It’s important to understand that the description of the crucifixion in the ancient Hebrew writings takes place before crucifixion was even implemented as a method of torture and death by the Romans. When David wrote Psalm 22, crucifixion hadn’t even been invented yet, hadn’t even been thought of. It would have been considered inhumane in the ancient Middle East. And yet the Roman government decides this is one way, when you’ve conquered a country, to subjugate these people and keep them under authority. Crucify as many as you have to, terrorize the population into submission.
The actual term “crucifixion” is not used in the Old Testament. However, there are several ancient references that clearly indicate it was the means of capital punishment by which the Messiah would die. As a result, the fulfillment of Messianic prophecy hinged upon a specific historical chronology.
The Messiah has to come during the period of the Roman Empire. It’s only in that narrow window of time when the Roman Empire rules the world that crucifixion is the means of execution and Jesus comes at the right time, dies the right way, in fulfillment of those prophecies. David literally looks down through the halls of history, down through the quarter of time and a thousand years in the distance sees the Savior suffering and dying and describes it for us in Psalm 22.
Biblical scholars have long studied the correlation between the writings of David, Zechariah and Isaiah and the Gospel accounts of Christ’s death. When these Old and New Testament scriptures are compared side-by-side, the prophetic implications of the Passion of Christ are fully realized.
The band of evil men has encircled me. They have pierced my hands and my feet (Psalm 22:16)
And they nailed Jesus to a cross (Mark 15:24)
To intensify the pain of crucifixion, Roman soldiers attached victims to the cross by driving spikes 5 to 7 inches long through the hands or wrists and feet. Like David, the Prophet Zechariah foretold the wounds created by this torture centuries before the nails ever pierced Christ’s body.
They will look at me, the one they have pierced, and mourn for him as one who mourns for an only child. (Zechariah 12:10)
At nine o’clock on Friday morning, the cross was raised at Golgotha. Pilate had a notice attached above Christ’s head proclaiming the charge against him in three languages – “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews”. During the next six hours, at least 12 specific prophecies were fulfilled.
He poured out his life unto death and was numbered with the transgressors. (Isa 53:12)
They crucified two thieves with him, one on his right and one on his left. (Mark 15:27)
All who see me mock me, they hurl insults, shaking their heads “He trusts in the Lord. Let the Lord rescue him.” (Psalm 22:7-8)
Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying “He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him.” (Matt 27:39-43)
They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing. (Psalm 22:18)
When they had crucified Him, they divided up his clothes by casting lots. (Matt 27:35)
That was again typical of Romans. You strip the guy’s clothes off and put him on the cross and so any of the clothing that was yet considered of any value at all, they would gamble for. So here are the soldiers gambling at the foot of the cross to see who gets the robe of Jesus and that’s predicted in Psalm 22 a thousand years before the time of Christ, that they have encircled me, that they’re taunting me and in all of that, all of the prophecies of Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53 are fulfilled in minor detail in the death of Jesus Christ.
At noon, the sixth hour by Jewish reckoning, the divine judgment of God echoed over Jerusalem through the forces of the natural world.
“In that day” declares the Lord “I will make the sun go down at noon and darken the earth in broad daylight.” (Amos 8:9)
From the sixth hour until the ninth hour, darkness came over all the land. (Matt 27:45)
As the skies darken and the temperature dropped. Jesus, nearly dead from loss of blood, summoned his last reserve the strength to call out to God as Messianic prophecy again came to fruition.
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me?” (Psalm 22:1)
About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt 27:46)
Back in those days the Psalms were not numbered. And so the way you knew what you referred to then was to recite the first line. What is Psalm 22? It’s a messianic Psalm. It has predictions about the coming of the Messiah and he was in effect there in the cross applying that to himself saying “Psalm 22 is coming true in me today.”
My strength is dried up and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth. They gave me vinegar for my thirst. (Psalms 22:15, 69:21)
Later Jesus said “I am thirsty.” A jar of wine vinegar was there so they soaked a sponge in it and lifted it up to his lips. (John 19:28-29)
After sipping the bitter wine, Jesus uttered his final words again in fulfillment of prophecy.
Into your hands I commit my spirit. Redeem me O Lord, the God of truth. (Psalm 31:5)
Jesus called out with a loud voice “Father into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last. (Luke 23:46)
Thousands of men were crucified but there is only one man who was God who was crucified. He was taking the sin that we should have taken upon ourselves upon himself at that moment, bearing the full sin of the world. At that moment, the earth shook and rocks split. When the Centurion and those with him, who were guarding Jesus, saw all that had happened, they were terrified and exclaimed “Surely he was the Son of God.”
I think that we have to look at the Passion of the Christ through the lens of these prophecies. This is more than just a story about someone who comes and dies and claims to be the Son of God and the Messiah. It is a fulfillment of these prophecies against all mathematical odds, in a miraculous way that validates the claim of Jesus Christ to be who he claimed to be. God, in a sense, created a fingerprint. He said “I’m gonna provide predictions. Whoever fulfills these predictions you will know he is the Messiah who has come to save Israel and the world.” These are very specific details that are given in the Old Testament that are fulfilled in the New Testament. Because I think when you see the prophecy and then you see the exact fulfillment in the New Testament, it all fits together perfectly.
Messianic prophecy and New Testament accounts of The Passion of Jesus Christ. In these sacred texts offered centuries apart, prediction and fulfillment have converged to reveal a message for the ages. There is a passage in the Old Testament where God speaks and says “I can declare the end from the beginning. I can predict the future. There is no god like me in all the world.” Christianity is the only religion that is based on a hundred prophecies clearly being fulfilled in the life of the founder. It’s obvious that these prophecies were intended for us to see the fulfillment in the person of Jesus Christ. That’s why they were given in the first place.
For 2,000 years, these prophecies have withstood the critical scrutiny of historians and scholars to forge a compelling case that a carpenter from Nazareth was indeed the promised Messiah. That the full significance of these predictions extends beyond Christ’s suffering and death.
You will not abandon me to the grave nor will you let your Holy One see decay. And after the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life. (Psalm 16:10)
On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone had been rolled away. As they entered, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe. “Do not be afraid” he said “You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified. He’s risen, he is not here. Go tell his disciples he’s going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him just as he told you.” (Luke 24:1-6)
Jesus was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures. He appeared to Peter, then to the twelve after that he appeared to more than 500. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the crowning moment of the passion story and the prelude to a host of prophecies yet to be fulfilled.