They Waited for the Messiah
“The people were waiting, and all were reasoning in their hearts concerning John, whether he were not the Messiah.”—LUKE 3:15, THE EMPHATIC DIAGLOTT.
1. What exciting news did the angel tell the shepherds?
IT IS nighttime, and some shepherds are in the fields, caring for their sheep. Suddenly Jehovah’s angel stands next to them, and a bright light shines all around them! They are afraid, but they listen to the exciting news that the angel tells them: “Have no fear, for, look! I am declaring to you good news of a great joy that all the people will have, because there was born to you today a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” The baby that the angel is talking about is the one who will be the Christ, or Messiah. The angel tells the shepherds that they can find this baby in a manger in a nearby town. Then suddenly many angels appear. They praise Jehovah: “Glory in the heights above to God, and upon earth peace among men of goodwill.”—Luke 2:8-14.
2. What does “Messiah” mean? How could people know who the Messiah really was?
2 The Jewish shepherds know that the Messiah, or “Christ,” is God’s Anointed One. (Exodus 29:5-7) But how could these shepherds and others learn more and know that Jehovah had chosen this baby to be the Messiah? First, they needed to study the prophecies in the Scriptures about the Messiah, and then they needed to see if these prophecies came true during the life of this child.
WHY WERE PEOPLE WAITING FOR THE MESSIAH?
3, 4. How did the prophecy at Daniel 9:24, 25 come true?
3 Many years later, John the Baptist started his preaching work. Because of what he said and did, some people began to think that maybe he was the Messiah. (Read Luke 3:15.) But in the Bible, there is a prophecy that talks about 70 weeks, and it helped people to know when the Messiah would appear. The prophecy says: “There are seventy weeks that have been determined upon your people . . . From the going forth of the word to restore and to rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Leader, there will be seven weeks, also sixty-two weeks.” (Daniel 9:24, 25) Bible experts agree that these are not weeks of days but weeks of years. So each of these weeks is seven years long. The Revised Standard Version Bible says at Daniel 9:24: “Seventy weeks of years are decreed.”
4 Today, Jehovah’s people understand that the 69 weeks of Daniel 9:25 are equal to 483 years and that they began in the year 455 before Christ. This was when King Artaxerxes of Persia told Nehemiah to repair and rebuild Jerusalem. (Nehemiah 2:1-8) Those 483 years ended in the year 29 when Jesus was baptized. At that time, Jehovah anointed him with holy spirit and he became the Messiah.—Matthew 3:13-17.a—See footnote.
5. What prophecies are we going to learn about?
5 In the Bible, there are many other prophecies about the Messiah. We will learn about some of them in this article. They are prophecies about his birth, his life as a child and as an adult, and his ministry. We will learn about how these prophecies came true during the life of Jesus. This will make our faith in the Bible stronger and also prove that Jesus was the Messiah whom people were waiting for.
PROPHECIES ABOUT HIS EARLY LIFE
6. How did the prophecy at Genesis 49:10 come true?
6 The Messiah would be from the tribe of Judah in Israel. Just before Jacob died, he blessed his sons, and to Judah he said: “The scepter will not turn aside from Judah, neither the commander’s staff from between his feet, until Shiloh comes; and to him the obedience of the peoples will belong.” (Genesis 49:10) Jewish teachers always believed that Jacob’s words to Judah were about the Messiah. But what do Jacob’s words mean? We know that he is talking about a king because the scepter and commander’s staff were rods carried by a king to show that he had the right to rule and to give commands. So this prophecy shows that the king, the one with the right to rule, had to come from the tribe of Judah. The first king from Judah was King David, and Zedekiah was the last king from Judah on earth. But Jacob’s prophecy talked about another king after Zedekiah. That king would be king forever. He is called Shiloh, which means he is “the one to whom it belongs.” God told Zedekiah that this king is the one who has the legal right. (Ezekiel 21:26, 27) Before Jesus was born, the angel Gabriel told Mary: “Jehovah God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule as king over the house of Jacob forever, and there will be no end of his kingdom.” (Luke 1:32, 33) Jesus was from the tribe of Judah and from the family of David. And after Zedekiah, Jesus was the only person in the family of David to whom Jehovah promised the right to be king. So Shiloh must be Jesus Christ.—Matthew 1:1-3, 6; Luke 3:23, 31-34.
7. How did the prophecy about the birth of the Messiah come true?
7 The Messiah would be born in a place called Bethlehem. The prophet Micah wrote: “You, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, the one too little to get to be among the thousands of Judah, from you there will come out to me the one who is to become ruler in Israel, whose origin is from early times, from the days of time indefinite.” (Micah 5:2) The prophecy tells us that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. This was a town in Judah that was once called Ephrathah. But Mary, the mother of Jesus, and her husband, Joseph, lived in a different town called Nazareth. When it was close to the time for Jesus to be born, the ruler of Rome told people to return to the city where their father was born to register their names. So Mary and Joseph went back to Bethlehem, where Mary gave birth to Jesus. (Matthew 2:1, 5, 6) So the birth of Jesus happened exactly as the prophecy said!
8, 9. What does the prophecy say about the birth of the Messiah? What would happen after the Messiah was born?
8 A virgin, or maiden, would give birth to the Messiah. (Read Isaiah 7:14.) This verse says that the maiden would give birth to a son. The word for virgin in Hebrew is bethulah. This verse uses almah, a word that means “maiden.” But we know that almah also means “virgin” because the Bible calls Rebekah a maiden (almah) before her marriage. (Genesis 24:16, 43) God’s holy spirit directed Matthew to write that Isaiah 7:14 came true when Jesus was born. In this verse, he did not use the Greek word for “maiden.” He used the Greek word for “virgin,” parthenos. The Gospel writers Matthew and Luke both say that Mary was a virgin and that she became pregnant through God’s holy spirit.—Matthew 1:18-25; Luke 1:26-35.
9 After the Messiah was born, children would be murdered. This is similar to what happened hundreds of years before the Messiah was born. Pharaoh of Egypt ordered the people to throw all the Hebrew baby boys into the Nile River. (Exodus 1:22) A prophecy at Jeremiah 31:15, 16 talks about “Rachel weeping over her sons” because enemies took them away. People heard the sound of her crying far away in Ramah, which was in Benjamin, north of Jerusalem. Matthew tells us that this prophecy came true when King Herod ordered the murder of all the baby boys in Bethlehem. (Read Matthew 2:16-18.) Imagine the grief that the people felt!
10. How did the prophecy at Hosea 11:1 come true?
10 The Messiah would be brought out of Egypt. (Hosea 11:1) To save Jesus from King Herod, an angel told Joseph and Mary to leave Israel and take Jesus to Egypt. They stayed there until Herod died. After Herod died, Joseph brought Jesus back to Israel. What Jehovah said to Hosea came true: “Out of Egypt I called my son.” (Matthew 2:13-15) Of course, it was impossible for Jesus to control the things that happened at his birth and in his early life.
THE MESSIAH BEGINS HIS MINISTRY!
11. Who prepared the way for the Messiah?
11 A messenger would prepare the way for the Messiah. Malachi said that someone would come before the Messiah to prepare the way for him. He would help people to be ready to accept the Messiah when he appeared. Malachi calls him Elijah the prophet. (Read Malachi 4:5, 6.) Jesus said that John the Baptist was the one who was like Elijah. (Matthew 11:12-14) Mark said that John prepared the way. This is exactly what Isaiah had prophesied. (Isaiah 40:3; Mark 1:1-4) Jesus did not tell John to prepare the way for him. God wanted people to know who the Messiah was. So it was God who chose John to do a work that was like the work of Elijah and prepare the people to welcome the Messiah.
12. What special work did God give the Messiah to do?
12 God would give the Messiah a special work to do. One day Jesus was in the synagogue in Nazareth, the town where he grew up. Jesus opened a scroll and read the words of Isaiah. This is what he read: “Jehovah’s spirit is upon me, because he anointed me to declare good news to the poor, he sent me forth to preach a release to the captives and a recovery of sight to the blind, to send the crushed ones away with a release, to preach Jehovah’s acceptable year.” Jesus said that this prophecy was about him. He really was the Messiah. That is why Jesus had the right to say: “Today this scripture that you just heard is fulfilled.”—Luke 4:16-21.
13. What did Isaiah say about Jesus’ ministry in Galilee?
13 One prophecy tells us about the Messiah’s ministry in Galilee. Isaiah prophesied about “Zebulun” and “Naphtali” and “Galilee of the nations.” He wrote: “The people that were walking in the darkness have seen a great light. As for those dwelling in the land of deep shadow, light itself has shone upon them.” (Isaiah 9:1, 2) Jesus began his ministry in Galilee, in the town called Capernaum. He also taught in the areas of Zebulun and Naphtali. Jesus helped the people in these places by teaching them truths that shone like a great light. (Matthew 4:12-16) It was in Galilee that Jesus gave his Sermon on the Mount, chose his apostles, and performed his first miracle. It was also here in Galilee that Jesus appeared to more than 500 disciples after his resurrection. (Matthew 5:1–7:27; 28:16-20; Mark 3:13, 14; John 2:8-11; 1 Corinthians 15:6) So Isaiah’s prophecy came true when Jesus preached in “the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali.” Jesus also preached the good news about the Kingdom in other places in Israel.
MORE PROPHECIES ABOUT THE MESSIAH
14. How did Psalm 78:2 come true?
14 The Messiah would use stories and illustrations to teach people. In one of the psalms, Asaph sang: “In a proverbial saying I will open my mouth.” (Psalm 78:2) Matthew tells us about how this prophecy came true. Jesus always used illustrations, or examples, to teach. Matthew wrote about the time when Jesus used a mustard seed and yeast as illustrations to teach people about the Kingdom of God. He wrote: “Without an illustration he would not speak to them; that there might be fulfilled what was spoken through the prophet who said: ‘I will open my mouth with illustrations, I will publish things hidden since the founding.’” (Matthew 13:31-35) The stories and illustrations that Jesus used helped many people to understand the truth about Jehovah.
15. How did the prophecy at Isaiah 53:4 come true?
15 The Messiah would heal people. Isaiah prophesied: “Truly our sicknesses were what he himself carried; and as for our pains, he bore them.” (Isaiah 53:4) When the mother-in-law of Peter was sick, Jesus healed her. After that, many other people came to the house of Peter, and Jesus healed them too. Matthew said that this fulfilled what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet, saying: “He himself took our sicknesses and carried our diseases.” (Matthew 8:14-17) But this was not the only time that Jesus healed people. The Bible talks about many other times when Jesus made people well again.
16. What did the apostle John write that proves that Isaiah 53:1 was about Jesus?
16 Many people would not believe that Jesus was the Messiah even though he did good things. (Read Isaiah 53:1.) The apostle John said that this prophecy came true. He wrote: “Although he had performed so many signs before them, they were not putting faith in him, so that the word of Isaiah the prophet was fulfilled which he said: ‘Jehovah, who has put faith in the thing heard by us? And as for the arm of Jehovah, to whom has it been revealed?’” (John 12:37, 38) Even years later, when the apostle Paul preached the good news, not many people believed that Jesus was the Messiah.—Romans 10:16, 17.
17. How did the prophecy at Psalm 69:4 come true?
17 People would hate the Messiah for no reason. (Psalm 69:4) Jesus said: “If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would have no sin; but now they have both seen and hated me as well as my Father. But it is that the word written in their Law may be fulfilled, ‘They hated me without cause.’” (John 15:24, 25) The “Law” mentioned here means all the Scriptures that existed at that time. (John 10:34; 12:34) What we read about Jesus in the Gospels proves that many people hated Jesus, especially the Jewish religious leaders. Also, Jesus said: “The world has no reason to hate you, but it hates me, because I bear witness concerning it that its works are wicked.”—John 7:7.
18. What will we learn in the next article?
18 The disciples of Jesus in the first century were sure that Jesus was the Messiah. They knew that Jesus fulfilled all the prophecies in the Hebrew Scriptures about the Messiah. (Matthew 16:16) From this article, we learned that the prophecies about the early life and ministry of Jesus came true. But there are many more prophecies in the Bible that prove who the Messiah is. We will learn about them in the next article. If we think deeply about these prophecies, we will never doubt that Jesus is the one whom Jehovah chose to be the Messiah.
a To learn more about the “seventy weeks,” read chapter 11 of the book Pay Attention to Daniel’s Prophecy!
SOME WORDS EXPLAINED
▪ Illustration: An example that helps us to understand Bible truths
▪ Scroll: A roll of parchment, leather, or papyrus used by Bible writers
▪ Tribe of Judah: A tribe in Israel. Descendants of Judah, the son of Jacob
▪ Anointed: A person chosen by God for a special purpose. Anointed Christians are the 144,000
WHAT IS YOUR ANSWER?
▪ What are some of the prophecies about the birth of Jesus?
▪ Who prepared the way for the Messiah?
▪ How did the prophecies of Isaiah chapter 53 come true?
[Blurb on page 4]
Prophecies about the Messiah’s birth, his life as a child and as an adult, and his ministry came true
[Blurb on page 6]
Jesus could not control what happened at his birth or in his early life
[Blurb on page 7]
Jesus’ disciples were convinced that he was the Messiah