Prophets were men who literally spoke the Word of the Lord. As they spoke, they did so with divine authority. For example, Moses and Aaron are both referred to as prophets in Exodus 7 because they were sent by God to proclaim his message to pharaoh. Prophets were not fortunetellers. They did not only foretell future events. Prophets functioned as the mouth of God. The prophets were like microphones. God spoke through them and they amplified exactly what he himself has said. The role of the prophet in the Old Testament was to bring announcements of judgment and salvation on the people of God. Prophets indicted the people for their sin. They also pronounced forgiveness from God (Isa. 40:1-2). And whatever the prophet spoke, God spoke.
According to John Frame, a prophet is one who has the “very word of God on his lips” (Systematic Theology, 900). Deuteronomy 18:15-22 and Jeremiah 1:9-10 show that the words of the prophet are the words of God. This means that when prophets spoke, they did so with the authority of God. But Jesus is quite different. Although he is definitely a prophet, he carried an authority that was greater than all the prophets before him. The religious leaders around Jesus were amazed and offended at the authority with which Jesus spoke. Why would this be? It cannot be because they didn’t think a man could speak with authority from God, for the prophets of old did that and they celebrated it. They were offended when Jesus spoke with authority, because of the way he did it.
In the Old Testament, prophets spoke with authority from God. Their words were God’s words. But, they did so in a certain way. They usually began their prophecies with the phrase, “Thus says the Lord.” This was the prophets’ way of saying, “Look, what I am about to say is coming from the mouth of God himself!” They did not claim to have their own authority in speaking. Their authority came from God.
However, Jesus did not speak this way. He never once said, “Thus says the Lord.” Instead, Jesus said, “I say to you.” Jesus spoke as a prophet with authority from God, but he assumed the authority was not outside of himself. The authority with which he spoke belonged to him! This shows Jesus to be no ordinary prophet—he was a divine prophet, much greater than all before him. This authority that belonged to Jesus, also belonged to the Father. Jesus did not come to earth with a separate agenda from his Father. The message he brought was from God. The authority with which he spoke was from God. But Jesus was much more than just the next great prophet with a message from God. Jesus himself is the message. And Jesus himself has the authority to speak divine truth.
Jesus not only spoke the word of God; he is the Word of God (John 1:1)! Jesus not only pronounced forgiveness and pardon, he accomplished forgiveness and pardon. In fact, he has authority to forgive sins (Mark 1:15; 2:7, 10)!
While the Pharisees and other Jewish leaders taught a message that was bogged down with tradition and personal preference, Jesus taught a message that was straight gospel truth. He revealed the will of God, and God himself through what he said, did, and who he was.
Jesus is the prophet that all the other prophets were pointing to. They were the shadow. He is the reality.
Mathew Gilbert is the Children’s Pastor at First Baptist Church East Bernstadt. He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (CrossBooks). Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife, Erica, and their dog, Simba.