Preaching Christ From The Old Testament-pt.3: Jesus and The Law of Moses.

In the previous two posts, we have contended that Jesus of Nazareth is none other than the promised Messiah written about in the Law of Moses, the prophets and the writings/Psalms (Luke 24:44). The references to the One who would enter into this world and crush the work of the wicked one as well a myriad of other accomplishments are manifold. The purpose of this series is to acquaint the reader with a few of the references of the Christ so that a person could further their own study of Him.

We have seen that Jesus Christ likened Himself to that serpent on the pole which Moses was commanded to make in order that the children of Israel would be healed from their snakebites, which, by the way, came upon them because of their sinful complaining. Jesus compared that event to His own work on a cross that will be lifted up so that men and women who are ‘snake-bitten’ can be healed lest they die (eternally). The only effort they can make toward this healing is believing that Jesus Christ is that Messiah prophesied about in the OT.

Other references of Jesus Christ in the Law of Moses are also available.

In Deuteronomy 18:18, there is a statement by God to Moses concerning the “prophet”. Some important observations are necessary. First, notice that this is in the context of the ministry of the Levites (vv. 1-8). Following that discussion about the Levites, there is commandment from God that no one in Israel shall take part in any sorcery, medium practices or the occult (vv. 9-14). Those things are (always) detestable in God’s sight (v.12a). The third category of positions in this context has to do with prophets whom God will cause to arise in the future to lead Israel (vv. 15-19). The tangent that links all three of these items is the phrase “in my name”, or “in the name of the Lord” or, by obvious connection, the destruction of those who do not represent the name of the Lord (vv. 9-14, 20-22). That is, there is clear distinction between those who speak “in the name of” God and those who don’t. The Levite and the prophet both are functions, or offices, that God had ordained for the purpose of “speaking”, as it were, to Israel in order to teach and direct them for His own glory and purpose. Thus, whatever prophet that comes in the future for Israel, is to be tested. If what he says does not come to pass, he is to be executed (v.20). However, that prophet who speaks and it does come to pass, holds the hearers accountable to what was said as what he said was clearly in the name of (i.e. representing the person and His will) the Lord. Therefore, to not listen is to be punished (v.19). Consequently, we have here the entire basis for the ongoing ministry of a “prophet” in Israel. As a side-note, you also see from this how guilty Israel has been for centuries for not listening to God’s prophet(s), and, conversely, how patient God has been toward them (cf. Romans 2:4).

What is significant in all of this is that it was recognized many times in Jesus’ ministry that He was a prophet. Multiple events in Christ’s life, as told by the gospel writers, indicate that, at least if they did not recognize Him as Messiah, they perceived Christ to be a prophet in this manner. It is helpful to examine these occurrences and learn from them.

One early occurrence that indicates an expectation of “the prophet” is found in John the Baptist’s ministry. We will look at this briefly since in doing this, we will establish an understanding that the people were looking, not only for the Messiah, but “the prophet”.

In John 1:21 the priests and Levites went out to inquire of John who he was. There were three offices that they asked John about. First, they asked if he was “the Christ” (vv.19-20). He admitted that he was not the Messiah. Second, they asked him if he was “Elijah” (v. 21), obviously referring to Malachi 4:5. He said, “no”. Third, they asked if he was “the Prophet” (v.21 emphasis mine). He denied it. What is interesting about this last category, is that he was, in fact, a prophet (Luke 1:76). But he was denying the fact that he was that Great Prophet whom God would raise up like Moses as a deliverer and preacher of God’s Word.  Clearly, John understood that, although he was a prophet, he was not the Prophet.

Another early occurrence in reference to Jesus being a prophet, if not the Prophet, is found in John 4:19 in the discussion with the woman at the well. She admitted that, after Jesus’ demonstration of His omniscience, she must be speaking with someone who has access to supernatural information. Problem is, she fell short, at least at this point, of calling Him Messiah as Nathaniel had in John 1:45-51 after witnessing His omniscience. But, she did understand that a ‘prophet’ was coming . Given the way that Jesus knew about her marital history, she reasoned that He must be a prophet. She was right.

Another occurrence is found in John 6:1-14. Jesus had just performed a miracle. Miracles were promised in order to identify the Messiah as blessing flowed out from Him. There was a promise in the OT that if a man of Israel would obey the commandments of the Lord and not turn away from them, then there would be blessing upon that man. His children would increase, his flocks would increase, his cattle would increase, there would be a rescinding of disease and pestilence and an overall condition of health and wholesomeness (see Exodus 15:26; Leviticus 26:1-5; Deuteronomy 28:1-4;  Isaiah 11:6-10). Jesus obeyed all the commandments of the Law (Matthew 5:17-20), thus all these blessings were His and He dispensed them as He desired, even upon those who were not exercising faith at the time of healing (i.e. Luke 17:11-19). Jesus kept the commandments of God and so the Edenic conditions went wherever He went and others were blessed residually as well as directly. Therefore, in a very dramatic and magnificent way, Jesus verified His own message, and the message of His Father, in that what He said came to pass. He said a blind man would receive sight, and he did. He said that a man would rise from the grave, and he did. He said that a little girl was raised, and she was. Over and over again, Jesus Christ, the Prophet, verified God’s message (the greatest of all these being, of course, His own resurrection [John 1:19]).

In the miracle that Jesus performed in John 6:1-14, He created food and fed it to about 5,000 men, and I am sure about the same number of women and possibly even more children. This was an astounding affirmation of the promise to increase food production to meet demand as seen in Deuteronomy 28 and Leviticus 26! After they had gathered up 12 baskets full of left over bread and fish, they realized the “sign” which Jesus had performed and announced, “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.”(v.14).

One final event that we need to consider is at the end of His ministry. In Matthew 21:1-11, Jesus is entering the city of Jerusalem as it was prophesied in Isaiah, Zechariah and Psalm 118. The town is in an uproar considering the entrance of the enigma Jesus. I am not sure that they completely believed that He was the Messiah at this point, because this is later the same crowd that cried for His execution (Matthew 27:19-26). However, when they needed to identify Who it was they were cheering, they said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth in Galilee.’ (v.11).

It was OT law that anyone who claimed to be a prophet of God should be tested and proven. The objective test was whether or not what that prophet said came true or not. If it did come true, then that man was indeed speaking for God and from God. However, if that man’s prophecy did not transpire, or did not agree with the Law of Moses, that man was executed via the authorities of Israel. Jesus’ prophecies came true…and will come true. Yet, He was killed as if He were a liar. God has said, “How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge His people.” It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God. ” (Hebrews 10:29–31). Do not reject God’s Prophet, Jesus Christ. His words are true and He is true.