The early disciples were persuaded to follow Jesus because they recognized He answered the prophecies of the Old Testament about the Messiah. For example, in John 1, as the first apostles were dedicating themselves to follow Him, this was a compelling consideration:
“The day following Jesus would go forth into Galilee, and findeth Philip, and saith unto him, Follow me. 44 Now Philip was of Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45 Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph” (John 1:43-45).
The Old Testament contains over 300 prophecies of the Messiah, with 109 being highly detailed. And Jesus fulfilled them all.
The Old Testament is so replete with forecasts of Jesus that He has been described as the only person who ever lived who had His biography written before He was born. Jesus recognized and declared He was fulfilling these prophecies (see Luke 4:14-22; 24:27, 44; John 5:39). Consider some eight categories of prophecies He fulfilled:
1 – The forerunner of Jesus – John the Baptist – was described in Old Testament prophecies. The Old Testament ends in Malachi with a promise concerning the one who would precede and prepare the world for Christ: “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord” (Mal. 4:5). Isaiah described the forerunner’s work: “The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God” (Isaiah 40:3). John the Baptist fulfilled these (see Matt. 3:1-3; 11:9-15; 17:11-12).
2 – The birth of Jesus was prophesied. The Old Testament predicted: “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14; see also Gen. 3:15). It was also foretold He would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). It happened exactly as predicted so “it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet” (Matt. 1:22).
3 – The childhood of Christ was prophesied. Jesus’ family lived for a time in Egypt, as foretold (see Hos. 11:1; Matt. 2:13-15). Young children were slain, as predicted (see Jer. 31:15; Matt. 2:16-18). Jesus’ family settled in Nazareth, just as the Old Testament had implicitly predicted (see Matt. 2:23).
4 – The method of teaching by Jesus was prophesied. He frequently taught in parables, which was predicted in the Old Testament (see Psalm 78:1-2; Matt. 13:34-35). See more about one of Jesus’ most memorable parables in our YouTube video on the Parable of the Good Samaritan: Ten Ways to be a Good Samaritan.
5 – Jesus’ miracles were foretold. The Messiah would heal in every form (Isa. 35:5-6). So did Jesus (Matt. 11:4-6).
6 – The mission of Jesus was prophetically described. The Messiah was foretold as a suffering, sinless Savior to sacrifice Himself for our sins (see Isaiah 53). He would be betrayed by His closest friend (see Psalm 55:12-15) for thirty pieces of silver (Zech. 11:12). This is Jesus.
7 – The victory of Christ was prophesied. The Old Testament foretold the death and the resurrection of Jesus (see Psalm 22-24; I Cor. 15:1-3). Jesus explained to His disciples that all of this was foretold (Luke 24:44-49). One of the frequently cited prophecies of Jesus’ resurrection is: “For You will not leave my soul in Sheol, Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption” (Psalm 16:10 NKJV). And Psalm 110:1 is quoted more times in the New Testament than any other single Old Testament verse, and it described in advance this monumental event: “The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.”
8 – The church of Christ was also foretold. Prophetic statements in Isaiah 2, Daniel 2 and Joel 2 all look forward to what transpired in Acts 2: a body of baptized believers formed around the common purpose of glorifying Jesus and serving others in His name. Paul explained that one of the goals of his ministry was that “the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places” (Eph. 3:10).
The fulfillments of these advance descriptions of Jesus and His work are meant to signal unmistakably that He is “‘the Messiah’ (which is translated, the Christ)” (John 1:41).