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“The Promised Prophet”
Deuteronomy 18:15


Pastor Kevin Vogts
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Dakota Dunes, South Dakota
Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany—February 1, 2009

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Our text is today’s Old Testament Reading from the 18th chapter of Deuteronomy.  Moses, the great prophet of the Old Testament, predicts the coming of Christ, the great prophet of the New Testament: “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him.”  Christ is “The Promised Prophet.”

A prophet like Moses, but with some very important differences.  The Apostle John explains the greatest difference between Christ and Moses this way: “For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” 

Moses is the great prophet of the Law.  The bad news that God demands perfection, and you are a sinner.  The bad news that YOU deserve the punishment of death and eternal damnation in hell.

But, Christ is the great prophet of the Gospel.  The word Gospel means “Good News,” the Good News that Christ himself suffered the punishment you deserve.  The Good News that on account of Christ’s perfect life which he lived and sacrificial death which he died in your place, God gives you of complete forgiveness of all your sins and the gift of eternal life in heaven.  Jesus puts it this way: “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”

Christ is “The Promised Prophet.”  A prophet like Moses, but with some very important differences.  The book of Hebrews begins, “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but now in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son.”

Moses and the other prophets of old were only human, spokesmen, representatives of the Lord.  But, Christ IS the Lord, himself, God in human flesh, come down to earth and made man.  As Paul says in today’s Epistle Reading, “There is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.”

Christ is “The Promised Prophet.”  A prophet like Moses, but with some very important differences.  John’s Gospel uses the title “the Word” to describe Christ: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. . .  And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”

Moses PROCLAMS the Word of the Lord, but Christ IS the Word, made flesh and living among us.  Christ is God’s Word of forgiveness and love literally put into action.   As Paul says in Romans, “But God demonstrates his love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  Christ is God’s Word of forgiveness and love literally put into action.  As John writes, “This is how God showed his love for us: He sent his only begotten Son into the world that we might live through him. . .  he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”

Christ is “The Promised Prophet.”  A prophet like Moses, but with some very important differences.  The people of Capernaum recognize those differences in today’s Gospel Reading, and they are amazed at Christ’s teaching and his power over demonic forces.  John puts it this way, “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.”

That’s what he was doing in today’s Gospel Reading, on the Sabbath day in the synagogue at Capernaum: Destroying the devil’s work, by his teaching and driving out demons. 

And, that is why we gather here, that is what he still does among us, in this house of God.  Destroying the devil’s work.  By his teaching us, through his Word and preaching in his name.  By his driving out the demons of guilt and fear, with his Gospel of forgiveness and Holy Absolution. By his continuing incarnate presence among and within us as we receive his very body and blood in his holy Sacrament. 

“The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him.”  The Hebrew people waited in expectation for over a thousand of years for this prophecy to be fulfilled, for “The Promised Prophet” to appear.  After the miraculous feeding of the 5,000, the Gospel of John reports, “When the people saw the miraculous sign that Jesus did, they began to say, ‘Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.’”  A few chapters later the crowds listen to his teaching and John reports, “On hearing his words, some of the people said, ‘Surely this man is the Prophet.’”  When he raises Lazarus from the dead, his sister Martha declares, “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.” 

“The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him.”  You could say that it is the interpretation of this verse, this prophecy that fundamentally divides Christianity from Islam and modern Judaism.  Jesus of Nazareth IS the fulfillment of this prophecy, the long-awaited Messiah, the Son of God, “The Promised Prophet” who was to come into the world.

But, Christ is rejected as “The Promised Prophet” by both Islam and modern Judaism.  Islam teaches that Moses’ prophecy of the great prophet who was to come was fulfilled not by Christ but by Muhammad.  Modern Judaism teaches that the Messiah has not yet come, as John’s Gospel says, “He came unto his own, and his own received him not.”

“I am the way, the truth, and the life,” Jesus declares. “No one comes to the Father except through me.”  “He is the true God and eternal life” John says.  “For there is one God,” Paul tells Timothy, “and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men.”

“The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him.”

“I am the resurrection and the life.  Whoever believes in me, even though he dies, yet shall he live.”  Listen to him!

“For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”  Listen to him!

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.  In my Father’s house are many rooms. . .  I am going there to prepare a place for you. . .  I will come and take you to be with me.”  Listen to him!

“The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him.”

Amen.

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