“When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself.” Jn 6,15 Why did they want to make him king? Because they believed he was the prophet that is to come. Indeed, in the time of Jesus, most Jews believed that a prophet would come again to visit God’s people. Some believed it was to be a return of the prophet Elijah, others believed it would be a new, as yet unknown prophet. But all were awaiting a prophet of some kind. Those who witnessed Jesus’ multiplication of the loaves and fish remembered today’s first reading, which they knew well, the account in the second book of Kings, of the prophet Elisha’s multiplication of twenty loaves of barley and fresh ears of grain. They saw this as a clear indication that this man, Jesus, was a prophet, since he had performed the act of a prophet. They were wrong in thinking that because he was a prophet, he should be made king. But they were perfectly right in seeing him as a prophet. Jesus was the greatest of all prophets. He confirmed everything the prophets had said about God, about his dispositions, about his will for his chosen people. He confirmed, but he also pressed further, the teaching of the prophets. He affirmed the unlimited goodness of the Father, a goodness that translates into compassion for the suffering, compassion in the face of sin, providence for those who place their trust in him, deliverance and healing, and life in abundance for all those who say “yes” to life, and “no” to everything that is contrary to God’s goodness and love.
More than any other prophet before him, Jesus spoke in the name of God. That is what the exact meaning of the word “prophet” is: one who speaks in God’s name. And what’s even more wonderful is that he spoke accurately, correctly, about God, about God’s disposition, about his will, about his intentions. How do we know that his teachings were truly in God’s name, and that they were correct, accurate, and worthy of our trust? We know his teaching in God’s name can be trusted because the God in whose name he claimed to speak raised him from death. That was God’s way of saying, exactly what he said in the gospel of the Transfiguration: “This is (not only my prophet) – this is my Son, my beloved. Listen to him! Follow him. Cling to him”.
And what is even more amazing and wonderful is that after Jesus’ resurrection, the teaching remained the same. We might have expected some “payback” for the betrayal, the torture, the abandonment, the cruel killing on the cross. But no. The utter absence, in Jesus, after his resurrection, of any kind of reproach toward those who had tortured and killed him simply confirmed in spades everything he had said about God, about his mercy, about his plan of redemption, while he was with them before his death.
And so today, let us keep it simple. Let us remember that God raised from death, this Jesus who spoke of him as the God of all love, thereby putting his stamp of approval on everything Jesus had affirmed. Thereby making Jesus’ gospel worthy of trust.
So the next time you hear wonderful gospel words, words like “Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy-burdened, and I will give you rest”, or words like “Blessed are those who weep, for they shall be consoled”. The next time you hear words like these, and you don’t dare allow yourselves to believe them, to place your hope in them, out of fear of being hurt or disappointed, just remind yourself that the sovereign God of heaven and earth brought back from death the One who first spoke those words, so that they are worthy of your faith. Make that leap of faith, and say to God, if necessary, “I believe, but come to the help of the weakness of my faith.” You will not be disappointed. Jesus really was the ultimate, authentic prophet of God, and God really is as Jesus said he was: the God of infinite love, of bottomless patience and understanding, of bottomless compassion and mercy, simply, the God of the common sense goodness of love.
Blessed be God for the way he is.
Blessed be God for his prophet Jesus, who made him known to us.
Blessed be God, because the gospel of Jesus, the prophet of God, has in fact been made known to us.
Blessed be God, because by the grace of God, we live our lives in the faith-knowledge of this gospel and in the consolation and healing, and hope that spring from it for us all the time.