When Christ came after 400 years of silence from God, it was the fulfillment of a multitude of promises. Jesus’ birth and life fulfilled approximately 300 references to 61 specific prophecies given over the course of more than a thousand years. What that means is that there are 61 specific prophetic descriptions of Christ and His life throughout the Old Testament and there are 300+ variations of those 61 prophecies. These prophecies were repeated throughout the Old Testament by men from different generations that did not know each other. Historians, Psalmists, and prophets all worked in concert under the leading of God to foretell the coming of the Messiah. The chances that an individual could fulfill that many prophecies from that many sources and time periods is astronomical. Yet Jesus fulfilled them all when he came.
While many see these fulfilled prophecies and are filled with faith today, Christ was rejected by most who saw and heard him some 2000 years ago. They could not recognize Jesus fulfilling prophecies given by men like Moses, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Jonah, Micah, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi. Was it because they did not look for the Messiah? Had the 400 years of silence led them to grow complacent and forget the promises? Evidences suggests that they did look for the Messiah. In both John 4 and John 7, we see that people were looking for the Messiah.
The Evidence of Anticipation
Let’s look first at John 4:
“The woman saith unto him, I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things. (John 4:25)
That quote comes from a Samaritan woman. Her life was riddled with mistakes and because of her heritage she wasn’t allowed to even worship in the Temple. However, she believed in the Messiah and was looking for His coming. After her encounter with Jesus, she told her entire city and the people of the city all came out to see Jesus (John 4:29-30). An entire city knew what she was talking about because they were looking for the Messiah, too!
Let’s look at John 7 to see that it wasn’t just one individual person or community:
Then said some of them of Jerusalem, Is not this he, whom they seek to kill? But, lo, he speaketh boldly, and they say nothing unto him. Do the rulers know indeed that this is the very Christ? Howbeit we know this man whence he is: but when Christ cometh, no man knoweth whence he is. Then cried Jesus in the temple as he taught, saying, Ye both know me, and ye know whence I am: and I am not come of myself, but he that sent me is true, whom ye know not. But I know him: for I am from him, and he hath sent me. Then they sought to take him: but no man laid hands on him, because his hour was not yet come. And many of the people believed on him, and said, When Christ cometh, will he do more miracles than these which this man hath done? (John 7:25-31)
This excerpt comes from a debate started over Jesus and whether he was the Christ or not. It does not end here, but continues on throughout the rest of the chapter. This debate was heated and extensive. Priests, Pharisees and common people from all over Judea took part. They all were looking for the Messiah, and they were very passionate about His Coming.
These aren’t the only examples in the Gospels or the New Testament, but they prove that people were looking for Christ’s coming and were passionate about it. They would drop everything at the hope of it like in John 4, and they would argue with people regardless of their station in life as they did in John 7. So why couldn’t they see Jesus for the Christ that he was and IS?
Circumstances Color Perception and Expectation
The predominant belief was that the Messiah would come as a general or a king. This comes from Biblical references like Psalms 2, Daniel 7 and Ezekiel 37. However, those prophecies refer to God's second coming, which is a litany of other promises that are clearly separate from those of his first coming. The Children of Israel wanted to jump the gun even though there was clear differences with the types of promises about The Messiah. Why did they do this? The answer is simple: their circumstances dictated their perception and expectations. They saw him descending down from the heavens to slay the Romans and all of Israel’s enemies. He was going to establish again the kingdom that David and Solomon had developed. The poverty and corruption they endured was going to be replaced with plenty and order. The people of 2000 years ago were looking for Christ through their circumstances and situations. As a result, many completely missed him.
Christ does offer solutions for our circumstances and situations. Christ delivered and healed many during his ministry. He blessed individuals and cities and performed miracles everywhere he went. However, Christ did not come to meet circumstantial and situational needs. He came to fulfill the Law (Matthew 5:17). He came to bring people to repentance (Matthew 9:13). Christ came to bring abundant life to all (John 10:10) He came to preach the gospel to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to speak deliverance to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind and to set at liberty them that are bruised (Luke 4:18). He came to preach the acceptable year of the Lord (Luke 4:19). Finally and most importantly, Jesus came to give His life so that we might be saved (Mark 10:45, John 3:16).Even more, we are promised that He will not to leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).
We must remember why Jesus came in the first place or we will end up just as those who missed Christ’s coming 2000 years ago. If we look for Christ through the filter of our present situations and circumstances, we risk that very prospect. If we only look for Jesus as a physical blessing machine, we’ll be disappointed with what we find. Yes, Jesus may bless us with healing in our bodies, finances, relationships and more. He may perform a miracle that is undeniably from God. However, Christ did all that for those 2000 years ago and they still rejected him. How many of us have been blessed by God one year only to turn around and ask where God is the next year when the blessing doesn’t come? So many do this and let it build up and build up and it turns to bitterness, resentment and eventually division from God. We can’t let our relationship with God be built around what He’s done for us lately. That path leads to emptiness and separation from God. Instead, we must remember the promises Christ fulfilled at His first coming. Those promises are still for us today and they are greater than any other blessing we can ask for.
Seeing the Big Picture
Mary and Martha teach us how to properly filter our relationship with God. When their brother died, they were upset. They had petitioned Jesus and believed he would come to heal Lazarus. However, Jesus didn’t show up until it was too late in their eyes. Now, neither woman truly understood what Jesus had planned. However, neither woman spat in Christ’s face or abandoned their faith because He didn’t do what they had asked him. They both confirmed their belief in him and their hope for what was to come by moving forward in their relationship with God (All of this found in John 11). They had an understanding of the promises Christ came to fulfill and the preeminence those promises had to the situational gifts of healing, blessings and miracles.
Christ had a great plan and reward for Mary, Martha and Lazarus. However, had they refused Christ because he didn’t come the way they asked, they wouldn’t have gotten what Christ desired for them. They wouldn’t have seen Christ for who He was to them and they wouldn’t have seen the promises God had for them to claim. When Jesus doesn’t answer us the way and time we expect, will we throw our hands up in disgust and walk away into sin, vices or bitterness? Will we turn and walk no more, or will we be like Mary and Martha continue our path with Him?
I remember when I sought salvation, it took me over a year. I went to the altar and prayed and cried and asked God to let me speak in tongues. I could feel God around me each time, but I never felt God’s presence enter in me and I never spoke with other tongues. I couldn’t understand and neither could my parents. However, I never stopped walking forward when the opportunity arose. One day, I walked forward and began to pray as I always had. On that day, a friend of mine prayed with me. I didn’t know it at that time, but he needed to have his faith built and seeing my salvation as he prayed with me emboldened him and helped him in his relationship with God. I didn’t know it the whole way to that point, but when it happened I could understand and it filled my heart with joy. My salvation worked to enliven another follower of Christ. A follower who had been searching for Jesus just as I had. Jesus had a plan, a purpose and a promise. I just had to trust Him just as my friend had to trust Him.
So this Christmas, when we look back and remember why Jesus came, we must remember that he came to fulfill promises. However, our view of those promises cannot be through the filter of our circumstances or situations. They must be through God’s Word and our relationship with Jesus. Only then can we see the promises that God has for each of us today and we can claim them!
For a comprehensive look at the Old Testament scriptures most scholars attribute to Christ's first coming, click here. It is a very useful tool when exploring more of God's Word and how the Old and New Testament work well together.
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The hardest thing I’ve had to commit to is daily prayer. I know that might come as a shock to some, but this isn’t a letter to glorify or talk myself up. It’s meant to be honest. I believe in prayer and its power. I try to encourage people to pray regularly and the value and power that regular prayer provides in our everyday life. However, when it comes to prayer-regular and consistent relational prayer with God-I fall short more often than I would like to admit. How can someone who teaches Bible studies, lead a Sunday school class and write devotions on how to lead people to better relationship with God and not have consistent relational prayer with God.
It’s simply complicated by my own design.
Chris Farris is the author of The Way, a manual detailing how to implement the Beatitudes into your life. He review events and other media and offers other insights into writing and working for the Kingdom of God.