Jesus Fulfilled Old Testament Prophecy On the Cross
by Russell Gehrlein
Published on April 18, 2022
Categories: EASTER

Jesus Fulfilled Old Testament Prophecy On The Cross

 Like most Christians around the world, I tried to be intentional about focusing on Jesus’ crucifixion on Good Friday.   As I read through the accounts of the cross in all four Gospels over the past couple of days, I noticed how frequently the writers quoted or alluded to the Old Testament. It became obvious that I needed to do a little research to address how Jesus fulfilled Old Testament (OT) prophecy.

The Apostle John makes this bold claim about just one of these fulfillments during the crucifixion: “These happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled” (John 19:36). Let me unpack this a bit.

Each of the four Gospel writers shared their unique viewpoints regarding the events around Jesus’ crucifixion. Each of them, however, purposefully tied several details of these events to OT prophecy, showing how Jesus fulfilled them. These fulfillments are powerful faith-builders, as they demonstrate God’s perfect sovereignty in carefully laying out the OT Scriptures so that they would point to Jesus. I invite you to explore this topic with me, as we take a deep dive into God’s word. We will take three of the original OT passages that are either quoted or alluded to in the Gospels and discuss where and how they are handled in each of the Gospel accounts that connect them back to the OT.

Psalm 22:18

You might find it strange that we begin here. Anyone who has read the Bible knows that this wonderful collection of poetry called the psalms are not considered prophetic books like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, etc. However, this psalm and many others fall into the category of messianic psalms, as they all clearly point to Jesus when we look back at them with enlightened eyes.

It is interesting that all four Gospel writers mention this event that fulfills Ps. 22:18, which states, “They divide my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment.” Matthew presents it nearly word for word in Matt. 27:35, but he does not quote it directly. We call this an allusion, because it obviously calls to the mind of the reader (both now and then) the OT verse without spelling it out. However, there is a footnote in the NIV indicating that some late manuscripts added, “that the word spoken by the prophet might be fulfilled”, which is followed by quoting Ps. 22:18.   In Mark 15:24, Mark writes the same thing. Luke 23:34 is where we find this event listed next. There are no footnotes here, nor are there any direct quotes, only a note in the margin that this is a parallel passage to Ps. 22:18.

We read it again in John 19:24. Here, John adds much more detail to his account, as he was there. He observes that they divided Jesus’ clothes into four shares, one for each of the four soldiers. He focuses on the undergarment which remained. This had no seams apparently, being woven somehow in one piece from top to bottom. John then shares a conversation between two of the Soldiers, where they agree to not tear it but cast lots to decide who would get it. John indicates here (as he does on two other occasions in his account) that this happened in fulfillment of Ps. 22:18, which he quotes in full.

Psalm 22:1

Next, in our chronological listing of events that took place when Jesus died on the cross that had connections to the OT, is Ps. 22:1. Unlike the previous one, this verse that begins this Messianic psalm was only quoted by two of the Gospel writers. It is also different from our previous verse in that the Gospel writers were either alluding to or quoting the OT Scripture themselves. Here, Jesus actually quoted the verse Himself, communicating that He identified with the psalm in a personal way.

Matthew mentions this event, as expected, since he was writing to a Jewish audience. He consistently calls attention in his book to how the life and death of Jesus as their Messiah fulfills OT prophecy. In Matt. 27:46, we see Jesus crying out to His heavenly Father. He truly felt abandoned as He willingly bore the sin of the entire collection of humans around the world, past, present, and future. For the first time, Jesus experienced complete separation from God, because Jesus, as the only sinless human that ever lived, became sin for us so that we might gain His righteousness. (See Rom. 4:25; 1 Peter 2:24.)

In Mark 15:34, we also see Jesus speaking in agony the words of this psalm. Moyise, in Jesus and Scripture: Studying the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, states that Mark records Jesus quoting the OT 22 times. Moyise concludes that “Mark understood Psalm 22:1 as a prophecy of the Messiah’s suffering, just as he has portrayed Jesus’ suffering as God’s will throughout his Gospel.”

I encourage you to read Psalm 22 in its entirety. Verses 7 and 8 will also be reminiscent of the events at the cross that are mentioned in all three Synoptic Gospels. But, let us move on to another psalm.

Psalm 31:5

Like Psalm 22:1, Jesus is quoting an OT Scripture with which He can properly identify. Jesus quotes Ps. 31:5 in what appear to be His final words. (It is somewhat challenging to list in chronological order all of the words of Jesus on the cross with four slightly differing perspectives.) Interestingly, Luke 23:46 is the only place in all four Gospel narratives where we can read of this crucifixion event.

Dr. Mark D. Roberts, in his “Life for Leaders” devotional on April 10, 2020 entitled, The Seventh Word: Into Your Hands I Commend My Spirit gives us some solid insights into Jesus’ use of Psalm 31.

By quoting a portion of Psalm 31, therefore, Jesus not only entrusted his future to his Father, but also implied that he would be delivered and exonerated. Jesus surely knew the full truth of Psalm 31; so he understood that God would not deliver him from death by crucifixion. But beyond this horrific death lay something marvelous. “Into your hand I commit my spirit” points back to the familiar suffering of David in Psalm 31 and forward to the resurrection of Jesus. Thus, the final word of Jesus from the cross foreshadows the coming victory and joy of Easter.

This was not intended to be a comprehensive list of all of the OT references that Jesus fulfilled at the cross. In addition to these mentioned above, you may want to read Ps. 69:21, which is quoted by all four Gospel writers. (See Matt. 27:34 and 48; Mark 15:23 and 36; Luke 23:36; and John 19:28-30.) I also encourage you to read John 19:31-37, where John quotes both Exo. 12:46 and Zech. 12:10, and boldly points out that Jesus fulfilled these OT Scriptures as well.

What are the implications?

After reading all of these OT Scriptures and Gospel verses, you might be wondering, “What do I need to do with all of this information? Is there anything implied that I must do to apply these truths?

I do not believe that these passages were intended to lead us to change how we think, speak, or act. These connections between the OT and NT are meant to make us amazed at God’s holy word, and amazed with His holy Word, Jesus, who against all odds perfectly fulfills hundreds of OT passages written thousands of years before He was born. Without a doubt, we can trust and follow Him.

(Note: If you found this discussion of value to your faith and knowledge, I invite you to read a series of articles I wrote two years ago on how Jesus fulfilled the OT prophecies found in Isaiah 53:4-12.)


Russell E. Gehrlein (Master Sergeant, U.S. Army, Retired) is a Christian, husband, father, grandfather, and blogger. He received a B.S. in mathematics from Colorado State University and an M.A. in Biblical Studies from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. God has given him a unique career journey as a junior/high school math and science teacher, youth pastor, and service in the military. Russ has worked as a Department of the Army civilian at Fort Leonard Wood for the past 13 years. He is an ordinary man whose passion is helping other people experience God’s presence and integrate their Christian faith at work.

His first book, Immanuel Labor – God’s Presence in our Profession is A Biblical, Theological, and Practical Approach to the Doctrine of Work. Russ has written for the NCO Journal, Army Chemical Review, Campus Life, and for the Center for Army Lessons Learned. Russ has been published in Christian blogs and websites such as, Center for Faith & Work at LeTourneau University, Institute for Faith, Work & Economics, Coram Deo, Nashville Institute for Faith + Work, Made to Flourish, 4Word Women, and The Gospel Coalition. His blog, Reflections on Theological Topics of Interest, inspires him to write on a continual basis.

Read a Review of Immanuel Labor – God’s Presence in our Profession by BCIUM 

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