“CRAVING TO UNDERSTAND”

By: Frank Tunstall

The prophets:  “yearning to understand Messiah’s suffering and glory” (1 Peter 1:10-11 NIV).

Spring is bursting out all around us. Grass, trees, bushes, flowers – they’re all experiencing a resurrection. Nature gives billions of witnesses to the resurrection. But nature is also limited. Only the story of the death and resurrection of Jesus can give the full story.

The great Apostle Peter wrote his two New Testament letters like an apologetic, with each of them offering a defense of the integrity of the gospel of Jesus Christ. He was nearing the end of his life and wanted his followers to know the whole story. In his first epistle he defended the Old Testament prophets who “yearned” to know more about Messiah’s coming (1 Peter 1:10-12).

“Concerning this salvation, the prophets who spoke of the grace that was to come …searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ [the Holy Spirit] in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow” (1 Peter 1:10-11).

The Messianic prophets knew God was up to something big and tried their best to figure it out. Peter said they “searched intently and with the greatest care.” The word ‘yearning’ fits the Greek translation, and ‘craving’ does too. They passionately wanted to know God’s timing and the circumstances to which the “Spirit of Christ” was pointing. Peter said the prophets did comprehend some of the two most important elements of Messiah’s ministry: His suffering and His glory.

With the Apostle Peter, the phrases, the “Spirit of Christ” and the “Holy Spirit” were synonymous terms. By implicitlyaffirming the equality of Jesus and the Holy Spirit, Peter gives further evidence of the Spirit’s place as an equal in the Trinity.

The Holy Spirit showed discipline, however, regarding when the big news would be released. To pick only five, Moses’ prophecy of Messiah’s coming had a 1500-year wait. With King David, the timeline was a millennium. With Isaiah it was about 800 years. With Micah it was some 700 years and with Malachi it was some 400 years.  

The Spirit made the full announcement of the good news when its time came on the Heavenly Father’s calendar, and not ahead of His time (Hebrews 11:13-14; 39-40). It took the crucifixion of Messiah and His resurrection of Jesus to unveil fully the plan of God. Without it, the prophets could only yearn as they sought to discover what was ahead.

Said another way, the death and resurrection of Jesus was the one big necessity remaining for all the prophetic dots to connect. Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection to this day ranks as the greatest interpreter of the Old Testament. Looking back through the lens of the Lord’s cross and His empty tomb, it all became self-evident in first century Israel. Messiah would indeed suffer a wicked death, and then the glory of His resurrection and His exaltation would follow.

The Old Testament prophets died in faith, not having received the promises, but in the hindsight of the cross, they showed one hundred percent accuracy. Peter had it right. Their exactness is one of the boldest proofs Jesus is indeed the Son of God and the Messiah.

In a short ministry of about three years, the Lord fulfilled perfectly each of the Messianic Old Testament prophecies. Jesus’ ascension would follow, and so would the Heavenly Father’s gift of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus’ apostles along with these prophets laid the foundation of the Lord’s Church and the New Covenant, with Jesus Himself as the “chief cornerstone” (Ephesians 2:20). The apostles alone would not have been able to do the job to perfection; they needed the input of the prophets backing them up to get it exactly right. This reality also helps explain why we have an Old Testament and the New Testament in the church today, and they blend completely into one Holy Bible.

“The prophets told us this was coming,” Peter wrote, and “asked a lot of questions about this gift of life God was preparing. The Messiah’s Spirit [the Holy Spirit] let them in on some of it – that the Messiah would experience suffering, followed by glory. They clamored to know who and when. All they were told was they were serving you, you who by orders from heaven have now heard for yourselves – through the Holy Spirit – the message those prophecies fulfilled. Do you realize how fortunate you are? Angels would have given anything to be in on this” (1 Peter 1:10-12, MSG).

Dear reader, do you yearn to hear the full gospel?

Peter had a clear understanding of the role of angels in the economy of God; in this epistle, however, he wrote about their limitations (see Acts 5:19; 12:7). Their primary restriction is they do not know from experience the plan of salvation. In fact, “this Good News has been announced… by those who preached in the power of the Holy Spirit sent from heaven,” and it is such wonderful news “even the angels are eagerly watching these things happen” (1 Peter 1:12-13, NLT).

Johnson Oatman (1856-1922) expressed it:

“Although I’m not an angel, yet I know that over there

I will join a blessèd chorus that the angels cannot share;

I will sing about my Savior,

Who upon dark Calvary,

Freely pardoned my transgressions,

Died to set a sinner free.

Holy, holy, is what the angels sing,

And I expect to help them make the courts of Heaven ring;

But when I sing redemption’s story,

They will fold their wings,

For angels never felt the joys that our salvation brings.”1

Ah! this Easter season, Mother Nature is turning the world green and flowers and trees are blossoming everywhere, painting billions of pictures of resurrection on every hill and valley worldwide. Yes, nature is a preacher too, but not of the whole story. May we all be blessed to celebrate this Easter the full gospel, the redemption Jesus achieved for us at Calvary. Angels will have to step aside as the anthems of resurrection boom across the land.

Up from the grave He arose,
With a mighty triumph o’er His foes.
He arose a Victor from the dark domain
And He lives forever with His saints to reign.
He arose! (He arose),
He arose! (He arose),
Hallelujah! Christ arose!2

1Johnson Oatman, hymnwriter. 

2Daniel Thornton, hymnwriter.

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