The Evidence Deserves a Verdict
The Evidence Deserves a Verdict
It was an uneventful Saturday at the Hiller home in Chicago. Clarence Hiller spent the afternoon painting the trim on the outside of his two-story house on West 104th Street. By early evening he and his family had retired to bed. However, what happened next would change criminal law in America forever.
The Hillers woke in the early morning hours of September 19, 1910, and became suspicious that a gaslight near their daughter’s bedroom had gone out. Clarence went to investigate. His wife heard a quick succession of sounds: a scuffle, two men tumbling down the stairs, two gunshots, and the slamming of the front door. She emerged to find Clarence dead at the foot of the stairs.
Police arrested Thomas Jennings, a convicted burglar, less than a mile away. There was blood on his clothes and his left arm had been injured – both, he said, from falling on a streetcar. In his pocket they found the same kind of gun that had been used to shoot Clarence Hiller, but they couldn’t determine if it was the murder weapon.
Knowing they needed more to convict Jennings, detectives scoured the inside of Hiller’s home in search for additional clues. One fact soon became obvious: the killer had entered through a rear kitchen window. Detectives went outside – and there, next to that window, forever imprinted in the white paint that the murder victim himself had so carefully applied to a railing only hours before his death, they found four clear fingerprints from someone’s left hand.
Fingerprint evidence was a new concept at the time, having been recently introduced at an international police exhibition in St. Louis. So far, fingerprints had never been used to convict anyone of murder in the United States. Despite strong objections by defense attorneys that such evidence was unscientific and inadmissible; four officers testified that the fingerprints in the paint perfectly matched those of Thomas Jennings – and him alone. The jury found Jennings guilty, the Illinois Supreme Court upheld his conviction in a historic ruling, and he was later hanged. (Lee Strobel, The Case for Christ)
Today fingerprint evidence is standard procedure. We trust this technique of identifying criminals nearly perhaps as much as eyewitness testimony.
There were a lot of things would still be left undone had Jesus not been born in that stable nearly two millennia ago – one of which would be these strange predictions that the Jewish prophets made concerning the coming of their Messiah. You see, the ancient Jewish prophets actually described the circumstances surrounding the birth, life, death and resurrection of their Messiah hundreds of years before he arrived on the scene. They gave us his fingerprints before he showed up. By looking back at what they looked forward to we can be assured that Jesus fit their prophecies. If Jesus had never been born their prophecies would remain unfulfilled. This would present a huge problem.
Grant R. Jeffrey says in his book, Jesus, the Great Debate, “The Old Testament contains over three hundred prophetic passages that refer to the first coming of Jesus the Messiah. Forty-eight of these prophecies refer specifically to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. All of them published during and eleven-hundred year period that ended four centuries before Jesus was born in Bethlehem.”
God gives us evidence to believe. He never calls us to blind faith. The Messiah left fingerprints before he showed up. Jesus said this about himself in Luke 24:44, "These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.” Jesus wasn’t just another historical figure. He was way more than some mystical guru who spouts off clichés and thoughtless sayings. Jesus was the one and only Son of God and his fulfilling the ancient prophecies prove it.
One of the first books I read when I was a new pastor was The Late Great Planet Earth by Hal Lindsey. It’s about the Second Coming of Christ and the end of the world. I don’t recommend it because its end time predictions are off base. But Lindsey begins by looking back at the prophets predictions concerning coming of the Messiah. He showed how they all pointed to Jesus.
That’s what predictive prophecy is all about. You can’t chalk this stuff up to coincidence. There’s just too much of it. Rather than look at all the prophets’ strange predictions I thought we’d take a look at just eight of them. I think you’ll see that Jesus was more than just a good and wise teacher. He was and is the Messiah, the Savior of the Jews and of the world. Let’s start with an interesting one from the book of Daniel. This one will take some explanation, but you’ll see that it clearly shows the timing of the Messiah’s arrival.
1. The Messiah’s Arrival
Daniel 9:24-26 Seventy weeks are determined. For your people and for your holy city, To finish the transgression, To make an end of sins, To make reconciliation for iniquity, To bring in everlasting righteousness, To seal up vision and prophecy, And to anoint the Most Holy. 25 “Know therefore and understand, That from the going forth of the command To restore and build Jerusalem Until Messiah the Prince, There shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; The street shall be built again, and the wall, Even in troublesome times. 26 “And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself; And the people of the prince who is to come Shall destroy the city and the sanctuary.
The end of it shall be with a flood, And till the end of the war desolations are determined.
Because of time constraints I can’t give you too much detail, but here are a few. The sevens in these passages represent years. Some translations say seventy weeks or sixty two weeks. Each week represents seven years. The prophecy says that from the time the order was given to rebuild Jerusalem that there would be “seven ‘sevens’ and sixty-two ‘sevens’”. Scholars more brilliant than I have determined that the issue to rebuild Jerusalem came on March 14, 445 B.C. from the Persian King, Artaxerxes.
We need to remember that weeks are counted as years, and the years had 360 days in that time. Simple calculation of this time element is this: 69 weeks (of years) x 7 (days of the week) = 483 x 360 (days in a year) = 173,880. Now if you take March 14, 445 B.C., when the decree to rebuild Jerusalem went forth, and add to it 173,800 days, you come to April 6, A.D. 32. According to sir Robert Anderson in his chronology, it was on that day that Jesus Christ rode into the city in His triumphal entry. So, Daniel gives us a specific time frame for the Messiah, the Anointed one to be on the scene in Jerusalem, and He was.
2. The Messiah’s Mom
More than six hundred years before the actual event, the prophet Isaiah predicted something miraculous concerning the birth of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. Isaiah 7:14 “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.” Immanuel means “God with us.” God was coming into the world and he would be born from the womb of a woman who was a virgin.
3. The Messiah’s Birthplace
Micah 5:2 “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting.”
Oh Bethlehem, the Messiah will be born in you. What made this even more remarkable was the fact that Jesus’ parents weren’t from Bethlehem. They lived in Nazareth. They had to go to Bethlehem to register for the census, so that Caesar would know how much he could tax them.
4. The Messiah’s Hometown
Isaiah 9:1-2 says, “Nevertheless the gloom will not be upon her who is distressed, as when at first He lightly esteemed the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, and afterward more heavily oppressed her, by the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, in Galilee of the Gentiles. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined.”
It was from his hometown in Galilee that Jesus’ ministry actually began.
Now we’ll skip several years to the end of Jesus’ ministry. In case you don’t remember the story, let me remind you. Jesus was betrayed to the Jewish authorities by a man named Judas. Do you remember how much money they offered him to turn Jesus in? That’s right 30 pieces of silver. The Prophet’s knew it before it happened.
5. The Messiah’s Bounty
Zechariah 11: 12-13 says, “So they weighed out thirty shekels of silver as my wages. Then the LORD said to me, "Throw it to the potter, that magnificent price at which I was valued by them.” So I took the thirty shekels of silver and threw them to the potter in the house of the LORD.” This is a two for one prophecy. After Judas pointed out Jesus he realized that he’d betrayed innocent blood. He took the money back to the Temple and threw it into the “house of the LORD.” The priests couldn’t take blood money into the Temple treasury so they used it to buy a parcel of land called the “Potter’s Field” where indigent folk could be buried.
Next we have a rather lengthy section from Isaiah 53. This prophecy describes in detail the Messiah’s sacrificial death. Jewish scholars’ today try to say that the person suffering in these verses was Isaiah himself or that it’s symbolic of the nation of Israel. You just read it with me and see who you think is the subject here.
6. The Messiah’s Suffering
Isaiah 53:3-9, 12, He is despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. 4 Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. 5 But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. 7 He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth. 8 He was taken from prison and from judgment, And who will declare His generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living; For the transgressions of My people He was stricken. 9 And they made His grave with the wicked— But with the rich at His death, because He had done no violence, nor was any deceit in His mouth.
12 Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great, and He shall divide the spoil with the strong, because He poured out His soul unto death, and He was numbered with the transgressors, and He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
You can see how closely this matches the death of Jesus Christ. If you ever have an opportunity to share your faith with a Jewish person Isaiah 53 could be a key in bring them to faith in Christ.
But wait, there’s more! Jesus died between two thieves. He died in the early afternoon, but they lingered on as sunset neared. The Sabbath was coming at sunset and it was against Jewish law to kill anyone on the Sabbath, so the soldiers broke the legs of the two thieves so that they would stop pushing up to breath and suffocate and die. They found that Jesus was already dead and there was no need to break any of his bones … just as it was predicted …
7. The Messiah’s Preservation
Psalm 34:20says, He keeps all his bones, not one of them is broken.
Finally we come to the most glorious prophecy of all. This one speaks of …
8. The Messiah’s Resurrection
Psalm 16:10 says, “For You will not leave my soul in Sheol, nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.”
Sheol was the grave. Historical evidence tells us that the tomb of Jesus of Nazareth was empty. The witnesses all said that he had arisen. Most of them gave their lives for that testimony in the years to come. The prophets were right again.
What do you do with prophecies like this? You can’t chalk them up to coincidence. But, the probability of just eight prophecies being fulfilled is one chance in one hundred million billion. That number is millions of times greater than the total number of people who’ve ever walked the planet.
If you took the entire land surface of the world and covered it with 1-1/2 inch tiles and marked an X on one of them, and you could wander the world and pick up only one tile, and have it to be the tile with the X on it, is the same chance as having one person fulfill eight prophecies. … if you took this number of silver dollars, they would cover the state of Texas to a depth of two feet. If you marked one silver dollar among them and then had a blindfolded person wander the whole state and bend down to pick up a coin, what would be the odds he’d choose the one that had been marked? (Lee Strobel, The Case for Christ)
It would be impossible. It would take a miracle. And that’s just to fulfill eight prophecies. The probability of fulfilling forty-eight, which Jesus clearly did would be one chance in a trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion. (13)
That’s powerful evidence. It’s evidence that deserves a verdict. What will your verdict be? Will it be faith in Christ, or will it be a faith that by chance all the evidence is wrong? What is your verdict today? Remember, your answer determines your eternal destiny.