22 Feb Jesus in the Old Testament, Part 2: Titles
This is the second part in a series on how the Bible is all about Jesus
Last week we talked about how we see Jesus in the Old Testament through events. Another way we learn about Jesus in the Old Testament is through titles. There is a variety of titles in the Old Testament that were ultimately attributed to Jesus.
In Isaiah—written seven hundred years before Jesus was born—beginning roughly in chapter 40 all the way through to chapter 66, the dominating theme is about the suffering servant. Though Isaiah depicts the suffering servant as the people of Israel (Isa. 41:8) or himself (Isa. 49:5), we observe in chapter 53 that the suffering servant is actually someone different.
The suffering servant is described as someone who bears our grief and sorrows, is pierced for our transgressions, and crushed for our iniquities (Isa. 53:4–5). Since the suffering servant was to do this work on behalf of the people of Israel and Isaiah himself, we get the idea that he is in fact someone different, someone that God would send to be a suffering Savior, namely, Jesus.
We see this in Jesus’ own words, when he says, “[I] came not to be served but to serve, to give [my] life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). The suffering servant is also quoted in connection to Jesus’ healing ministry in Matthew 8:17.
As an Ethiopian eunuch read from Isaiah 53, Philip joined him and informed him that Isaiah wasn’t speaking about himself, but Jesus (Acts 8:26–35).
Speaking of Jesus, Peter quotes Isaiah 53:5 and connects it with Jesus (1 Peter 2:24).
The suffering servant wasn’t the people of Israel. He wasn’t Isaiah. He was Jesus. Jesus came as the suffering servant to bear our grief and sorrows, be pierced for our transgressions, and be crushed for our iniquities.
Alpha and Omega
In the Old Testament, God is referred to as the first and the last. We read in the book of Isaiah, “I am the first and I am the last; beside me there is no god” (Isa. 44:6; cf. Isa. 41:4; 48:12). These are references to the eternality of God. God is without beginning. God is without end. God is eternal. God is the uncaused cause.
The New Testament takes the first and last nomenclature for God and attributes it to Jesus. In Revelation 21:6 we read Jesus’ words to John, “I am the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end” (cf. Rev. 1:8; 22:3). Jesus is God. Jesus has no beginning and no end. Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega.
Son of Man
Jesus’ favorite title for himself is from the Old Testament: the Son of Man. He uses this title roughly 80 times. For example, in response to the high priest’s request for Jesus to say if he is the Christ, Jesus said, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming in the clouds of heaven” (Matt. 6:64; cf. Matt. 16:27, 24:30; Mark 14:62). Jesus isn’t merely saying that he is simply a son of a man. We all are. Jesus was claiming to be the son of man as spoken of by Daniel.
For Jesus to connect himself with the title of son of man from Daniel is to connect himself with the vision of himself in eternal glory in heaven, ruling and reigning, coming into human history humbly as a man to set up a kingdom that’ll never end.
Jesus was crucified. He was put to death for the charge of blasphemy by declaring himself to be God. He rose from death three days later. Jesus is alive today, and he is the Son of Man spoken of by the prophet Daniel.
Another title in the Old Testament used for God revolves around the burning bush and Moses (Exodus 3). As Exodus relates, one day Moses walked along in the wilderness and came across a bush that was on fire but not consumed.
I think God has a good sense of humor. Of all ways that God could have spoken with Moses, he chose to talk with him through a burning bush.
Many tend to read Exodus 3 in a religious way. But just think about it. If you saw a guy talking to a plant, you would call 9-1-1, right? You wouldn’t say, “It’s a moment with the Lord. Leave him alone.”
As Moses had a conversation with this burning bush, he’s told, “Go to the Pharaoh. Liberate my people. Lead a mass emancipation for millions!” Moses has a good question. “By the way, who should I tell them sent me? Because quite honestly, I don’t feel comfortable going to Pharaoh saying, ‘Thus saith the bush.’” So, through the bush, God says to Moses, “Say to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”
Responding to the Jews’ question of Jesus on how exactly he saw Abraham who lived a couple of thousand years before him, Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” The Jews understood that Jesus was identifying himself as God, who spoke to Moses through the burning bush, and picked up stones to throw at him (John 8:59).
Jesus in essence said, “I’m the eternal God, older than Abraham, and I was the one who met with Moses in the burning bush and told him to go liberate my people.”