The text is Moses’ promise of “a prophet like me”. Prophet is one of those words that feels slightly archaic, but it just isn’t. It is used all the time. What this sermon does is hopefully three things:
Define what a prophet is
Understand what “a prophet like me” means, how that is different from many standard uses, and how Jesus is the only one who really qualifies
And finally equip everyone how to not get suckered by people claiming Moses like prophetic authority.
Figuring out who and what is proper authority is a difficult thing these days. People hold offices but then do not fulfill the duties of said office. Sometimes they even work contrary to those duties. This text starts out with the Priests confronting Jesus on the basis of authority. By the end of it, Jesus paints a clear picture of proper authority, what Jesus can work with, and what is owed to those who have the trappings of authority but whose hearts are hardened against its proper use.
This is not an easy thing. It calls for wisdom. And that wisdom is available by walking “in the way of righteousness”. Which should challenge us: whether we are a son who shames dad but tries to make it up, or one who saves face but isn’t that reliable. Christ can work with those. Both admit to the authority of the Father. What he can’t work with, are those who deny the proper authority of the Word.
There is one big difference between the world say pre-1750 and post-1750. Now that date is rough and the change not uniformly distributed, but what I’m really pointing out is a change with the Enlightenment. A pre-enlightenment mindset could look at events in the world or things right in front of you and see a larger sign. Another way you might describe this is that the universe as enchanted. You could swing to extremes, like the purchase of amulets and other charms to ward off all the things that go bump in the night. And all that stuff is actually what the bible comes down harshly on – see Paul in Ephesus (Acts 19:17-20) or see the story of Saul (1 Samuel 28:3ff) or look at the law (Lev 20:27, Deu 18:1-12) where the practice of such things is placed alongside child sacrifice. But there is a different form of enchantment that was thrown out with that superstition. The bible would just call it having ears to hear, or eyes to see. Jesus would complain that his contemporaries could read the signs of upcoming weather, but they couldn’t read the important signs right in front of their noses (Luke 13:54-56).
That is what is happening in the text of Luke across these chapters and our text is another example. The man’s illness, dropsy, is a sign. The Pharisees are intending it as one sign, but Jesus is reading it rightly. This is a great example of the prophetic office. The prophet could tell the future but what the prophets of Israel really did was read the signs for the people. Jesus tells then parables that illuminate the real purpose of the sign.
What the reading of the sign, the observation of an enchanted universe, is really about is a call to examination of personal conscience. Where have I fallen short? How is God calling me back to the path? Because the grace and mercy of God, the invitation to he feast, goes out to the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind. Jesus eats with sinners. The means of grace are for those who need it. If you don’t need the healing (or more truthfully don’t think you need healing) they are not for you. What this sermon attempts to do is read some signs…and then issue an invitation.