Last night, we celebrated the Lord’s Passion. We read the Passion story according to John, and in his account, he mentions “fulfillment” on five different occasions. As we were reading this, it re-occurred to me how prophetical this whole ordeal was and must necessarily have been. But even more, it occurred to me what this must have been like for the disciples who, after a fairly long time, wrote about their experience of the Passion. They must have seen very early on if not immediately that the significant prophecies were fulfilled by the obvious events of the Passion; but even the seemingly insignificant events had meaning and were prophesied in the Old Testament.
Obviously, the Passion and Death of the Son of God were seen as the fulfillment of the Passover celebration, the establishment of the New Covenant as the fulfillment of the Old Covenant (Heb. 8:6-13) Additionally, the prophecy of the coming of the Messiah (Dt. 18:15) was believed to be fulfilled by Peter even before the Passion (Mk. 8:29). These were pretty obviously, though far from insignificantly, fulfilled by Christ’s life and death on Earth and it probably didn’t take much time for the disciples to realize that these events were the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy.
On the other hand, there were many seemingly insignificant prophecies fulfilled. Going back to Palm Sunday for example, I could imagine that on their walk into Jerusalem when Jesus told two of his disciples to go and get a colt from the village opposite them (Mk. 11:2), those two disciples were confused about the purpose of this errand – they had come to trust Jesus and they did as they were told, but I’m sure that they were perplexed at this request (and in fact they were: Jn. 12:16).
But what I imagined yesterday was that some time after the fulfillment of God’s promise to deliver his people from death, as the disciples became more familiar and comfortable with what they had been shown by Christ, the fulfillment of these smaller prophecies would begin to be realized. Say you were one of the disciples who had been sent to get the colt from the village; perhaps you were upset at the request because you missed out on some time along the road with your beloved teacher, and you were unable to see the significance of what you were doing. Now, some years later, you’re reading through the scriptures or perhaps preaching the Word of God and you come across Zechariah 9:9 which reads: “Exult greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout for joy, O daughter Jerusalem! Behold: your king is coming to you, a just savior is he, Humble, and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” What?! Exult Jerusalem? Behold your King, your humble Savior? Who is riding on a WHAT?! Why did no one tell me what I was doing going and getting that animal?! I kicked and prodded that beast out of spite for what I thought to be a useless errand! Oh sacred brute upon which sat our Lord, I knew not the significance of your role, nor the significance of mine! Truly this man Jesus was the Son of God, the Christ, and the Savior of all people that even his means of transport to the place of his holy Death would be prophesied.
God is never done revealing things to us. We can never know everything about Him or the mystery of our salvation, but it is good to seek understanding, for “to the one who knocks, the door will be opened,” (cf. Luke 11:9). Nothing is insignificant, not even a trip to get a pack animal; everything is significant because it is God who creates everything. The most insignificant trifle to us was willed into being and is loved by God. Therefore, even the smallest details of the Passion of Christ, our Paschal Lamb, have been formed before all ages and foretold by the prophets.