What would your excuse be?
Prophets always have excuses for why they are not up to the task. Do you remember what Moses said? (I have never been eloquent.) What does Jeremiah say? He’s too young! He hasn’t gotten his PhD in prophecy yet? What would your excuse be?
The role of prophet was a difficult one. While what you do as a prophet would be for the people and the land around you, it would sound like judgment to many and they may try to shut you up. Jeremiah was to a prophet not just for Judah and Jerusalem but his call from God is over nations and kingdoms!
That’s a big job and a lot of authority! And people in power would not like what he had to say. He would call out false prophets who only oriented themselves to the Temple, saying “the Temple, the Temple.” In other words, he called prophets in the king’s courts false if they were saying just keep doing what we’re doing! Everything will be fine. Jeremiah says, “Uh-uh this is not going to be fine.” These are times that demand action that is different than what the prophets of the court were saying.
Prophets have hard words
The prophet has hard words for the people he speaks to. God says to Jeremiah that his job is to pluck and pull down, to destroy and overthrow but then to build and to plant. He is called to both engineering and gardening! It’s interesting that organic and STEM imagery is used here for his role. But Jeremiah is charged to challenge existing systems, even to tear down almost as fertilizer for the hope of something new after. A new beginning. A new covenant written on human hearts, as Jeremiah hears from God later in his story, not just written on the trust of a temple’s walls, but a new covenant on human hearts. Jeremiah’s word is not popular. He is thrown into a cistern underground at one point because people are tired of hearing his voice and warnings.
The Messiah of Nazareth
Jesus is also given a mixed response when he first preaches in his home synagogue. He unrolls the scroll of Isaiah and combines two verses from the third part of Isaiah. And he says it is fulfilled in their hearing and at first people are happy about that, but then things take a turn. Jesus could have kept quiet after that, but he kept talking. He sees what they want to do. Turn him into a local attraction. The Messiah of Nazareth. His old neighbors wanted to be able to say to the people in the other towns. What have you guys got going on? Huh Menominee Falls? Huh West Allis? Here, we’ve got a messiah and a healer. Why don’t you come here next weekend, oh and bring some money for food and stay at our hotels, etc.
Not a local attraction
There is a firm word that Jesus is not a local attraction. He is called to be a prophet, a messiah, a savior for the nations. He would go speak and heal elsewhere. And that is hard to hear. That gets into some sensitive areas. None of us want to hear that Jesus is going to show up somewhere else. And it gets into the difficult question we deal with too, like why did you heal that person when someone I love is suffering too! Why are you going elsewhere when there is so much more to do around here! Jesus tells stories from the Bible of Elijah and Elisha and reminds people that these revered prophets did not heal people in Israel but a leader from Syria, or feed locals during a famine but a widow from another land. Jesus uses Scripture but not in the way people in his hometown expect or want.
Filled with rage
It says the crowd that was just cheering Jesus now is “filled with rage.” This is what gets Jesus and us to the cross. Why Jesus gets killed later on. This is foreshadowing and exposing a human nature and sin that says, as the crowd says, “you’re not the savior we want. We’re going to reject you.” They call for Barabas rather than Jesus on Good Friday. And in Nazareth the crowd almost tosses Jesus off a cliff, but he eludes death and continues his ministry. Not the response any preacher wants after a sermon, but the prophetic word Jesus needed to speak.
Connecting with God’s heart
People often see prophets as people with power and they want the inside knowledge and the results! But being a prophet is about connecting with God’s heart. While we think of love as an emotion, and maybe something that is passing, connecting our hearts to God’s heart, makes us prophetic. God’s love for the people as God knows they need to be loved, not as we think it should happen.
God’s heart is on our heart when we connect with the love that Paul talks about in 1 Corinthians. Now I know you all have probably been to a few weddings so you’ve heard this passage before, but I want to read it again. I want you to hear these verses and think about what the subject is in these statements.
4 Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. 7 It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8 Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. 9 For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; 10 but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13 And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.
When love is described in this passage, Love is the subject. Love is doing things. Love is active. It seems according to Paul Love is a force in this world!
In Jesus we believe that love. That eternal love is embodied in human form and that love that exists and is active, is not a temporary thing it is connected to the eternal. It lasts longer than all else.
How could that be dangerous?
So if Jesus is a prophet and is a prophet of love, how could that be dangerous. How could people be offended, by understand this love at the heart of who God is? While what makes Jesus prophetic and what makes this love prophetic is that it connects us with God’s faithfulness in the past and God’s promise for the future, what’s dangerous is that this love is for EVERYBODY. All the nations! As much as we want to be insiders who are a little more closely connected than other, being a part of the body of Christ in this world, being Christ’s hands and feet and eyes and ears in this world means extending that love as Christ would.
We know that Jesus was always reaching out always extending that love. When we believe in a love that is for all people, when we believe that God loves every person in this world equally, that God’s love is the same for every person, that’s where it gets dangerous. That’s where it gets prophetic. Because if we know God’s heart is full of that love, and that truth is written on our heart, we know that love is for the whole world and all people.
We are called
How can we hear that and understand that without caring deeply for every person in this world? With that love we all are brothers, sisters, and neighbors and in that love we are called to value each person as God does, as Jesus love is given to them. So sharing the healing and love we know, doesn’t stay localized, it brings us to the ends of the world, and the suffering of our neighbors is also our suffering. We are called to care for everyone and to love everyone. With that love in our hearts, surely God calls all of us to be prophets.