×

By continuing to browse our site you agree to our use of cookies and our Privacy Policy.

Jesus as Prophet: Weekly Summary

Sunday 
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 

Monday 
Prophecy comes to life as love. Jesus the prophet is love manifested. We also can be love manifested in the world.
—Barbara A. Holmes 

Tuesday
The genius of Jesus is that he wastes no time on repressing or denying the shadow. In that, he is a classic prophet, one of those who does not merely expose the denied shadow of Israel, but instead attacks the real problem, which is the ego.
—Richard Rohr 

Wednesday
Jesus knew that he could not be a chaplain of the empire but was sent to be a prophet of God—one anointed by God and the people to do the work of love, justice, and liberation.
—Erica N. Williams 

Thursday
If we have the priest and the prophet, we have a system constantly refining itself and correcting itself from within.
—Richard Rohr 

Friday
Although Jesus himself may be perceived as heir to the legacy of Amos and Jeremiah, the Gospels present him as more than a prophet. He is, according to the Evangelists, the Son of God, who adds something new to the prophetic concern for justice.  
—Amy-Jill Levine 


Meditating on the Cross 

Father Richard acknowledges that the prophetic path will almost always lead to our rejection—and for many prophets, even death. He invites us to meditate on the pain and the comfort of the cross:  

CAC’s logo, an oval framing two intersecting arrows forming the cross of Christ, shows a collision of opposites. One arrow leads downward, preferring the truth of the humble. The other moves leftward against the grain. But all are wrapped safely inside a hidden harmony: one world, God’s cosmos, a benevolent universe. The Celtic cross also places the vertical and horizontal bars within a circle, embracing the suffering of Christ within our own human context and God’s eternal love.  

Spend some time meditating on an image of the cross. Allow your body, mind, and heart to be completely present to the suffering of Christ. Welcome your own memories or sensations of pain, sorrow, grief. Hold them gently within the circle of God’s presence—God’s solidarity with human suffering. Then let go of this suffering, yours and Christ’s, and rest in faith that from every death comes new life, and in every wound there is the opportunity for healing and hope.  

Reference: 

Richard Rohr, A Spring Within Us: A Book of Daily Meditations (Albuquerque, NM: CAC Publishing, 2016), 124. 

Image credit: A path from one week to the next—Benjamin Yazza, Untitled 8, 13, and 7. Used with permission. Click here to enlarge imageJesus used the mystery and variety of the natural world to teach us. 

Jesus’ Prophetic Lineage

CAC teacher Brian McLaren says that we understand Jesus more clearly when we consider him through the lineage of his Jewish faith and the Hebrew prophets:  

What seems to have happened in Christian history is that we have tried to understand Jesus primarily through his descendants, meaning when we want to understand Jesus, we say, “What did Paul say about Jesus? What did Augustine say about Jesus? What did Aquinas say about Jesus? What did Martin Luther or John Calvin or John Wesley say about Jesus?” We try to understand Jesus by studying what people said after his life. I think it would be much better for us to understand Jesus forwards in the sense of, “Look at his ancestors; look at the lineage into which he came.” Does that make sense? Place Jesus in the context of his history and his story.  

When we do that, we understand that for Jesus growing up as a Jew, he was entering into a realm of people like patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and the people who gave birth to a new people. Of course, we should add Sarah, Rebecca, and Rachel and the others.… Then come these other figures called prophets. Moses really is seen as the first prophet and then there are many, many others, Amos maybe being almost a prototypical prophet. These are people who have some experience of listening to God and then speaking for God. They generally are confronting oppression and injustice and proclaiming liberation and warning and promise and imagination. [1] 

Amy-Jill Levine, a Jewish scholar of the New Testament, names ways Jesus’ life and actions echoed those of prophets familiar to her from her religious upbringing:  

Jesus fusses at priests, just like Amos. Jesus tells parables, just like the prophet Nathan and a number of rabbis whose stories appear in postbiblical Jewish sources. Jesus heals and raises the dead; so too Elijah and Elisha. Jesus survives when children around him are slaughtered, just like Moses. I didn’t have to read Matthew 2–7 to know that the rescued baby would take a trip to Egypt, cross water in a life-changing experience, face temptation in the wilderness, ascend a mountain, and deliver comments on the Law—the pattern was already established in Shemot, the book of Exodus. [2] 

In spite of many similarities between Jesus and the Jewish prophets, Levine stresses that the Gospel writers view Jesus as more than a prophet:  

Although Jesus himself may be perceived as heir to the legacy of Amos and Jeremiah, the Gospels present him as more than a prophet. He is, according to the Evangelists, the Son of God, who adds something new to the prophetic concern for justice. He goes well beyond the role of Isaiah and Micah, who seek what is called in Hebrew t’shuvah, return and repentance. Jesus of the Gospels seeks something new, specifically, following him. He is important not only because of what he says, but also because of who he is. [3] 

References:  

[1] Adapted from Brian D. McLaren, “Jesus as Prophet,” July 2022, CAC Living School curriculum. Unpublished material. 

[2] Amy-Jill Levine, The Misunderstood Jew: The Church and the Scandal of the Jewish Jesus (New York: HarperCollins, 2006), 3. 

[3] Levine, The Misunderstood Jew, 110. 

Image credit: A path from one week to the next—Benjamin Yazza, Untitled 8, 13, and 7. Used with permission. Click here to enlarge imageJesus used the mystery and variety of the natural world to teach us. 

Story from Our Community:

As I look back over my 70 years, paradoxically many of the most peaceful times of my life were when I reached the end of my strength, when I had no strategies whatsoever left to “fix” things. It was when my teenage son went into a deep depression requiring hospitalization; when my second marriage fell apart; when I required major surgery but had no health insurance. In the times when I felt completely empty and keenly aware of my lack of any power or control, I found strength and peace in throwing myself in Jesus’ arms. Finding real power through weakness rings absolutely true for me. —Jo S. 

We Need Priests and Prophets

In a homily on Mark 1:21–28, Father Richard describes the tension between priestly and prophetic tasks—both of which are necessary for healthy religion:  

There are two great strains of spiritual teachers in Judaism, and I think, if the truth is told, in all religions. There’s the priestly strain that holds the system together by repeating the tradition. The one we’re less familiar with is the prophetic strain, because that one hasn’t been quite as accepted. Prophets are critical of the very system that the priests maintain. 

If we have both, we have a certain kind of wholeness or integrity. If we just have priests, we keep repeating the party line and everything is about loyalty, conformity, and following the rules—and that looks like religion. But if we have the priest and the prophet, we have a system constantly refining itself and correcting itself from within. Those two strains very seldom come together. We see it in Moses, who both gathers Israel, and yet is the most critical of his own people. We see it again in Jesus, who loves his people and his Jewish religion, but is lethally critical of hypocrisy and illusion and deceit (see Matthew 23 and Luke 11:45–12:3). 

We’re living in a most amazing time because we have it in Pope Francis right now. We very seldom have a pope who is also a prophet: one who holds the tradition together, respects and conserves the tradition, but at the same time is often quite critical of the bishops and the priests (as he well should be).  

Richard points out that Jesus’ first action as a prophet involved driving out evil from a religious establishment:  

Jesus enters the synagogue and of course he recognizes the evil ones, and they recognize him (Mark 1:24). They’re exposed. This is the first exorcism, or casting out of a demon, and it’s in a most amazing place. It’s not in the marketplace, it’s not in the prostitutes, it’s not in the tax collectors. The devil is in the synagogue itself! This is no small symbol.   

The only way evil can succeed is to disguise itself as good. And one of the best disguises for evil is religion. Just pretend to love God, go to church every Sunday, recite the creed, and say all the right things. Someone can be racist, be against the poor, hate immigrants, and be totally concerned about making money and being a materialist, but still go to church each Sunday and be “justified” in the eyes of religion.  

Those are the things that prophets point out, so prophets aren’t nearly as popular as priests. Priests keep repeating the party line, so there’s no reason to fight them. But prophets do both: they put together the best of the conservative with the best of the liberal, to use contemporary language. They honor the tradition, and they also say what’s phony about the tradition. That’s what fully spiritually mature people can do.  

Reference:   

Adapted from Richard Rohr, “Lots of Priests, Not So Many Prophets,” homily, January 28, 2018. 

Image credit: A path from one week to the next—Benjamin Yazza, Untitled 8, 13, and 7. Used with permission. Click here to enlarge imageJesus used the mystery and variety of the natural world to teach us. 

Story from Our Community:

As I look back over my 70 years, paradoxically many of the most peaceful times of my life were when I reached the end of my strength, when I had no strategies whatsoever left to “fix” things. It was when my teenage son went into a deep depression requiring hospitalization; when my second marriage fell apart; when I required major surgery but had no health insurance. In the times when I felt completely empty and keenly aware of my lack of any power or control, I found strength and peace in throwing myself in Jesus’ arms. Finding real power through weakness rings absolutely true for me. —Jo S. 

The Prophet Sets It Off

Considering Jesus’ prophetic actions, Rev. Erica Williams disrupts our tendency to hear the gospel through tired ears by using the modern phrase “set it off”:   

The phrase “set it off” means to start a fight, or to get into it. We see in Jesus’s inaugural message in Luke 4:18–21 that he boldly declares he came to do just that.  

In this passage, Jesus has a sankofa moment: a moment of going back to the past to retrieve what is useful for today. He reflects on his own lineage of freedom fighters when he declares he is here to get in on what Isaiah prophesied!… Luke 4:18–19 is referring to the prophecy in Isaiah 61:1–3, which foretells that a Messiah will come to restore the Israelites from the Babylonian captivity. Announcing the good news is a theme throughout Isaiah. The people have been promised that they will be set free, and Jesus wants his people to know that he has been sent to bring liberation to them and to all people.  

Jesus was a brown-skinned Palestinian Jew who grew up in Nazareth, a town that was poor and marginalized, ruled and militarized by the Roman Empire.… Peasant societies were marked by an enormous gulf between rural peasants and urban ruling elites. They were politically oppressive, economically exploitative, and religiously legitimated. 

Jesus confronts unjust systems and demonstrates in word and deed what God’s love looks like:   

Jesus, who was a peasant himself, saw all of these things happening to his people. He knew that he could not be a chaplain of the empire but was sent to be a prophet of God—one anointed by God and the people to do the work of love, justice, and liberation.   

We see Jesus set it off in a nonviolent way during his ministry: he gives sight to Bartimaeus [Mark 10:46–52], and he stops a woman from being stoned to death for adultery by telling her accusers that anyone without sin could be the first to throw a stone (John 8:7). In Jesus’s final week before being crucified (during the Passover, which celebrates the Jewish people’s defeat of slavery), Jesus goes into the temple. There he sets it off by flipping the tables of the money changers and declaring that God’s house is a place of prayer and not a den of thieves [Mark 11:15–17].   

A man considered a nobody set it off by showing radical love and revolutionary compassion and by speaking truth to power. Jesus turned the world right side up. The empire thought it had shut Jesus down by lynching him, but all it did was plant a seed.   

That seed has produced a great harvest of freedom fighters such as Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, Fannie Lou Hamer, Ella Josephine Baker, Septima Clark, and Martin Luther King Jr.… Each of us is being called to set it off. It does not matter what your pedigree is: God is calling you to stand for truth and justice.  

Reference: 

Erica N. Williams, “Jesus Came to Set It Off,” in We Cry Justice: Reading the Bible with the Poor People’s Campaign, ed. Liz Theoharis (Minneapolis, MN: Broadleaf Books, 2021), 49–50.  

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:

I am a 56-year-old gay man living in the conservative South. Your morning contemplations are the highlight of a morning. I was raised in an evangelical household, and I followed a path that I thought I understood: attending a Baptist University, and believing that God would judge me imperfect and send me to eternal torture if I were found unworthy. As an adult, I began to listen or read other opinions. I began to meditate and hear a voice of Love in my heart. These days, I often see God in ALL of everything. —Thomas H. 

Jesus Exposes the Shadow

Richard Rohr understands Jesus in a long line of Jewish prophets who revealed inconvenient truths to their people. Jesus exposes the shadow, confronts the ego, and calls the people to be transformed.  

The shadow is that part of the self that we don’t want to see, we don’t want others to see, and of which we’re always afraid. Our tendency is to try to hide it or deny it, even and most especially from ourselves. Jesus, quoting the prophet Isaiah, describes it as “listening but not understanding, seeing but not perceiving” (Matthew 13:14–15).  

Archaic religion and most of the history of religion has seen the shadow as the problem. Such religion is about getting rid of the shadow. This is the classic example of dealing with the symptom instead of the cause. We cannot really get rid of the shadow. We can only expose its game—which is, in great part, to get rid of its effects.  

Jesus and the prophets deal with the cause, which is the ego. Our problem is not our shadow self as much as our over-defended ego, which always sees and hates its own faults in other people, and thus avoids its own conversion.  

Jesus’ phrase for the denied shadow is “the plank in your own eye,” which you invariably see as the “splinter in your neighbor’s eye” (Matthew 7:3–5). Jesus’ advice is absolutely perfect: “Take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly enough to take the splinter out of your neighbor’s eye.” He does not deny that we should deal with evil, but we had better do our own inner housecleaning first—in a most radical way, which he will later even hyperbolically describe as plucking out our eye (Matthew 18:9). If we do not see our own “plank,” it is inevitable that we will hate it elsewhere.  

The genius of Jesus is that he wastes no time on repressing or denying the shadow. In that, he is a classic prophet, one of those who does not merely expose the denied shadow of Israel, but instead attacks the real problem, which is the ego and arrogance of Israel and people misusing power. Once we expose the shadow for what it is, its game is over. Its effectiveness entirely depends on disguise (see 2 Corinthians 11:14) and not seeing the plank in our own eye. Once we see our own plank, the “speck” in our neighbor’s eye becomes inconsequential.  

Jesus is not too interested in moral purity because he knows that any preoccupation with repressing the shadow does not lead us into personal transformation, empathy, compassion, or patience, but invariably into denial or disguise, repression or hypocrisy. Isn’t that rather evident? Immature religion creates a high degree of cognitively rigid people or very hateful and attacking people—and often both. It is almost the public image of Christianity today, yet God’s goal is exactly the opposite.  

Reference:  

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality (Cincinnati, OH: Franciscan Media, 2008, 2022), 78, 79–80. 

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:

I am a 56-year-old gay man living in the conservative South. Your morning contemplations are the highlight of a morning. I was raised in an evangelical household, and I followed a path that I thought I understood: attending a Baptist University, and believing that God would judge me imperfect and send me to eternal torture if I were found unworthy. As an adult, I began to listen or read other opinions. I began to meditate and hear a voice of Love in my heart. These days, I often see God in ALL of everything. —Thomas H. 

Prophecy is Love Manifested

In a teaching for the CAC’s Living School, Dr. Barbara Holmes invites the students to reflect on Jesus’ prophetic tasks:  

What did Jesus the prophet do? As a prophet, Jesus performed miracles, exercised authority over nature and spiritual entities, walked on water, turned water into wine. As a prophet, Jesus healed. As a prophet, Jesus fed the hungry. As a prophet, Jesus taught prophetically.… He sat at the feet of elders, but he also taught with his heart: hearing the whispers of the Holy Spirit and allowing it to speak through him. You know teaching, if not anointed, is just the ego strutting and repeating information. Teaching prophetically goes beyond facts and material, and it reaches into the unutterable and allows silence and Spirit to do the teaching.  

Jesus also exercised spiritual gifts.… Prophecy is a spiritual gift. Paul wrote about the gift of prophecy in his letter to the Romans. And he said, “We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us … prophecy in proportion to faith” (Romans 12:6). And although prophecy is mentioned more than any other gift in the Bible, it’s also stated that prophecy will pass away, and the only thing left will be love.…  

Prophecy comes to life as love. Jesus the prophet is love manifested. We also can be love manifested in the world.… 

As Christians, Jesus is the prophet who guides us. And this is what I want to share with you. You don’t have to eat locusts [John the Baptist] or lay on your side in rags [Ezekiel]. Perhaps all it requires is the willingness to offer your life “a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God” [Romans 12:1]. All we have to do is recognize that the time has come to make full use of our gifts, that we are the embodiment of a new order. We’re following the example set by the prophet Jesus. During his time, Jesus was the embodiment of a new order, he was a fulfillment of the prophecy of those who had gone before.… 

Because Jesus has come and truly overturned and overcome the systems of the world, he beckons us to do likewise. You see, the system says, “It can’t be done. You cannot walk on water. Gravity wins.” The system says that “religion is of no use except to placate the people, and you’d better put your money in growth mutual funds.” Jesus says there’s another way, the prophetic way, and even now Jesus beckons, saying, “Step out on the water, come.”   

Now, you may be thinking, “How am I going to walk on water? I don’t even know how to swim.” Well, we offer our gifts to God and our neighbors, that’s how we walk on water. Your gift may be prayer or art or business or teaching, but the prophetic call will hone your gifts so that your very lives are a prophetic witness to the world.  

Reference:  

Adapted from Barbara A. Holmes, “We Shall Also Be Prophets,” July 2022, CAC Living School curriculum. Unpublished material. 

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. 

Jesus as Prophet

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.  

Reference:   

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. 

Join our email community

Sign-up to receive the Daily Meditations, featuring reflections on the wisdom and practices of the Christian contemplative tradition.


Hidden Fields

Find out about upcoming courses, registration dates, and new online courses.
Our theme this year is Nothing Stands Alone. What could happen if we embraced the idea of God as relationship—with ourselves, each other, and the world? Meditations are emailed every day of the week, including the Weekly Summary on Saturday. Each week builds on previous topics, but you can join at any time.
In a world of fault lines and fractures, how do we expand our sense of self to include love, healing, and forgiveness—not just for ourselves or those like us, but for all? This monthly email features wisdom and stories from the emerging Christian contemplative movement. Join spiritual seekers from around the world and discover your place in the Great Story Line connecting us all in the One Great Life. Conspirare. Breathe with us.