Jesus, like Paul, studied the Old Testament and drew the conclusion that the Messiah would “have to suffer these things and then enter his glory” (Luke 24:26, NIV). The “have to” of Luke 24:26 translates the same word as Acts 17:3 (NIV),where Paul says the Messiah “had to suffer.” For Jesus and Paul, the priority of suffering before glory was written into the prophecies long before they were to have occurred. The question is, then, on what Old Testament basis did they come to this conclusion?
They likely would have noticed that the most significant figures in the Old Testament had a prolonged period of suffering before they entered into the glory period of their lives. Joseph spent some thirteen years in prison before ascending to the role of prime minister of Egypt. Moses spent forty years chasing sheep through the desert before taking up his role as the powerful leader of the Exodus. David spent many years as a fugitive, some of that time in foreign lands, before being elevated to kingship. Daniel was a prisoner of war, and was even condemned to death, before his elevation to the position of prime minister of Babylon. In the stories of these Old Testament servants of God there are foreshadowings of the Messiah, who would also suffer and be humiliated before being elevated to His full royal role.
The capstone of this New Testament conviction is found in the most widely quoted Old Testament text in the New Testament: Isaiah 53. The Suffering Servant of Isaiah was despised, rejected, and sorrowful (Isa. 53:2-4). Like a sanctuary lamb, He was slaughtered on account of our sins (Isa. 53:5-7), according to the will of the Lord (Isa. 53:8-10). But “after the suffering of his soul” (Isa. 53:11, NIV), He would justify many and receive a powerful inheritance (Isa. 53:12).
For the writers of the New Testament, Isaiah 53 was the key to the Messiah’s role. Paul would certainly have preached this text in Thessalonica. According to Isaiah 53, the Messiah would not appear kingly or powerful at the time of His first appearance. In fact, He would be rejected by many of His own people. But that rejection would be the prelude to the glorious Messiah of Jewish expectation. With this in mind, Paul was able to show that the Jesus he had come to know was, in fact, the Messiah whom the Old Testament had foretold.
Prayerfully read through Isaiah 53, realizing that it’s talking about what the Lord, our Creator, went through just so that you, personally, can have eternal life. In light of what this amazing truth tells us about the character of God, why should Christ be first and foremost in our lives?