Do you remember our blog series through the book of Ezekiel? That series began in 2021, and continued through the first half of 2022. I know. Seems so long ago, right? But try to remember with me, as there was something about Ezekiel that relates to the next episode in the life of Jesus, which we are studying through the Gospel of John.
Do you remember what made Ezekiel so unique? To answer that question, it might help to recall who and what Ezekiel was. Ezekiel was a man who lived in Jerusalem 6th century BCE, near the end of the Judean monarchy, when the powerful nation of Babylon invaded and captured the city, sending 10,000 Jews to exile in Babylon. Ezekiel was one of those 10,000 Jews who made the months-long journey, probably walking 900 miles to be relocated in a foreign land.
There in Babylon, though, God appeared to Ezekiel in a vision, calling Ezekiel to be God’s prophet to his fellow Jews. In that day and age, there were many prophets, but this calling was likely shocking for Ezekiel. But things went from shocking to really bizarre, really fast, for Ezekiel. God shut Ezekiel’s mouth so that he was not a typical prophet. Ezekiel was not going to be standing on the street corner with a signboard and megaphone declaring the end of the world (at least not initially…). Instead, he was a mostly silent prophet.
If he was silent, how did he communicate the word of the Lord? God asked Ezekiel to perform prophetic skits. Remember the Prophetic Stare? Ezekiel would step outside his house and “set his face against” something, just looking quietly at them. Remember when God asked him to lay on the ground in front of his house for longer than a year? Remember when God asked Ezekiel to build a model of Jerusalem and play with it? Remember when God asked him to cut his hair and burn it?
All those stories are only the tip of the iceberg of the weird dramatic acts that God called Ezekiel to perform. Why? To get the people’s attention. To call them to repent and return to God. Their rebellion against God was what got them exiled in the first place.
Would you believe that sometimes Jesus followed the prophetic example of Ezekiel? Am I saying that Jesus did skits? Yes and no. Jesus was an artist. His creative stories are his most well-known works of art. We call them parables, fictional short stories that communicated powerful truths about the word.
Often those stories were prophetic, speaking truth to power. I’m not talking about prophecy in the sense of predicting a future event. Jesus’ prophetic ministry was much more often the prophetic role of declaring the truth about the world as it really is. In addition to the parables, Jesus sometimes borrows from Ezekiel’s dramatic playbook. Next week on the blog we’re going to learn about one of those episodes. If you want to see for yourself ahead of time, read John 2:12-25.
Just as Ezekiel’s skits were meant for Jews living over 2500 years ago in Babylon, but still had important implications for our lives now, this story from Jesus’ ministry will have just as significant applications for us. We would do well to pay attention. Check back in on Monday!