So many prophecies, so little time…
- Common Service, p15 (Christian Worship)
- Lessons: Zechariah 9:9-10, Psalm 24, Philippians 2:5-11, Matthew 21:1-11
- Hymns (CW): 131, 134, 130, 133
In the Name of Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh.
One of the great debates in Biblical studies centers on Messianic prophecy. Are there Old Testament words that describe the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus? For many scholars today, the debate is over. The words that many have called “Messianic” (including New Testament writers) are said to be about current kings, the people of Israel, or someone contemporary with that writing. There are only “prophecies” that Jesus attributed to Himself, that later Christians saw as being fulfilled in Christ, or that writers, like Matthew, appropriated for their own purpose. Some, less liberal, are willing to grant the existence of prophecy, but still say that the Old Testament must first speak about someone contemporary, and only then refer to Christ.
Read the study notes in the study Bibles that many of you have purchased from Zondervan and Concordia, especially in the book of Psalms, and you’ll see this in some notes that want to limit, or scale back, some Messianic prophecy. We must also criticize the newest version of the NIV for the way it handles passages classically understood as Messianic. One egregious example is Psalm 8. In the NIV in front of you, it says, What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him (Psalm 8:4)? The author of Hebrews makes it clear that these words find fulfillment in the Son of Man, Jesus. The “new” NIV, however, says, What is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? Even whether words are capitalized or not could indicate attitudes towards Messianic prophecies. In the “old” NIV, Redeemer in Job 19:25 was capitalized. Now it’s not. Likewise Anointed One in Psalm 2:2, King in Psalm 2:6, Son in Psalm 2:7, Holy One in Psalm 16:10 and Acts 2:27, and Lord in Psalm 110:1. Does this erase the Messianic content? No. Does it obscure it? Yes.
Some would say that this is one of those esoteric debates, not really worth spending a great time on for those less technically trained in language or theology. Where’s the relevance for Peter and Patricia in the pew? Let Jesus explain. He says, You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me (John 5:39). Right before going to the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus said, What is written about me is reaching its fulfillment (Luke 22:37). Easter evening, on the road to Emmaus: Beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself (Luke 24:27). And later that night He said to the disciples, ‘Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.’ Then He opened their minds so that they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, ‘This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day…. (Luke 24:44-46). The apostle John writes about Jesus’ triumphal entry on Palm Sunday, after quoting Zechariah 9, Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him and that they had done these things to him (John 12:16). In other words, if you want to know about Jesus, you don’t just read the Gospels. The Old Testament Scriptures speak of Him, testify about Him, teach about Him, and reveal Him. They also give you the key to determine if He is the Christ. Is the man of the Gospels the one described in the Old Testament? In other words, is God’s message in Old and New Testaments consistent? If so, then you have full confidence that God has done what He set out to do – sent a Savior to crush Satan, to pay for sin, to reconcile us to our Maker.
Hear again of Jesus entering Jerusalem gloriously at the beginning of the week that ends with Him dying. Hear these words, and alongside of them, hear the words of the Scriptures that testify of Him. Matthew writes: As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples,saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, tell him that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.” This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: “Say to the Daughter of Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey’” (Matthew 21:1-5).
Perhaps you have been put out by Jesus basically taking some poor man’s donkey. Less so, when you remember these words of Psalm 24: The earth is the LORD’s and everything in it (Psalm 24:1). As Paul says of Jesus: though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich (2 Cor. 8:9). The donkey was His, used for His purposes. Then Matthew combines two prophecies, one from Isaiah: Say to the Daughter of Zion (Isaiah 62:11) and one from Zechariah: See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey (Zech. 9:9-10; Matthew 21:5). These are not out of place words. The Wise Men came to Jerusalem asking: Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?… We have come to worship him (Matthew 2:2). And Nathanael declared: Rabbi, you are the Son of God, you are the King of Israel (John 1:49)!
Matthew goes on: The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. They brought the donkey and the colt, placed their cloaks on them, and Jesus sat on them. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Hosanna in the highest” (Matthew 21:6-9)!
Hyperbole? Mob mentality? Or fulfillment of prophetic oracles from the Holy Spirit revealed over the course of centuries and millennia telling you that the One you’re looking for is a King, a Ruler, and that that ruler is Christ? We know where the scholars stand. But let Scripture speak. Let the Spirit do His work.
Aged Jacob says to His son Judah: The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is his (Genesis 49:10). Unbelieving Balaam said 400 years later: A ruler will come out of Jacob (Numbers 24:19). Another 400 years later, David talks about this King in Psalm 2: The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the LORD and against His Anointed One…. The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them. Then He rebukes them in His anger and terrifies them in His wrath, saying, ‘I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill…. You are my Son; today I have become your Father…. Blessed are all who take refuge in Him (Psalm 2). And in Psalm 110: Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet. The LORD will extend your mighty scepter from Zion; you will rule in the midst of your enemies (Psalm 110:1-2). Solomon writes in Psalm 72: Endow the king with your justice, O God…. He will endure as long as the sun…All kings will bow down to him and all nations will serve him…. All nations will be blessed through him (Psalm 72). A couple hundred years later, Isaiah says, For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over His kingdom (Isaiah 9:6-7). Of this gentle King, Isaiah also says, A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice (Isaiah 42:3). The prophet Micah says, But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel (Micah 5:2). And Hosea: Yet I will show love to the house of Judah; and I will save them – not by bow, sword or battle, or by horses or horsemen, but by the LORD their God (Hosea 1:7). Then it’s Jeremiah, 100 years later: ‘The days are coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘when I will raise up to David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety (Jeremiah 23:5-6). Then, from exile in Babylon, it’s Ezekiel: My servant David will be king over them, and they will have one shepherd (Ezekiel 37:24). Then it’s Daniel, also in exile: [One like a son of man] was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations, and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed (Daniel 7:14).
And those words the crowds shouted? They were theological words, Messianic words. Hosanna to the Son of David! Hosanna means, “Save us, please!” The rest of that partially heard prophecy of Isaiah: Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘See, your Savior comes’ (Isaiah 62:11)! And as to the aptness of saying these words to Jesus, Psalm 118: O LORD, save us (Psalm 118:25a). And calling Him the Son of David? How about 2 Samuel: When your days are over and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you…I will establish his kingdom…. Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever (2 Samuel 7:12, 16). Then Isaiah again: A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse (Isaiah 11:1). And the angel to Mary: The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David (Luke 1:32). Then they say, Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD, just as Psalm 118 also says. Hosanna in the highest! And it’s the Christmas angels: Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests (Luke 2:14).
Finally, Matthew says: When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?” There were some who didn’t know what all the hullabaloo was about? Just as Psalm 24 says, Who is this King of glory (Psalm 24:8a)? And the crowds say: “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.” Not quite, The LORD strong and mighty (Psalm 24:8), but still pretty good, for Moses prophesied in Deuteronomy: The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to Him…. (Deuteronomy 18:15).
And John says that Jesus’ enemies say and heard all this and said, Look how the whole world has gone after him (John 12:19). As they should, for this is the fulfillment of God’s prophecies and promises! So many prophecies…so little time. But in these prophecies you see a Savior who fulfilled that word perfectly, a Savior who gives you total confidence that Satan is crushed, that sin is paid for, that heaven is yours. Because this is what He who entered so triumphantly did: Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit (John 19:28-30). Amen.