Point of Reference
by Fred Price
Within days of Jesus’ resurrection, two disciples were on the road to Emmaus discussing all that had transpired during the past weeks. Along the way, an unrecognized third traveler met them and joined their deliberations. Finally, he scolded them for their lack of understanding and explained, “ …beginning with Moses and all the Prophets,… what was said about himself (Jesus).” Luke 24:27 The following scripture may well be at least some of the evidence Jesus used to support his claim to be the long-awaited Messiah.
The very first hint of a Redeemer/Messiah is found in Genesis 3, with Adam and Eve’s temptation by the devil. As a result, they and the snake/Satan were appropriately reprimanded and punished; God declaring “…I will put enmity between you (Satan) and the woman, and between your offspring and hers (Christ being likewise tempted in the desert prior to his ministry and throughout his life, culminating in his death on a cross.); he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” Genesis 3:15 The final victory being realized through Christ as, “…the devil, who deceived (mankind), was thrown into the lake of burning Sulphur,…” There to be, “…tormented day and night forever and ever.” Revelation 20:10
A particularly graphic depiction of Jesus’ work on the cross is recorded in Numbers 21:4-9. The Israelis’ complained about Moses’ leadership and God’s provision from the moment they left Egypt. Finally, God had had enough. In retribution, he “…sent venomous snakes among them;…”, killing many. The Israelis then petitioned God for mercy, which he did indeed provide. Moses was instructed to forge a bronze snake which was to be mounted on a pole; instructing all who were bitten to look up to the snake and be healed.
Jesus characterized his being “lifted up” as serving the same purpose, saying “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” John 3:14 Regrettably every good thing can be twisted to evil as this allegorical depiction of Christ’s future work of mercy proves. Over time, the Israelis began worshipfully burning incense to this snake, which was later destroyed in Hezekiah’s cleansing of Israeli worship practices. ( 2 Kings 18:1-4)
In Deuteronomy, God promised to “raise up” a prophet like Moses when he was gone, declaring “You must listen to him.” Deuteronomy 18:15-18 This promise/prophecy, like others, is applicable in more than one way. Joshua immediately followed Moses and many more prophets were raised up to declare God’s judgments and will throughout the centuries leading up to Christ. In their heightened expectation, some misidentified John the Baptist as the Anointed One instead of , “The voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.” John 1:23 (Fulfilling Is. 40:3) Jesus likewise misidentified as a reincarnation of John after his beheading, among others. Peter correcting them all when he proclaimed, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Matthew 16:13-16 (Peter later explicitly referencing Deuteronomy 18:15 in explaining Christ’s mission to the Jews and the world in Acts 3:22.) God signaling his approval of Jesus at his baptism and transfiguration, adding “Listen to him!” Matthew 3:17 & 17:1-5 (His designation as a “chosen servant” reiterated in Matthew 12:15-21, quoting Is. 42:1-4)
Isaiah 7:14 is another prophecy with more than one application, “…the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” This was originally a “sign” for King Ahaz but has become eminently recognizable today by its association with the Christmas story. Jesus’ virgin birth noted as its most complete fulfillment. ( Matthew 1:23) God’s presence experienced in a unique manifestation of “God with us.” “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form,..” Colossians 2:9
Isaiah 9:6,7 is likewise recognized as presaging the angel Gabriel’s announcement to Mary concerning her upcoming pregnancy with God’s son. ( Luke 1:26-33) “For to us a child is born, to us a child is given,…he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Originally part of a poem celebrating royal births in Israel, it was prefaced by the words, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” Is. 9:2-7 Over time, recognized as characterizing Christ’s ministry among the Gentiles as well as Israel. (See Matthew 4:12-17.)
The long-awaited Redeemer/Messiah of Israel, was usually depicted conquering Israel’s enemies, restoring the Kingdom to its rightful rulers and proper place in the world; capable then of drawing all men to the holy mount of Jerusalem to worship the One True God. Which wasn’t all wrong, except that a number of significantly revealing prophecies were subsequently glossed over.
Isaiah repeatedly revealed those other aspects of Messiahship to all who would listen, proclaiming “Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight,…” Is. 42:1 Characterizing that servant as one who, “…tends his flock like a shepherd. He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.” Is. 40:11 (See also Ps. 23 & Matthew 2:6 – quoting Micah 5:2) The New Testament repeatedly depicting Jesus as just such a shepherd, while referring to believers in Christ as “the flock.” (See 1 Peter 5:2-4 & Luke 12:32) Jesus describing himself as the Good Shepherd who leads his sheep to safety. ( John 10:1-16)
Jesus stated reason for coming to earth was, “…to seek and to save what was lost.” Luke 19:10 Succinctly summarized in the parable of the lost sheep found in Luke 15:3-7. In it Jesus describes the lengths to which a good shepherd will go to find a single missing sheep from the flock, as well as the genuine joy finding it brings. A responsibility he passed on directly to Peter and by implication all who followed after; advising Peter to express his true love for Him by, “Feed(ing) my lambs… Tak(ing) care of my sheep… Feed(ing) my sheep…” And thus, “Follow(ing) me!” John 2:15-19
Check back next week for more on the true nature of the Messiah, as revealed in both Testaments.
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Fred Price - married (48 years), father of two grown children, grandfather of six.
Fred retired earlier this year after 42 years as a factory worker. He has always had a heart for young people and the challenges they face today. Over the years Fred has taught Discipleship Groups for High School and college students.
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