This week’s meditations focus on Jesus as prophet. Albert Nolan (1934–2022) was a South African theologian and anti-apartheid activist inspired by Jesus’ prophetic identity.
In their speculations about who Jesus was, his contemporaries agreed that, whatever else, he was a prophet (Mark 8:27–28; Luke 7:16). Some might have thought that he was a false prophet, but he clearly spoke and acted like a prophet. And that is surely how Jesus saw himself (Luke 4:24). He does not seem to have ever contradicted anyone who referred to him as a prophet. In its basic inspiration, therefore, Jesus’ spirituality was like that of the Hebrew prophets.…
Jesus spoke, as most prophets do, for or on behalf of God. In fact he seems to have done so more confidently and boldly than any other prophet.… Where did Jesus derive this unshakeable assurance that he could speak so directly for God?…
Prophets experience not only a special calling from God, but also a special closeness to God that enables them to understand God’s “feelings” and “thoughts” about what is happening or will happen in the future. It is this mystical experience of union with God that enables them to speak on God’s behalf.
In reading the gospels, the general impression we get is that Jesus was very much a man of action: preaching, teaching, healing, and confronting the religious and political leadership. What we do not always notice is that behind, and in support of, all these activities was a life of constant prayer and profound contemplation.
Nolan points to the contemplative spirituality that infused Jesus’ prophetic action:
Jesus seems to have taken every possible opportunity of getting away to a quiet and lonely place for prayer and reflection. “In the morning, while it was still very dark,” Mark 1:35 tells us, “[Jesus] got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed” (see also Mark 6:46 and Luke 4:42). Luke 5:16 says he did this regularly. Before choosing his twelve apostles, he spent the whole night in prayer, we are told (Luke 6:12).…
What interests us here is the powerfully simple way in which prophecy and mysticism form an inseparable whole in the life and spirituality of Jesus.… Traditionally … prophets were mystics and mystics were prophets. Any idea that one could be a prophet calling for justice and social change without some experience of union with God was unthinkable. Equally unthinkable was any idea that one could be a perfectly good mystic without becoming critically outspoken about the injustices of one’s time.
Nolan views Jesus as ultimately calling all of us to be prophets.
Anyone who wishes to take Jesus seriously would have to be prepared to become a prophet and a mystic. In the history of Israel before Jesus, prophets were rare individuals. Jesus’ aim was to open up the spirit of prophecy to everyone.… Then too we can all become courageous enough to speak out like prophets.
Albert Nolan, Jesus Today: A Spirituality of Radical Freedom (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2006), 63, 67, 68, 72, 75.
Image credit: A path from one week to the next—Benjamin Yazza, Untitled 8, 13, and 7. Used with permission. Click here to enlarge image. Jesus used the mystery and variety of the natural world to teach us.
Story from Our Community:
As a fallen away Catholic, I read the Daily Meditations seeking the lost intimacy I once felt with God. This morning I understood, for the first time, the true value of the Incarnation. The miraculous idea that Jesus (and all of us) became fully human through Mary’s conception eluded me until today’s reading. I have been asking for God’s light to wake me and this morning, s/he truly did! —Roberta H.