Jesus' death and resurrection were not only
earth-shaking events for Him, but they also provided a parallel experience
for His followers.
Among other things, those events forced them to
look from a completely different perspective at the Jesus they had known
during His earthly ministry. The prophetic dimension of His personality
began to fade into the background of their minds, replaced by something they
rarely dared to imagine before Good Friday and Easter Sunday: His divinity.
The longer the authors of the New Testament
reflected on Jesus, the more they concentrated on the divine and lost
contact with the prophetic.
Prophets among us
Yet, during Jesus' earthly ministry, it was
His role as prophet that most impressed people. When He asked His disciples
how people were judging Him, most thought He fit the image of the prophets
Being Jews, those with whom Jesus lived and to
whom He preached understood the necessity of having prophets in their midst.
Yahweh normally worked through prophets. God's will was conveyed to people
by His positioning prophets among them.
That's why Sunday's first reading is so
significant (Dt 18:15-20). Though we usually think of Moses as a leader and
liberator, the community he led and freed from slavery also emphasized his
prophetic ministry. Like all prophets, he was their conscience: the person
who pointed out the future implications of their present actions. Without
prophets, they would wander aimlessly through life, uncertain of the
direction Yahweh wanted them to go.
As Moses is dying, they're no longer worried
about freedom. Moses had been Yahweh's agent in achieving their
liberation. That job had been taken care of. What they'd miss most would
be Moses' prophetic input in their daily lives.
Because of his imminent death, they could only
fall back on Yahweh's promise to "raise up for you a prophet like
[Moses] from among your kin, and put my words in his mouth." In other
words, God will see to it that they'd always have prophets in their
No wonder Jesus' first disciples often
reflected on that passage when they tried to figure out the role He was
playing in their lives.
Their original emphasis on prophecy seems to be
one of the reasons Mark chose an exorcism as Jesus' first miracle (Mark
1:21-28). As with the other three Gospels, the first miracle sets the
evangelist's theme for his work. Because Mark believes Jesus' followers
should imitate Him, Mark stresses that the number-one way we're to carry
on Jesus' prophetic ministry is by eradicating evil wherever we find it.
That is symbolized by Jesus' getting rid of
the evil demon that controls the man in the Capernaum synagogue. Though it's
impossible to imitate Jesus' divinity, whenever we get rid of even the
smallest evil in our lives, we're carrying on His human, prophetic
Going His way
Even Paul seems to be emphasizing Jesus'
prophetic dimension when he writes about being "anxious about the
things of the Lord" (I Cor 7:32-35). The Apos-tle believes we should
let nothing hold us back from pointing our lives in the direction Jesus had
pointed His own life.
Of course, when Paul advises people not to let
marriage distract them from pursuing good, he's presuming Jesus will
quickly return, something few of us presume today. As a good Jew, the
Apostle thought no one should live a long, natural life and not be married.
But, at this point in his ministry, he simply didn't think anyone would
live a long, natural life.
The recently deceased Catholic reformer, Patty
Crow-ley, once perfectly summarized prophetic discipleship: "I say the
only important thing is Jesus' message, and the rest of the rules are for
the birds. So give food to the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, help the
sick and visit those in prison. That's what I do."