Note: below is the manuscript for my sermon, it is not a transcription. Therefore, there will be some differences between this text and the sermon audio.
Who is Jesus? He is Our Prophet
After Jesus died, the Roman and Hebrew authorities thought all the excitement surrounding Jesus would disappear. With their leader dead, the Jesus people would just go back to what they were doing before. But, that didn’t happen. What started as a humble group of people who claimed Jesus as their teacher, has become the largest and most influential movement in the history of the world. Here is a story that took place at it’s early beginnings. It’s from an ancient document written by a physician named Luke.
[Read Acts 3]
I read this passage because, in the midst of all the pain, the suffering, the injustice of the world, we tend to ask, “where is God?” Why doesn’t he fix all that is wrong in our world today? Have you ever asked this question? Maybe you’re asking yourself this morning, just where is God, and what is he up to?
Today and the following two Sundays, we will continue to look at the question, “who is Jesus?”, with an emphasis on the “is.” When we read the Scriptures, or when we talk about Jesus, we usually think about events that happened in the past. Jesus is someone who lived two thousand years ago.
But I want us to consider, who is Jesus now? These three sermons should also help to answer the question, “what is God doing about all that is wrong with the world?” The story about Peter healing and preaching demonstrates to us just what Jesus asks us to do in response to believing his story.
You see, the master plan God has to deal with the problems we are facing, and the way in which he is bringing healing and hope to a hurting world, is this: you and me. That’s it! That’s his master plan.
Peter and the other Apostles followed the example of Jesus, and we are to do the same. So, you see, while this sermon series is all about who Jesus is, it is also all about who we are. We can’t talk about who Jesus is without talking about who we are. The person of Jesus does not exist in some abstract idea, or in ancient documents. The person of Jesus exists in the day-to-day activities of the church.
Before I continue, let’s do a bit of review from the first message in this series.
Review of who Jesus was on earth
Jesus is the most interesting and most influential man who ever lived. Although he would have been considered to be a fairly average Galilean, he did not act like an average Galilean.
Here are some of the interesting things about him:
- he talked as though he was equal to God
- he allowed people to worship him.
- He forgave people for their sins.
- He healed people and raised them from the dead.
- He spoke with authority about the ancient laws of Moses
- He claimed to know those laws and what they really meant, better than the most educated teachers around.
- He was killed for his bold claims about himself, and then he raised himself up from being dead.
After his death and resurrection, just before he disappeared into the clouds, he instructed his followers to tell all the world about what he taught and what he did. He said that if people believe their testimony about him, and if they turn away from their lives of sin and toward Jesus as their saviour, and become baptized, they will be welcomed into the kingdom of God.
That is who Jesus was and what he did on earth. This is the sort of stuff we usually think about when we think about Jesus. However, today and in the next two sermons, we will look at who Jesus is and what he is up to.
Introduction to who he is now.
This morning we are looking at Jesus as a prophet. This means that Jesus is teaching us what is right through the Scriptures and through the Holy Spirit in the church.
Next Sunday we are looking at Jesus as a priest. This means that he is actively pleading our case of innocence to God on our behalf because of his death on the cross.
And two Sundays from now, we will look at Jesus as our king. This means that Jesus is ruling with authority unlike any other king on earth, granting citizenship in his kingdom to all who ask for it.
Who are prophets and what do prophets do?
When we think of the word prophet, or prophecy, we tend to think about predicting the future. This is because the most dramatic accounts of the prophets in the Old Testament include a prediction of things to come.
We also think about how Jesus fulfilled prophecies made about himself in the Old Testament. We think of the prophecies in the book of Revelation, and how they tell of future events.
However, being a prophet of God is not just about telling the future. God appointed prophets to be leaders, teachers, miracle workers, advisors and writers.
Prophets were individuals called and empowered by God to tell his people what he wanted to be done. It is true, the role of a prophet included telling about God’s future intentions to save and judge his people.
But, in short, a prophet is someone who bears witness to the word of God, and who speaks with authority concerning the nature and the purposes of God.
An example in the New Testament of a prophet is John the Baptist.
Matthew 3:1-6 tells us a bit about John:
In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ’Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.’ ” Now John wore a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.
John was a prophet because God chose him to proclaim God’s purposes.
He was the final prophet in the old era, and he ushered in a new era of prophets.
The message John proclaimed contained:
- a warning of imminent judgment at the hands of the Messiah.
- He called for repentance in light of the coming kingdom of heaven.
- And he demanded that people express this repentance in a real change of behaviour.
With this message, he set an example for all the prophets who would come after him. His message would become the message of those who would prophecy in the name of Jesus.
There are many other prophets in Scripture. In fact, most of the Bible is written by those who the Jewish people would consider prophets. This is because they viewed a prophet as someone who gave witness to the things God was saying and doing among them.
What makes Jesus a prophet?
With this understanding of a prophet, it is not hard to see Jesus as a prophet. But let’s consider what sort of prophet he is, because he is no ordinary prophet. He stands out above all the prophets who came before him.
Here are a few select passages that tell us about Jesus being a prophet:
Jn 6:14: When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!”
Jn 7:40: When they heard these words, some of the people said, “This really is the Prophet.”
Jn 4:17-20: The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet.”
Mt 21:10-11: And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”
Luke 24:18-19: (this is on the day when Jesus rose from being dead, and he appeared to some of his disciples, but they didn’t recognize him):
Jesus asked them what was going on in Jerusalem, and One of his disciples responded, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” Jesus asked, “What things?”
“The things that happened to Jesus, the man from Nazareth,” they said. “He was a prophet who did powerful miracles, and he was a mighty teacher in the eyes of God and all the people.”
There are more passages than this that tell about Jesus as a prophet, but I think we get the idea. Jesus was recognized as a prophet by the people who knew him, even though he wasn’t born into the role of a prophet.
They knew he was a prophet because of the authority by which he spoke and because of the miracles he performed. They knew he was a prophet because he bore witness to the things that God was saying and doing among them.
But he was not just any prophet. He was somehow different than John the Baptist. He was different than Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and all the other prophets of the ancient Hebrew writings.
The main difference is that when Jesus spoke about the things that God was doing among them, he referred to himself as the one doing them. He included himself in the prophecies. When he bore witness to the work of God, he was bearing witness to himself.
Remember the passage in Acts chapter 3, from Peter’s speech in Jerusalem? He quotes a prophecy from the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy. It says this: ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you. And it shall be that every soul who does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people.’
The Apostles believed that this prophecy was ultimately fulfilled in Jesus. As we will see in just a few minutes, there are still prophets today, but not like the one described in this passage from Acts.
You see, Jesus is the prophet about which all other prophets speak, and he is the prophet from whom all prophets gain knowledge. Jesus is the prophet above all prophets. He was a prophet as a human on earth because he proclaimed the truth of God. And he is still a prophet now because he proclaims the truth of God through the Holy Spirit in the church.
I said at the beginning that this series is about who Jesus is now, and what he is up to today. The truth is, we don’t have very much information in Scripture about what Jesus is doing now. The only writings we have are from the Apostle John in the book of Revelation, but there is very little from that book that will provide us with a satisfactory answer to the things Jesus is doing at this moment.
No, if we want to know what Jesus is up to now as a prophet, we must look at ourselves. And this is the most challenging and exciting discoveries I’ve made recently. It is a truth plain as day, but most of us forget it so easily.
How does this impact us?
You see, if you identify yourself as a Christian, you also identify yourself as a prophet.
1 Peter 2:9 is the main passage that explains our identity in Christ:
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”
The key word in this passage is the word “proclaim.” For, this is what a prophet does. We proclaim the excellencies of Jesus.
Matthew 11:11 says, “Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”
As I said earlier, John the Baptist was the last of the old era of prophets, and he ushered in a new era of prophets. The new era of prophets is made up of those who belong to the kingdom of God, the kingdom established by Jesus Christ.
Jesus said that the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than John the Baptist. This is because those who come after John have a more complete picture of the message God is speaking through the life and death of Christ.
In Acts 2, we read that a prophecy about the new era of prophets was fulfilled when the disciples of Jesus were filled with the Holy Spirit.
Joel 2:28 says this: “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions.”
When the Apostle Paul wrote letters to the churches, he often instructed people to teach one another, implying that the knowledge will come from God.
Col. 3:16: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”
Rom. 15:14: “I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another.”
Before Jesus came, the average person was not expected to teach others. The teachers and prophets in Israel were typically born into their roles because their fathers and grandfathers were teachers and prophets. However, in the church, all people are expected to be able to teach and prophecy.
I realize this might be making some of you uncomfortable. The idea of standing up in front of people and teaching them is enough to give you nightmares.
In one sense, it is good to be somewhat unsettled about this. My hope is that our response will be to spend more time in the Scriptures and around people who can teach us about Jesus so that we will be ready at all times to teach others.
In another sense, you have no need to worry because being a prophet for most people has little to do with public speaking. This brings me to close with one final picture of what a prophet is. It came up earlier in the children’s feature and I’ve been hinting at it throughout the message.
The main way in which a prophet proclaims the word of God is by bearing witness to it.
In Acts chapter 1, we read the final instructions from Jesus to his disciples, just before he disappeared into the clouds. [read Acts 1:1-9]
Our responsibility as prophets under Jesus is to bear witness to the story of Jesus. Not only that, but our responsibility is to bear witness to what Jesus is doing now. He is teaching his church through the Holy Spirit, and he is teaching the world through his church.
I began today by asking the question, “where is God in this broken world?” Jesus is alive and acting as our prophet, teaching us what to say to our neighbours, to our co-workers, to our children and to our friends. God has enabled each one of us to be prophets, to bear witness to the power of Christ. If you identify yourself as a Christian, you identify yourself as a prophet of God.
You see, while I have said that this series is meant to answer the question, “who is Jesus?”, it is also answering the question, “who are we?” Once you and I have decided to identify ourselves as Christians, the character and ministry of Christ is passed on to us.
So, Who is Jesus? He is a living, breathing, human person. He is a prophet. But, his ministry to the world is not done except through his church. Yes, it is ultimately God working. It is only by his grace and his power that we can do anything for his kingdom. It is God’s plan, and it is only by his initiative that his work is done.
But, he has chosen us, you and me, those who have heard and believed the story of Jesus. We are to be the presence of Jesus on earth until he returns, to proclaim his life, his death and his resurrection, to bear witness to the Jesus stories and invite people into his kingdom.