How Did Jesus Use Messianic Prophecies From Isaiah?

Kim Erickson
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Jesus pointed people to prophecies in the Old Testament to help them understand who He was and what was to come. An unforgettable scene that took place at the very beginning of His public ministry is recorded in Luke 4:16–21. At the synagogue, Jesus took the scroll and found Isaiah 61. He read the passage and made this astonishing declaration: “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.

Jesus was handed the scroll of Isaiah and unrolled it until He “found the place” (Luke 4:17) where the words summarized His mission, words that had been written more than six hundred years before He was born.

“A prediction fulfilled is powerful evidence of the voice of God.”

Jesus did something similar at the end of His time on earth, just following His resurrection: He turned to the prophecies in the Old Testament to explain Himself. Two disciples were walking on the way to Emmaus on the day of the resurrection and discussing everything that had happened to Jesus. A stranger met up with them (it was Jesus, but His identity was hidden from them until later) who asked what they were talking about. They described the recent events, astonished that someone in the region had not heard everything that had happened. Jesus said to them:

“O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. (Luke 24:25–27)

In Old Testament times, God used prophecy to speak to His people, to make sure they would believe Him and trust Him. God wants us to understand Him and trust Him—and He uses prophecy to help us. In fact, in His final teaching in the upper room, Jesus referenced two Old Testament prophecies and told the disciples what was going to happen so that Scripture would be fulfilled. In John 13:18–19, just after washing the disciples’ feet, Jesus told them:

“But the Scripture will be fulfilled, ‘He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’ I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he.”

“He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me” was a prophecy from Psalm 41:9, which foretold, “Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me.” Jesus layered on the importance of prophecy by telling the disciples (three times during the Last Supper!) that He was telling them about His death and resurrection ahead of time so that when the events came to pass, they would believe that He is the Messiah.

A bit later that same night, Jesus told the disciples that the people had sinned because they hated Him, but then He added:

“But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’” (John 15:25)

Jesus is clear: prophecy must be fulfilled. In this same final teaching, Jesus makes a prophecy Himself: Peter will deny Him three times before the rooster crows. That’s a very familiar passage, but have you ever thought about why Jesus made such a prediction? Perhaps it was another bit of evidence that He really was the Messiah. A prediction fulfilled is powerful evidence of the voice of God.

For Further Reading:

Predicting Jesus

by Kim Erickson

Predicting Jesus is a six-week women’s Bible study from author and Bible teacher Kim Erickson on the book of Isaiah. It is a...

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