Portraits of Christ

Jesus the Prophet

by Beverly Nickles

 

Jesus fulfilled the role of prophet during his earthly ministry in every important way. He spoke the words of God as from the heart of God. He accurately predicted future events and performed miracles. Moses foretold his appearing and many witnesses in his time declared him a great prophet. Jesus was the prophet above all prophets because he “was in the beginning, was with God, and was God.” 

Jesus spoke for God

A prophet’s primary role is to serve as God’s spokesman, which Jesus clearly did.

In Old Testament times, prophets were responsible to communicate God’s Word to the Israelites. Prophets represented God and spoke with authority because the words they spoke came directly from God.  So, to reject the prophet’s message was to reject God himself.  The Lord said to Samuel (1 Sam. 8:7), “…For it is not you they have rejected, but Me they have rejected from reigning over them.”

Many prophetic Scripture passages begin with “the word of the Lord came to…” (2 Sam. 7:4; 2 Kings 20:4; Jer. 1:4; Ez. 3:16).  And this statement appears in the opening verse of Hosea, Joel, Micah, Jonah, and Zephaniah.

Jesus fulfilled the role of spokesman sent by God, and directly stated that numerous times during his ministry.  For example, He said, “My teaching is not Mine, but His who sent Me.” (Jn. 7:16) And later, “The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own authority.” (Jn. 14:10b) And in His final prayer for his disciples said, “For I have given them the words which You gave Me.” (Jn. 17:8)

Jesus felt the Father’s heart

Jewish theologian and author, Abraham Heschel (“The Prophets”, pp. 25-26), though agreeing with the ancient concept of prophet as God’s “mouthpiece”, differed with one aspect of this characterization.  Prophetic inspiration, he thought, involved more than simple passive and unconscious receptivity. 

He saw the prophet as more than a mere instrument in God’s hand, but as his partner.  God desires to be served with all the servant’s heart and soul. Rather than commanding a mechanical obedience that suppresses emotions, God desires a response based on love, fear and awe.

God’s prophet is more than a hireling performing a task.  On the contrary, a prophet cannot properly understand the message without sensing God’s emotions and entering sympathetically into them. He must first be stirred himself before he can stir others. 

God’s emotions related to a specific message overwhelm the prophet’s mind and heart, gripping him completely to the depths of his personality.  He feels the unrelieved stress flowing from intimate communion.

Heschel believed that the prophet’s fundamental experience is fellowship with God’s feelings; sympathy with his anguish.  In a typical prophetic state of mind, the prophet is drawn into God’s heart. The prophet’s emotional life integrates with the divine.

“The emotional experience of the prophet becomes the focal point of the prophet’s understanding of God. He lives his personal life, but also the life of God,” said Heschel.  The prophet hears God’s voice and feels His heart, then tries to communicate God’s emotions with his words. “As an imparter, his soul overflows, speaking as he does out of the fullness of his sympathy.”

Considering that Jesus and Father are One God, though existing as separate persons, they share heartfelt emotions with an intimacy and intensity impossible to be experienced by any human prophet. This allowed the Prophet Jesus to grasp a God-given message with accuracy and full emotional intent.

Moses foretold his appearance

Moses foretold that God would raise up a prophet like Jesus from among the people. “You must listen to him,” Moses said. (Dt. 18:15) The Lord said to Moses, “I will put My words in his mouth…whoever will not listen to My words which he will speak in My name, I will require it of Him [he will bear the consequences of disobedience to God].” (Dt. 18:19).

Many prophets appeared in Israel after this moment, such as Elijah, Jeremiah and Isaiah. But Moses’ prophecy primarily referred to the Messiah, Jesus Christ, the only one who completely fulfilled it. All Old Testament promises where ultimately fulfilled in Christ.

“And there arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face.” (Dt. 34:10) Existing in eternity past, and present with and part of the Godhead, Jesus met the criterion as no other could for a prophet who “knew God face to face”.

Israel was a prophetic nation chosen by God to reveal himself to mankind, but failed this high calling. Finally, Israel’s destiny would be accomplished by one great Servant of Yahweh, who would surpass all other prophets, priests and Davidic Kings.  Only Jesus, the Messiah, completely fulfilled the promise of revealing God to mankind.

Jesus foretold the future

Predicting future events by divine revelation, or foretelling, was another aspect of a prophet’s primary role, though not the most common. Sometimes a prophet’s message included foretelling. Jesus foretold many events that later came to pass, many of those surrounding his own death.

Jesus predicted his own death and resurrection. While on a ministry tour with his chosen disciples, He began to prepare them for his impending death, and develop them to carry on his ministry afterward.  “From that time on, Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised on the third day.” (Mt. 16:21)

This prophecy’s fulfillment was is recorded in all four gospels. (Mt. 27-28; Mk. 15-16; Lk. 22-24; Jn. 18-20) After his final gathering with his disciples, Jesus was betrayed and arrested. Then tried before the Sanhedrin, who took him to Pontius Pilate. Finally, against his wishes Pilate condemned Jesus to torturous punishment and death by public crucifixion.

Jesus’ dead body was sealed on Friday in a guarded burial tomb.  On the third day, several women followers visited the tomb and found it empty. An angel told the women that Jesus had been raised from the dead.  Jesus appeared first to Mary Magdalene, and then to the other women, then to all his disciples, except initially to Thomas.  Jesus spent time with his disciples on several occasions during 40 days and then ascended into Heaven.

Jesus predicted that after his ascension, the disciples would receive power when the Holy Spirit was imparted. Acts 1:4 records about Jesus: “Being assembled with them, He commanded them, “Do not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, of which you have heard from Me.”

Acts 2 records the fulfillment of this prophecy during the Jewish Feast of Pentecost, celebrated annually 50 days after Passover.  Pentecost attracted to Jerusalem multitudes of Jews from all over the world.  Amidst the next Pentecost celebration, the Holy Spirit descended in power on the disciples, and they began to declare in the numerous native languages of those gathered the wonders of God. Peter preached a sermon calling on the Jews to receive Jesus, their promised Messiah and resurrected Lord.  Thousands repented and were baptized.  This marked the beginning of the Holy Spirit’s powerful ministry through Christ’s followers, and the beginning of the church.

Jesus worked miracles

Some prophets, such as Moses, Elijah and Elisha, performed miracles.  When Jesus began performing miracles and healings, it helped people identify him as the promised Messiah and long-awaited prophet Moses foretold.

All four gospels record many healings, signs and miracles attributed to Jesus. 

One of the greatest and best known was the miraculous feeding of more than 5,000 people.  Jesus had reached the peak of His ministry popularity, and a multitude gathered to hear him teach. Late in the day his disciple grew concerned because they were in a remote location and the people needed to eat. Jesus asked where they could buy bread for them? Philip was concerned about the cost of such a great quantity of food. Jesus already knew what He would do.

Andrew mentioned that one little boy brought for lunch five small barley loaves and two small fish. Jesus instructed the disciples to seat the people in groups of fifties and hundreds. He took the boys lunch and looking up to heaven gave thanks. Then he broke up the loaves and fish, and the disciples distributed them among the people. Everyone ate until satisfied, and then the disciples picked up 12 basketsful of leftover pieces.

After witnessing this miracle, the disciples said, “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.” (Jn. 6:14b)

Jesus was a prophet above all others

Jesus was the ultimate prophet because he was the Word of God incarnate.

John 1:1 states that the Word was in the beginning, was with God, and was God.  This statement alludes to Genesis 1:1, but elevates Christ’s existence to absolute preexistence before creation.  Genesis 1:1 starts with Creation at a definite point in time.  The two key differences expressed are: one, the absolute eternal existence of God without a beginning or end; and, two, God’s creation coming into existence, and later Jesus the Word in real time becoming flesh in the person of Jesus Christ.

In this description, John progressively unfolds Jesus the Word using three brief but profound phrases:

Jesus was eternally “with” God, possessing a conscious personal existence distinct from the Father, but associated with Him and inseparable from Him.  Therefore, the divine Word dwelt with the Father from all eternity, and in living active communication with Him.

And Jesus “was” God, in substance and essence possessing proper divinity. Himself distinct as a person in the Godhead, though associated with the Father in unity with the Godhead. John states this to make clear “who” it was that in the fullness of time “was made flesh”.

Logos expresses the mind of God.  This “Logos” is the keynote and theme of John’s entire gospel.  Logos means to gather words, put them together, and speak.  That means: the collection of words in the mind; the words combined to express an inner thought; and the outward expressed form.

John used Logos in a peculiar sense in John 1:1 and 1:14. John 1:14 says, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.”

In John’s gospel, there’s the double meaning of thought and speech --- the idea itself expressed. Thought is the inner world.  A Hebrew expression for “I think” is “I speak in my heart.”

The Logos or Word in John is a personal God who existed before Creation “with” God, “was” one essence and nature with God, yet personal and distinct.   Jesus is truly the Word of God, and any other prophet or preacher simply another voice.

John 1:18 says Jesus revealed and interpreted God’s invisible existence as his reflection and visible image. Jesus was the physical entity manifesting God in the earth. “No man hath seen God at any time, the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.”

Witnesses declared him a great prophet

Many called Jesus a prophet, and he testified this about himself.

At one point, Jesus returned to his hometown with his disciples. On the Sabbath, he began to teach in the Synagogue.  People were impressed by how much he knew, and by his wisdom, and that he performed miracles. Then they recognized him as a local man, a mere carpenter.  And that his relatives lived among them.  He was Mary’s son and James’ brother. They took offense They were offended that he taught publicly in the Synagogue.  “But Jesus, said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house.  And he could there do no mighty work, save that he laid his hands upon a few sick folk, and healed them.” (Mk. 6:4-5)

Others witnessed that he was a prophet.

Just before Jesus was finally delivered to his enemies and executed, he entered Jerusalem triumphally.  Multitudes met him and shouted praises as he rode a lowly colt into the city. “And the multitude said, This is Jesus the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee.”  (Mt. 21:11)

When Jesus and his disciples approached the town gate of Nain, they came upon a procession carrying out a dead man. He was a widow’s only son.  Jesus saw the mother, took pity on her and said, “Don’t cry.” Then he touched the coffin and ordered the young man to get up.  The man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus reunited him with his mother.  The people were amazed and praised God.  They said, “A great prophet has risen up among us!” and “God has visited His people!” (Lk. 7:16)

Talking with a woman at a well in Samaria, Jesus accurately told her personal details about her life, though he had just met her for the first time.   The astonished woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet.” (Jn. 4:19)