Jesus was anointed to be our Prophet, Priest, and King. As our Prophet, he proclaims God’s message of sin and grace.
Kirk E. Lahmann
When you think of a prophet, who comes to mind? A fire-and-brimstone preacher with a long beard and a wooden staff? An aged seer predicting future doom and gloom?
The prophets of old
In the Bible, a prophet of the Lord is a preacher, a messenger, a herald, a mouthpiece for God, called upon by God to speak a message from God on God’s behalf. A prophet does not proclaim his own message; he declares what the Lord directs him to say. He proclaims God’s Word.
Sometimes prophets spoke God’s Word; other times they wrote it. Sometimes God sent them visions; other times he gave them miraculous power. Sometimes prophets could see the future; other times they rebuked sins of the past. Sometimes prophets were respected; other times they were rejected.
Much of the Old Testament records the messages of the prophets. Books like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea, and others record these prophets’ God-given messages. Their prophesying spanned centuries before Jesus.
The first—and greatest—prophet of the Old Testament was Moses. The Lord spoke to Moses “face to face” (Numbers 12:8; Deuteronomy 34:10). Moses was like no other prophet before the coming of Jesus. God gave him the law on Mt. Sinai. When Moses spoke to the Israelites and recorded God’s law, he was acting as a messenger for God.
God’s message through Moses promised that a Prophet would come who would surpasses all other prophets. Moses wrote, “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him.” About this Prophet the Lord said, “I will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him” (Deuteronomy 18:15, 18). Moses was a type—a picture or prefigurement—of the greater Prophet who was to come. In fact, every prophet who spoke on God’s behalf in the Old Testament foreshadowed the great Prophet the Lord promised to send.
The great Prophet
Generations of Israelites waited for this great Prophet to appear. Some thought John the Baptist could be this Prophet (John 1:21). Others who witnessed Jesus feed the thousands exclaimed, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world” (John 6:14; see also John 7:40).
And they were right! Jesus is the great Prophet. He is the direct fulfillment of the promise God gave through Moses.
Both Peter (Acts 3:22) and Stephen (Acts 7:37) attest that this is true. Jesus is the long-awaited proclaimer of God’s Word. But there is something different. Jesus does not have to serve as a middleman between God and the people, as every other prophet did. Jesus is God! “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30). Therefore, Jesus speaks not on behalf of God but as God himself!
Jesus was anointed to serve as our perfect Prophet as well as our perfect Priest and perfect King. Anointing in the Old Testament meant having olive oil poured on your head to set you apart for a special job. Jesus was anointed not with oil but “with the Holy Spirit and power” (Acts 10:38) to proclaim God’s Word.
And that’s what he did—proclaimed God’s Word. When Jesus visited the synagogue in Nazareth, he opened the scroll to Isaiah chapter 61 and read, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor” (Luke 4:18). Not everyone accepted his words, but these words were the message of God to sinful and mortal humans.
Throughout his ministry, Jesus did proclaim good news. The gospels record Jesus’ words and works, his preaching and miracles, his words of comfort, his healing touch, his proclamation of the gospel to hurting souls.
One of the most remembered sermons of Jesus is the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew chapter 5). It is a wonderful example of how Jesus fulfills his role as the Prophet. He preaches the Word of God to a large, attentive crowd—and to us!—and applies God’s Word to the lives of his listeners. He does so by preaching law and gospel. He begins, “Blessed are the poor. . . . Blessed are those who mourn. . . . Blessed are the meek. . . . Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. . . .” That’s comforting gospel!
But law soon follows. Read through Matthew chapters 5–7 again. You will hear portions of the sermon read in your worship in February. Jesus condemns unjust anger and grudges, lust and lovelessness, hypocritical worship and faithless worrying. The Sermon on the Mount ends with the exhortation to put our Prophet’s words into practice and build our spiritual house on the rock, lest it crash into the sand (cf. Matthew 7:24-27).
Jesus has said so much more—words we need to hear again and again. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life” (John 10:27,28). He has laid down his life for the sheep, so we might live.
And Jesus has not stopped speaking God’s Word to us, even though he has ascended into heaven. Today our Prophet also speaks through Christians who share his Word with one another. When a group of Christians calls someone to proclaim God’s Word among them and for them, then Jesus speaks through that called worker—that’s public ministry. But whenever we Christians proclaim God’s Word to one another, Jesus also is speaking as our Prophet through us. Yes, Jesus speaks through us! “Whoever listens to you listens to me; whoever rejects you rejects me” (Luke 10:16).
Over the years God has communicated his Word through many different prophets. “In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son” (Hebrews 1:1,2). But only one prophet is the Prophet, the perfect Prophet who proclaims God’s Word as God himself. That Prophet is God’s Son, our Savior Jesus Christ.
On the Mount of Transfiguration, the Father’s voice resounds, echoing the exhortation of Moses. The Father said, “This is my Son, whom I love. . . . Listen to him!” (Matthew 17:5). Be sure to do that. Listen to Jesus! Hear and treasure his words. He is speaking to you. He is your Prophet, the great Prophet.
For further study
“As Jesus is the Prophet . . . he preaches in order to bestow his salvation upon sinners, turning their hearts from sin to God, from death to life” (Biblical Christology: A Study in Lutheran Dogmatics, J. Schaller, p. 139).
Learn more about Jesus as our Prophet:
Grace Abounds: The Splendor of Christian Doctrine, D. Deutschlander, pp. 319-323
Luther’s Catechism, Anniversary Edition, pp. 155-162
Christ: He Is My Lord, Harlyn Kuschel, pp. 119-126
God So Loved the World: A Study of Christian Doctrine, L. Lange, pp. 291-292
These books are available from Northwestern Publishing House, nph.net, 800-662-6022.
Author: Kirk E. Lahmann
Volume 107, Number 02
Issue: February 2020