JESUS IS THE TRUE PROPHET WITH THE TRUE WORD.
In the name + of Jesus.
When the people of Israel stood at the foot of Mt. Sinai, they saw the glory of the Lord engulf the mountain with a thick, black cloud, with peals of thunder, and flashes of lightning. Then they heard the voice of the Lord utter the Ten Commandments. Understandably, they were terrified. Each pleaded with Moses, “Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God or see this great fire any more, lest I die.” (Deuteronomy 18:16) The Lord replied, “They are right in what they have spoken. 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.” (Deuteronomy 18:17-18)
Moses was recognized as the Lord’s prophet, and for good reason. The Israelites saw the signs that Moses had performed in the name of the Lord. They heard the words of Moses come true with the plagues and with Israel’s deliverance from Egypt. Then the Lord’s own voice declared that Moses spoke for him. But Moses was not immortal. Eventually he would die, and eventually other prophets would come who would speak in the name of the Lord. Or, at least, they would claim to speak in the name of the Lord. So, who would be a true prophet? Who was to be listened to, and who was to be ignored, and even condemned? The question was on the mind of the Israelites: “How may we know the word that the LORD has not spoken?” (Deuteronomy 18:21) It is still a valid question today, isn’t it? Your eternal welfare rests on knowing the answer.
The theme of this sermon is the answer: Jesus is the true prophet with the true word. But this deserves more consideration than just asserting it to be true. After all, others make similar statements. The Muslims declare: “Allah is God and Mohammed is his prophet.” Mormons declare that the testimony of Joseph Smith in the Book of Mormon are the true words of God. And there are many others who claim to have the true word of God. If eternity were not on the line, I don’t know that we would really have to care about this. But when putting your faith in the wrong source means eternal damnation, then we had better be sure that we have it right.
The God who appeared at Mt. Sinai publicly and unmistakably told us where to look for the true prophet with the true word: “I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers.” (Deuteronomy 18:17) The true prophet whom the Lord sends does not come out of the blue. He would come into the world in the common way, growing in wisdom and stature among his people. Thus, Jesus did not suddenly show up in the world as a thirty-year-old man whom no one had ever met before. He was a Nazarene. The people of Nazareth testified of knowing him as the son of the carpenter, and being familiar with his relatives. They were not insulted that some unknown preacher suddenly showed up and claimed authority as a preacher; they were insulted that someone familiar did so—someone from among their brothers.
More than that, Jesus claimed that he did not speak on his own, but he spoke only what his Father had given him to say, and that he alone had the words of eternal life. In other words, Jesus claimed to fulfill just what the Lord had said would happen. “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.” (Deuteronomy 18:18-19) Jesus showed himself to be just what the Lord had foretold. Jesus is the true prophet who speaks the true word.
By contrast, the false prophets who have gained a following do not live up to what the Lord had foretold. Mohammed declared himself to be the true prophet. The source of his message was an angel who no one saw but him. Mohammad claimed to be the corrector of all the corruption of the Bible, and declared that salvation must be earned by submission and obedience. Likewise, the Book of Mormon showed up out of the blue in 1820’s. Joseph Smith claimed to receive from an angel (again seen by no one but him) golden tablets (which still remain unseen) with a message written in a language no one had ever heard of before (making it untranslatable to everyone except Joseph Smith). Once again, Smith sought to correct the Bible and declare that salvation is to be gained by obedience. Still others claim to be the true interpreters of Scripture. They may use the Bible as the source of their teachings, but then they betray themselves when their teaching amounts to, “Well, that’s what the Bible says, but that is not what it means.” No matter how much people like find the new meaning to their liking, it is still a denial of the Bible, or a denial that the Bible is true.
Jesus is the true prophet with the true word. It is one thing to simply say Jesus is the one who fulfills the promise made through Moses, but we ought to be able to recognize that fulfillment so that we are confident it is true. Again, our eternal welfare rests on this. And if we are going to suffer ridicule, disdain, or even real persecution for this faith, we had better be convinced of it.
The Lord addresses these concerns. This is what the Lord says: “If you say in your heart, ‘How may we know the word that the Lord has not spoken?’—when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him.” (Deuteronomy 18:21-22) God cannot lie. When he makes a promise, it must come true. So, when God’s prophet speaks, his words must come true too. If they do not, that prophet is a liar. He should be ignored and scorned.
So, how does Jesus measure up? He was born in Bethlehem, as foretold by Micah. He is the Seed of Abraham as recorded by Moses. He is the Son of David as foretold by Nathan. He was betrayed by a companion, pierced in his hands and feet, and crucified with criminals, as foretold by David and Isaiah. We could go on. The Old Testament books all point to the prophet who would be like his Israelite brothers, raised up among them, put to death, and raised from the dead to save sinners. All prophecies and promises are fulfilled by Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus is the true prophet with the true word.
In addition to that, Jesus had some bold prophecies to make about himself. He foretold that he would be betrayed, condemned by the religious leaders of his day, crucified, and on the third day rise again. He said it plainly, and repeatedly. He even told his enemies that all of his claims and teachings would be vindicated by his resurrection from the dead. None of this was done in secret. Jesus’ death by crucifixion was certified by the Romans who were good at their job. Jesus’ resurrection was witnessed by hundreds. If Jesus’ resurrection had been staged or fabricated, it could have been falsified. Not only did the apostles bear eye-witness testimony of all of this, they and many Christians suffered and died willingly for confessing it. None of these people gained any worldly advantage for believing and teaching it. Nevertheless, they confessed in their lives and by their deaths this truth: Jesus is the true prophet with the true word.
There will always be men who claim to speak for God. Some are faithful pastors; some are misguided in their teachings; others are charlatans and liars. How can you tell who is who? “How may we know the word that the Lord has not spoken?” (Deuteronomy 18:21) The good news is that you don’t have to guess. God has already given you his word. Therefore, we flee back to God’s word, and see for ourselves what is true and trustworthy. Jesus is the true prophet with the true word. If a preacher of the word is faithful, he will rest all of his teachings on Jesus’ words and works. No faithful preacher will preach himself or his opinions. No faithful preacher will attempt to correct or to improve what God has revealed in the Scriptures. If you don’t want to be deceived, give your full attention to the words of Jesus. A preacher who is worth anything will point you there, because Jesus is the true prophet with the true word.
While everything Jesus teaches is important, the most important word from Jesus has to do with how you are saved. As we had considered earlier, the common thread that runs through Islam, Mormonism, and other teachers is that you are to give the proper obedience to be saved. While the particular commandments vary among various teachers, they all command you to live a good life to be saved. On the one hand, their teaching seems sensible. Your own conscience tells you that you are supposed to be good. But your own conscience also testifies that you have not been good. How, therefore, can you be saved?
Jesus delivers to you a message different than all the world. This is what he tells you: “The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45) You are not saved because you serve God; you are saved because God serves you; not because you are good, but because Jesus is good and merciful. Jesus gave his life as a ransom for yours. First, he submitted himself to God’s Law and lived a perfect, obedient life for you. He answers for all of your sins by his obedience. But then he made the payment to redeem you. The ransom payment was that holy life—the Son of God went into death so that the children of mankind can live. He was condemned so that you are pardoned. This is Jesus’ work, done for you. And what is the work that you do? Jesus tells you: “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” (John 6:29) God has even done work—granting you faith in Jesus. By this faith, Jesus credits you with the holy life he lived for you and with the holy life he sacrificed for you. This is what saves you—not because I say so, but because Jesus say so. Jesus is the true prophet with the true word.
Everything that Jesus said is true. Therefore you are right to trust the promises yet to be fulfilled—the resurrection of the dead and the life everlasting. The Lord Jesus became your brother so that you would dwell forever as his brothers and sisters in the Father’s kingdom. And he who was raised up among his people will raise you up to live forever as his people. This is the true word—promised by God through the prophets, fulfilled by Jesus the Messiah, purchased and won by Jesus’ death, guaranteed by his resurrection, and delivered to you through the preaching of the true word.
In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.