This week’s post will consider passages from Matthew 26-27, Mark 14-15, Luke 22-23, and John 13-19. These passages describe the crucifixion, death, and burial of Jesus.
First, I want to encourage you to explore the links I’ve provided in the “For Further Investigation” section below. There is a web page from Jews for Jesus which has lots of content around the prophecies that Jesus fulfilled.
In a section of his book, The Case for Christ, Lee Strobel interviews Louis Lapides about the prophecies that Jesus fulfilled. Louis relates his story of growing up in a Jewish home that later became fractured by divorce. He rebelled and went to Vietnam during the war there, experiencing anti-Semitism and seeking refuge in drugs and eastern religions. He later was confronted, in California, by a street preacher who
“brought up the name of Jesus. Lapides tried to fend him off with his stock answer. “I’m Jewish,” he said. “I can’t believe in Jesus.” [The] pastor spoke up. “Do you know of the prophecies about the Messiah?” he asked. Lapides was taken off guard. “Prophecies?” he said. “I’ve never heard of them.” The minister startled Lapides by referring to some of the Old Testament predictions. Wait a minute! Lapides thought. Those are my Jewish Scriptures he’s quoting! How could Jesus be in there? When the pastor offered him a Bible, Lapides was skeptical. “Is the New Testament in there?” he asked. The pastor nodded. “OK, I’ll read the Old Testament, but I’m not going to open up the other one,” Lapides told him. He was taken aback by the minister’s response. “Fine,” said the pastor. “Just read the Old Testament and ask the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—the God of Israel—to show you if Jesus is the Messiah. Because he is your Messiah. He came to the Jewish people initially, and then he was also the Savior of the world.” To Lapides, this was new information. Intriguing information. Astonishing information. So he went back to his apartment, opened the Old Testament to its first book, Genesis, and went hunting for Jesus among words that had been written hundreds of years before the carpenter of Nazareth had ever been born. (The Case for Christ, p. 177)
Louis became convinced that Jesus is the Messiah promised in the Old Testament. In his interview with Lapides, Strobel addressed four common objections to Jesus being the one prophesied in the Old Testament.
- The Coincidence Argument – Perhaps Jesus simply was in the right place at the right time to appear to fulfill the prophecies. Strobel and Lapides discussed the improbability of this. Lapides said, “The odds are so astronomical that they rule that out. Someone did the math and figured out that the probability of just eight prophecies being fulfilled is one chance in one hundred million billion. That number is millions of times greater than the total number of people who’ve ever walked the planet! “He calculated that if you took this number of silver dollars, they would cover the state of Texas to a depth of two feet. If you marked one silver dollar among them and then had a blindfolded person wander the whole state and bend down to pick up one coin, what would be the odds he’d choose the one that had been marked?” With that he answered his own question: “The same odds that anybody in history could have fulfilled just eight of the prophecies.” (The Case for Christ, p. 183) Strobel went on to quote another “statistical analysis by mathematician Peter W. Stoner when I was investigating the messianic prophecies for myself. Stoner also computed that the probability of fulfilling forty-eight prophecies was one chance in a trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion! Our minds can’t comprehend a number that big. This is a staggering statistic that’s equal to the number of minuscule atoms in a trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, billion universes the size of our universe!”
- The Altered Gospel Argument – Perhaps the gospel writers embellished their stories in such a way as to make sure the elements surrounding Jesus’ life and death would match the Old Testament prophecies. Lapides argues that there were ample checks and balances in existence at the time of the writing of the gospels in which people could have corrected any misinformation. Not only that, but the apostles were martyred believing their statements to be true. This would not have been likely if they, in fact, knew their statements to be false.
- The Intentional Fulfillment Argument – Perhaps Jesus manipulated his life so that things would coincide with Old Testament prophecy. Lapides acknowledged that to be a possibility for some prophecies, such as Jesus riding a colt into Jerusalem. However, most of the prophecies were specific enough about things which would be out of the (human) control of Jesus (e.g. his ancestry, birthplace, and specifics of his betrayal and execution).
- The Context Argument – Perhaps Christians have lifted the Old Testament prophecies out of context to make them fit Jesus. Lapides dismisses that by pointing out the veracity and plenitude of scholarly research over the centuries that have validated these arguments.
The crux of the matter is that you should investigate these things yourself. Be willing to let God speak to you through the scriptures and see that Jesus is the promised Messiah!
Next week we’ll consider the resurrection of Jesus and the beginning work of the apostles in Matthew 27-28, Mark 15-16, Luke 23-24, John 19-21, and Acts 1-12.
For Further Investigation
- Top 40 Most Helpful Messianic Prophecies sermon from Jews for Jesus.
- How Christ Fulfilled and Ended the Old Testament Regime article from John Piper at Desiring God.
- Website for The Case for Christ movie and books