As Christians, we assume we understand the importance of Easter – with the cross and resurrection at the obvious forefront. We know that without the grief of Good Friday and the celebration of Easter morning, we would not be who we are today, through God’s grace. We think we know all that we need to know to celebrate that one pastel-colored egg-hunting spring morning. We may have begun our personal journey to the cross on Ash Wednesday, preparing our hearts for repentance and forgiveness offered through Jesus’ death and resurrection.
However, any celebration of Easter is incomplete if it begins only with the events of that one week in Jesus’ life. The Easter story is much longer than that, and the journey to the cross is not one that we – personally – can appreciate if we give it only one weekend (or forty days, at most) of attention a year.
Many of us fail to recognize – or remember – that the journey to the cross began at the very beginning of time. As soon as mankind chose his own way over that of his Creator God, God Himself had a plan to make things right.
Read Isaiah 59:1-2. Why is it necessary for us to have a way to come back to God?
Read Deuteronomy 7:6. What choice has God made?
If, as this verse says, we are God’s “treasured possession,” a way must be made for us to be brought back into His presence. Thankfully, God knew what that way would be; throughout the Old Testament, He left a trail of breadcrumbs, so to speak, for His children to follow back to Him. When we carefully read God’s direct words to His people and of the messages He gave to prophets, we realize the significance of the Old Testament as a journey to the cross of Christ.
Using a Bible dictionary (here is one if you don’t have one you already use), find a definition for “prophet.” Understanding that definition, what is a prophecy?
Prophets were like God’s megaphone – amplifying and delivering God’s messages to His people. They were one of His primary means of giving clues as to how He would deliver His people. Those messages – or prophecies – had many functions throughout history; one of the most important was pointing God’s people toward the One who would save them. Then, when the promised Savior arrived, the people would recognize Him by the identifying markers God had given them. No imposters could be confused with the Holy One sent by God.
Read Genesis 12:1-3. What does God promise Abraham? What might God mean when He says that “all peoples on earth will be blessed through you”?
Read Matthew 1:1-2. Where did the genealogy of Jesus begin? Jesus is named as a son of whom in verse 1?
Here, we begin to see the breadcrumbs God left for His people to find His promised Savior. From Abraham, a lineage would begin that led to a blessing for all people; through the house of David the Savior would come.
Read the message of God the prophet Nathan delivered to King David in 2 Samuel 7:1-17. In verse 16, what promise does God make to David?
Read Isaiah 7:13-14. What “house” is named? What is the sign promised to the people?
Using a Bible dictionary, discover the meaning of “Immanuel”. What significance might this have had for the people to whom the Lord was speaking?
Read Luke 1:26-33. What promise is made to Mary about her son?
Because Mary was a young Jewish girl, she would have recognized the words of the angel as an echo of Nathan’s words to David many hundreds of years before. God had made a promise and we begin to see its fulfillment in the baby that Mary would birth. He would be a successor of the line of David and would reign over a never-ending kingdom.
Read Isaiah 40:3 and Mark 1:2-4. What is the significance of the repetition of this passage? To whom is it referring?
Read Malachi 3:1. In this book, the last of the prophets before the coming of Christ, what is given as a sign of His arrival?
As the arrival of the promised Savior drew nearer, the prophecies concerning His birth became less cryptic and obscure. Here, we see one of the most obvious identifying markers of Christ: that another would come and herald His arrival. When John appeared on the scene, something about him would have been familiar and should have been a red flag about what was coming. As we’ll soon see, though, they missed what God was trying to say.
Reread 2 Samuel 7:14. What relationship is described?
Read Mark 1:9-11. Who is being baptized? Who is the Son, and who is the Father?
Through this beautiful relationship of Father and Son, God’s people ought to have recognized that there was something uniquely special about this man Jesus. All signs throughout history had pointed to Him, from detailed descriptions of His lineage to specific details of His birth. However, it is the nature of people to be skeptical…and eventually, God even uses the doubt and skepticism of His people to fulfill His prophecies and His plan.
For Deeper Study:
In Genesis 49, Jacob is prophesying over his sons before his death. What promise is made to Judah in verse 10? Looking at Matthew 1, what can we assume Jacob meant?
Read 1 Samuel 16:1. Whose son has been chosen? Where does Jesse live?
Read Isaiah 11:1,10. From whose family will the chosen one come?
Read Luke 2:4-7. To where did Joseph travel? Why is that significant?
If you are more of a print person, below is a PDF file you can print to write out your answers.