Yeshua the Prophet, a Threat to the Establishment (1)
By Michael L. Brown
The Bible’s Hebrew prophets, and those to whom they spoke, i.e., the Israelites, often perceived God differently. In his classic book The Prophets, Abraham Joshua Heschel penned these penetrating words about those discrepancies:
To a person endowed with prophetic sight, everyone else appears blind; to a person whose ear perceives God’s voice, everyone else appears deaf. . . . The prophet hates the approximate, he shuns the middle of the road. Man must live on the summit to avoid the abyss. . . . The prophet’s word is a scream in the night. While the world is at ease and asleep, the prophet feels the blast from heaven.
This gap in perception is the reason why the prophets were often rejected before they were accepted and murdered before they were memorialized. Jesus (Yeshua) suffered that very same fate because of his words of truth to the people.
Yes, it was Jesus who was that bold prophet who stood in the temple courts in Jerusalem, just as Jeremiah did six centuries earlier, calling for repentance and warning of imminent judgment. As it happened with his predecessor Jeremiah, Yeshua’s message was also rejected. But while Jeremiah the prophet escaped with his life, Yeshua the prophet did not. Yet, Yeshua’s words came to pass with striking accuracy, and barely forty years after his death, Jerusalem again was in ruins, the temple again destroyed, and thousands of our people were again killed or exiled—except this time the death toll was massively higher and the devastation massively greater.
Now, here is a fundamental truth that is often overlooked: It is only when we see Jesus as a prophet that we can rightly understand the conflict and controversy that surrounded him. Indeed, if the New Testament had painted a picture of him being in an easy-going, cozy relationship with his fellow Jewish leaders, embraced by the religious hierarchy and praised by the religious priestly aristocracy, then we would have known that something was wrong with the picture. That is not how the Hebrew prophets were treated by the establishment they confronted.
“But,” you say, “it is one thing to say that Jesus was in conflict with some of the religious leadership. It is another thing to say that any of them would want him killed.”
To the contrary, the Talmud and other rabbinic writings claim that the Jewish people—our own people—have often been guilty of killing the prophets, going all the way back to Mount Sinai itself. (Surely no one can accuse Jewish texts of being antisemitic!).
There was certainly no hyperbole in Yeshua’s words when he addressed Jerusalem, the seat of Jewish leadership and the national capital, as the city “who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her” (Matthew 23:37). When he uttered these words of rebuke (and lament) to some of the religious leaders of his day, he was standing right in the middle of the Bible’s prophetic tradition:
For you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, and say, “If we had been living in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partners with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.” So you testify against yourselves, that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. (Matthew 23:29-31)
Almost any great prophet in Israel’s history could have stood in the city of Jerusalem and spoken these very same words to many of the leaders of his generation. This is prophetic truth, completely faithful to the Hebrew Bible and Jewish tradition. As expressed by Reform rabbi Dan Cohn-Sherbok,
Like the prophets of the Hebrew Bible, Jesus can be seen as the conscience of Israel. . . . In his confrontation with the leaders of the nation, Jesus echoed the words of the prophets by denouncing hypocrisy and injustice. . . . As a prophetic figure, this image of Jesus should be recognizable to all Jews.
In the words of Jewish Bible scholar Claude G. Montefiore, “Jesus does not preface his speeches with ‘Thus saith the Lord,’ but in the conviction of inspiration, in the assurance that he too was called and chosen by God to do a certain work, he entirely resembles Amos, Isaiah, and Ezekiel.”
Yeshua spoke to his own people as a prophet sent by God, and that is a major reason why Yeshua was rejected, particularly by most of the Jewish leadership of his day.
Yeshua was the culmination of the prophetic line that began with Moses (see Deuteronomy 18:9–22)—indeed, a prophet like Moses and even greater than Moses. Like Moses and all the prophets of Israel, we do well to heed Yeshua’s words, even to this day.
 Adapted from Michael L. Brown, The Real Kosher Jesus: Revealing the Mysteries of the Hidden Messiah (Lake Mary, FL: FrontLine, 2012), 46–49.
 Abraham J. Heschel, The Prophets, 1st Perennial Classics edition. (New York: Perennial, 2001), 19.
 See Exodus Rabbah 41:7; Leviticus Rabbah 10:3; Numbers Rabbah 15:21; b. Sanhedrin 7a.
 See b. Sanhedrin 103b; b. Yebamot 49b.
 Dan Cohn-Sherbok, “Closing Reflection,” in Jesus Beyond Christianity: The Classic Texts, ed. Gregory A. Barker and Stephen E. Gregg (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), 72.
 Claude Montefiore, “The Synoptic Gospels,” in Jesus Beyond Christianity: The Classic Texts, ed. Gregory A. Barker and Stephen E. Gregg (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), 51.