Jesus, being both divine and human, is attributed the roles of Messiah, prophet and Son of Man. The three roles are distinct from each other but the role of Messiah is the most controversial of the three because of the difference between Judaic expectation and Jesus’ interpretation of the role. On the other hand, the roles Prophet and Son of Man are more easily acceptable by any culture or religion as they view the historical Jesus, but each is no less important. Jesus’ prophetic role enables him to become a direct messenger from God, and his humanity provides empathy with human attitudes and feelings. His humanity also emphasizes that his ability to feel pain contributes to the reality of his sacrifice during his suffering, and death by crucifixion.
Jesus is the Son in the Holy Trinity and this gives him the identity of God incarnate, being both human and divine. Though through Jesus’ omniscient messianic role, the prophetic role is already expected, there are aspects about his ministry that distinguish the role of Messiah from the role of prophet. Moreover, while these are divine facets of Jesus, his identity as the Son of Man, or being truly human, is equally important because it gives more importance to his sacrifices, especially his death by crucifixion. Meanwhile, Jesus complies with the general description of the prophesied Judaic Messiah (Croatto, 2005, p. 464), having been born as a descendant of David, but the Jews are expecting more in terms of a Messiah who will save his people from physical bondage.
Jesus is recognized more as the Messiah rather than a prophet, because it is through being the Messiah that he is able to save while as a prophet he merely foretells what is to come, like many other prophets. However, Jesus’ role as Messiah has become the most controversial of his facets. The Jewish people are more ready to accept Jesus as a fully human prophet than being the actual Messiah because of the different expectations attached by the Jews to the role of Messiah: “All the prophets affirmed that the Messiah will redeem Israel, save them, gather their dispersed, and confirm the commandments.
But he caused Israel to be destroyed by the sword, their remnant to be dispersed and humiliated” (Wolf, 2001, p. 370). In their great suffering, the Jews have longed for a Savior that will fight physically in order to save them, like a much more powerful version of human kings. Jesus, on the other hand, has come to die for people’s sins, to save the soul instead of the body. His messianic role also involves healing. “Jesus’ miraculous deeds in Matthew, therefore, are replete with eschatological significance and point to Jesus’ messianic identity” (Cousland, 2003, p. 770); people have waited for a Messiah who can heal. There are many instances in the bible which refers to Jesus’ healing of physical afflictions along with spiritual ones.
He has raised people from the dead, has cured life-threatening diseases and has released demons from the bodies of those afflicted both spiritually and physically. He therefore, has demonstrated apt evidence that support his messianic identity. Nevertheless, in a time of conflict and doubt, this is not apparent to people who have hungered for someone who can liberate them and have waited for so long for the fulfillment of a prophesied warrior who will bring about justice and peace. As a result, Jesus has been tagged as a “Messianic pretender” (Wolf, 2001, p. 370).
Jesus’ role of Prophet is prevalent in the Gospel of Luke. Though overshadowed by his Messianic role, it is a more tangible role that is also supported by prophecy, particularly in Deuteronomy. Jesus is described as the “new Moses” and a “Teacher” (Croatto, 2005, p. 454). It is also important to know that Jesus has described himself as prophet in Luke 13:33, and is a healer-preacher like the prophet Elijah. As a prophet, the historical Jesus is compared to past prophets like Moses and Elijah. “The prophet Jesus is the paradigm for the Christian prophetic mission.
To see Christ, the Messiah, as heavenly king and monarch is not very suitable today, because of so many sad experiences of many monarchies in our world” (Croatto, 2005, p. 465). This means that during these times, the image of Jesus as prophet is more important. It can become a practical framework for modern prophets or missionaries intent in spreading the word of God. In today’s world, monarchs and other political leaders are regarded with some trepidation or criticism. The Jews of Jesus’ time may be longing for a Messiah who will rule as a king but today’s people will want to hear a preacher or to go to a healer. Croatto’s statement can also mean that Jesus’ interpretation of his role of Messiah through his work as prophet and healer is a good manifestation of messianic identity.
As has been mentioned earlier, Jesus’ role of Son of Man, or being truly human, adds to the magnitude of his works. It is curious then to know the implications if Jesus’ come to the world of his people as a purely divine Messiah without a true understanding of the human condition, instead of becoming God turned Man. In becoming the Son of Man, he fully empathizes with his people but it also means that he is not the warrior king that everyone has been expecting from a divine Messiah. Furthermore, Jesus has become truly human to become a good example to his people of what it is to be truly human. “The essence of divinity is fully realized humanity. Therefore, only God is truly human, and the task set before human beings are to become human as God is human…Jesus serves as our model of true humanity” (Burkett, May 2002, p. 43).
Jesus is Messiah, Prophet and Son of Man, human and divine, and these aspects of his role in the world is emphasized by his preaching and healing. Though Jesus is not the Savior that the Jewish people have expected, his Messianic role and prophetic mission are supported by the Scriptures. His Messianic role is manifested in his healing, his prophetic mission through his teachings and his humanity through a direct understanding of the human condition.
BIBLIOGRAPHY \l 1033 Burkett, D. (May 2002). Our Man Jesus. Christian Century , 43-46.
Cousland, J. (2003). Book Review: Messiah, the Healer of the Sick: A Study of Jesus as the Son David in
the Gospel of Matthew. Journal of Biblical Literature , 768-771.
Croatto, J. S. (2005). Jesus, Prophet like Elijah, and Prophet Teacher like Moses in Luke – Acts. 451-465.
Wolf, A. J. (2001). Jesus and the Jews.