It reveals his human nature with the anointing of God coming on him.
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In all of the following examples, Jesus stands in the prophetic tradition of the Bible. The word “prophet” is used a little over 20 times in the context of Jesus in the Four Gospels. (Passages that refer explicitly to an Old Testament prophet, for example, were not counted here.) These are the classes of people who use it.
Ordinary people: the crowds see Jesus as a prophet (Matt. 21:11, 26:46; Luke 7:16; John 6:14, 7:40); woman at the well believes he is a prophet (John 4:19); a healed blind man believes that Jesus is a prophet (John 9:17); Jesus asks the disciples who people say that he is, and the disciples report that some say that he is a prophet (Mark 8:28; Matt. 16:14; Luke 9:19).
The most significant point in these last three passages (Mark 8:28; Matt. 16:14; Luke 9:19) is that Jesus reveals that his identity as a prophet does not reflect his divine nature in its fullest meaning, as his being the Christ, the Son of the Living God does reflect it (Matt. 16:16).
Disciples: Zechariah predicts that Jesus will be called prophet of the Most High (Luke 1:76); two disciples on the Road to Emmaus (one is named Cleopas) say that he was a mighty prophet (Luke 24:19); Peter says that Jesus fulfills the prophecy in Deuteronomy 18:14, which says that another Prophet like Moses would be sent by God (Acts 3:22).
Religious leaders: Simon the Pharisee questions his prophethood (Luke 7:39); chief priests and Pharisees doubt his prophethood (John 7:52).
Other passages in the New Testament say that the risen Lord Jesus Christ ordains prophets in his church (Acts 11:27; 13:1; 15:32; 1 Cor. 12:28-29; 14:29-37; Eph. 2:20, 3:5, 4:11). This means that Jesus rises far above mere prophethood, though this office is valued in his church.
The most revealing interpretation of the office of prophet is found in the words of Christ himself.
How Jesus uses the title:
(A) He says that prophets are sent out on missions, and anyone who receives them will receive a prophet’s reward (Matt. 10:41). This means that Jesus, who sends prophets, rises far above this office.
(B) He says that John the Baptist is a prophet, and no one is greater than John is—except anyone who lives in the new dispensation of the kingdom of God as Jesus reveals it. “Yet [any disciple of Jesus] who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than [John the Baptist]” (Matt. 11:9-11). This means that Jesus, who lifts ordinary believers above the great John the Baptist, rises far above mere prophethood.
(C) He accepts the common belief that no prophet is honored in his own hometown (Mark 6:4; Matt. 13:57; Luke 4:24; John 4:44).
(D) Using a lot of irony, he says that no prophet can die outside of Jerusalem (Luke 13:33). From an historical point of view, Jerusalem had acquired this reputation. As noted, he stands in the prophetic tradition of the Bible, so how can he deny Jerusalem’s reputation by dying somewhere else?
It is clear, then, that the New Testament authors understand the concept of point of view. From the people’s (and sometimes the disciples’) point of view, he is a prophet.
Next, from the Old Testament’s point of view, he stands in the prophetic tradition. He is the Prophet predicted in Deuteronomy 18:14.
Finally, however, in private and from a higher, divine point of view, he is more than a prophet. He reveals that he is the Christ, the Son of the living God (Matt. 16:16). But does this mean that he privately and secretly rejects the title of “prophet”? Not in the least. But it does not reflect his divine nature in its fullest meaning, as the Son of God does, for example, because the title “prophet” had been applied to so many humans for so many centuries.
So how does this lead me to know Jesus more deeply?
Jesus was the God-man, perfectly divine and perfectly human. This post focused on his humanity.
Let’s recap his human prophet status, anointed of God (Acts 10:38)
When the people of Israel—the land that produced the Bible and engendered the special vocabulary—saw their fellow Jew teach with authority, they used the title “prophet” naturally. And Jesus accepts them as accurate. However, in the total number of times that the three titles (Rabbi, Teacher, and Prophet) appear in the Four Gospels (about 55 times), Jesus rarely uses them about himself, comparatively speaking. One possible reason concerns point of view.
As the people look at Jesus, they correctly see the three titles (Rabbi, Teacher and Prophet), and the people honor him with them. He fulfills these roles perfectly. His not using them as often as the people use them does not indicate that he secretly rejects the titles. But as Jesus looks at the people and understands his divine nature that he always has, he realizes that these three titles do not represent the end of the story as the be-all of his divine glory and nature. After all, they had been attached to so many humans for many years, so how could they by themselves reveal the divine nature of Jesus?
He came down from heaven as the eternal Son of God. Thus, he has much more to reveal to them—and most people do not enjoy the opportunity to receive this privileged knowledge. This is why after the resurrection and ascension, the disciples have to go out along the dusty roads and preach this message.
You can know Jesus better by looking at his humanity.
Written by James Malcolm
ARTICLES IN THE “TITLES OF JESUS” SERIES
2. Titles of Jesus: The Prophet