My husband had some very difficult conversations with an old friend recently. The friend is a fairly recent convert from the Mormon faith to the Jewish faith. It has been very hard for my husband to accept that a close, dear friend and someone who he used to pray and go to church with would now vehemently deny the deity of Jesus Christ. And not only does she vehemently deny the deity of Christ, she sadly has also adopted the view that Jesus was simply a “well-studied, observant Jew” who “made waves” and “reminded Jewish people of their own laws” but was nothing more than “a mortal man who lived and was crucified by the Roman Empire in manner that was not uncommon at the time.” She says that Jesus would ever have called himself God because that would have been blasphemy. Even further, she asserts that the mythological pagan “twists” of human sacrifice, drinking human blood, and mortal impregnation by the divine to give birth to a dual divine/mortal being have been incorporated by Christians into the story of a “wonderful Jewish man.”
These shocking statements from our friend brought to my mind what I consider to be a particularly moving passage from one of the books in the Left Behind series written by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins (I don’t necessarily endorse this series of books as a reference for eschatological scripture, but they are a good read). This passage provides an interpretative summary of Old Testament scripture regarding the coming of Messiah and, in particular, how Jesus of Nazareth fulfilled these scriptures. I quote portions of this passage here as an encouragement to anyone who finds themselves in a conversation with either a nonbeliever or a former believer who has been led astray by the teaching of the false prophets that Christ himself warned us about (Matthew 7:15; Matthew 24:11). Please note that text in italics are mine and simply an effort to provide more specific scriptural references.
“The very first qualification of Messiah, accepted by our scholars from the beginning, is that he should be born the seed of a woman, not the seed of a man like all other human beings. We know now that women do not possess ‘seed.’ The man provides the seed for the woman’s egg. And so this must be a supernatural birth, as foretold in Isaiah 7:14, ‘Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.’ Our Messiah must be born of a woman and not of a man because he must be righteous. All other humans are born of the seed of their father, and thus the sinful seed of Adam has been passed on to them. Not so with the Messiah, born of a virgin.
Our Messiah must be born of an extremely rare bloodline. While he must be born of a woman, that woman must be of a bloodline that includes many of the fathers of Israel. God himself eliminated billions of people from this select bloodline so Messiah’s identity would be unmistakable. First, God eliminated two-thirds of the world’s population by choosing Abraham, who was from the line of Shem, one of Noah’s three sons. Of Abraham’s two sons, God chose only Isaac, eliminating half of Abraham’s progeny. One of the two sons of Isaac, Jacob, received the blessing but passed it on to only one of his twelve sons, Judah. That eliminated millions of other sons in Israel. The prophet Isaiah years later singled out King David as another through whom Messiah would come, predicting that he would be a ‘root out of Jesse.’ (Isaiah 11:10) David’s father, Jesse, was a son of Judah.
Messiah, according to the prophet Micah, must be born in Bethlehem…‘But you, Bethelehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting.’ (Micah 5:2) As a child, Messiah will go to Egypt, because the prophet Hosea says that out of Egypt God will call him. (Hosea 11:1) Isaiah 9:1-2 indicates that Messiah will minister mostly in Galilee.
Messiah will be rejected by his own people. Isaiah prophesied, ‘He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.’ (Isaiah 53:3)
Isaiah and Malachi predict that Messiah will be preceded by a forerunner. The Psalmist said Messiah would be betrayed by a friend. Zechariah said that he would be betrayed for thirty pieces of silver. He adds that people will look on the one whom they have pierced.
The Psalmist prophesied that people would ‘look and stare at Me. They divide My garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots.’ (Psalm 22:18) And later it is prophesied that ‘He guards all his bones; not one of them is broken.’ (Psalm 34:20) Isaiah says ‘they made His grave with the wicked; but with the rich at His death, because He had done no violence, nor was any deceit in His mouth.’ (Isaiah 53:9) The Psalms say he was to be resurrected.
Was there one born in Bethlehem of a virgin, a descendant of King David, traced back to our father Abraham, who was taken to Egypt, called back to minister in Galilee, preceded by a forerunner, rejected by God’s own people, betrayed for thirty pieces of silver, pierced without breaking a bone, buried with the rich, and resurrected?
According to one of the greatest of all Hebrew prophets, Daniel, there would be exactly 483 years between the decree to rebuild the wall and the city of Jerusalem ‘in troublesome times’ before the Messiah would be cut off for the sins of the people.
Exactly 483 years after the rebuilding of Jerusalem and its walls, Jesus Christ of Nazareth offered himself to the nation of Israel. He rode into the city on a donkey to the rejoicing of the people, just as the prophet Zechariah had predicted: ‘Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, lowly and riding on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey.’ (Zechariah 9:9)”
(The quoted material above can be found on pp. 391-396 of “Tribulation Force” by Tim LaHaye & Jerry B. Jenkins.)