Series: The Book of Acts
Series: God's Law & the Christian Believer
Jesus as Prophet
Adapted from a talk given to the Apostolic Church National Convention in 2011
“A man came from Baal-shalishah, bringing the man of God bread of the firstfruits, twenty loaves of barley and fresh ears of grain in his sack. And Elisha said, “Give to the men, that they may eat.” But his servant said, “How can I set this before a hundred men?” So he repeated, “Give them to the men, that they may eat, for thus says the Lord, ‘They shall eat and have some left.’” So he set it before them. And they ate and had some left, according to the word of the Lord" . (2 Kin 4:42-44)
Surely the greatest Bible Study that ever took place is that recorded for us in the 24th chapter of Luke's Gospel where on the road to Emmaus the risen Christ opened the Hebrew Scriptures to the hearts of two disciples...“And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself” (Lk 24:27). I don't know whether this episode in 2 Kin 4 was one of the passages alluded to that day. But as we have gathered here to proclaim Jesus the verses we have just read remind us that, if we know how to look, we can find Jesus proclaimed in the most unexpected & surprising of places.
Elisha feeding one hundred men from a pitifully inadequate supply is meant to trigger thoughts in us of a special, sunny day many centuries later where on a grass-topped hillside in Galilee a Greater Than Elisha would come and would feed 5,000 men (plus women and children) and like Elisha here (v43) would have some left over too! Elisha delivered food to sustain men through a terrible physical famine. The Greater than Elisha announced Himself to be the very Bread of Life: “the true bread from heaven who comes down and gives life to the world” (Jn 6:33). And in the terrible spiritual famine of our own day we must proclaim Jesus as the only answer, the only source of nourishment to a starving world.
“...according to the word of the Lord” (v44) was the constant refrain of the Hebrew prophet. When the Old Testament uses this expression it is saying so much more than just: “I have a message from God”. It was the delivery, not of a word, but of the Word. Many centuries later the Apostle John would proclaim to the world that “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn 1:14). We need to understand that when the Word of the Lord came to God’s people in the Old Testament it was, in reality Christ Himself speaking to what we would now call His Church. Fundamentally it is still the case today that when the prophet delivers the Word He is proclaiming Jesus the Word.
There is an important biblical principle here:
All Old Testament prophecy pointed to Jesus, all New Testament prophecy flows from Jesus.
All Old Testament prophecy pointed to Jesus
We shouldn't miss the context of this promise. Until now God had only spoken to the people either through Moses(their preferred medium) or else He had spoken from the mountaintop in blazing fire and dark cloud and thunder. When the Word came, it was delivered to them on unyielding tablets of stone. Heb 12:19 tells us that the delivery of God's Word to them was such a terror that they begged that no further messages be spoken to them. God promises here that one day His Word would come to them in human flesh, indeed from one of their own brethren raised up from amongst them. This was a precious promise made to those who had hitherto only known God's Presence as a gloomy pillar of cloud by day or a terrifying pillar of fire by night. Prophets, including Elisha would come and go throughout Israel's history; but none of these was the Prophet promised through Moses. These only looked forwards as types and shadows to the One who was yet to come. From Moses to Malachi all were pointing towards Christ as the Prophet.
We take note of only one:
Jeremiah: a powerful type of Christ
set apart from the womb (Jer 1:5)
bringer of an unpopular message destined for rejection (Jer 1:17)
a weeping prophet who shed tears over the doomed city (Jer 9:1)
an innocent victim punished though guiltless (Jer 11:19)
forbidden to marry or have children (Jer 16:2)
bringer of condemnation at the temple (Jer 19:14)
bringer of the promise of the New Covenant (Jer 31:31)
Do we not see the clear parallels between the weeping prophet and the Man of Sorrows?
New Testament prophecy flows from Jesus
The Apostle Paul was the most powerful prophetic voice in the early church. Have we ever considered how closely his life and ministry mirrored that of Christ? Paul delivered an unpopular message in the Jewish synagogues of the diaspora as Christ had delivered it in the synagogues of Judea & Galilee-and often met with the same violent response. Christ ended His ministry by setting His face like a flint towards Jerusalem in the face of the protestations of Peter and the others. According to the Book of Acts Paul too, knew prophetically that he must go to Jerusalem to meet his fate, despite the disciples’ protests and even in the face of prophetic warnings.
Acts 20:17-38: Paul as a type of Christ.
End of a 3 year ministry (Acts 20:31)
Gathers them together for a special meeting (Acts 20:17)
Prophesies he will see them no more (Acts20:38)
Sorrow over his departure (Acts 20:38)
Prophesies betrayal from within their own ranks (Acts 20:30)
Now who do we know who had a 3 year ministry amongst His disciples, who called them together for a solemn final meeting at the end of it and there told them that He was leaving them creating great sorrow? Who further told them that betrayal would arise from within their own ranks? This incident with the Ephesian elders represents nothing less than a spiritual re-run of the Last Supper! Once again we find Jesus proclaimed in the most surprising of places
John’s Gospel: A whistlestop tour of the Evangel clearly reveals Jesus as Prophet
“The Word became flesh and dwelt amongst us” (Jn 1:14)
The One who had used the prophets as mouthpieces now has speaks with His own tongue. The God who tabernacled with Moses in the wilderness and terrified the people by coming in fire upon the mountain now tabernacles with us in human flesh. C S Lewis called this the “Grand Miracle”
“Lo within a manger lies, He who built the starry skies”
One commentator sees its significance this way: “From the beginning of time until now it is the only thing which has ever really happened”. Bruce Milne says that the word “flesh” is a startling one. He doesn't say just “man” or “had a body”. Flesh stands for the whole person, it refers to human existence in all its frailty and vulnerability”. He entered into humanity in the full range of its experience save sin.
“Before Abraham was I AM” (Jn 8:58)
Many today including Muslims and the cults have absurdly tried to say that Jesus never claimed to be God. If this were true then why is it that every time Jesus says “ego eimi” someone picks up rocks to stone Him? There is something awesome about those words on the lips of Christ. When at His arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane He spoke those words; a heavily armed detachment of soldiers went over like ninepins. His hearers fully understood what He meant when He said those words. Christ was revealing Himself as the YHWH of the Old Testament. Before Abraham came into being He already was. The One who had hurled galaxies into space had entered His own creation and was tabernacling with us.
“No one has seen God at any time. The only God who is at the Father’s side, He has made Him known” (Jn 1:18 ESV)
We (quite correctly) proclaim Jesus. We must never forget however that Jesus came to proclaim the Father. Here “made Him known” is a word from which we get our word exegesis. Jesus came to exegete the Father. In doing so He introduced us to the most distinctively Christian doctrine of them all: the Trinity.
The triune God was first unveiled, not in the Old Testament nor even first in the pages of the New Testament but in the time between the writing of the two testaments. The people to whom Paul and Peter and John wrote their epistles were already acquainted with the truths of the Trinity. That is why no one in the New Testament writings ever uses the word “Trinity”or ever gives us a definition of it. We never read Paul say: “Behold I show you a mystery, there is this thing called the Trinity…” because in the churches to whom the apostles wrote the Trinity was not a mystery. It had already been explained to them verbally by the early apostles.
Hence the New Testament is replete with Trinitarian statements, more than a dozen of them which simply assume the truth of the three-in-one God without ever explaining or even defending the concept. It is always just mentioned in passing. The Trinity was already known in the Church before ever the first apostle put pen to paper. It was first made known on the dusty lanes of Galilee, where the Son walked amongst us, and in the power of the Spirit made known the Father. Christ came to make God known. This is the very essence of the prophetic calling.
“And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God” (Jn 17:3)
Christ came not to show the way to the Father, but to be the Way. In doing so, He opened up the way to eternal life
Let's conclude by going back to where we began in 2 Kings chapter 4. How keenly we often feel the sense of lack expressed in Elisha’s question: “How can I set this before a hundred men?”The resources seemed pitifully inadequate to the need. The disciples of Jesus' day had a bigger problem: how can we set this before 5,000? They needn't have worried for at the centre of this vast & needy crowd was Christ. This was “the Prophet greater than Moses” The Greater than Elisha.
“Most assuredly I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world” (Jn 6:32-33)
Like the disciples of old we are surrounded by throngs of needy people. In our day the need is vaster than ever but the supply is still limitless. For the Supplier is Jesus the Prophet whom we proclaim to men.