The Gospel According to Moses

The Gospel According to Moses

The Gospel According to Moses.

“So, my dear Christian friends, companions in following this call to the heights, take a good hard look at Jesus. He’s the centerpiece of everything we believe, faithful in everything God gave him to do. Moses was also faithful, but Jesus gets far more honor. Moses did a good job in God’s house, but it was all servant work, getting things ready for what was to come. Christ as Son is in charge of the house.”  (Hebrews 3:1-6, MSG).

Moses was and still is considered the greatest hero of the Jewish faith. He was the most excellent teacher, the most profound prophet, the most powerful miracle-worker. Moses was unique in Hebrew history, truly one-of-a-kind. But ever since he predicted another Prophet would come just like him, the Jewish believers have waited in great expectation. “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him. The Lord said to me, ‘I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him. If anyone does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name, I myself will call him to account.” (Deuteronomy 18:15-19).

The Jewish people during Jesus’ time were thus expecting a new Moses to guide and save them, like the old Moses did. They believed that the second Moses would duplicate the teachings and miracles of the first Moses, and would be a mediator between God and the people. Many also believed that this new Moses might even deliver them from foreign occupation. Many expected this new Prophet to be a divinely inspired king and leader for the people.

Many Bible scholars have even said that Matthew went out of his way in his gospel to present Jesus as the new Moses, pointing out the parallels and duplications of Jesus’ ministry and mission with that of Moses. Matthew’s gospel was the most Jewish of gospels, and so it makes sense for it to tie Jesus with Moses.

There certainly were an astounding number of parallels between Moses and Jesus. For starters, they were both preserved in their childhood from an evil ruler who wanted them destroyed. They both had to contend with and defeat the demonic, whether Egyptians sorcerers or the Devil himself. They also had to contend with rejection on the home front, with Miriam and Aaron rejecting Moses in Numbers 12:1, and Jesus’ own family thinking he was crazy and not believing in Him (Mark 3:21, John 7:5). They both fasted for forty days before monumental events. They both were able to control the sea, and they both fed the multitudes. They both were profoundly effective and sacrificial in their intercessory prayers, and they were both God’s unique messengers and spokesman. It’s interesting that they both appointed seventy helpers to assist them in their mission: seventy elders for Moses (Nu. 11:16) and seventy missionaries for Jesus (Luke 10). There is little doubt that Jesus wanted to point to Moses when He chose his seventy. In addition, both Moses and Jesus literally had mountaintop experiences which resulted in God’s commandments: Moses on Mt. Sinai receiving the Law, and Jesus proclaiming His Sermon on the Mount regarding the fulfillments of that Law. This is in addition to Moses’ face becoming radiant on Sinai and Jesus becoming radiant on Mt. Tabor. Isn’t it wonderful that while on that Mount of Transfiguration Jesus and Moses had a little chat together, the old Moses finally able to enter the Promised Land, conversing with the new Moses? There were many more parallels between Moses and Jesus, with some scholars specifying that there were as many as 50 similarities between them.

There is no doubt that Moses hinted at gospel truths, and that Jesus fulfilled those hints. Many events in Moses’ life anticipated a Christ to come, and numerous events in Christ’s life fleshed out the spiritual meaning behind Moses’ life and mission.

Deliverance. The gospel idea of a savior started with Moses. He delivered the Jewish nation from slavery in Egypt, and he brought them to the Promised Land forty years later. Moses freed his people from bondage. God gave Moses the mission of delivering his people, and Moses succeeded. The Exodus has been used ever since in Christian thought as an historical picture of a spiritual truth. God appointed Moses to be a savior. God appointed Jesus to be the Savior. Jesus’ mission spiritually fulfilled Moses’ mission. Moses brought the Jews salvation from slavery. Jesus brought all people salvation from sin. Moses brought the physical reality of deliverance, Jesus brought the spiritual reality of deliverance. Moses illustrated the gospel story, while Jesus embodied it. Moses led the old Exodus. Jesus led the new Exodus, the exodus of the soul, freeing humanity from the bondage of, not Egypt, but sin.

Bread from Heaven. Soon after Jesus’ astounding feeding of the 5,000 and His walking on the turbulent Sea, He was surrounded in the synagogue by a few of the people who had been fed so miraculously earlier. Jesus saw this as a teachable moment for His audience, especially after someone in His audience said to Him, We’ll believe you if you can show us another miracle, another sign. After all, (this person continued), Moses fed our ancestors with manna in the wilderness all those years (Exodus 16). If you’re the long-awaited Prophet to replace Him, what sign can you do for us? Jesus couldn’t wait to dignify this awkward question with a self-revelation that is profound and puzzling. Jesus decided to mix the spiritual and the physical in an interesting way. He told them, Are you looking for bread from heaven? Are you seeking a sign like manna in the desert? Didn’t you just get fed out in the middle of nowhere? Well, think of this, then. I AM the Bread of Life. Think about that manna with Moses. I am like that, only I AM the living bread that came down from heaven to give His life to feed the world. Come to me and you will never be spiritually hungry again. Come to me, take me into your innermost being, into your deepest self, and you will live forever. The living Bread I give you is myself, my own body, which I will offer as a sacrifice so that all may live. My body is real food for the soul, and my blood is real drink. Unless you eat my body and take me into yourself, and drink my blood while you’re at it, you will not have eternal life. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I live in him. I am the Bread, the living Manna, that comes from heaven to feed you unto eternal life. Think of me as spiritual manna for your souls. (read John 6:26-58). Jesus talked about bread in the context of manna. He even compared Himself to that food provided in the desert. He came down from heaven, just like manna. He is to be eaten, just like manna. And He like manna was a gift from the hand of God. Manna was eaten in order to be sustained physically. Jesus is Bread that is eaten to be sustained spiritually. Manna is a bread of mystery that appeared every morning, the word manna meaning “What is it?” Jesus is another bread of mystery to many who misunderstood and rejected Him. Wilderness manna was openly revealed for all to see every day. Likewise, Jesus was walking and teaching and healing for all to see, out in the open. All who wanted manna had free and easy access. All who sought Jesus could easily find Him. All who ate manna had their hunger satisfied. All who partake of Jesus have their spiritual hunger satisfied, forever. Jesus gives the soul true nourishment, and only those with faith can truly receive it. “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” (Ps. 34:8).

Blood. The sacrificial system under Moses anticipated Christ’s sacrifice, the offering of unblemished lambs long before the unblemished Lamb, for the forgiveness of sins. Blood was the centerpiece of Moses’ and Jesus’ missions, Moses the mediator of the old covenant and Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, through blood (Exodus 24 and Hebrews 9). “But now the Messiah has appeared at the fulfillment of the ages to abolish sin once and for all by the sacrifice of Himself.”  (Hebrews 9:26)). The blood of the old Passover enabled the salvation of the Jews in Egypt, and the blood of the new Passover Lamb has enabled the salvation of the world. Moses brought the old Passover (Exodus 12). Jesus brought the new Passover. Moses’ actions pointed to the gospel story of Jesus’ action, Moses once again preparing the world for the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Bronze Serpent. How did Moses do it? How did he continue putting up with all the grumbling and complaining of the wandering Israelites? It was a sign of his singular leadership, though, that he went so far as to intercede, to pray to the Lord earnestly for these disgruntled ones. Numbers 21 shows us another time of bitter complaint. Well, evidently God wanted to show them who’s boss, and He sent poisonous snakes, “fiery serpents,” to reveal God’s displeasure with their attitude. Many Israelites died from snake bites, and finally their hearts were struck, and the people repented. So during Moses’ intercession, asking God to forgive them, the Lord told Moses to fashion a bronze serpent and put it on a pole, high up in the air where all could see it. Whoever is snake-bit, all they have to do is look. That’s it, just look at the bronze serpent, and they will be healed. What a dramatic image. So dramatic that Jesus took this episode and, in his night-time talk with Nicodemus, made the bronze serpent a type, a picture of Jesus and His ministry. He told Nicodemus, “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life.” The mercy of God for Israelite whiners, a picture of God’s mercy for us through Jesus. Sure enough, this wasn’t the last time Jesus hinted at the bronze serpent. “Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.’  (John 12:31-33). The bronze serpent on Moses’ pole is a picture of Jesus on the cross. Jesus, lifted up, brings healing and life to those bit by the serpent. And all we have to do is look and believe.

Living Water. Moses was the main character in a famous event in the Hebrew Bible. In Exodus 17 we read about the water miracle in which Moses strikes the rock chosen by God. And out from the rock pours fresh water for the desperately thirsty wanderers in the wilderness. This is a classic example of God unexpectedly providing fresh water for the faithful. And now fast forward to the Water Libation ceremony during the Feast of Tabernacles. Picture Jesus being a part of the crowd as they follow the high priest walking from the Temple to the pool of Siloam. The high priest dips a golden pitcher into the burbling pool for some “living water.” He then proceeds to return to the Temple, leading the people once again, where he pours the water onto the altar. This is an ancient tradition, and is a hugely popular part of the public service in the Temple during the Feast. This water ceremony commemorates the famous water miracle of Moses. During the water ceremony, once the water is poured on the altar, the people, led by the priests, chanted various Scripture passages foretelling life-giving water… from Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Zechariah. A Temple choir then sung the messianic Psalm 118, bringing a messianic fervor to a fever pitch in the crowd. It was just as the water ceremony was reaching a climax on the last day of the Feast when Jesus stood up in the crowd, got everybody’s attention, and shouted for all to hear, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink! He who believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘out of his heart will flow streams of living water!” (John 7:37-38). This is Biblical theater at its best, and Jesus’ words remind everyone there of the messianic passage from Isaiah 55:1, “Come, all of you who are thirsty, come to the waters.” The crowd was thunderstruck, and they wondered if perhaps Jesus was the Prophet aligned with Moses’ prophecy. Once again, Moses had pointed to the gospel story of Jesus being the source of living water for our souls. Jesus is the only one who can quench our spiritual thirst. Moses once again illustrates through his actions a gospel truth ahead of its time. Even Paul draws the connection between Moses and Jesus when he discusses the wilderness wanderings in 1 Corinthains 10. Paul notes that “all the people drank water from the same spiritual rock that traveled with them in the wilderness – and that Rock was Christ Himself.”   (1 Cor. 10:4). This Moses event set the stage for Jesus, and Jesus was happy to embody that ancient illustration. Jesus once again presents Himself as the greater Moses. And Moses confirms his standing as a prophet who lived into the Good News.


One Reply to “The Gospel According to Moses”

  1. Great parallels, pops! I hadn’t thought about the snake being lifted up being like Christ being lifted up on the cross. But if there are 50 parallels, I’m sure I haven’t thought about most of them.