And now the prophets, one by one, fill in the picture, each adding a fresh, vivid touch. The prophet Micah sees the little town where Jesus was to be born, and tells us it is Bethlehem (Mic 5:2; Mat 2:6); Isaiah sees the adoration of the Magi (Isa 60:3; Mat 2:1); Jeremiah pictures the death of the innocents (Jer 31:15; Mat 2:17,18); and Hosea foreshadows the flight into Egypt (Hos 11:1; Mat 2:15); Isaiah portrays His meekness and gentleness (Isa 42:2; Mat 11:29), and the wisdom and knowledge which Jesus manifested all through His life from the time of His talking with the doctors in the Temple [Luk 2:46,47].
Again, when He cleansed the Temple, the words of the Psalmist came at once to the memory of the disciples, ''The zeal of Thine house hath eaten me up'' (Psa 69:9; Joh 2:17). Isaiah pictured Him preaching good tidings to the meek, binding up the broken-hearted, proclaiming liberty to the captives, and giving the oil of joy for mourning, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness (Isa 61:1-3; Luk 4:16-21). Mourning was turned into joy when Jesus came into the presence of death. The poor woman ''whom Satan had bound, lo, these eighteen years,'' was loosed at His word. His gospel was indeed the message of good tidings. Isaiah pictured even that sweetest scene of all, the Good Shepherd blessing the little children, for ''He shall gather the lambs in His arms, and carry them in His bosom'' (Isa 40:11; Mark 10:16). Then Zechariah sings, ''Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion,'' for he sees her lowly King entering Jerusalem, riding on an ass's colt, another Psalm adds the Hosannahs of the children. ''Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings hast Thou ordained strength because of Thine enemies, that Thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger'' (Zech 9:9; Psa 8:2; Mat 21:4,5).
The prophets foresaw something of the character and extent of the Saviour's work. The light that was to shine forth from Zion was to be for all the world; Jew and Gentile alike were to be blessed. The Spirit of God was to be poured out upon all flesh (Joel 2:28). ''All the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God'' (Isa 52:10). The picture of a victorious, triumphant Messiah was a familiar one to the Jews of our Saviour's time. So engrossed were they with this side of the picture that they did not recognise Him when He came, and John the Baptist said, ''There standeth One among you whom ye know not'' [Joh 1:26]. ''Had they known it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory'' [1Cor 2:8]. But they ought to have known it, for the prophets who foretold His glory had spoken in no less certain tones of His lowliness, His rejection and His sufferings. ''Behold,'' says Isaiah, ''my Servant shall deal prudently, He shall be exalted and extolled and be very high'' (Isa 52:13)-- when suddenly, what does he see in the next verse? ''As many were astonished at Thee, His visage was so marred more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men.'' And how shall we picture the astonishment of the prophet as the vision of the fifty-third chapter dawns upon him with all the majesty of the suffering Messiah? From the root of Jesse was to spring up a tender plant who was to be rejected by Israel. ''He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief'' (Isa 53:3).
As the prophet's steadfast gaze is fixed upon the future, he sees this Holy One led ''as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep dumb before her shearers, so He openeth not His mouth'' (Isa 53:7; see Mat 27:12-14). He sees Him dying a death by violence, for ''He was cut off out of the land of the living'' (Isa 53:8). Daniel takes up the same thought and tells us, ''Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself'' (Dan 9:26). And now once more a chorus of the prophets unite their voices to tell us the manner of His death. The Psalmist sees that He is to be betrayed by one of His own disciples-- ''Yea, Mine own familiar friend in whom I trusted, which did eat My bread, hath lifted up his heel against Me'' (Psa 41:9). Zechariah tells us of the thirty pieces of silver that were weighed for His price, and adds that the money was cast to the potter (Zech 11:12,13; Jer 19; Mat 27:3-10). He also sees the sheep scattered when the Shepherd was smitten (Zech 13:7; Mat 26:31,56). Isaiah sees Him taken from one tribunal to another (Isa 53:8; Joh 18:24,28). The Psalmist foretells the false witnesses called in to bear witness against Him (Psa 27:12; Mat 26:59,60). Isaiah sees Him scourged and spit upon (Isa 50:6; Mat 26:67; 27:26-30). The Psalmist sees the actual manner of His death, that it was by crucifixion, ''They pierced My hands and My feet'' (Psa 22:16). His being reckoned with criminals and making intercession for His murderers were alike foretold (Isa 53:12; Mark 15:27; Luk 23:34). So clear did the vision of the Psalmist become that he sees Him mocked by the passers-by (Psa 22:6-8); Mat 27:39-44). He sees the soldiers parting His garments among them, and casting lots for His vesture (Psa 22:18; Joh 19:23,24), and giving Him vinegar to drink in His thirst (Psa 69:21; Joh 19:28,29). With quickened ear he hears His cry in the hour of His anguish, ''My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?'' (Psa 22:1; Mat 27:46), and His dying words, ''Father, into Thy hands I commit My spirit'' (Psa 31:5; Luk 23:46). And, taught by the Holy Ghost, the Psalmist writes the words, ''Reproach hath broken My heart'' (Psa 69:20). John tells us that though the soldiers brake the legs of the two thieves to hasten their death, ''when they came to Jesus, and saw that He was dead already, they brake not His legs: but one of the soldiers pierced His side, and forthwith came there out blood and water.... For these things were done, that the Scriptures might be fulfilled, A bone of Him shall not be broken. And again, They shall look on Him whom they pierced'' (Joh 19:32-37; Ex 12:46; Psa 34:20; Zech 12:10). Isaiah tells us that ''though they had made His grave with the wicked''-- that is, intended to bury Him in the place where they buried malefactors [criminals]-- yet it was ordered otherwise, and He was actually buried ''with the rich in His death.'' ''For there came a rich man of Arimathaea named Joseph... and begged the body of Jesus... and laid it in his own new tomb'' (Isa 53:9; Mat 27:57-60).
But the vision of the prophets stretched beyond the Cross and the tomb, and embraced the resurrection and ascension and final triumph of the Saviour. David sings: ''Thou wilt not leave My soul in hell; neither wilt Thou suffer Thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou wilt show Me the path of life: in Thy presence is fulness of joy; at Thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore'' (Psa 16:10,11). And Isaiah, after he has prophesied the humiliation and death of the Messiah, closes the same prophecy with these remarkable words: ''When Thou shalt make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand. He shall see of the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied'' (Isa 53:10,11).
From the remotest past, the saints looked forward to events which still lie before us in the future. ''Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment upon all'' (Jude 1:14). The patriarch Job said: ''I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth... whom I shall see for myself'' (Job 19:25-27). Zechariah had a vision of the Mount of Olives with the Lord standing there, King over all the earth, and all the saints with Him (Zech 14:4-9).
And as the prophecies of the past have been fulfilled, so certainly shall also the prophecies of the future. ''Now we see not yet all things put under Him, but we see Jesus, crowned with glory and honour'' (Heb 2:8,9). And He says, ''Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.'' [Rev 22:20]
Go to The Book opening page.