Sunday, February 1, 2009

A Prophet To Whom We Shall Listen

1. A prophet like me will the LORD, your God, raise up for you from among your own kin; to him you shall listen (Deuteronomy 18:15). We understand and believe that this statement is fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ (Acts 3:19-23). God had sent the prophets to the Israelites to announce His Word to them. After the Lord had rescued the people from slavery in Egypt, He was intending to speak to each of them and all of them. But they begged God not to speak to them because they were afraid that they would die if He did.
2. All these prophets whom the Lord sent to His people, however, were types of the prophet to come. Even John the Baptist, whom Jesus called the greatest man born of woman, was a precursor to Jesus. Whereas the other prophets announced the word of the Lord, Jesus is the Living Word of God- God Himself. Jesus is the One who knows the Father from all eternity. As the Son of God, Jesus has received everything from the Father (see John 12:49-50). For this reason, Saint Mark tells us that Jesus spoke with authority (Mark 1:21-28). He had no need to quote the opinions of others about the meaning of the Scriptures. He spoke on His own behalf as God.
3. And Jesus’ words have power. Just previously to this scene in Mark, Jesus called Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John. They left their fishing boats on the shore and followed him. Matthew and the others would also leave their occupations to follow just because He asked. In the Gospel this morning, we hear about Jesus power over the unclean spirits. Just one word from our Lord is sufficient to cause the demon to leave the man alone. This display of authority and power certainly attracted the attention of the people in Jesus’ day. He obviously is one to whom we should pay attention.
4. As Christians, however, we are called to do more than simply pay attention. Certainly we must begin with that. But God is calling us to do much more. Once, Moses told Joshua Would that all the people of the LORD were prophets! Would that the LORD might bestow his spirit on them all! (Numbers 11:29). In baptism this is exactly what has happened. The Lord has bestowed His Spirit on us. It is His intention and will that we be prophets in the world. The basic characteristic of a prophet is to speak the word of God. In the Old Testament, the prophets prepared God’s people for the coming of the Messiah. Now Jesus has fulfilled all these expectations and prophecies. Jesus alone is the Holy One who leads us to the Father (John 14:6). So we do not have to prepare people for the coming Messiah (although in a sense we do, since He is coming again).
5. But the Prophets of Old also corrected others in their faults. And that task is never going to go away. Every one of us is in constant need of deeper conversion to Christ. And our world desperately needs prophetic witness with regard to the Law of God especially the Living Law which is Jesus. Prophecy however, is not about standing apart, pointing fingers, and condemning. It is a service given for the good of others and the community. It requires involvement so that the prophet is not simple saying what is wrong, but participating in the solution. For example, Nathan the prophet rebuked David the King when David committed adultery and then had Uriah killed (2 Samuel 12:7-12). But Nathan was an advisor to the King and continued to serve him. Similarly, when we correct others it cannot flow from our arrogance, but from our desire that others be holy. Of course, the prophetic person has to humble himself or herself and accept correction also. We all need to repent of our particular sins. If we proclaim the desire for mercy, or justice, if we seek to benefit from the generosity of others, we must strive to be merciful, just, and generous ourselves. As prophets of the Lord, we cannot forget that it is Christ whom we proclaim. And Jesus Christ our Lord is merciful, is just, is generous and loving and all good.
6. It seems a little unusual then, if it is Jesus Christ whom we are called to proclaim that Jesus would command the unclean spirit to be silent (see Mark 1:25 etc). He would not let the demon tell others who He was. Why? Possibly because demons have a tendency to tell lies. Or maybe another reason. Jesus’ exercise of authority and power got many people to follow Him around. But Jesus was not there merely to preach with authority or to cast out the evil spirits or heal the sick. He was there to save us from our sins by dying on the Cross. Unless we accept the Cross, we are not accepting the whole Christ. Unless we proclaim that, we are not proclaiming the whole Christ.

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