13. Old & New links

SON OF GOD MEDITATIONS 13 of 20

Mt 4:13-16 Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali– to fulfil what was said through the prophet Isaiah: “Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the way to the sea, along the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles– the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.”

Now these verses do not proclaim Jesus as the unique Son of God but they are typical of the many prophetic linkages between the Old and the New Testaments in respect of Jesus. There are two common characteristics to these sorts of verses. First, the prophetic word from the Old Testament was one that had been recognised by the Jewish scribes and teachers as referring to a ‘Coming One’ and, as we’ve seen previously, the often apparently contradictory things being said about this one certainly indicate that he seems to be more than a mere man. The second thing is that the Gospel writers take and apply these prophetic words specifically to Jesus, and they saw that all the prophetic words were, in fact, not contradictory but perfectly fulfilled in this servant-king. You can find many of these obvious applications as you read through the Gospels.

Before looking more widely at other examples, let’s note just what this applied prophecy is saying. Galilee in the north had always taken the brunt of invasions from the north and was therefore considered a land that had suffered, a land of darkness. The prophecy indicates that a great light will come to this land. The prophecy that Matthew refers to comes at the beginning of Isaiah’s prophecy that goes on to speak about a child who will come: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isa 9:6). This supernatural child will be the light that comes into this darkness.

Another form of application of prophecy, or simply teaching from the Old Testament, is seen in the way the Gospel writers bring out characteristics of Jesus that reveal that he is God, in accordance with known prophecies from the past. For instance: “The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.” (Isa 40:28). This was Isaiah declaring what was already known by the Jews. Now come into John’s Gospel and we find John declaring of Jesus: “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” (Jn 1:3) Right from the outset, John is quite clear in his understanding that Jesus was one with the Father and had been involved in the creation of all things.

Again Isaiah speaks as the Lord saying, “Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth.” (Isa 45:22) and then, “I, even I, am the LORD, and apart from me there is no saviour.” (Isa 43:11). Yes, the Jewish understanding was that God alone was saviour of the world, but when we come to John’s Gospel we find him recording the following: “They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Saviour of the world.” (Jn 4:42) They equate Jesus with God; that is quite clear!

One final illustration. In Hannah’s prophetic song in 1 Samuel, we find, “The LORD brings death and makes alive; he brings down to the grave and raises up.” (1 Sam 2:6), a reference to God’s ability to raise people from the dead, which again became part of the Jews’ understanding about God. In John’s Gospel we find, “For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it.” (Jn 5:21) Now just in case we might want to try and spiritualise that, we find that Jesus did literally raise people from the dead (see Mk 5:35 – Jairus’s daughter, Lk 7:12 – widow’s son at Nain, Jn 11:14 – Lazarus) and even taught about raising the dead (see e.g. Mt 10:8, 11:5). Thus the Gospel writers reveal Jesus doing things that only God could do.

Because their belief is so certain, they just can’t help making these linkages, but if we thought they were going too far, we need to see the records of those who couldn’t stop themselves blurting out the truth. In a discussion about who Jesus is we find Jesus asking them, “ Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Mt 16:15,16). Note, if you read on, Jesus doesn’t rebuke Peter but commends him. Finally at his trial we find them questioning Jesus: “They all asked, “Are you then the Son of God?” He replied, “You are right in saying I am.” (Lk 22:70).

Actually that was not ‘finally’ because after he was raised from the dead, when Thomas eventually sees him and touches him, we read, “Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” (Jn 20:28). This is not the language of acceptance of a mere man. Now we’ll only take exception to this language and this reporting if we have already made up our minds that this cannot be. If we come with an open scientific mind we will examine what is reported and what is said, and draw logical conclusions. Unfortunately for the sceptic the Gospel writers don’t give us room to evade these conclusions. John, for example, is so clear in his mind about this that, nearing the end of his Gospel, he declares, “Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (Jn 20:30,31).

We have started with prophetic linkages and gone on to look at more specific links with Jesus as God, and declarations by individuals to that effect. The truth is that the prophetic links were only made as the Gospel writers saw what Jesus was doing and realised that he was, in fact, fulfilling those many prophecies that had been spoken out many centuries before. We may doubt, but they didn’t. As far as they are all concerned, this was the unique Son of God in their midst.

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