By Shawn McMullen
Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that would follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things (1 Peter 1:10-12).
As they spoke about the present and the future, the Old Testament prophets also spoke about the life and ministry of a promised Messiah, the hope of Israel. Even so, the identity of God’s anointed one was hidden from them. But that didn’t stop them from searching “intently and with the greatest care” in their efforts to understand their own words.
When he walked the earth, Jesus said to his disciples, “For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it” (Luke 10:24). No doubt the prophets longed for a glimpse of the coming Messiah. And I imagine they did so with a deep sense of awe and wonder.
You and I can’t look ahead to the incarnation, but we can look back with awe and wonder at the Lord’s
“But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son” (Galatians 4:4). The message that evoked awe and wonder among a band of shepherds on a Judean hillside more than 2,000 years ago should instill a similar sense of awe and wonder in us today: “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord” (Luke 2:10, 11).
The coming of the Messiah would be a joyful event, indeed. The hope of the ages would be revealed by God and walk among his people. He would “proclaim good news to the poor . . . bind up the brokenhearted . . . proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners” (Isaiah 61:1).
The message was a mixture of joy and sorrow. The Spirit of Christ in the prophets “predicted the sufferings of the Messiah.” For all the good he would do, the Messiah would be “a man of suffering, and familiar with pain” (Isaiah 53:3). He would be hated by his own people, betrayed by a close friend, abandoned by his followers, and subjected to a cruel death.
Thankfully the story doesn’t end there, for along with the Messiah’s sufferings, the prophets also foretold “the glories that would follow.” He would be affirmed by the Father at his baptism. He would be gloriously transfigured before his disciples. He would rise from the dead and ascend to Heaven.
The prophets understood that they were serving us—not themselves—as they spoke of the coming Messiah. That’s why, even though we have the privilege of looking back on promises already fulfilled, we must never lose the wonder, the joy, and the awe of the Christmas message.