Thursday, May 13, 2021

Jesus the Prophet (Matthew 16:13-20)

They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets” (Matthew 16:14).

Jesus took the disciples to the region of Caesarea Philippi and asked them, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” (Matthew 16:13). Caesarea Philippi, as the name would suggest, was a seat of imperial power. The Son of Man, as we have seen, is going to ascend to take the ultimate imperial power over all the world. Thus, the very setting Jesus chose to ask His question brings out the great conflict of history: Who will rule: man or God? Pharaoh or Yahweh? Caesar or Christ?

The disciples answered that the people of Israel were thinking Jesus was a great prophet. Perhaps He was John the Baptizer in disguise. Nowadays, some people refuse to believe that Elvis is dead. Back then, many refused to believe John the Forerunner was dead because he was very popular with the people.

Others thought Jesus might be Elijah reincarnated, misinterpreting Malachi 4:5 to mean that Elijah would literally be born into the world again. In fact, Malachi 4:5 pointed to John the Baptizer, who came in the spirit of Elijah and prepared the way for the Greater Elisha. Still other names were put forth, like Jeremiah or some other prophet reincarnated.

Jesus was indeed a prophet. He was the Prophet foretold by Moses in Deuteronomy 18:15, “The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to Him.” Numbers 12:6–8 tells us that Moses was unique among the prophets before Christ, for with him alone God spoke face to face. Thus, Moses’ prediction of “a Prophet like me” was a prediction of the Messiah.

The people of Israel had a problem, however. If they accepted Jesus as a prophet, they would have to accept what He said, and He said that He was the incarnation of God and the Messiah—but they did not want to accept that. The alternative was that Jesus was insane or a false prophet—but they did not want to accept that either. As Jesus’ career moved toward its climax on Golgotha, the people of Israel were forced to make their choice. They chose not to hear.

We often think of prophecy in political terms because the prophets of Israel dealt with kings and nations. But the Old Testament affirms that the first order of business for the prophet was the church’s reform. The church is called to be prophetic. In what ways can you help your local church carry out that task?