THEME: JESUS IS MORE THAN A PROPHET
READINGS: Deuteronomy 18:15-20/ 1 Corinthians 7:32-35/ Mark 1:21-28
4th Sunday in Ordinary Time
As the days of earthly life of Moses drew to an end, he assured the Israelites that God would raise a prophet like him who will mediate His message to them. Thus, according to today’s first reading, Moses said: ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brethren – him you shall heed’ (Deut. 18:15). In fulfilment of this assurance, God raised up, not only one but several prophets in the course of the history of the Israelites. Then, in the fullness of time, God sent One who is greater than all the prophets – namely, His own Son and our Lord Jesus Christ (Heb. 1:1-4). Therefore, beginning with the characteristics of a prophet mentioned in Deuteronomy 18:15-20, this homily highlights the fact that Jesus Christ is far more than a prophet.
From today’s first reading four characteristics of a prophet could be identified:
- He is taken from among humans
- He listens to God’s word
- He proclaims God’s word to his people
- What he says comes to pass
Our Lord Jesus Christ satisfies all the above four criteria of a prophet and so during His earthly ministry some people identified Him as a prophet (e.g. Mark 8:27-28). Jesus, however, is far more than a prophet. This is because, in the first place, though Jesus was born as man at the appointed time, He is the very Son of God (John 1:14-18). He is, first and foremost, divine.
Secondly, though like a prophet, Jesus listens to the Father, He is the very Word of God. He is the Word without whom nothing was created and through whom everything was created (John 1:1-3).
Thirdly, as the Word of God, Jesus speaks not like other prophets (who say: ‘thus says the Lord …’); rather, He speaks with authority (‘I say to you …’). For instance, the authority with which Jesus speaks amazes His audience in today’s gospel reading (cf. Mark 1:22, 27).
Fourthly, more than any other prophet, what Jesus says comes to pass. The pronouncements of Jesus are as effective and powerful as the words spoken by His Father at the beginning of creation. For instance, at the beginning, God said, ‘Let there be light’ and there was light. Similarly, in today’s gospel reading, Jesus commands the evil spirit to leave the possessed man and the result is instant (Mark1:21-28)! Elsewhere in the gospels, even the stormy wind and waves instantly obey the command of Jesus (e.g. Mark 4:35-41).
So, beloved, though He came into our midst as a man, our Lord Jesus is truly divine; and by choosing to come to us as a man, He imparts to us a blessing beyond our imagination. To illustrate this, imagine a very wealthy king who decides to live with the least of his subjects for a while with the intention of making them permanent members of his household. Similarly, though divine, Jesus came to share in our humanity so that we might in turn share in His divinity (cf. 2 Peter 1:2-4). Indeed, the humility our divine Lord displayed in becoming man is deeper than that of the imaginary king mentioned above. Likewise, the divinity He invites us to share in is far richer than the wealth of the imaginary king and, indeed, of the whole universe.
Furthermore, since Jesus is the very Word of God, whatever He teaches is divine teaching. Whatever He teaches is the ‘medicine’ for our salvation. Fortunately for us, as mentioned last Sunday, the substance of what Jesus teaches has been recorded in the Bible. Let us, therefore, find time to carefully study His teachings and apply them to our lives. The New Year is about a month old, but it is not too late to add daily Bible reading and meditation to our resolutions for the year. If we have already taken it as a resolution, then let us persevere in carrying out this daily spiritual exercise. Finally, may the Spirit of God, who inspired ordinary humans to write down the divine Word, constantly renew our minds and shape our character as we study it. Amen!
By Most Rev. John Kobina Louis