Death of Messiah Foretold

That Messiah - God’s own Son - would suffer and die was a revolting shock to even some of the Nazarene’s disciples. When Jesus began to explain to his apostles that he would have to go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the Jewish hierarchy and then be put to death, it actually raised a rebuke from Peter. The fisherman said, "That will not happen. Do not think so harshly of yourself. That surely will not happen.” Peter’s rebuke of Jesus before the disciples only resulted in a more serious rebuke from Christ himself: “Get behind me, Satan, for your thinking is not of God, but fleshly in origin.” [Matthew 16:21-23]

It was a hard thing to accept by the Jewish disciples. To this days many Jews reject Jesus the Nazarene as the Messiah for the very reason that he did suffer and die. They believe that when the true Messiah comes there will be universal peace. However, it may come as a surprise to many Jews and non-Jews that the Bible predicted the suffering death of the Messiah. When did this part of God’s thinking begin to develop?

The Foretold “Bruising”

Immediately following the rebellion in heaven and earth of some of God’s own children the first Biblical prophecy, presented in a cryptic verse recorded in Hebrew, was given as part of Yehowah’s judgment against these rebels. It is found in Genesis 3:15 and reads according to a literal rendering of the original language -

“And enmity I will set
between you the Woman
and between your seed and her seed.
He will bruise you (to) the head
and you shall bruise him [of] the heel.”

Here Yehowah passes the final judgment upon the serpent - later identified as Satan the Devil [“the original serpent” (Revelation 12:9)] - The Seed of the Woman will “bruise” the Serpent in the head. Paul later actually alludes to Genesis 3:15 and interprets the word “bruise” to mean “crush.” [Romans 16:20] So, it is not a miss interpretation of matters to draw the conclusion that the Serpent’s bruising the Woman’s Seed in the heal, though painful and crippling, was something curable. Through out ages many scholars have understood Genesis 3:15 to predict something harmful would befall the Messiah. It would be thousands of years before more prophetic details were provided by the developing Holy Scriptures.

The “Piercing” of Messiah

Though hints and allusions regarding the Messiah would be provided throughout the next nearly three millennial, a poetic explosion of inspiration burst forth in a hymn of the beloved David, King of Israel. When Psalm 22 was translated by dedicated Jewish copyists from Hebrew into Greek during the 3rd Century BC, it contained the emotions and words of what appear to be a man executed upon a Tree. This was to be a Jewish man with Hebrews roots in the history of Israel. It would seem he was rejected by God and his own people. Now he was crying out to his God while angry throngs surrounded his impaled hands and feet. He is dying of thirst and his heart weakens within as his bones and joints become dislocated.

With this brief background we read with the same thrilling interest that the original inspired lyricist had when he comprised his opus. [Psalm 22:1-22, 28-31]

O God, my God, pay attention to me!
Why have You forsaken me?
Why do You remain far away from saving me,
And the words of my loud lamentation?
My God, I keep crying!
During the day and night - without rest-- and there is no answer!

Our hearts go out to this disserted person with such genuine cries for God’s help. He feels as though God has distanced Himself from his prayers. However, the worshipper of Yehowah praises Him for his past dealings with His People.

But You are Holy,
Inhabiting the praises of Israel.
In You our fore-fathers trusted.
They trusted and You delivered them.
To You they cried out and they escaped.
In You they trusted, and were never put to shame.

With this historical background of Yehowah’s dealings with the ancient patriarchs and the struggles of Israel, the petitioner must wonder why he is not also delivered. He continues to describe his circumstances and how he is treated by his own people.

I am but a worm and not a human being -
A reproach to humans and despised by the people [of Israel].
Everyone who looks upon me laughs.
They open their mouths wide - they shake their heads -
“He should trust in Yehowah,
Let [God] deliver him!
Since he took such delight in [God], let [God] rescue him!”

It is as though there are crowds around him, all making fun of his plight. Despite these face-making, taunting persons, our suffering servant of God remembers his early life, including his mother.

You are the One who separated me from the womb.
You caused me to trust upon my mother’s breasts.
Into Your hands I burst forth from the moment of my birth.
From my mother’s womb You have been my God.
Do not remain so distant [now] as distress is so near,
And there is no human help.

This suffering Son now begins to describe his circumstances as well as his inner physical and emotional feelings as he continues in his agony.

Many young ‘bulls’ have surrounded me,
Strong ‘oxen’ from Bashan encircle me.
They have opened their mouths wide,
A ‘lion’ roaring and tearing [flesh].
Like water I am poured out,
All my bones are dislocated.
My heart melts like wax,
It has grown faint deep within.
My strength is as dried out as potsherd,
And my tongue is glued in my throat.
In the dust of death You will lay me down.
For ‘dogs’ have surrounded me,
The Synagogue of Evil Men encircle me.
They have pierced my hands and feet.
They can count all my bones.
They behold me and gawk.
They separate my garments among themselves,
And they cast lots for my clothing.

From such an absolutely hopeless circumstance - having begun with the cry of “Why?” - his agony turns to complete trust and hope in Yehowah his God.

But, You, O Yehowah, do not remain so distant!
O my Help, come to my aid in a hurry!
Rescue my soul from the sword,
From the power of the ‘dog’ [rescue] this only-begotten one!
Save me from the lion’s mouth,
From the horns of wild bulls you will answer me.

We hear this Suffering One’s complete trust in the only One who can come to his aid. At the moment of his death he promises what he will yet do, as well as what will yet occur in the future. He declares that future generations will remember and recount this miraculous rescue.

I will declare your Name to my brothers!
In the middle of the Congregation I will sing hymns to You.
… All the end of the earth will remember and return to Yehowah.
Yes, all the families of the nations will prostrate themselves before You.
For to Yehowah belongs the Kingdom,
[He is] Sovereign of all nations.
The ‘Great Ones’ of earth will be satisfied and bow down.
All those who turn to dust will kneel before Him,
Every soul unable to preserve themselves alive.
[New] offspring will serve Him.
It will be remembered of Yehowah to a future generation,
That His justice may be declared to a people yet unborn,
That He was able to do this successfully.

Thus David -- in a most heightened state of inspiration [2 Samuel 23:2] - foretold in precise detail in a brilliant palette of emotions, a suffering Jew surrounded by an Evil Synagogue of his own people who have pierced his hands and feet. His death is slow and agonizing, marked by dislocated bones, great thirst, and an ever weakening heart. And another marked feature is most unusual. For some reason left unexplained his clothing - inferring the Suffering One was nude or near naked - was divided among some gamblers.

Because the description of this Suffering One is so intense, and the details so overwhelming, it may pass without notice that these events - the suffering and death of this person - was going to be “recounted” or remembered in future generations. Something like a memorial by a generation of yet unborn.

Now had this marvelous verse been written years after the actual event it would still be considered something inspired. For many see here a man recounting his own experience while suffering an execution. What is unusual is that the Hebrews executed by stoning and not impalement. So some unusual circumstances will bear upon the actual fulfillment of David’s prophecy.

Those familiar with this startling prediction of Messiah’s suffering, over a thousand years before it happened, know that may of the features fit the actual execution of Jesus the Nazarene. These may be examined by the testimony of several eyewitnesses or researchers into the actual events.

Before we examine these, it must be noted that about five centuries later another prophet also foretells this “piercing.” It is Zechariah the prophet: “They will gaze upon the One whom they have pierced. .. And there will be bitter lamentation in grief as over a firstborn son.” [Zechariah 12:10 NCMM] This verse would also be referenced in the context of the gospel accounts of these matters.

We briefly note these as recorded by the early Christian researchers. While reading portions of these accounts note the many parallels with Psalm 22: the onlookers, an evil synagogue of Jewish men, the garments, the piercing of his body, the thirst, and a mother’s presence.

Mark 15:1 At earliest dawn, after the High Priests had held a consultation with the Elders and Scribes, they and the entire Sanhedrin [THE JEWISH SYNAGOGUE OF EVIL MEN AS BULLS AND LIONS] bound Jesus and took Him away and handed Him over to Pilate. … Mark 15:19 Then they began to beat Him on the head with a cane, to spit on Him, and to do Him homage on bended knees. Mark 15:20 At last, having finished their sport, they took the robe off Him, put His own clothes on Him, and led Him out to crucify Him. Mark 15:23 Here they offered Him wine mixed with myrrh; but He refused it. [PIERCING OF HANDS AND FEET] Mark 15:24 Then they crucified Him. [THE LOTS CAST FOR HIS GARMENTS] This done, they divided His garments among them, drawing lots to decide what each should take. John 19:23 … including His tunic, and divided them into four parts--one part for each soldier. The tunic was without seam, woven from the top in one piece. John 19:24 So they said to one another, "Do not let us tear it. Let us draw lots for it." This happened that the Scripture might be fulfilled which says, "They shared my garments among them, and drew lots for my clothing."

Mark 15:25 It was nine o'clock in the morning when they crucified Him. Mark 15:26 Over His head was the notice in writing of the charge against Him: THE KING OF THE JEWS. Mark 15:29 [THE JEERING AND MOCKING CROWDS] And all the passers-by reviled Him. They shook their heads at Him and said, "Ah! you who were for destroying the Sanctuary and building a new one in three days, Mark 15:30 come down from the cross and save yourself." Mark 15:31 In the same way the High Priests also, as well as the Scribes, kept on scoffing at Him, saying to one another, "He has saved others: himself he cannot save! Mark 15:32 This Christ, the King of Israel, let him come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe." Even the men who were being crucified with Him heaped insults on Him. Mark 15:33 At noon there came a darkness over the whole land, lasting till three o'clock in the afternoon.

John 19:25 [THE MOTHER] Now standing close to the cross of Jesus were His mother and His mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala. 26 So Jesus, seeing His mother, and seeing the disciple whom He loved standing near, said to His mother, "Behold, your son!" 27 Then He said to the disciple, "Behold, your mother!" And from that time the disciple received her into his own home. [THE GREAT THIRST] 28 After this, Jesus, knowing that everything was now brought to an end, said--that the Scripture might be fulfilled, "I am thirsty." 29 There was a jar of wine standing there. With this wine they filled a sponge, put it on the end of a stalk of hyssop, and lifted it to His mouth.

Mark 15:34 [THE DESPERATE CALL] But at three o'clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, "Elohi, Elohi, lama sabachthani?" which means, "My God, My God, 35 Some of the bystanders, hearing Him, said, "Listen, he is calling for Elijah!" Mark 15:36 Then a man ran to fill a sponge with sour wine, and he put it on the end of a cane and placed it to His lips. Matthew 27:48 [ANOTHER PIERCING] Another man took a spear and pierced his side, and blood and water came out. Luke 23:46 and Jesus cried out in a loud voice, and said, "Father, to Thy hands I entrust my spirit." And after uttering these words He yielded up His spirit.

Messiah to Suffer and “Pour Out His Soul Unto Death”

From this alone it seems not only clear but also miraculous that such a thousand-year old Davidic prophecy foretold the suffering and death of Messiah. But, this does not prove to be the only specific prophecy of Messiah’s suffering and death. About 400 years after David composed Psalm 22, the great Hebrew prophet Isaiah provided an equally inspired prediction. It is recorded in Isaiah 52:13-53:12 [Nazarene Saints Paraphrase] We provide the prophecy with their fulfillments in cross references. Read it now with the background of Psalm 22 in mind.

First Yehowah speaks of His Suffering Servant.

Behold, my Boy will comprehend.
He will be exalted and tremendously glorified.
[Philippians 2:7-11]
The more so because so many were amazed at you.
[Mark 1:22; 6:2; 7:37]
So marred was your appearance beyond humankind.
[Philippians 2:7]
And [your] form beyond the sons of mankind.
The more so will [my Boy] startle many nations.
Before him kings will cover their mouths.
For to them who heard no such report concerning [my Boy] -
They will see.
And they who have not heard will carefully consider.
[Romans 15:21]

Now the voice changes to that of the collective-Jew who speaks at some future moment - after the “disfigurement” of Yehowah’s Boy.

Who will believe what we have heard?
To whom has the arm of Yehowah been revealed?
Romans 10:16]
[Yehowah’s Boy] grew up like a sapling before Him,
as a Sprout out of a dry land.
[Luke 2:52]
He possessed neither beauty or noblity.
When we [Jews] beheld him there was no particular comeliness
So that we would desire him.
He was despised and rejected by humanity -
[John 1:10, 11]
A man meant for suffering and familiar with sickness.
[Matthew 8:17]
Yes, [he was] like someone from whom people turn away -
Despised -- and we [Jews] esteemed him not.

Despite this general rejection by the Jews - and their poor appraisal of him - the Jewish “voice” now speaks of the reason for his suffering.

And yet really he carried the burden of our sicknesses,
And because of our pains he bore the burden.
[1 Peter 2:24]
But we [Jews] accounted him as cursed,
Rejected by God and humiliated.
Yet he was being pierced for our transgressions,
He was being crushed for our iniquities.
The just chastisement meant for us [Jews] was upon him,
And by his stripes and bruises there is healing for us.
[1 Peter 2:25]
All we [Jews] are like lost sheep gone astray,
Each person to their own way.
Yehowah has caused all of our guilt to fall upon him.

Now the Jewish voice moves to that moment of the Suffering Servant’s judgment before his own people.

Though he was hard pressed he humbled himself. [Philippians 2:7, 8]
As a lamb led to the slaughter he did not open his mouth,
[Matthew 26:63]
As a sheep before his shearers, he was silent, not opening his mouth.
During his humiliation justice was removed from him.
[Acts 8:32, 33]
Who will consider his generation -
That he was cut off from the land of the living?
Because of the transgressions of my [Jewish] people
He was led off to death.

Some of the circumstances of his death are foretold:

Though he had done no violence
-- nor had spoken deceptively --
his grave was appointed with lawless persons,
[Matthew 27:38
And among the rich his tomb.
[Matthew 27:60]
And yet Yehowah purposed to bruise him.
[Genesis 3:15]
He laid upon him a sickness.
[Luke 22:44]

Now it is here the original speaker Yehowah makes promises based on the suffering and death of His Servant.

If his soul becomes a sin-offering
He will experience offspring -
[Hebrews 2:10-14]
He will prolong his days.
And in his hand the purpose of Yehowah will succeed.
He will experience the travail of his soul.
But because of his travail Yehowah will reveal [His] Light.
Because of my Righteous Servant’s knowledge
A righteous standing will be given many people.
He shall bear their sins.
Therefore, he will inherit a greater portion,
[Psalm 2:8]
And among those strong he will share the inheritance.
Because he poured out his soul to the very death,
And among lawless persons he let himself be numbered.
[Luke 22:37]
Yes, he bore the sin of many,
And for transgressors he interposed.

Though there were several quotes and allusions to this portion of Isaiah’s prophecy with inspired applications to Jesus the Nazarene, there is one particular example found in Acts 8:26-36. There Phillip the missionary witnesses under angel direction to an Ethiopian Jewish proselyte who had been to Jerusalem to worship. Their discussion centers around the identity of the one about whom Isaiah speaks.

“Messiah will be cut off after three and a half years”

Isaiah 53:8 had predicted Yehowah’s Servant, or Messiah, would be “cut off.” There is another prophet writing almost two centuries later who also foretells the cutting off of the Messiah. It is the great prophet Daniel who writes from exile in Babylon. The key difference is that the approximate date of Messiah’s death is the subject. Though many will disagree with some of these conclusions, we present one startling view of this prophecy.

Daniel 9:24-27 predicts a period of 490 years - called 70 Weeks of Years -- from the word to restore Jerusalem by Cyrus the Great in 455 BC until the appearance of Messiah in the year 29 AD. Doctor Luke records this moment according to the Roman count of years to be the 14th year of Tiberius Caesar, considered by some to be 29 AD. [Luke 3:1ff] This would mean the 70th week of 7 years would begin in the year 29.

However, Daniel writes that Messiah will be “cut off” in the middle of this week of 7 years. Thus, about the year 33 AD Messiah would die.

Seventy weeks of years have been determined upon your people and upon the Holy City - to seal up [Jewish] transgressions -- to blot out sin -- to make atonement for [Jewish] transgressions - to usher in everlasting righteousness - to put a seal on vision and prophet - and to anoint the holiest [person]. … And for one week of seven years He will establish His covenant with many [Jews]. [And during this period Messiah will be cut off without any justice.] [NCMM]

Messianic Prophecies Instill Faith

Those who refuse to believe in prophecy will no doubt find their reasons to reject any kind of inspired predictions. However, for many reasonable minds throughout the ages, there has been enough truth found in these prophecies to instill a solid faith and trust in God and His dynamic purpose. Particularly at this time of year, when the thoughts of many millions of Christians will turn to thoughts regarding the death and resurrection of Jesus the Nazarene. These prophecies are a most appropriate subject for spiritual meditations as the Wheat “keep proclaiming the death of the Lord until he arrives.” [1 Corinthians 11:26]

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Nazarene Commentary 2000© by Mark Heber Miller

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