Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Sermon - Midweek Advent 1 - "Christ the Prophet"

Christ our Prophet
Micah 5:1-5a “You, oh, Bethlehem”
2 Peter 1:16-21 “The prophetic word more fully confirmed”
Luke 13:31-35 “Oh Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets”

This Advent Season we meditate on the three-fold office of Christ, who is our Prophet, Priest and King.

We will see how Jesus fulfills these three Old Testament offices, which, like all of the Scriptures, testify to him.  We will draw on the saints of old who held these offices and set forth the pattern, but we'll also see how they reach their apex and perfection in Christ.  And finally, we will consider how, in each of these offices, our Lord Jesus still serves his people as Prophet, as Priest, and as King.

Today, Christ the Prophet.

An average person on the street might think of a prophet as akin to a fortune teller or psychic.  Someone who has a special knowledge, particularly about the future.  Maybe they can predict the outcome of sporting events, or tell you what profession you'll one day have.  Or maybe they can foretell the course of events on a national scale.  Nostradamus, guys like that, who write cryptic poems that people try to decipher in the events of history.

But the biblical definition of prophet is quite different.  Now, it is true that often the prophets of the Bible have a special knowledge, and can even predict the future.  But this message they bring is not one of superstitious origins, it comes from God himself.  It is not a vague and cryptic message to be decoded and shrouded in mystery, but it is as straightforward and clear as the Word of God always is – for that is the message they bring.  And while the role of the prophets is sometimes to tell the future, it is just as often to speak a present word to the people of God.  Repent!  Turn away from your sins, and turn to God today while he is near!  And so forth.

We might survey the prophets and some of their more notable prophecies:  You have the major prophets:

Isaiah – who warns both the Northern and Southern kingdoms of judgment, but also predicts a restoration after exile in Babylon.  He also shows the Messiah as a suffering servant of God.

Jeremiah – the weeping prophet who foretold the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, and then lived to see it.  But he also foretold of a New Covenant in which God remembers sin no more.

Ezekiel -  Who preached doom and gloom for both Israel and other nations who had mocked Yahweh, but also had a word of hope perhaps best seen in his vision of the Valley of Dry Bones, restored to life.

Daniel – who lived during the captivity and also received prophetic messages through interpreting dreams and receiving visions – and who prophesied the rise and fall of empires and the coming Messiah

Then 12 minor prophets, for example:

Hosea – who married a prostitute as a living object lesson that God's people where unfaithful to him by following other gods.

Amos – A shepherd and vinedresser from the South, turned prophet to the North – with a word of warning for those people.

Jonah – the reluctant prophet, whose 4 word sermon brought Nineveh, the world capital of wickedness to sincere repentance... an even greater miracle than being swallowed by a fish.  But even in this sign of Jonah, the prophet pointed to the Ultimate Prophet.

And Micah, who tells the Savior will be born in “You, oh Bethlehem, Ephrathah”.

Then those many other prophets whose messages weren't written as Holy Scripture for us, but some of whom we hear about, like Nathan, the prophet who stood eye to eye with King David, called him out on his sin with Bathsheba, “You are the man!”  And when David confessed his sin, immediately Nathan also spoke that word of comfort, “You will not die.  Your sin has been put away”

And of course Elijah, who stands for “all the prophets” and meets Jesus on the mount of Transfiguration.  Elijah, spokesman for God against the wicked pagans of his day, Ahab and Jezebel and their false gods Baal and Asherah.

All these men were “carried along by the Holy Spirit”, given the words to speak, inspired to write and act on behalf of God with a prophetic word – a word not their own – a word from God himself.

And there is one more prophet worth mentioning here, the last of the prophets, the voice of one crying in the wilderness “Prepare the way of the Lord”.  John the Baptist, who says of Jesus, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”  John, who preached a harsh word of repentance, and called a brood of vipers when he's see it.  But John who also preached a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.  And who recognized the greater prophet to come, whose sandal he wasn't worthy to untie. Jesus says John is a prophet, and more, the greatest man to ever live – yet whoever is least in the kingdom is greater than even he.

Which brings us back to Jesus, of course.  The one who is the greatest because he makes himself least.  The one who is a prophet's prophet.  He is the one of whom all true prophets prophesy.  He is the ultimate bearer of the message, for he himself IS the message - the very Word of God by whom all things were made, the eternal word now made flesh and dwelling among us.

Jesus would speak all that the Father had given him, for his people and for our benefit.  When many came to him for healing and other miraculous signs, he would say, “Let's go to the other towns, so that I may preach there too, for that is why I came”.

Many received his message with great interest and even joy.  “What is this, a new teaching, and with authority?”  But others were offended at his prophetic word.  Even at his hometown, where he declared himself the fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy, they tried to push him off a cliff.  “A prophet is never accepted in his home town”.

And while some today think that Jesus only message was one of love and cheer and no rough edges, he certainly could call down prophetic fire and brimstone.  He excoriated the pharisees, calling them whitewashed tombs and sons of Satan.  He cleared out the temple, even made a whip, and demanded his Father's house be a house of prayer, not a den of thieves.  He called a sin a sin, though sometimes gently, too, “now go and sin no more”.  Today, too, he calls you to repentance by his prophetic word.

But the best prophetic word that Jesus brings is his Gospel.  The good news about himself.  That in Him, the Kingdom of God has come.  That in him, the promises and prophecies of old are fulfilled.  That in him, the sins of the world, and your sins, are forgiven.

A prophetic word he spoke even from the cross - “Father forgive them...”, “Today you will be with me in paradise”, “It is finished”.  Yes, Jerusalem, which kills the prophets, would also kill the greatest prophet on a Roman cross.  But Jesus knew it, and prophesied it many times.  Take Luke 18 for example:

31 And taking the twelve, he said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished.32 For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. 33 And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.”

One of the marks of a true prophet, then, is if his predictions come true.  But what prophet ever went so far as to predict his own arrest, suffering, death, and resurrection?  And then delivered on it, just as promised?  Only Jesus.

The God who knows both past and future, has provided a prophet for you.  He declares the sins of your past forgiven.  And he promises blessings now and in the future.  He speaks with all the authority that is his – all authority in heaven and on earth.  And while he speaks a word of law to show you your sin, that word is followed by his word of comfort.  In Christ, your sins are forgiven.  In Christ, your future with God is secure.

We know that some of his prophecies yet remain to be fulfilled.  He will come again in glory to judge both the living and the dead.  All flesh will rise and see him.  He will separate the sheep from the goats.  And of those that belong to him, not one will be snatched from his hand, but he will say to them, to us, “enter into your rest”.

Thanks be to God for Christ the Prophet, who came once in blessing, and will come again in glory. Trust in his prophetic word, for it will never fail you.

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