Session #099 Who Wants To Be A Prophet?
Scripture Matthew 13:53-58
Summary Immediately after teaching about how the kingdom operates through the kingdom parables, in Matt 13:53-58, Matthew records the rejection of Jesus in his own hometown. From this, we learn that kingdom assignments are prophetic in nature. Not surprising. After all, the Body of Christ is a prophetic kingdom community. Henson utilizes this opportunity to highlight the prophetic ministry and challenge every believer: Are you ready to be a prophet?
Now it came to pass, when Jesus had finished these parables, that He departed from there. When He had come to His own country, He taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished and said, “Where did this Man get this wisdom and these mighty works? Is this not the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary? And His brothers James, Joses, Simon, and Judas? And His sisters, are they not all with us? Where then did this Man get all these things?” So they were offended at Him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own country and in his own house.” Now He did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief. Matthew 13:53–58
This passage is a transition from the parables in Matthew 13 to the next part-narratives. Jesus went back to His hometown Nazareth, and His prophetic ministry was questioned and rejected by His own hometown and family.
There are two observations from this passage. The key point of Matthew 13 is about hearing and understanding. Matthew 13:53-58 hence becomes an immediate example of people who hear but do not understand. Secondly, this passage is sandwiched between two passages that speak about family and faith. The kingdom of God has a higher value than the family.
“Who is My mother and who are My brothers?”; “Here are My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother. Matthew 12:48-50
“Is this not the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary? And His brothers James, Joses, Simon and Judas?” And His sisters, are they not all with us?” Matthew 13:55-56
Unlike others’ presumptions, the prophetic ministry may not be readily accepted by all. Matthew 13:53-58 reveals the kind of rejection that prophets can expect.
So who wants to be a prophet? Before we answer too quickly, let us learn more about prophets and the prophetic ministry.
Prophet: Understanding The Term
There are a few terms we should understand regarding the word “prophet” and its connotations. A prophet refers to someone who is being called or appointed by God. A prophet is specially set aside and apart by God. Man of God refers to a man who belongs to God. This is God’s messenger and servant. Finally, a seer is someone who has understanding, spiritual insight and foresight. A seer has the power of perception and discernment with kingdom wisdom and perspectives.
A Prophet Is Characterised By Wisdom And Works
A prophet is one who has the wisdom to teach and lead according to God’s ways, and he is one who may perform miracles, signs and wonders that point to God’s power. This idea originated with Moses as Israel’s great prophet.
But since then there has not arisen in Israel a prophet like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, in all the signs and wonders which the Lord sent him to do in the land of Egypt, before Pharaoh, before all his servants, and in all his land, and by all that mighty power and all the great terror which Moses performed in the sight of all Israel. Deuteronomy 34:10–12
Not only did Moses teach Israel, he also pointed to the One who will be like him. This is recorded in Deuteronomy 18:15-19: “The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear, according to all you desired of the Lord your God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God, nor let me see this great fire anymore, lest I die.’ “And the Lord said to me: ‘What they have spoken is good. I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him. And it shall be that whoever will not hear My words, which He speaks in My name, I will require it of him.
Israel was always looking out for who this One might be. Jesus taught with great wisdom and did mighty works. When Jesus raised the widow’s son from the dead, people responded by saying “A great prophet has arisen among us!” (Luke 7:1). However, while others recognised Jesus as a great prophet, the people in His hometown looked down on Him as a “carpenter’s son”. Jesus was one of them and hence could not have possessed wisdom and power.
Inspiration & Source Of The Prophet
What makes a prophet a prophet? A prophet is divinely inspired by the Spirit of God. We cannot understand the word of God by ourselves. In 2 Peter 1:21, Peter said, “for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.”
A prophet is divinely guided and directed by the word of God. God’s word becomes their words and their words become God’s word. When one becomes the prophet, his words are meant to be received as if they are the word of God.
A prophet has divine communion and fellowship with God (relationship). He receives divine counsel and wisdom from God Himself. No one can speak the word of God unless he has stood in the counsel of the Lord and received and heard His word (Jeremiah 23:18 and Amos 3:7)
Function Of The Prophet
What is the prophet supposed to do? A prophet is expected to be forthtellers and foretellers. To forthtell is to proclaim the truth about God and to foretell is to predict what God will do.
The Scriptures from Genesis to Revelation is a prophetic book, a declaration of God and what He stands for. The focus is always on God and His kingdom, not for personal gain. The prophets always give an assessment of how God’s people have veered, followed by an invitation to turn and return to God, a warning of impending judgement upon those who reject the message and a promise of salvation, restoration and hope to those who believe. When king after king messed up and Israel spiralled down, prophecy pointed to a Messiah, a coming King, who will bring the people from hopelessness to the hope of salvation and restoration. The prophecy also extended from Israel to the rest of the world. The prophetic ministry operates against this backdrop and context from Moses to John the Baptist to Jesus. The sequence from Old Testament to new testament is a unity, a continuity, not separate entities, and the new testament prophets begin with Jesus and His church
The Church: A Prophetic Kingdom Community
Acts 2:17-18 records the pouring of the Holy Spirit fulfilling the prophecy in Numbers 11:29. The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy (Revelations 19:10) and this is the gift of the Spirit to each and every person in the body of Christ (Romans 12:6; 1 Corinthians 12:10; Revelations 19:10).
The Word even became flesh and dwelt among us. Not only are we directed by the written Word, we also have a relationship with the Word, Jesus Christ. We are governed and led by the Spirit of the Living Word. Since all of us have direct access to God, we need to be in constant prayer, communion and fellowship with the King. We, the Church, need to be aligned with the King and His kingdom.
We are a prophetic people. All of us are called, set apart and appointed. Some of us are prophets, but all of us are prophetic (Ephesians 4:11). All of us who belong to God are expected to hear, see and understand the things of the kingdom.
As with the other gifts of the Holy Spirit, the prophetic assignment is for the good of the body of Christ. We need to harness it for profit for all. In 1 Corinthians 14:1, it is said to us to “pursue love and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy”. We should strive to move in the prophetic kingdom and understand the Scripture so that we may prophesy.
As prophets, we should bring edification, exhortation and comfort to men (1 Corinthians 14:3-4). This should not be taken out of context to mean that prophets cannot offend others. It also does not mean that prophets only speak harsh words to others. A prophet should give warning to all to repentance, and remind the people of God’s love and grace that await all who return to him. We should remind people of the hope we have in Christ and His kingdom against challenges and dismal outlook.
A prophet is led by the Spirit, but he is in control of how he prophesies (1 Corinthians 14:32). God with His prophetic voice should bring order, not confusion or competition. Yet, we should neither quench the Spirit nor despise prophecy. All prophets must be held accountable and subjected to be tested by leaders, elders and the Body. Do these prophets conform to the Scriptures and doctrines? Do they glorify Jesus and the church? Do they have the consensus of elders and leaders? Is there consistency of prophecy across the body of Christ?
The Possibility Of No Honour, Rejection And Even Persecution
As the famous proverb goes, “familiarity breeds contempt”. Prophets are not welcomed or honoured by those he or she is closest to. We cannot imagine that God can use the ordinary for His purpose. Learning about the nature of the prophetic ministry helps us understand the challenges and plights of prophets who are true to this kingdom assignment. People loved to hear prophecies, but few responded through repentance and obedience. Many prophets were rejected, persecuted and killed by their own people. Very often, prophets were lonely and misunderstood.
This is still the same today! We like to hear about the promises of God, but not about repentance and turning away from sin. We want to know what is in it for us, but not about how it relates to the King and His kingdom. We prefer ‘prophecies’ that align with our own desires more than those that align with the things of the kingdom. We only want to hear about God’s love, grace and blessings, but not about His judgment.
Jesus As Our Prophetic Example
Who wants to be a prophet? We do not really have a choice because we are to be a prophetic community. As prophets, we are God’s kingdom representatives to point people back to God. With this in mind, are we willing to be led by the Spirit and manifest the gifts of the Spirit? Will we live by the Word and be willing to call others back to the Word? Will we be in communion and fellowship with God so that we can hear what He says and be bold to speak what we have heard from Him?
Jesus our King is our prophetic exemplar. He was baptised with the Holy Spirit; He was the Living Word Himself and He was always in close communion with the Father. With the wisdom of God, Jesus declared the ways of the kingdom, and He displayed the works of the kingdom with the power of God. Jesus operates with wisdom, knowing when to act and when not to act. Matthew 13:58 and Mark 6:5 recorded that Jesus did not do mighty work because the people did not believe. Jesus was not a miracle-on-demand prophet or a performer who entertains the crowds! Even upon questioning or rejection, Jesus chose to please the Father and not men.
Matthew 13 speaks about the mysteries of the kingdom of God. Some hear and understand while others do not. This is the environment within which the prophetic ministry operates- the sower of the word of the kingdom; and the house master who brings out the treasures, both old and new.
Matthew 13:53-58 is a transition passage. Here, we are to move out from hearing and obeying to knowing and fulfilling God-given kingdom assignments. This may be a lonely and misunderstood journey. Many will hear, but few will understand. Only those who believe and do the will of the Father are the family of God.
So who wants to be a prophet? Are you ready to be a prophet?