When Jesus and his apostles were in Caesarea Philippi, “he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’ They replied, ‘Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets” (Mt 16:13-14). People’s understanding of Jesus differed because he had a resemblance to all the above prophets. According to the belief of the time, the spirit of an evil deceased person could enter a living person as a demoniac. Similarly, the spirit of a holy person also could enter the life of person and continue his good works.
JESUS AND JOHN THE BAPTIST
King Herod Antipas beheaded John the Baptist at the early stage of the public ministry of Jesus. People who had listened to John doubted whether the spirit of John was working in Jesus of Nazareth.
1. John and Jesus could have facial similarity because they were cousins and were only six months apart in age.
2. Their message was similar because both preached for repentance to prepare for the Kingdom of God.
3. Both baptized people at River Jordan and both had disciples.
4. Former disciples of John became the followers of Jesus.
5. John and Jesus criticized the religious leaders of the time and got opposition from them.
6. Their lives were in danger.
Unlike Jesus, John did not perform any miracle and lived a Nasserite lifestyle. However, their resemblance was so close that Herod Antipas, the tetrarch who beheaded John said of Jesus to his servants, “This man is John the Baptist. He has been raised from the dead; that is why mighty powers are at work in him” (Mt 14:2).
JESUS AND ELIJAH
When Jesus performed miracles, people remembered Elijah, who raised the son of a widow in Zarephath (1 Kgs 17:17-24). However, Jesus did more raising of the dead than Elijah. Jesus raised the daughter of Jairus (Mk 5:22-43), a widow’s son in the town of Nain (Lk 7:11-15), and Lazarus (Jn 11:1-44).
Elijah multiplied a jar of flour and a jug of oil belonging to the widow in Zarephath for a long time so that the prophet, the widow, and her household had enough to eat until the draught was over (1 Kgs 17:7-16). That had similarity to the multiplication of loaves of bread twice by Jesus to feed multitude of his listeners. So, people considered Jesus as a miracle worker like Elijah.
Both Jesus and Elijah ascended to heaven. Unlike Jesus, God took Elijah up to heaven without facing death. Malachi had prophesied that Elijah would reappear as a forerunner of the Messiah. “Now I am sending to you Elijah the prophet, before the day of the LORD comes, the great and terrible day” (Mal 3:23 / 4:5). The Jews have been expecting the reappearance of Elijah and that is still a part of the Passover ritual of the Jews. Though John the Baptist came according to this prophecy, some believed that Jesus was the forerunner for the Messiah because Jesus resembled some actions of Elijah.
JESUS AND JEREMIAH
Jesus had resemblance to Jeremiah, one of four Major Prophets, along with Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel. The situation of Israel or Jews during the ministry of both Jeremiah and Jesus was similar, and so their preaching and actions also have resemblance. The following are similarities between Jeremiah and Jesus:
1. Both did not marry, and the people of their hometown rejected them.
2. The political tyranny caused both Jeremiah and Jesus to go to Egypt for refuge.
3. False prophets and religious leaders were misguiding God’s chosen people. So, both Jeremiah and Jesus spoke against them and thus became their enemies.
4. The religious leaders arrested both and persecuted them.
5. Jeremiah was known as the weeping prophet. Jesus also wept at least three times: at the tomb of Lazarus (Jn 11:35), while prophesying the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem (Lk 19:41) and at the Garden of Gethsemane (Heb 5: 7).
6. Both wept over the City of Jerusalem and predicted the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem. It happened for the first and the last temple as prophesied. During the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem, Nebuchadnezzar II destroyed Solomon’s Temple in 586 (587) B.C. when Jeremiah was alive. The Romans, under the leadership of Titus, destroyed the second Temple in 70 A.D., 40 years after the prediction of Jesus.
Though both Jeremiah and Jesus had similarities, there were also differences. Tradition belief was that Jeremiah would come as a forerunner of the Messiah (2 Esdras 2:18). Before the Babylonians destroyed the First Temple, Jeremiah removed the tent, the ark, and the altar of incense from it, hid and sealed them in a chamber of the cave where God had appeared to Moses (2 Macc 2:4-5). When some who helped the prophet for the transportation tried to mark the path, Jeremiah scolded them, saying: “The place is to remain unknown until God gathers his people together again and shows them mercy. Then the Lord will disclose these things, and the glory of the Lord and the cloud will be seen, just as they appeared in the time of Moses and of Solomon when he prayed that the place might be greatly sanctified” (2 Macc 2: 7-8). So, some believed Jesus was this precursor of the Messiah.
JESUS AS A PROPHET
Though some people found the spirit of a specific prophet of the past in Jesus, many others considered him as another prophet. Prophet is a spokesperson of God and all who had received messages from God to humans are prophets. Hence, Jesus was also a prophet.
1. When Jesus fed 5,000, people said: “This is truly the Prophet, the one who is to come into the world” (Jn 6:14).
2. The Samaritan woman said to Jesus: “Sir, I can see that you are a prophet” (Jn 4:19).
3. When Jesus raised the widow’s son in Nain, “Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, exclaiming, ‘A great prophet has arisen in our midst,’ and ‘God has visited his people’” (Lk 7:16).
4. There were also other instances when people called Jesus a prophet (Jn 7:40, 9:17).
The responses of the public showed that Jesus was popular, and people considered him as a prominent prophet or a forerunner of the Messiah.
Jesus was a prophet because he revealed the truths of heaven. However, he was more than that because he is God incarnate. He is the truth and wants us to share the truth of God with others, so all will find salvation along with us.