Was Jesus just a great prophet?
It is certainly true that Jesus was a great prophet, one who spoke as God’s representative. Anyone who performed such miracles and taught with such authority was bound to be recognized as a prophet of God by the Jewish people. Great prophets shaped the history of Israel, so they could easily categorize Jesus as fitting some of the characteristics of a prophet, a spokesman for the God of Israel. However, the question remains, was Jesus just a prophet?
The Old Testament prophets toiled as covenant prosecutors, warning God’s disobedient people about the consequences of rebellion. They also reminded the people about the blessings that God intended for them. Some of the OT prophets were known for miracles. Elijah and Elisha both validated their role as God’s spokesmen with works of power. Droughts occurred and rains came, oil and flour were multiplied, fire fell from the sky, leprosy was cured, military plans revealed, and the armies of the Lord were made visible. God even restored life to the dead through their prayers (I Kings 17 ff). Isaiah prayed for Hezekiah’s healing and the shadow on the stepped sundial reversed itself (Isaiah 38), giving him an additional fourteen years of life. Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel were given astounding insights into God’s future plans for his disobedient people.
Did Jesus belong to this elite group of prophets? Yes and no. Jesus was the prophet, the one foretold by Moses in Deuteronomy 18:15-18, which some in Judea expected to arrive as God’s deliverer (John 6:14; 7:40). The apostle Peter spoke about the Old Testament prophets and their anticipation of the coming Messiah: “Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. “ (1 Peter 1:10-11).
However, Jesus the Prophet would do more than Moses, Elijah and all of the other prophets could ever do. Moses and Elijah, who embodied the Law and the Prophets, were together with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration when the Father spoke His affirming word, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” (Matthew 17:5). The final revelation of God had appeared on the earth, fulfilling both the Law and the Prophets.
Peter, James and John witnessed this event. Peter later wrote about it saying, “We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain. And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.” 2 Peter 1:18-19