Summary: God Points Us to THE Prophet 1) Jesus gives the ultimate revelation 2) Jesus provides ultimate mediation 3) Jesus deserves our ultimate attention
“The Prophet.” If that’s all I say, who do you suppose I’m talking about? Millions in the world, particularly in Arab countries as well as in places like Iran, Pakistan, and Indonesia, would say that I am talking about Muhammad, the founder of Islam. They claim that he is God’s most important spokesman, the man God used to get religion back on track after it had been “corrupted” by Judaism and Christianity.
To Orthodox Jews, however, the title “the Prophet” would refer to Moses who is considered to be the greatest prophet of the Old Testament. And indeed he was. The Bible says that there was no other prophet that God treated like Moses. God spoke to Moses face to face while he communicated with other prophets through visions and dreams (Numbers 12:6-8). Moses was like that one guy at work whom the boss will call into his office to chat, but with all other employees the boss will communicate through texts and emails. God also used the prophet Moses to lead his people out of slavery in Egypt, and it was through Moses that God gave the Israelites all their worship laws which so carefully governed their lives for the next fifteen centuries.
But in his farewell speech to the Israelites, Moses said that God would raise up another prophet like him from among their own ranks. The New Testament tells us that this was Jesus (Acts 7:37). Jesus is of course even greater than Moses and so we could call him THE Prophet. Jesus is the greatest because he gives us the ultimate revelation, he provides ultimate mediation, and therefore he deserves our ultimate attention.
In the verses before our text, Moses warned the Israelites not to be like the inhabitants of Canaan whom they were about to drive out. These people had the habit of consulting fortune tellers to give them information about the future. There was no need for the Israelites to do that because through Moses, God had told the Israelites everything they needed to know at the time. God had told them how they were to worship him with animal sacrifices. God also gave them a series of religious festivals like the Passover to annually remind the people of how God had rescued them from slavery. These festivals also pointed ahead to how God would rescue them from sin and bring them to heaven through the work of the Messiah, God’s appointed savior. In the eleven months they spent at Mt. Sinai, the Israelites learned more from God through Moses than had ever been revealed before in the history of mankind.
But the revelation that God had given through Moses was not everything he wanted his people to know. It was like a movie trailer which gives you a pretty good idea of what the feature film is about, but it doesn’t reveal all the details. For that you need to actually go see the movie. That’s what Jesus came to provide. He was the feature film, the fulfillment of all the prophecies and the one whom God had been teaching the people about through the sacrifices. When Jesus finally came he made God’s will known to the people more completely. For example, many Israelites had started to think that as long as you look respectable and keep your nose clean by not committing any of the big sins like murder and adultery, then God was pleased with you. But Jesus revealed that sin starts in the heart. And so simply hating someone is the same as murdering them. And having dirty thoughts about someone is the same as sexually assaulting them.
Jesus also made God’s forgiveness better understood. By Jesus’ day many people thought that you had to earn forgiveness by being good. But Jesus made it clear that he had come to earn forgiveness for all. Think of how the Pharisees wanted to follow Moses’ law to the letter and stone to death a woman caught in adultery. Jesus, however, used that as an opportunity to teach forgiveness. But at the same time he made it clear that he wasn’t giving a blank check to that woman to go back to sin. No, Jesus said to her, “Leave your life of sin” (John 8:11). Jesus was a much more important prophet than Moses because he would provide the ultimate revelation – a revelation which focused on himself as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
But Jesus was greater than Moses for another reason. He would provide the ultimate mediation. To understand this point we need to go back to the time when Moses climbed Mt. Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments. Do you remember the scene? That mountain was all ablaze and smoke billowed up from the top. There was lightning and the sound of a trumpet grew louder and louder as the earth shook under the Israelites’ feet. At first God spoke directly to the people who had assembled at the bottom of the mountain, but God’s voice was so terrifying that they begged Moses to have God to speak to him instead. God was pleased with this request and he promised to use Moses as their mediator – someone who stands between two parties.