Jesus the Prophet
Hebrews begins, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son…” (Heb 1:1-2). Then, toward the end, “See that you do not refuse him who is speaking” (12:25). This is followed by recalling what happened at Mt. Sinai when God spoke. In between the first and twelfth chapters, the writer engages a series of arguments showing that Jesus is God, Jesus became man, He is the great Apostle and High Priest who brings rest, and He is the One who came as a sacrifice to open up a new and living way back to God. Why, then, would anyone want to walk away from Christ?
All of the above is predicated upon the fact that 1) Jesus is the One through whom God speaks and 2) people need to listen to Him. Jesus is the great High Priest and King. He is also the Prophet through whom God has communicated His will for us. Yet the argument made by the Hebrews writer is anticipated and themed throughout Scripture. Jesus is the Prophet who not only speaks the word of God; He is the Word of God: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). He is God’s communication with humanity as He Himself came in the flesh (John 1:14; cf. Heb 2:14).
Moses served as a type of the Prophet. As the new generation of the children of Israel stood on the brink of entering the Land, Moses told them, “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 … I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him.” (Deut 18:15, 18-19). There would be an initial application to any prophet of the Lord. God raised up prophets to whom the people should listen, and if they didn’t, they would be called to account over it.
Built into Moses’ prophecy is the anticipation of a greater Prophet, the ultimate Prophet who would speak with authority and call people to repentance. As Jesus came in the flesh, there is an emphasis on His being the fulfillment of what the prophets before had spoken. For example, when Joseph was told to take Mary as his wife and that she would have a son who would be named Jesus, Matthew points to Isaiah, “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet” (Matt 1:22; cf. 2:5, 15, 17; 3:3; 4:14; 8:17, etc.). That emphasis on what the prophets had spoken is a significant theme as it not only shows how God brought about His promises through Jesus, but it anticipates Jesus as the greatest Prophet of all.
In the grand scene of Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, people were asking who He is, to which the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee” (Matt 21:11). Earlier in His ministry, the Samaritan woman recognized Jesus as a prophet (John 4:19). After Jesus fed the five thousand, John notes this: “When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, ‘This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!’” (John 6:14). John shows Jesus as the One through whom God speaks.
As Peter called for repentance, he drew the connection between Moses and Jesus, quoting from Deuteronomy 18: “Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you. And it shall be that every soul who does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people.’ And all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and those who came after him, also proclaimed these days.” (Acts 3:22-24). The prophets as a whole had pointed to “these days,” and Moses anticipated “these days” through his prophecy of the Prophet “like me.” Yet Jesus is greater.
Coming back to Hebrews, the writer compares Jesus to Moses and shows that “Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses—as much more glory as the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself” (Heb 3:3). The One anticipated by Moses is the greatest Prophet of all, and the practical conclusion should be heeded: “See that you do not refuse him who is speaking.” In other words, just as the voice from heaven at the transfiguration of Jesus said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him” (Matt 17:5). Are we listening?