Mark 9.2-9, Luke 9.28-36, Matthew 17.1-8
The concept of Messiah is a mystery. When we seek to understand the life of Jesus, surely it is incomprehendible apart from revelation. Messiah is 100% God. He is completely human. He is one person. There are two distinct natures in him, divine and human, clearly distinguishable. It is a profound mystery. We are not called to worship Messiah Jesus’ humanity apart from his divinity. The two natures are joined together in the one person, Jesus.
Jesus had a calling, and that was to be the Messiah, or the Christ. Jesus had to live into this calling just like all human beings. And, as we journey through Lent together we will witness some of the ways that Jesus lived into his calling as the Messiah. No one else has ever or will ever be called to the role of Messiah. It was a one time deal. There is only one Messiah, and Jesus fulfills that role.
As Messiah Jesus is prophet who transforms the minds of his followers, as priest he offers himself as the last necessary sacrifice for sin, and as king he reigns over the Kingdom of God on earth and in heaven.
John Wesley said the most effectual way to preach Christ is to preach Christ in his three offices: Prophet, Priest, and King.
As Prophet, Messiah teaches and shows how to live as God desires for us – a holy life. Lent is a great time to remember that call to a holy life. It is during Lent more than any other time in the church year that we learn the lessons of dying to self just as our Lord Jesus died to his own self.
As Priest, Messiah mediates the atoning work on the cross and reminds us constantly that we are forgiven. During lent more than any other time in the church year, we ponder the atoning work of the cross. We remember the price that Jesus paid to our sins. We remember to be humble before God.
As King, Messiah is Lord of a Kingdom that to conventional wisdom is backwards but is a sign of God’s reign. The Kingdom is an “already not yet” experience that Christians live. As we journey toward Easter we reflect on the Kingdom as Jesus brought the manifestation of the Kingdom upon the earth by setting right order among his people. In the Kingdom of God demonic and human agendas were taken into Jesus’ hands. All sorts of stories in the Bible reflect how Jesus was bringing this Kingdom order into the world.
It is these three – prophet, priest, and king – that Jesus is the triple cure for our fallen human condition. Perhaps a good illustration for us is in our governmental offices that serve to check and balance each other – executive, judicial, and legislative. When we think about someone taking an office, perhaps you’re like me and the first person to come to mind is the office of the president. But the president possesses only one of the three branches of government – the executive branch (prophet). Then there is the judicial branch (priest) and the legislative branch (king).
Although the government illustration is not completely accurate as to the roles and meaning of the Messianic Calling, it does help us to reflect on the aspect of the call in a tangible way. The office of the president in some ways serves as a prophet to our nation to guide the mindset of the people. Whether the president is republican or democrat is immaterial to this illustration because neither party possesses the mind of the Messiah even though they both consider themselves to be right. The judicial branch serves in some ways as the priestly role offering justice and punishment to the people. And, the legislative branch serves in some ways as the kingly role providing a sense of order in the lives of the people.
In his earthly ministry Jesus first appeared as a prophet. It is impossible to speak about Jesus outside of his teaching, sacrificial, and governance functions and metaphors. Jesus is the only one in human history to possess all three offices at once.
Role of the Prophet. Our minds were confused until the Messiah our Teacher and Prophet came to give us clarity. Through his prophetic office he radically interpreted the Law. His prophetic office led him to the cross where he died to become the sacrifice for our sins. In the fullness of his manhood Jesus possessed the knowledge of a prophet. Because of his humanity God imparted all the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Because of his divine humanness he was the holiest of all high-priests. And, in the role of King, Jesus possessed all power and authority for the Kingdom of God. As a prophet Jesus explained all things to the people. He taught the people well by giving them all the knowledge of salvation.
A prophet is one who speaks for God. A prophet knows God’s will, and serves as a channel of communication between the divine and human spheres. A prophet will bring to light what is hidden in darkness. A prophet brings a divine word from God and delivers the message to God’s people. A prophet is one who peers into the future and sees the potential outcomes as God reveals them. A prophet speaks divine revelation at the appointed time. A prophet is a kind of teacher. The purpose of prophetic work is to bring humanity to the knowledge of God’s saving action in Jesus Christ. The work of prophecy is only applicable if God chooses in his wisdom to give a divine revelation, and the person is willing to receive the word. The goal in prophetic utterances is the will of God, not man. Unless there is an inward work of the Spirit to awaken the hearer, the word falls away unheard. Jesus possessed the fullness of the gift of prophecy and the office of the prophet-teacher.
Jesus was made fully a prophet because of his humanity. He was the fullness of God in man. Jesus was the last prophet, and the first preacher. He united the law and the witness of his Messianic calling. Jesus focused on teaching that would open up the meaning of the Scriptures. Jesus always aimed at addressing the texts deeper spiritual and moral meaning. Jesus did not come to abolish the law, but to intensify the law that had been written on the heart of humanity. His aim was the purification of the motives of people, and cleans the spiritual senses.
Jesus’ prophetic mission may be traced through the Gospels from his baptism, teaching, prophetic announcement of his impending death, his resurrection, ascension, and succession. The prophetic office began at the point of his baptismal experience, when God spoke love into Jesus.
Role of the Priest. Our hearts were corrupt until the Mediator Jesus shed his blood to purify us from sin. As priest he saved sinners from guilt. By his resurrection he was declared our King and Lord, and the Captain of Salvation. As a priest he suffered in death, provided the atonement for sin, interceding for all people. Jesus priestly work consisted of satisfying the annual sacrifice for sin for the whole community, intercession for the faithful, and to bestow a blessing on the people. The role of the priest is to go before the face of God to obtain grace and offer an acceptable sacrifice.
Role of the King. The Son of God was declared the prophet, priest and king by the very nature of his work. Jesus became a prophet like Moses (Acts 3.22), he became a priest like Aaron in the Order of Melchizedek (Heb. 7.17), and the King of Kings in the lineage of the David Monarchy (Rev. 17.14). Jesus was appointed to stand between heaven and earth as God’s righteous One, and bear the weight of sin of the wretchedness of history. The Christ was the God-man who was incarnationally the perfect sacrifice for all our human sins. Our wills were bound to sin and death until our King went to hell for three days to overcome the devil and all his schemes. As King he is saving history from the despair of disorder. As King Jesus came not to judge but to save the world. Jesus was a king who was caring, interceding, and shepherding who admonished, ruled, and guided his people.
Lent is the time in our church year that helps us to refocus our understanding about who Jesus really is in our lives. And, the transfiguration points us to the two natures of Jesus – his humanity and his divinity. Not only are we made aware of this mystery of humanity and divinity joined together, but we are also made aware of Jesus’ call to be the Messiah. In Jesus calling to be the Messiah he fulfilled the role of prophet, priest and king. We are invited to worship the God-man Jesus and allow his teaching as a prophet, his dying as a priest, and his reign as King of heaven and earth to transform our lives, conforming us to the will of God.
Almighty God, you stepped into time and space to take on the form of a man, Jesus. While you were here with us you transformed the people you met into disciples who followed you as prophet, priest, and king. Incline your ear once more to hear our cry for your grace in our lives to experience Jesus as our prophet who changes our minds… as our priest who forgives our sins… and as our king who reorders our lives casting out sin and death so that we might have everlasting life. Amen.