There are many specific details in these chapters that seem as though they would be impossible to fulfill. Given the strict requirements that God made for the Messiah, there is no other person in the history of the world, other than Jesus, who could have met these demands. As we read Isaiah’s prophecy of chapter 53:9a, we see that the Messiah will be convicted of a capital crime and crucified, yet He will also be buried in the tomb of a rich man. Considering the poverty Jesus chose for Himself, how could He ever have hoped to fulfill this prophecy?
The Messiah will be buried in a rich man’s grave.
Isaiah 53:9a 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.
Matthew, Luke, and John, all confirm Jesus’ fulfillment of this prophecy.
Matthew 27:57-60 Now when evening had come, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who himself had also become a disciple of Jesus. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be given to him. When Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and laid it in his new tomb which he had hewn out of the rock; and he rolled a large stone against the door of the tomb, and departed.
Luke 23:50 Now behold, there was a man named Joseph, a council member, a good and just man. 51 He had not consented to their decision and deed. He was from Arimathea, a city of the Jews, who himself was also waiting for the kingdom of God. 52 This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. 53 Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen, and laid it in a tomb that was hewn out of the rock, where no one had ever lain before. 54 That day was the Preparation, and the Sabbath drew near.
John 19:38 After this, Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took the body of Jesus. 39 And Nicodemus, who at first came to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds. 40 Then they took the body of Jesus, and bound it in strips of linen with the spices, as the custom of the Jews is to bury. 41 Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. 42 So there they laid Jesus, because of the Jews’ Preparation Day, for the tomb was nearby.
Prophecies chosen for their impossible requirements
At first glance, many people would wonder why being buried in a rich man’s grave was important to the Messiah’s story. The fact that Jesus was so poor and without any assets of His own, being buried in the tomb of a rich man would be notable and cause for attention. This appears to be one of the reasons the Lord chose this prophecy to be fulfilled by the Messiah.
Isaiah describes many intimate and detailed facts about the Messiah that would be impossible for him to have known unless he had been given advanced knowledge of these events by God.
- He will teach by Parables. – Isaiah 6:9-10
- Born of a Virgin – Isaiah 7:14
- God living in the body of a man – Isaiah 7:14
- His name will mean salvation. – Isaiah 12:2
- Only a few will receive Him. – Isaiah 33:2
- He will heal the blind, the deaf, the lame. – Isaiah 35:5-6
- He will be very gentle. – Isaiah 42:1-4
The Lord wanted to ensure that the events surrounding the life of the Messiah would be so extraordinary, that no one could falsely identify the wrong person as the Savior. When we consider the hundreds of unique and well-defined events that any one person in the history of the world would have to accomplish in order to correctly be given the title of Messiah, it is astounding that Jesus could fulfill all of these requirements.
Regarding the death of the Messiah, Isaiah speaks of Him as buried in the tomb of a rich man. The chances of a criminal, who had been crucified, being given an expensive tomb for his burial is highly unlikely. Even the fact that Jesus was crucified spoke prophetically of someone who was accursed by God.
“…for he who is hanged is accursed of God.”
The Bible called for a specific procedure to put a person to death on a tree.
According to Deuteronomy 21:22-23, no person who committed a crime worthy of death by being hung on a tree could be left there overnight. Roman custom often left the condemned criminal on the cross until the body decayed and fell apart.
Deuteronomy 21:22-23 If a man has committed a sin deserving of death, and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, 23 his body shall not remain overnight on the tree, but you shall surely bury him that day, so that you do not defile the land which the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance; for he who is hanged is accursed of God.
Jesus died at about 3:00 in the afternoon. The Sabbath would begin at 6 p.m. The amount of spices used in preparation for Jesus’ body, and the fact that He was placed in a new tomb in which no person had ever been buried, were indications that someone of great wealth had made this rare burial possible. As it turns out, there were two wealthy men who helped Jesus fulfill this prophecy: Joseph of Arimathea provided the new tomb for Jesus to be buried in; Nicodemus brought about one hundred pounds of costly myrrh and aloes to place upon His body.
John 19:38 After this, Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus…
John 19:39 “…Nicodemus, who at first came to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds…”
The Romans were very meticulous in their executions for capital crimes. In most cases, the men who were crucified were left on their cross for extended periods of time as a deterrent to those who might consider committing the same crime. It was not uncommon for wild dogs to carry off most of the body, leaving nothing to place in a grave. In Jesus’ case, the Roman authorities would never have released Jesus’ body to Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, if they had not personally verified that Jesus was dead.
- Only the gospel of Matthew records that Joseph of Arimathea was rich.
- Only John provides the details of the costly spices used to cover the Lord’s body before it was wrapped in linen strips.
Proving that Jesus is the Messiah
In keeping with Matthew’s tradition of seeking to prove, from the scriptures, that Jesus fulfilled all of the Old Testament prophecies that concern the Messiah, he makes a special point of informing us that Joseph is the rich man whom Isaiah describes.
For these things were done that the Scripture should be fulfilled… John 19:35
It is clear that Matthew was attributing the donation of a rich man’s tomb, owned by Joseph of Arimathea for Jesus’ burial, to the prophecy of Isaiah 53:9. This is an important piece of evidence in our attempts at aligning the events of Jesus’ life with all of the Old Testament prophecies of the Messiah. There is no doubt whatsoever that Matthew believed Jesus was fulfilling all of Isaiah’s prophecies about the Messiah, and he personally believed that Jesus was the one to whom Isaiah was speaking of.
It is also interesting that these two men who lovingly provided for the Lord at His death have their deeds recorded in the word of God forever. In much the same way that Jesus told the dear woman who burst into Simon’s home to anoint Jesus’ feet with costly oil, which was also in preparation for His death, that she would be remembered forever. Her loving act of kindness is recorded for us in Mark’s testimony.
Mark 14:3-9 And being in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, as He sat at the table, a woman came having an alabaster flask of very costly oil of spikenard. Then she broke the flask and poured it on His head. 4 But there were some who were indignant among themselves, and said, “Why was this fragrant oil wasted? 5 For it might have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they criticized her sharply. 6 But Jesus said, “Let her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a good work for Me. 7 For you have the poor with you always, and whenever you wish you may do them good; but Me you do not have always. 8 She has done what she could. She has come beforehand to anoint My body for burial. 9 Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.”
Nothing that we do for the Lord is ever wasted. Jesus keeps special records of those who lovingly speak of Him, live for Him; and set, as their heart’s desire, a firm commitment to make Him known to the world. Someday when Jesus returns, He will reward all those who did so many loving deeds for Him that were perhaps never known by others. The prophet Malachi writes that those who simply spoke to each other about the Lord had their words recorded in books as a remembrance. The Lord seems to delight in recording the acts of love we do for Him, and has planned to later reward all those who have loved Him with their lives.
Malachi 3:16 Then those who feared the LORD spoke to one another, And the LORD listened and heard them; So a book of remembrance was written before Him For those who fear the LORD And who meditate on His name.
This prophecy of Isaiah 53:9 describes the Messiah as buried in a new tomb that was provided for Him at His death. This amazing and impossible event was fulfilled by Jesus in the gospels—as recorded by Matthew, Luke, and John