s love for the world.