The Old Testament
The Old Testament part of the Bible was written many hundreds of years before Jesus was born. Many details about the coming Saviour (“Christ”) were predicted by the writers in several books of the Old Testament. Jesus’ life and death fulfilled these prophecies (promises from God) with incredible accuracy. Let’s look at just few of these:
Isaiah 7:14: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.
The name Immanuel literally means “God with us” and is a prediction that the coming Christ would be God. The writer goes on to call this child that would be born “Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).
Micah 5:2. This prophecy predicts Bethlehem as the birthplace of the coming ruler:
But you, Bethlehem . . . out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.
Isaiah 53. Here we read several clear predictions about the future Christ:
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 [honoured] him not. Surely he took up our [weaknesses] and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, [judged] by him and afflicted. But he was pierced for our [wrongdoings], he was crushed for our [evils]; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed (vv. 3–5).
Not only was the Christ going to be God Himself, He would suffer so that we could receive peace and healing from God. His death would be the means by which the split between God and us (caused by our self-centredness) would be mended. The prophecy in Isaiah 53 continues by telling us that the Christ would die for our wrongdoings and sorrows willingly (vv. 6-7).
Why does it matter that the Old Testament makes some predictions about the coming Christ?
The New Testament
The New Testament (written by people who were alive at the same time as Jesus) is filled with references to how Jesus fulfils the promises of the Old Testament. The Old Testament is like the Christ’s ‘CV’, and the New Testament shows that Jesus fits the criteria perfectly! Let’s look at some examples!
Matthew 1:22–23 says: All this [an angel appearing to Joseph in a dream to explain Mary’s pregnancy] took place to fulfil what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”—which means, “God with us”.
This passage also goes on to say that Jesus was born in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:1–6), fulfilling the prophecy of Micah.
Also the promise of Isaiah 53:6–7 was fulfilled by Jesus when He was arrested and sentenced to death. He did not fight the arrest, but went willingly to the cross for us.
There are many other prophecies that were fulfilled by Jesus; too many to go into in this article. Why not ask your Scripture Reader or Chaplain to share with you some of the other ways Jesus proved His identity?
We can also find out more about who Jesus was by listening to the words of those who knew Him best.
The Words of His Followers
John, one of Jesus’ first followers, wrote his eye-witness account of Jesus’ life. Near the beginning of his book he said this of Jesus: “We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). John said that Jesus, as God, “came from the Father,” to be “seen” and live as a man.
On several occasions Jesus spoke in clear terms about His identity. Have a look at some of them in John’s gospel: 8:23, 58; 14:1-7.
John wasn’t alone in saying that Jesus was God. Paul, one of the earliest followers of Jesus who had previously hated Christians, wrote many letters to different people and churches. Paul always confirmed that Jesus is God.
Philippians 2:5–7: Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: who, being in very nature God . . . made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
Here Jesus is presented as fully God and man. He always existed as God. But He willingly laid aside His glory to become the ‘God-man’—the humble Servant, obedient to death. Jesus was God and remained God, even when He became a man.
Were John and Paul (and many, many others) just mistaken about Jesus? Were they deliberately lying about Him? Did they dream up the idea of Jesus as God? Not at all! Jesus Himself said He was God.
Jesus’ Own Words
The most important thing to consider when it comes to Jesus is what He actually said about Himself. He made some shocking claims!
[Jesus] said to [his followers], “The Son of Man (another title for Jesus as God’s Ruler) is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.” But they did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it (Mark 9:30–32).
Jesus was very clear about His identity and His mission—He came to die for us and to rise from the dead after three days. So let’s look at some of the different reactions Jesus got.
The Jewish listeners understood Jesus perfectly. In fact, His words made them very angry because He claimed to be God and so they actually tried to kill Him! In one tense conversation between Jesus and a group of Jewish leaders, He said, “Before Abraham (an important figure in Israel’s ancient history) was born, I am!” (John 8:58). The phrase “I Am” is another name for God, which God used in the Old Testament (Exodus 3:14). The Jewish religious leaders understood perfectly that Jesus was calling Himself God. And they refused to believe Him. Instead they wanted to kill Him for claiming to be God, by stoning Him with rocks.
At another time when Jesus was teaching publicly, He asked: “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” (Matthew 16:13). After hearing the many things the crowds thought He was (a good man, teacher, etc.), He then asked the same question to His closest followers, “Who do you say I am?” (v.15). His followers, who knew Him the best, thought something very different.
Simon Peter said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (v.16). Instead of rejecting this statement that He was God, Jesus agreed saying, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven” (v.17). Jesus claimed to be God and wanted His disciples to believe and depend upon this truth as well.
Finally, it is worth noting that doubt was also a common reaction. More than a week after Jesus had risen from the dead, Thomas (another follower of Jesus) had not yet seen Him. No one could convince Thomas that Jesus was alive. “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe” (John 20:25).
A week later his disciples were in the house again and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 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” (John 20:26–27).
Jesus understood Thomas’ doubt and, rather than rejecting Thomas, He did everything necessary to assure Thomas of the truth. Awestruck, Thomas replied, “My Lord and my God!” (v.28). With these words, Thomas admitted that Jesus, having risen from the dead, was indeed God!
Jesus understands our doubt too and He appreciates our honesty. He wants us to speak with Him and read about Him in the Bible so that we can be sure of who He is.