In view of the life and ministry of Jesus, there are many distinguishing characteristics to consider. In fact, Jesus’ ministry was so extensive that this may have inspired the author of the Gospel of John to write, “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written” (John 21:25 NIV). For this discussion, Jesus’ ministry could be narrowed down to his ministry as prophet, priest and king.
First, Jesus’ ministry was a prophetic ministry. Jesus’ own understanding of himself was that of a Spirit anointed prophet (John 3:34) who was a bearer of the word of God (John 7:37-40) and who spoke with authority and divine knowledge (John 2:24-25). Furthermore, Jesus’ miracles testified to his prophetic ministry (John 9:17), and he was recognized as a prophet by those who heard his teaching (John 4:17-19) and witnessed his miracles (John 6:14). The prophet John the Baptist proclaims that Jesus is the greatest prophet (John 1:15).
Second, Jesus’ ministry was a priestly ministry. Jesus is referred to as the “Lamb of God” in the Gospel of John (1:29). Thus, he is likened to a sacrificial lamb that was killed in order to atone for the sins of the people. This sacrifice of a lamb was performed by the high priest who was interceding on behalf of the people and representing them before God. Similarly, Jesus being a fully human high priest represented humanity before God and interceded on their behalf. He is also a fully divine high priest in that he is perfect and without sin. Thus, he did not have to offer sacrifice for his own sin, but rather he made atonement for the sins of humanity by his own sacrificial death (Heb 2:17). When Jesus sacrificed his life, it was a “once for all” atonement (Heb 7:27). Although Jesus fully completed this vital priestly duty, his priestly ministry continues for eternity as he continually intercedes (Heb 7:24-25) and brings people close to God (Heb 10:19-22).
Third, Jesus’ ministry is a kingly ministry. Jesus is the promised messianic king from the line of David. In fact, Jesus entered Jerusalem as a king (John 12:12-15), but his kingship is unlike any other. He enters the city riding a donkey revealing the humble servant nature of his kingship. He is a king that delivers and heals his people from spiritual oppression by his suffering and death. Jesus is the king of the kingdom of God that has come to earth through his life and ministry. At his trial before Pilate, Jesus states, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36) signifying that the kingdom of God is far greater than any earthly kingdom. The most powerful king subjected himself to the torture and crucifixion by an inferior earthly king in order to fulfill his kingdom mission. Jesus’ death and resurrection established him as an eternal king who rules and reigns over the nations, and in the future, his kingly ministry and kingdom will come in fullness (Phil 2:10-11; Rev 11:15).