The Greatest Statement the Prophets Never Made

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Imagine a world where the whole state of Texas, 801 miles vertically and 773 miles horizontally, is covered two feet deep in silver dollars. Now take one of the silver dollars and mark it. Then tell a blindfolded man to pick one silver dollar across the whole state. There is a one in 10^17 chance the man picks up the marked dollar.

 According to the research of Westmont College and the American Scientific Affiliation, this is the same statistical probability of Jesus fulfilling just eight prophecies of the Old Testament out of the approximate 300 prophecies made about him in total. 

The detail is staggering. Jesus must be from the offspring of Eve (Genesis 3:15). He must be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14). He must come from the line of Abraham (Genesis 12:3). He must be from the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:10). He must sit on David’s throne (2 Samuel 7:12-13). He must be betrayed and the betrayer will use the money to buy a potter’s field (Zechariah 11:12-13). He must be crucified with the wicked and have his grave with the rich (Isaiah 53)… just to name a few. 

The gospel writer Matthew picks up this idea as he begins his gospel. In chapter 2, Matthew shows how Christ has fulfilled three prophecies: he was born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2), through his birth Herod will bring great sorrow to the land (Jeremiah 31:15). And the third: 

He went and lived in a city called Nazareth, so that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, that he would be called a Nazarene.” (Matthew 2:23)

What’s interesting about this prophecy is that there is no direct trace of it anywhere in the Old Testament. There is not a single drop of ink that says Jesus will come from Nazareth. Although this prophecy is harder to understand on the surface, it contains one of the most integral themes of the New Testament. It is the greatest statement the prophets never made. 

Nazareth was a nothing town. There was nothing glamorous about it, and it certainly was not the feeding ground for influential people. This is a town for the lowly, rejected, and despised. This is why Nathanael in John 1 says, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” As R.T France says, “If Nathanael, a native of Cana only a few miles from Nazareth, reacted like that, what must have been the response in Judea, where most people had probably never heard of Nazareth?” (France, 94)

When Matthew says the prophets spoke that Christ would come from Nazareth, they are not speaking about geography. They are speaking about status. The Messiah will be considered as nothing. He will be a nothing man from a nothing town, and the world will regard him as nothing. This is the beautiful reality of the incarnation, God becoming man. He did not come in the form of a King, but he came as an unlikely servant with no beauty that we would desire him (Isaiah 53). He did not come in the grandiose appearance of someone from Rome or Jerusalem. Instead, God came to a one-horse town, Nazareth. 

In my pastoral internship, I’ve been surprised at the real and terrible suffering that goes on in people’s lives. This world is full of hardship, death, cancer, sickness, and tears. Our God was made truly human; he experienced pain. He felt temptation; he suffered loneliness, betrayal, abandonment, and mockery. As the author of Hebrews says, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15) Our only comfort when it comes to our sin is that our God is a Nazarene; he knows the hardships of this life as he experienced it, yet without sin. 

God humbled himself to humanity so that sinful humanity could be raised to God. Therefore, it is our joy to bring our inadequacies and hardships to the comforting Nazarene. Here in this one prophecy is a sweet promise from God that he will be brought low so that all can be brought high and approach him confidently. How wonderful is it to be a Christian!

So as Nathanael says, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” We can reply like Philip, “Come and see.” Come and see the magnificent Counselor. Come and see the Incarnate God who is truly God and truly man. Come and see the Rock of Ages in the form of a lowly servant. Come and see the Prince of Peace despised by men. Come and see the One who can not only sympathize with your weakness but by his grace and atoning sacrifice bring eternal life. 

My Savior left His throne above 
Exchanged His wealth for poverty 
He took my hate and gave His love 
All this and more He did for me 

Because He chose the lowly way 
And bowed before His Father’s will 
I can with all assurance say 
My God is near and loves me still 
My God is near and loves me still 

He felt the storms of human pain 
He felt temptation’s whelming seas 
He felt the tears of sorrow’s rain 
All this and more He felt for me 

Because He knows my every strife 
And is acquainted with my grief 
I can’t be shaken in this life 
The Friend of Sinners walks with me 
The Friend of Sinners walks with me 

 

*From My Savior Left His Throne Above by Advent Birmingham 

R.T France “The New International Commentary on the New Testament: The Gospel of Matthew”

 

Peter Stoner, Science Speaks: Scientific Proof of the Accuracy of Prophecy and the Bible, Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1963, pg. 101-109

 

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