Return to Sermons | Home

“This Is the Prophet”
Matthew 21:11


Pastor Kevin Vogts
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Dakota Dunes, South Dakota
Palm Sunday—April 17, 2011

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

The text for our Palm Sunday meditation is from today’s Gospel Reading, the account of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on the first Palm Sunday: “When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, ‘Who is this?’ The crowds answered, ‘This is Jesus, the Prophet, from Nazareth in Galilee.’”

The crowds that day know their Bible, and in their description of Jesus as “the Prophet” they are actually referring back to a specific Old Testament passage.  In Deuteronomy, Moses promises the ancient people of Israel, “The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him.”  Based on that passage, among the Hebrews the title “The Prophet” became another way of referring to the promised Messiah, the long-awaited Savior, who was to come from the Hebrew people.

Because of this Biblical background, when the crowds on that first Palm Sunday proclaim Jesus is “The Prophet” it means they are professing their faith in him as the one who fulfills Moses’ promise, “The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him.” 

“When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, ‘Who is this?’ The crowds answered, ‘This is Jesus, the Prophet, from Nazareth in Galilee.’”  When they proclaim Jesus is “The Prophet” they are saying, “We believe this Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah, the long-awaited Savior, who has finally come.”  That is why they shout out with joy, “Hosanna in the highest!  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

When we hear the word “prophet” different things come to mind.  First of all, we probably think of a prophet as having a kind of clairvoyance, special knowledge about people and events.  When Jesus encounters the woman at the well, he already knows all about her sinful life.  In response she says, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet.”  She tells her fellow Samaritans, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?”  And John reports, “Many of the Samaritans . . . believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me everything I have ever done.’”

Christ the Prophet still speaks to us, through his Word, the Bible, and his Word still has this same insightful, prophetic power.  A couple of weeks ago I was visiting with someone who was a life-long church member but hadn’t done much personal Bible reading, until he faced a recent crisis in his life.  He shared with me how astonished he was as he read through the psalms that on every page he found what seems to be an exact description of him, and his situation and feelings.  “It’s amazing,” he said.  “They’re thousands of years old, but they’re talking about me.”  Just as he spoke to the woman at the well and told her everything she had ever done, Christ the Prophet is still speaking to us through his Word, with insightful, prophetic power.

Christ the Prophet also still speaks to us through the preaching of his ministers, as he told the disciples, “Whoever hears you hears me.”  I remember early in my ministry someone just happened to be passing through town and visited the church I was serving.  On the way out he startled me when he said, “Did you know your sermon today was about me?  No one knows what’s going on in my life.  I’ve never met you, I’ve never even been in this town before.  But, it was amazing as I sat listening to your sermon; it was like somehow you knew, you were describing me.”  No, I am not clairvoyant.  But, Christ still exercises his insightful, prophetic power through the preaching of his ministers.

That’s what first comes to mind for us when we hear the word “prophet,” having a kind of clairvoyance, special knowledge about people and events.  In theology that role of a prophet is called “foretelling,” and throughout the Gospels we often see the Prophet Jesus “foretelling,” showing he has special knowledge about people and events.  As Peter says to him, “Lord, you know all things.”

We are fascinated with the possibility of prophetic “foretelling,” which is why the History Channel has all those shows about the false prophet Nostradamus.  But, though we have a fascination with “foretelling,” in the Bible the primary function of a prophet is actually not “foretelling” but “forthtelling,” proclaiming a message from the Lord, what we would call “preaching.”  As the Gospel of John reports, “On hearing [Jesus’] words, some of the people said, ‘Surely this man is the Prophet.’”

Jesus told his disciples, “Repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in [my] name to all nations.”  That is the two-part prophetic message the Prophet Jesus proclaims from God to you.  First, the warning of repentance, that you are a sinner, doomed to damnation on account of your sins.  But, after the warning of repentance, he proclaims to you the welcome of forgiveness of sins. 

Jesus describes his mission on earth this way: “For the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  That’s what we are remembering and celebrating this Holy Week, how he gave his life as a ransom, to pay for your sins, my sins, the sins of the whole world. 

There’s a verse in Romans that sums up the meaning of Holy Week and Easter: “He was delivered over to death for our sins, and was raised to life for our justification.”  You may have read last week that an elementary school in Seattle had an egg hunt but this year they couldn’t call them “Easter Eggs.”  Instead they are now “Spring Spheres.” 

Sadly, it seems that each year Easter is becoming more and more a secular holiday.  But, that verse from Romans tells us what Holy Week and Easter are really all about.  “He was delivered over to death for our sins.”  That is what we will commemorate at our special Holy Communion service this week on Maundy Thursday, and our Tenebrae service on Good Friday, how Jesus took your sins upon himself and gave his life as a ransom to pay for you all the penalty for your sins. 

“He was delivered over to death for our sins, and was raised to life for our justification.”  There’s nothing wrong with baskets, and eggs, and candy, and bunnies, but Easter is so much more than all that, so much more than just a spring festival.  Christ’s resurrection is actually God’s justification, his absolution, of the world, his way of announcing, “I have accepted my Son’s sacrifice on your behalf.  Because of his sacrifice for you, your sins are all forgiven.”  That’s what Easter is really all about: “He was delivered over to death for our sins, and was raised to life for our justification.”

“Repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in [my] name to all nations.”  Still today that is the two-part prophetic message the Prophet Jesus proclaims from God to you: a call to repentance, and to trust in him for the forgiveness of sins.  As he announced at the beginning of his ministry, “The time has come, the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe the Gospel.”

In addition to “foretelling” and “forthtelling,” in the Bible prophets also perform miracles, like Moses parting the Red Sea in the classic movie “The Ten Commandments,” which will be replayed on television this week as it is each year at Eastertime.  Following Jesus’ Feeding of the 5,000 the Gospel of John says, “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.’”

Compared to the other prophets, Christ’s miracles are unique.  The other prophets did not perform miracles by their own power or authority, but were only channels of God’s miraculous power, and performed miracles only upon his command.  As when God commanded the prophet Moses, “Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground.”

But, the Prophet Jesus performs miracles by his own power and authority.  He is not merely a channel of God’s miraculous power; his miracles prove to us that he is God.  The Gospel of John reports after he turned water into wine, “This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed at Cana in Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him.”  Peter says in Acts, “Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him.”  Jesus puts it this way: “Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves.”

And by his own power and authority Christ the Prophet has instituted two ongoing, enduring miracles that still bless us today: the miracles of Holy Baptism and Holy Communion.  Just as his first disciples put their faith in him after he revealed his glory by changing water into wine, Christ the Prophet still reveals his glory to us through the miraculous Sacraments, so that we as his disciples put our faith in him. 

On Easter Sunday we will celebrate the greatest miracle that proves Christ the Prophet is the Son of God.  As Paul says in Romans, “[He] was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.” 

Moses foretold, “The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him.”  Islam claims that prophecy is fulfilled not by Jesus but by Mohammed.  That is why they call Mohammed “the prophet”; they are referring back to that verse from Deuteronomy.

The interpretation of that verse is really where the divide begins between Islam and Christianity.  They believe Moses was predicting the coming of Mohammed; we believe that when Moses said, “The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet . . .  You must listen to him,” he was predicting the coming of Christ.  How do we know who is right?  “[He] was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.”

After their deaths the bodies of both Jesus and Mohammed were placed in tombs by their followers.  Mohammed’s body is still there, in his tomb at Medina, Saudi Arabia.

On the other hand, the Prophet Jesus told his disciples, “The Son of Man will be betrayed into the hands of men. . . They will condemn him to death . . . mock him, insult him, spit on him, flog him, [crucify] and  kill him. . . and on the third day he will be raised to life!”  That is how we know whom Moses was predicting when he said, “The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet . . .  You must listen to him.”  “He was delivered over to death for our sins, and was raised to life for our justification. . . [He] was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.”

At least once in their lives the followers of Mohammed try to make a pilgrimage to Mohammed’s tomb at Medina because they are promised salvation and special blessings if they pray before his dead and decayed body lying there.  While it is interesting to make a Christian pilgrimage to the Holy Land, you don’t have to go to Jerusalem to receive blessings from the body of Jesus.  As the angel said on Easter morn, “He is risen!  He is not here!”

You don’t have to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem to receive blessings from the body of Jesus, because he is risen, and he is right here: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. . .  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”  You worship not a dead and decayed body, but the living Lord.  You truly receive from him salvation and special blessings, as he washes you in the living waters of Holy Baptism. You truly receive from him salvation and special blessings, not just once in your life as you pray before a dead and decayed body, but as often as you receive from him the Living Bread, his very body and blood, in Holy Communion.

“When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, ‘Who is this?’”  Like Moses parting the Red Sea to save the Israelites, Christ the Prophet still performs miracles of salvation for you, in his holy Sacraments.  Like the prophets of old “forthtelling” a message of the Lord, Christ the Prophet still speaks to you through his Word and his ministers.  Like the prophets of old “foretelling” the future, Christ the Prophet has Good News for you about your future: “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.”

“When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, ‘Who is this?’  The crowds answered, ‘This is Jesus, the Prophet, from Nazareth in Galilee.’”

Amen.

  Return to Top | Return to Sermons | Home | Email Pastor Vogts