SERMON DELIVERED ON 07-20-19  

              In my last sermon in our journey through the Book of Acts we saw in Acts 17 how Paul, while in Thessalonica, goes into the local synagogue on the Sabbath where he teaches from the Hebrew Scriptures that Jesus is the promised Messiah to Israel. 

       Acts 17:2-3: As his custom was, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead. "This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Christ," he said.

        The NT narrative shows over and over again that Paul and other of Jesus’ disciples use the Hebrew Scriptures to prove Jesus is the Christ. As pointed out last time, they did this because Jesus plainly taught His disciples that it is the Hebrew Scriptures that speak of Him.

       After His resurrection, several of His disciples were walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus, a village around seven miles west of Jerusalem.  Jesus joins them but they don’t recognize Him. He asks them what it was they were discussing. They tell Him all about the crucifixion of their leader Jesus and how they had hoped He was Israel’s redeemer. They then tell Him how some women had found His tomb empty and had been told by an angel He was alive.

       Luke 24:25-27: He said to them, "How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?" And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

       They still didn’t recognize Him but ended up sharing a meal with Jesus at which time their eyes were opened as to who He was.  That same day He appeared to the eleven in Jerusalem and showed them his hands and feet and ate with them and said to them the following: 

       Luke 24:44: He said to them, "This is what I told you while I was still with you: 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 they could understand the Scriptures.

       So it’s apparent that the disciples of Jesus learned from Jesus that the Hebrew Scriptures had a lot to say about Him. The Hebrew Scriptures are what the Jews hung their hat on. Now Paul is using these very Scriptures to prove to the Jews and the Gentle proselytes gathered together at a Synagogue on the Sabbath that the man their leadership had crucified was truly the promised Messiah to Israel.

       How did he do this?  He was able to do this by comparing what happened to Jesus to a number of passages found in the Hebrew Scriptures.

       We had earlier in this series covered the conversion of Saul and how he spent a certain amount of time with disciples of Jesus after having his eyesight restored. It is very likely it was during his time spent with disciples of Jesus that they proved to him from the Hebrew Scriptures that Jesus was the promised Messiah. Saul was a well educated Pharisee. He knew the Hebrew Scriptures very well.  It is apparent that after his conversion he quickly learned about all that happened to Jesus and how what happened to Jesus was anticipated by the prophets and written about in the Scriptures. 

       Now Paul is using these Scriptures to prove to the Jews and others what he had proved for himself, that indeed Jesus was the promised anointed one.  He or they would not have to look any further.  Jesus was indeed the Christ.

      The English word Christ is a translation of the Greek cristos.  Christos is a transliteration of the Hebrew word mā-šî-a which means “anointed one.”  Therefore christos means “anointed one.”  Jesus was the anointed one.

       Now the Hebrew Scriptures speak of many anointed ones.  The Hebrew word mā-šî-a appears 39 times in the Hebrew Scriptures.  It is mostly used in reference to priests and kings of Israel and once in reference to the Gentile king Cyrus. 

       Of the 39 times mā-šî-a appears in the OT, in only three places can it be seen as a possible reference to Jesus and then only in retrospect. It is seen twice in the 70 weeks prophecy of Daniel 9 where it is prophesied that the anointed one (mā-šî-a) would be cut off in the midst of the 70th week, a seeming reference to the crucifixion of Jesus. There is a seeming third reference to Jesus in Psalm 2:2 where it is said "The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the LORD and against his Anointed (mā-šî-a) One." Peter applies this OT passage to Jesus in Acts 4:26.

       Psalm 2:2: The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the LORD and against his Anointed (Hebrew mā-šî-aḥ)  One.

       Acts 4:26-27: The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed (Greek Christou) One.' Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people  of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed.

       In the three apparent references to Jesus as mā-šî-a in the Hebrew Scriptures, it must be noted that the name Jesus does not appear with the word mā-šî-aḥ in those Scriptures. Neither does the name Jesus appear in any other OT passage that came to be associated with Jesus.  So how did Paul and other disciples of Jesus prove from the Hebrew Scriptures that the man Jesus was the indeed the real deal.  As I have discussed in past sermons, the Jewish historian Josephus wrote that there were many false Christ’s that appeared in the first century.  He writes that it was so bad that the Roman authorities were putting some to death almost daily.  

       The Jews knew from the 70 weeks prophecy that the time had arrived for the Messiah to appear.  So many would be Messiah’s appeared in the first century, promising great things and gathering followings unto themselves. This was especially true as the conflict with Rome approached and “want-na-be” Messiahs appeared promising victory over Rome.  We know how that turned out.  The temple and much of Jerusalem was destroyed.

       So what was it that Paul saw in the Hebrew Scriptures that convinced him that the man Jesus was the true Messiah?  Well, let’s go back 2000 years and set ourselves at the feet of Paul and have him prove from the Hebrew Scriptures that Jesus is the Christ.  Paul very likely started with a passage from Isaiah.

Isaiah 53:1-12 and Jesus:

       Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.  He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.  

       We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.  He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken. He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth.

       Yet it was the LORD's will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand. After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light [of life] and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

       Isaiah 53 is seen as a most emphatic prophecy of circumstances and events that match what the NT records as having been experienced by Jesus.  The person pictured here is seen as being despised and rejected by men. The death of the person described here is seen as predetermined by God. He is seen as being placed in a grave with the wicked but also with the rich. The salvation of mankind is seen as the purpose for this person’s death. This person is seen as being resurrected in that he is spoken of as seeing life subsequent to his death and being given a portion with the great.

       There is no individual in OT history or any history that can be identified as being the person Isaiah is writing about.  NT authors clearly believed Isaiah 53 pertained to Jesus. There are a number of passages in the NT where writers refer to a portion of Isaiah 53 as pertaining to Jesus.

       Matthew 8:14-17: Then Jesus said to the centurion, "Go! It will be done just as you believed it would." And his servant was healed at that very hour. When Jesus came into Peter's house, he saw Peter's mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever.   He touched her hand and the fever left her, and she got up and began to wait on him.  When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: "He took up our infirmities and carried our diseases."

       John 12: 37-38: Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him. This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet: "Lord, who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?"

       Luke 22: 37: It is written: `And he was numbered with the transgressors'; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment."

       I covered in an earlier sermon in this series the account of Phillip meeting up with the Ethiopian eunuch who was reading from the very Isaiah passage we just read from.  He asked Philip who Isaiah was writing about.  Here is what Phillip said.

       Acts 8:35: Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.

       1 Peter 2:22-23: "He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth."  When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.

       The disciples of Jesus understood that Jesus had fulfilled Isaiah 53. It was probably the major OT passage they used to prove Jesus was the true Christ and not an imposter. It can be safely assumed Paul was using this passage in the Thessalonian Synagogue as mentioned in Acts 17.

       Now we know the Jews to this day don’t believe Jesus is the promised Messiah to Israel.  They are still waiting for Him to arrive. So how do Jews look at this passage in Isaiah?  A common rabbinical interpretation of Isaiah 53 is that it pertains to Israel as a nation. This interpretation is quite a stretch as it should be obvious that an individual person is being spoken of here and not a nation. 

       In looking at rabbinical interpretations of this passage, I have not seen any interpretation of Isaiah 53 that adequately challenges the belief that Isaiah is talking about Jesus.  If what the NT reports is a reliable account of the experiences of Jesus and the purposes for these experiences, and I believe it is, then Isaiah 53 appears to be a valid prediction of the Christ event and all that this event represents.  

Psalm 22

       Psalm 22 contains a great deal of rhetoric about suffering. This Psalm was written by David and at first glance would appear to be about himself and how he was experiencing a great deal of stress and emotional trauma over what he perceives as forces of evil enveloping his life and his perception that God was ignoring him and not coming to his rescue.  Yet there is no record of David literally experiencing the things he describes in Psalm 22.  On the other hand, as we will see, there is record of these things literally happening to Jesus. 

       Psalm 22:1: My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning?

       Psalm 22:6-8: I am a worm and not a man, scorned by men and despised by the people. All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads: "He trusts in the LORD; let the LORD rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him."

       Psalm 22:12-18: Many bulls surround me; strong bulls of Bashan encircle me. Roaring lions tearing their prey open their mouths wide against me. I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax; it has melted away within me. My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death. Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet. I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me.  They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.

       As can be seen, a lot of this is figurative language. Bulls, roaring lions, heart being turned to wax, etc are figures of speech that are meant to highlight what is being experienced.  Figurative speech is common in Scripture as it is in a lot of literature and as it is in our everyday conversation. We all use figures of speech. In response to today’s weather we may say “it’s like an oven outside today.” or  “I’m sweating like a pig.”  

       While we do see figurative language in Psalm 22, we see narrative about hands and feet being pierced and garments being divided and lots being cast for clothing.

      There is no record of David having his hands and feet pierced or his garments cast lots for. David seems to have died a natural death while still King of Israel and had an honorable burial.  In 1 Chronicles 29 we read that David died at a good old age, having enjoyed long life, wealth and honor and that his son Solomon succeeded him as king. There is no Scriptural reason to believe David ever experienced the kind of things he writes about in Psalm 22.

       Yet the NT Gospels describe the things David writes about as literally happening to Jesus at the time of His crucifixion. 

       In John 19 It is recorded that at the crucifixion of Jesus His clothes were divided into four shares to be distributed to the soldiers who crucified Jesus. The undergarment of Jesus, because it was seamless, was apparently given to just one of the soldiers by casting lots for it. John reports that this casting of lots was being done so that Scripture could be fulfilled.

       While there is no Scriptural evidence David understood that what he was saying was prophetic of what would be fulfilled in a literal manner in the life of Jesus, David’s imagery did became a literal reality in the life of Jesus. Was David's imagery meant to be prophetic of what happened to Jesus?  Jesus believed it was and it is apparent his disciples, including Paul, believed so as well.  They used this imagery to prove Jesus was indeed the Christ. Let’s return to Psalm 22:16. 

       Psalms 22:16: Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced (Hebrew: to bore) my hands and my feet.

       It is interesting that none of the four Gospel writers who report the crucifixion record that Jesus had his hands and feet pierced with nails.  Mark simply says “And they crucified him” (15:24); Matthew writes “And when they had crucified him” (27:35); Luke records, “And when they came to the place which is called The Skull, there they crucified him” (23:33); and John writes, “There they crucified him” (19:18).  Method of crucifixion is not mentioned.

       We know from historical writings and archeological findings that the Romans did use nails to fasten the feet and hands of a crucified person to a cross. However, they also used rope to tie hands and feet to a cross. So how do we know Psalm 22:16 was literally fulfilled in the crucifixion of Jesus?

       We have the record of Jesus telling Thomas to feel the place where nails had been pounded through His hands. John records that Thomas had said to some of the disciples that unless he saw the nail marks in the hands of Jesus and put his finger where the nails were, he would not believe that Jesus was alive. So obviously Thomas was aware Jesus had nails driven through his hands.

       John 20:27: Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

       As a side note, archeological evidence indicates nails were driven through the wrist and not the hand.  However, the wrist was considered part of the hand in ancient times so there is no discontinuity here between archeological evidence and the Scriptures although it does raise questions about the modern depictions of Jesus having nails driven through His hands rather than His wrists.  Let’s return to Psalm 22:7-8:

       Psalm 22:7-8: All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads: "He trusts in the LORD; let the LORD rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him."

       When you read this in the entire context of Psalm 22, it would appear David is writing about himself.  He is seen speaking in the first person here and anguishing over being mocked and having insults thrown at him.  He sees himself as being taunted about his trust in God.  We know from the Scriptures David did have enemies and it is very possible he was mocked and had insults hurled at him.  As King over Israel, David would have had detractors like all leaders in positions of authority do. Because of David's affair with Bathsheba and the events that followed, Scripture shows David was ridiculed by his family and his subjects. 

       Matthew and Mark report Jesus experiencing insults as well and being taunted for His trust in God. 

       Matthew 27:39-40: Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, "You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!"

       Mark 15:29-30: Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, "So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, come down from the cross and save yourself!"

       Neither Matthew nor Mark says that what Jesus was experiencing here was a fulfillment of Psalm 22.  Yet it is clear that both these writers are using language that parallels what is written in Psalm 22.  While David may have been reflecting on his own situation, it appears he was also speaking prophetically of Jesus. 

       Psalm 22:1-2: My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning?  O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, and am not silent.  

        Matthew 27:43: About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?"--which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

       Many see this as literally fulfilled in Christ. In His taking our sin upon Himself and experiencing the anguish of dying on the cross, Jesus appears to feel He has been forsaken by God.  Was Jesus literally forsaken by God? 

       The issue of Jesus being forsaken by God while dying for our sins has been much debated in theological circles.  Some believe Jesus could not have been abandoned by God, not even for a moment, and that Jesus, like David was only feeling such abandonment because of the anguish He was in.

       Others believe Jesus was momentarily forsaken by God while on the cross as he took the sins of humanity upon Himself.  The Scriptures teach Jesus became sin for us.  The prophet Isaiah recorded in Isaiah 1:1-2 that sin separates man from God.  Some believe Jesus experienced a momentary separation from God at the crucifixion as he became sin for us which means He experienced the objective reality of what it means to be separated from God.

       Whether or not Jesus experienced a literal separation from God is debatable, the fact remains that Jesus did use the language of David in asking God why He had forsaken Him.  Was David’s statement prophetic of what Jesus cried out at the cross or was Jesus simple using the language of David at His hour of trail?  We can’t know for sure.  Neither Matthew nor Mark, who record Jesus’ statement about being forsaken, say it was a fulfillment of prophecy.  But we certainly see here how OT statements are brought to greater illumination in the life of Jesus and it is very likely when Paul was proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ, he used Psalm 22 at some point in his teaching.

     Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22 are only two of many OT passages that in the NT are seen as pertaining to Jesus.  It is very likely Paul, as well as other of the apostles, used a variety of OT passages to demonstrated to the Jews and the Gentiles that Jesus was indeed the promised Messiah to Israel. 

       Next time we will rejoin Paul preaching in the synagogue in Thessalonica and consider some additional OT passages that Paul may have used to demonstrate that Jesus was indeed the Christ, the promised anointed one.  

       We will look at Psalm 69, Psalm 118, Zechariah 9, Micah 5, and the 70 weeks prophecy of Daniel 9.