Sermons

Summary: Jesus was confrontational, uncomfortable even

Jesus the Prophet – “Portraits of Christ series”

Matt. 12:1-14 – Steve Simala Grant – Jan. 19/20, 2002

Intro:

This is the CNN report from December 18, 2000:

MEXICO CITY, Mexico -- Fire lit the sky Monday night as lava, rock and ash spewed from Mexico’s Popocatepetl (pronounced poh-poh-kah-TEH-peh-til) volcano, which erupted shortly after 7:30 p.m. (0130 GMT).

Many of the 40,000 residents within six miles (9.6 kilometers) of the volcano’s base remained in their homes, despite being urged by officials to evacuate.

For more than two days, officials have urged some 40,000 people living within 6 miles (10 kilometers) of the volcano to leave the area. But most have ignored the pleas, preferring to stay behind to guard their belongings and livestock.

On Monday, some residents began to rethink their decision.

"They already told us to leave, but we didn’t believe them -- until last night. Now we are scared," said Javier Hernandez, 71, huddled about one fire with five other men. Six female relatives slept under blankets in the back of a nearby pickup.

"We didn’t sleep at all last night," he said. "It was thundering loudly."

Scientists have warned that a dome of lava at the base of the 17,886-foot (5,366-meter) volcano is causing pressure to build inside the mountain. That could trigger a strong eruption, throwing rocks and other debris for miles.

"It’s like a pressure cooker," Creel said. "It could lead to a situation the likes of which we’ve never seen."

Families swaddled in blankets gathered around roadside fires as the sun came up, nervously glancing at the steaming crater above them.

People in the area have grown accustomed to the vapor, ash and lava that the volcano has been spewing intermittently for the past six years. Still, this week has been one of its most active in years, and tremors have shaken nearby towns.”

We generally think of prophecy as future-telling. We think of Isaiah looking ahead hundreds of years and describing how Jesus would be born and would suffer as a servant. But that is generally an incorrect way of viewing prophecy: generally, the prophet was concerned with an immediate situation and threat to God’s people. They usually function like the scientists in the news story – they have more information, a view from on high, and can thus warn the people about what is to come. Unfortunately, the people’s reaction is generally like that of the 40 000 people who ignored the plea.

Context:

When identifying the major roles Jesus filled, it is common to list them as prophet, priest, and king. For completeness, we should also include the role of “wise man,” or “teacher of wisdom.” These were roles that people of Jesus’ day were familiar with and understood, and they saw Jesus as filling those roles. Today I want to look at Jesus the Prophet, to see what portrait of Jesus we see and what this means for us, and in the coming weeks we will explore the other common designations. We are going to look at one particular story in Jesus’ life where we see him in this role.

But first, it is probably necessary for us to step back and discover what a prophet is. The simplest definition is “one who is a spokesperson for God.” About 1/3 of our Old Testament contains the writings of these prophets, and record for us the words of God to His people through those prophets. One of the common phrases we read in those books is “This is what the Lord says:” – where the individual prophet proclaims the words of God to the people.

And already, with the definition of a prophet as “spokesperson for God,” we can see that Jesus was the greatest of the prophets. He not only spoke the words, He embodied them – He lived them – in fact, He was them. John calls Jesus “The Word,” emphasizing this point.

Often the message of the prophet was not a welcome message. Like the residents at the base of the volcano, the message required change, giving up some things that were precious, trusting. Most people refused to listen. As a result, we read about a lot of confrontation in the prophetic books of the OT – a lot of rejection of the people bringing the message, even to the point of killing the prophet. The prophets of the OT were generally opposed – rejected – often even persecuted.

We see that parallel also in Jesus. We know that Jesus encountered unbelief, leading even to the ultimate rejection and persecution in His death on the cross. Jesus didn’t simply walk away when people rejected His message – He confronted that rejection directly (much like the OT prophets). I don’t know if your picture of Jesus usually includes this confrontational portrait – I think most of us tend to imagine a kinder, gentler Jesus. We like the Sunday school portraits of Jesus smiling, helping people, healing people, comforting people. And those are true and good pictures. But they aren’t the whole picture – there are many examples of Jesus being confrontational and speaking God’s truth even when it was unwelcome: the first ones that spring to mind are those examples of Jesus confronting the religious leaders of His day (one example of which we will look at in depth in just a moment); but Jesus did the same thing with those who believed in Him, including His disciples.

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