The Prophet: Our Starting Place with Jesus
Let’s begin our tale about a thousand years before Christ, in the Israelite town of Shiloh. There, a boy sleeps in the holy Tabernacle. It’s been centuries since God sent a big-time prophet to guide his people and show them his heart, so “all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes” (Judges 21:25, NLT). But the boy is awakened by a voice. “Samuel!”
Once he realizes what’s happening, young Samuel sits up and listens. God has a message! The next morning, Eli, the priest, insists Samuel tell it all, no matter how disturbing it may be. “So Samuel told Eli everything; he didn’t hold anything back” (1 Samuel 3:18, NLT). In the years that followed, God continued to speak through Samuel “and everything Samuel said proved to be reliable” (v. 19, NLT).
That’s the pattern of a prophet of God. He’s set apart by God to speak God’s own words—everything God gives him to say. And God is faithful. It all comes true. It’s exactly what we, his people, need to hear. It’s trustworthy guidance that keeps us dedicated to God’s priorities rather than wandering about driven by our own flawed sensibilities.
Skip forward to a few months after Jesus’ death and resurrection. The apostle Peter has just healed a lame man at the Temple in Jerusalem. The place is abuzz. Peter has an audience. He wants to tell the crowd about Jesus. So what does he say about him? He quotes an old line from Moses: “The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from among your own people. Listen carefully to everything he tells you” (Acts 3:22, NLT).
Jesus is a prophet, Peter says. More than that, he’s the Prophet. He’s the guy Moses most had in mind when he spoke of prophets to come. Why is that so important?
The wrong idea
We tend to speak of Jesus as “Savior” or “Lord,” but there’s a sense in which “Prophet” really must come first. The crowd Peter spoke to had rejected Jesus as speaking for God. Some thought him a good teacher, but that’s not the same as a prophet. A teacher may be listened to because he’s wise, but you still have the right to weigh what he says against other teachers or your own common sense. A prophet, though, speaks for God. If you don’t listen you cross God.
That crowd had gone from liking Jesus to questioning him to crucifying him. That’s because they’d judged what he said by how it sounded to them. Their approach was all wrong.
Look what Jesus said about himself: “I don’t speak on my own authority. The Father who sent me has commanded me what to say and how to say it” (John 12:49, NLT). “I have told you everything the Father told me” (John 15:15, NLT). He’s a prophet. The perfect Prophet.
Those people missed the most glorious, most absolutely necessary Prophet of all. They missed the one who by his tireless life and loving death burst open the full, once-hidden character of God. All prophets tell what God desires, but Jesus lived it. “No one has ever seen God. But the unique One, who is himself God, is near to the Father’s heart. He has revealed God to us” (John 1:18, NLT).
The right passion
This must be our starting place with Jesus. We cannot let our drifting imaginations define him for us. We must study his life and teaching with all the wide-eyed wonder and attention befitting the Prophet.
Some of the material is hard. Much of it is convicting. But all of it is love-soaked and true. If we want our Savior to become truly precious to us, we must know him, first, as our Prophet.
This article is part of a series on the names of Jesus. Next time: The High Priest.
Jack Klumpenhower is a writer and children’s ministry worker living in Colorado.