Roughly 700 years before Isaiah famously prophesied concerning the Messiah “to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6), Moses had described the same Savior in these terms: “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen” (Deuteronomy 18:15).
While we appropriately and frequently think of Jesus as our wonderful Counselor and Prince of Peace, too little consideration is given to the role of Jesus as God’s prophesied Prophet. Yet God raised up Jesus as a prophet among us in order that we listen to him — “it is to him you shall listen”!
What then does it mean for Jesus to be our—“God will raise up for you”—prophet?
Jesus Was Foretold
As many faithful Christian apologists have pointed out, there are literally dozens of crystal-clear prophecies fulfilled in the life of Jesus. But, as we’ve just noticed, one of those prophecies was that he himself would be a prophet.
In the Old Testament—even pre-dating the law and its formal priesthood—the office of prophet included the idea of intercessory prayer. Notice this in the description of Abraham in Genesis 20:7, that “he is a prophet, so that he will pray for you, and you shall live.” But more is intimated by the role than just praying, as Samuel—the last prophet-leader of Israel and the first prophet to kings of Israel—gives his own job-description: “Far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you, and I will instruct you in the good and the right way” (1 Samuel 12:23).
And Samuel is also called “Samuel the seer”; the word “seer” simply means “one who sees” and referred to a person to whom God had given divine revelation. God often would reveal future events to his prophets and even divine commentary on those events.
So for the role of Jesus to be foretold in terms of a prophet meant that he would pray for God’s people, teach God’s Word, and declare God’s divine revelation regarding future events. No wonder this prophetic Messiah was so eagerly anticipated!
Jesus Was a Forthteller
People think of a “prophet” mostly in terms of someone who “foretells,” or in other words, prophesies concerning the future. But as we’ve already noticed, the role of the prophet had as much to do with teaching and declaring God’s already-revealed word as it did with revealing new and unknown things about times to come. A prophet is not only a foreteller but a forthteller, telling forth the ways and word of God.
Interestingly, it is in this context that Jesus refers to himself as a prophet. It is after he has been teaching in his hometown, and is rejected because of their familiarity with him, that Jesus observes, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household” (Matthew 13:57).
Let us apply Moses’ words to Jesus; then, in terms of Jesus’ role of teacher and herald of God’s ways and word: “to him, you shall listen.” Have we? Do we? How seriously do we listen to and apply Jesus’ teaching? Do we receive him as God’s divinely-sent messenger to declare his Word and teach his ways?
For instance, do we live daily in recognition that “blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God”? Do we trust that, as Jesus taught, “it is more blessed to give than to receive”? How faithfully do we pray with the first and great concern, “Hallowed by your name, your kingdom come, your will be done”? And even more importantly, do we believe Jesus when he says, “Everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” and “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Ironically, and tragically, there are millions of people in our post-modern, inclusivist culture who will gladly refer to Jesus as “a good teacher” or even “a good prophet,” yet they do not want to receive his teaching, nor his role as a forth-telling prophet. But Jesus is either the Prophet God has raised up, as Moses said he would, or he is not. He deserved either to be received or to be stoned—but the one thing we should not do is placate him and his followers while refusing to believe him:
“But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die” (Deuteronomy 18:20).
Conversely, “As for the prophet who prophesies peace, when the word of that prophet comes to pass, then it will be known that the Lord has truly sent the prophet” (Jeremiah 28:9).
Jesus Was a Foreteller
As we’ve just seen, the prophet who spoke the future specifically and accurately was to be received, knowing that the Lord had truly sent him.
By this measure, the gospel writers make very clear to us, Jesus was a prophet sent from God. Jesus read people’s hearts, miraculously and instantly healed life-long and crippling illnesses, and displayed complete authority over natural forces. But he also repeatedly described future events which then verifiably came to pass.
Jesus not only told his disciples where to find a colt on which he planned to ride, but shared the fact that the animal had never before been ridden, and told them how to reply when questioned about their borrowing him (Luke 19:30-31).
Jesus told his disciples to prepare for the Last Supper by going into the crowded city, that they would come across a man carrying a pitcher of water, that they were to follow him, that the house he would go into would have an upper room, that the room would already be furnished and prepared, and that when they told the owner of the house that Jesus had sent them he would immediately show them the right place for their supper. “And the disciples set out and went to the city and found it just as he had told them” (Mark 14:16).
Jesus also told his disciples to pay a particular tax by going to the sea, casting out a hook, and that the fish they caught would have a piece of money inside (Matthew 17:27). Jesus foretold that not a single stone of the temple would be left on top another, which came true when the Romans overtook Jerusalem in A.D. 70 (Matthew 24:2); Jesus told Peter he would deny him three times before the rooster crowed three times, which came to pass exactly as he’d said it would (Matthew 26:75). And these are just a few examples!
But most importantly, Jesus prophesied that he would go to Jerusalem, be betrayed, mistreated by the Jewish leaders, handed over to the Gentiles, be scourged and then crucified, die and be buried, and then rise again on the third day (Matthew 16:21; 17:23; 20:19). Such a remarkable prophecy—coupled with such an undeniable resurrection—is abundant proof that Jesus is not only Prophet and Priest, but also King: “God…now commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead” (Acts 17:30-31).
Now that even the most spectacular of Jesus’ prophecies have come true, in his own resurrection, it forces any thoughtful person to carefully consider Jesus’ description of the last day — that it will come unexpectedly for many, will begin with the skies splitting wide open as he descends in glory, will culminate with every human being standing before him to be judged, and that the unrighteous will be separated from the righteous, “and these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matthew 25:46).
The sweet gospel concerning Jesus, prophesied by Moses so long ago, is that God has raised up a Prophet, like us but not like us, to whom we must listen — even as he speaks the telling, foretelling words: “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life” (John 5:24).