Glimpses Beforehand – Matthew 27:33-50

audio version

Our message tonight is theological. Let’s go through the back door to consider the omnipotence, omniscience and sovereignty of God. Of course by “omnipotence” I refer to the fact that the power of God knows no limitations whatsoever. As Jesus reminded the disciples, perhaps looking seriously, if not somewhat sternly at them, He said, “With men (certain things are) impossible, but with God all things are possible.” “Our God is in the heaven, he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased.” By “omniscience” I mean that Jehovah “knowest all things.” “Great is our Lord, and of great power; his understanding is infinite.” The Hebrew word translated “infinite” is sometimes rendered “innumerable.” Then with the word “sovereign” I mean that with His omnipotence and omniscience, He is in absolute control over all things. “Whatsoever the LORD pleased, that did he in heaven, and in earth, in the seas, and all deep places.” God’s omnipotence isn’t theoretical or mere potential – it is actual, substantial and practical.

These three things come together in Biblical prophecy. Jehovah not only sees far into the future, He omnipotently controls that future and all it’s events. He may permissively give men or Satan the opportunity to do what they wish, but He has complete veto power, or He may manipulate their feeble actions to accomplish His will. The Lord is the true King and is in sovereign control over nature, man and even spirit creatures. And by looking at those things which He has described in advance of their completion, we can catch a glimpse of His presence – His sovereignty, His omnipotence and His omniscience.

So prophecy is one of several way to prove to ourselves the existence of God. But one of the intriguing things about prophecy is the very existence of divine sovereignty itself. In some prophecy the future subject is crystal clear, but in other cases it is shrouded in mystery until the fulfilment comes along. Critics of our use of prophecy sometimes say that we are reading our understanding of the fulfilment into ancient statements, and sometimes we are. There is nothing we can do to eliminate this as a problem in the minds of the unbeliever. But there are enough clear prophesies to silence those criticisms.

Tonight I’d like to make a quick review of the prophecies which speak about the crucifixion of Christ. We’ve touched on some of these earlier. But for this message, I’d just like to bring them all together.

Let’s start with Zechariah 11:12-13.

Zechariah is the second to the last book of the Old Testament. He is one of the prophets of the Babylonian exile – or more precisely a post-exilic prophet. This book was written in the second year of Darius and was contemporary with Haggai. His task was to excite Judah towards the rebuilding of the Temple and the worship of the Lord. But he also warned of the nation’s upcoming secularization and spiritual indifference. Then he looked farther down-steam and spoke of the coming King and dawning of the brighter days of the Messianic Millennium.

It is Zechariah who prophesied the humble arrival of the King into Jerusalem. “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass” 9:9. This is prophet which described Christ as the Prince of Peace. And, “In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness.”

The last chapter of Zechariah describes some of the events of the Tribulation before reaching the Millennium. But fittingly, the preceding chapter (chapter 13) suggests things about the first coming of Christ. Verse 1 – “In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness.” Since the first days of Israel as a nation there have been the God-ordained sacrifices. But this is talking about something beyond that – what is that fountain? “There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Emmanuel’s veins. And sinners plunged beneath that flood loose all their guilty stains.” Zechariah goes on – “And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the LORD of hosts, that I will cut off the names of the idols out of the land, and they shall no more be remembered: and also I will cause the prophets and the unclean spirit to pass out of the land…. Verse 6 – “And one shall say unto him, What are these wounds in thine hands? Then he shall answer, Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends. Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the LORD of hosts: smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered: and I will turn mine hand upon the little ones.” This of course was quoted by Jesus in regard to Himself in Matthew 26:31 “Then saith Jesus unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad.” There should be no doubt that Zechariah’s, five hundred-year-old prophecies spoke of Christ Jesus.

Then there is the almost off-the-wall, off the green monster in left field – there is Zechariah 12-13 – “And I said unto them, If ye think good, give me my price; and if not, forbear. So they weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver. And the LORD said unto me, Cast it unto the potter: a goodly price that I was prised at of them. And I took the thirty pieces of silver, and cast them to the potter in the house of the LORD.” I acknowledge that it would have been impossible for the exiles from Babylon to have understood this of Christ, but looking back, it has great significance and prophetical weight. If Zechariah was the only pre-history of the crucifixion, we’d still be forced to say – “Wow!” But there is so much more.

Please turn to Psalm 22.

“My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?” As we have seen, while Jesus hung on the cross, he quoted this verse from the Hebrew scriptures. And in so doing He identified with the Person described in this Psalm. It might be argued as coincidental, but I don’t believe that it was. And the first thing taught us is that Christ, the sacrifice for our sin, was forsaken by God the Father.

Then while hanging there, Jesus suffered both light and darkness – an intense spotlight and intense darkness. “O my God, I cry in the daytime, but thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent.” I doubt that David, as he wrote and sang this hymn, knew what he was saying about the daytime and night, but looking back from the cross, we see it fitting in with the words, “why hast thou forsaken me?” Verse 6 – “But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people. All they that see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, He trusted on the LORD that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him.” If we took Matthew 27 and Psalm 22 together, and placed them in front a totally untaught man, he might have a hard time determining which was written first, but we know.

Verse 12 – “Many bulls have compassed me: strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round.” Isn’t this a poetic picture of Golgotha? “They gaped upon me with their mouths, as a ravening and a roaring lion. I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels. My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death. For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet. I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me.” No Bible-believing Christian can read these words of David, written more than a thousand years before Calvary, and not picture Christ upon the cross.

And then there is verse 18 “They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture.” Three of the gospel accounts specifically mention the fact that when the soldiers divided Jesus’ clothing among them, and then drew straws for the spectacular seamless robe, they fulfilled prophecy. John 19:24 – “They said therefore among themselves, Let us not rend it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be: that the scripture might be fulfilled, which saith, They parted my raiment among them, and for my vesture they did cast lots. These things therefore the soldiers did.” It is sometimes falsely said that Jesus did this thing or that in order to fulfill prophecy. Jesus did not manipulate events in His life in order to delude people into thinking that he was the Messiah – He IS the Messiah. Without doubt, He was not manipulating these soldiers into fulfilling scripture. The sovereign, omnipotent God was in complete control of these things. And the only way to avoid their lesson is to completely ignore them.

Let me quote a man named Moses Margoliouth – “The predictions concerning Christ in this chapter are so numerous and so minute that they could not possibly have been dictated by any but by him to whom all things are naked and open, and who worketh all things according to the counsel of His own will. The most insignificant circumstances connected with our Lord’s death are set forth with as much accuracy as those which are most important. What could be more unlikely than that Messiah should be crucified when crucifixion was not a Jewish, but a Roman, punishment? And yet David in this Psalm predicted such would be the case centuries before Rome as founded.” Ten centuries before the prophecy was fulfilled.

Now let’s consider the scriptures set before us this morning – Isaiah 52 and 53.

A.T. Pierson makes an interesting observation “This chapter is a bundle of paradoxes, or apparent contradictions, as numerous as the verses in the chapter. In fact it was designed to present a prophetic enigma which only the Person of the Christ of the New Testament can solve. These paradoxes remained a problem until the cross was set up, the sepulchre burst open, and the Son of God, who came to die, went up to reign.” The Book of Isaiah may not be as old as Psalm 22, but seven hundred years is still enough time to sufficiently dispel any charge of collusion or deception.

There is probably little need for my comments on these verses, but excitement forces me to point out just a few things. Let’s read slowly beginning in Isaiah 52:13 “Behold, my servant shall deal prudently, he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high.” The Messiah, in the Old Testament is often called “God’s servant,” despite being the Second Person of the God-head. And despite what this servant of the Lord will endure, He will eventually be extolled to the very highest. But first “As many were astonied (astonished) at thee; his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men: So shall he sprinkle many nations; the kings shall shut their mouths at him: for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider.” Christ was beaten beyond measure, and some say that He was almost unrecognizable. “Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed? For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” Does this refer to Christ on the cross, or more generically to John 1:11 “He came unto his own, and his own received him not”?

Of course it was part of the eternal intension of Jehovah that in Israel’s rejection, Christ would then be presented to the Gentiles as their Saviour as well. This is not only the theology of men like Paul, but it too was prophesied in many places. For example there is Isaiah 49:5-9 “And now, saith the LORD that formed me from the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob again to him, Though Israel be not gathered, yet shall I be glorious in the eyes of the LORD, and my God shall be my strength. And he said, It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth. Thus saith the LORD, the Redeemer of Israel, and his Holy One, to him whom man despiseth, to him whom the nation abhorreth, to a servant of rulers, Kings shall see and arise, princes also shall worship, because of the LORD that is faithful, and the Holy One of Israel, and he shall choose thee. Thus saith the LORD, In an acceptable time have I heard thee, and in a day of salvation have I helped thee: and I will preserve thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, to establish the earth, to cause to inherit the desolate heritages; That thou mayest say to the prisoners, Go forth; to them that are in darkness, Shew yourselves. They shall feed in the ways, and their pastures shall be in all high places.” Of course, I hope you heard the words of Paul, in his letter to the Gentile church in Corinth – “(For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.)” One of the truly great and fascinating things about the prophecy of Isaiah is the way that it blends the events with the theology of the events. “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” There are no Old Testament scriptures that I quote more frequently, when I am preaching the gospel, than Isaiah 53:5. “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.” In these words we catch glimpses of the “trials’ before Caiaphas, Pilate and Herod, where Jesus refused to defend Himself. In these words we are carried back to some of Christ’s lessons about Himself “I am the good shepherd, the good shepherd giveth himself for the sheep.” Yet on the other hand, Christ is the Lamb of God – the Passover lamb – sacrificed to save the sinner. And for what reason? “For the transgression of my people.” Of course it was inconceivable to the Hebrew mind that God would judge His own Son, but yet… “It pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: 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: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.”

As I say, it is impossible to read these words from the perspective of a New Testament believer without seeing the Son of God upon the cross. It should be impossible for an honest unbeliever to read these words from seven hundred years earlier, comparing them to the gospels without seeing the omnipotent hand of God. Only a dishonest unbeliever could deny the import of this comparison. Some of them say things like – “All four New Testament writers were liars, fashioning their fiction to reflect the words of Isaiah.” Or, “This chapter was not written by Isaiah, but some unknown penman after the death of Christ and attributed and attached to the Old Testament book bearing his name.” No sir, the prophecy is undeniable except by the same kind of people who put Christ to death in the first place. “There are none so blind as those who will not see.” Believe these scriptures from both testaments – heed what they say. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.”