JESUS, THE PROPHET GREATER THAN MOSES

The inspired writers of the Gospels and other New Testament books depict Jesus as the "new Moses" promised in Deuteronomy 18:15-20 by establishing the contrast between the old Law given through Moses and the grace and truth given through Jesus the Messiah.  The Jews look to the Law as their "light" but the Law can only convict them of sin: Now we are well aware that whatever the Law says is said for those who are subject to the Law, so that every mouth may be silenced, and the whole world brought under the judgment of God.  So then, no human being can be found upright at the tribunal of God by keeping the Law; all that the Law does is to tell us what is sinful [Romans 3:19-20; also see CCC# 1962-64].  Jesus the Messiah is the true "Light" who shows the world the path to salvation and eternal life [John 8:12].

As Jesus continues to work miracles which show His authority is from God, in the 4th Gospel St. John emphasizes that these miraculous events are not just miracles but "signs" pointing to the fulfillment of prophecy and identifying Jesus not just as a human, earthly Messiah but as the divine Savior of Daniel's vision in Daniel 7:13-14.  The seven public miracles and other aspects of His ministry are all "signs" which were prefigured by Moses who also worked "signs" during his ministry.  For example:

In chapters 1-8 John has offered evidence that testifies to Jesus as the holy One promised in Deuteronomy 18:15-20 who is a prophet greater than Moses.  Compare some of the "signs" of Jesus' ministry to Israel's Exodus experience and Moses' ministry as God's servant and covenant mediator'signs worked among the people "so that they would know" that He is God.  Jesus is the new law giver and new covenant mediator who will lead the new Exodus:  ...but he deserves a greater glory than Moses, just as the builder of a house is more honored than  the house itself.  Every house is built by someone, of course, but God built everything that exists.  It is true that Moses was trustworthy in the household of God, as a servant is, acting as witness to the things which were yet to be revealed, but Christ is trustworthy as a son is, over his household.  And we are his household, as long as we fearlessly maintain the hope in which we glory. Hebrews 3:3-6

Sign prefigured by Moses Jesus the Greater than Moses
1. The first "sign" 1. At Cana Jesus, using the holy water from stone vessels, transforms water into wine, the "blood of the grape."   This first "sign" is prefigured by Moses' first "sign:" turning the Nile river water into blood, even the water in stone vessels. [John chapter 2 and Exodus 7:8-25; note verse 20 = even in vessels of wood and stone].
2. The Passover 2. Moses was the first prophet to experience the Passover in Exodus 12 by redeeming the firstborn sons of Israel, but Jesus is the true Firstborn Son, and He is the true Passover victim. In order to save the firstborn sons Moses instructed the people to put the blood of the lamb on their door posts and to eat its roasted flesh at the first Passover.  But it is Jesus who is the sacrificial firstborn Son, identified by John the Baptist as the true Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world [1:29].
3. Moses who feeds His people 3. In the miracle of the Loaves and Fishes in chapter 6:1-18 Jesus is the new Moses who feeds the crowd of over 5,000 people with five barley loaves [the 5 books of Moses] and two fishes [symbols of the Old and New Covenant Church] with 12 baskets left over prefigured by Moses and the miracle of the manna from heaven feeding the 12 tribes of Israel but in the New Covenant Jesus will provide a superabundance of grace. The 12 baskets left over are often misinterpreted as representing the 12 Apostles.  This is missing the point that Israel began as a nation of 12 tribes descended from 12 men and now the new Israel, the Catholic-universal Church, will trace her descent from 12 spiritual fathers, the Apostles who are the first bishops of the New Covenant Church. In the New Covenant there will be an abundance of spiritual gifts not like the limited manna of the Old Covenant.
4. The manna of Moses 4. In the time of Moses the covenant people received manna, bread from heaven, to nourish them on their journey to the Promised Land for 40 years.  In John 6:1-15 Jesus also miraculously feeds the multitude like Moses but then in John 6:32-58 Jesus identifies His flesh as the true bread from heaven and the means to salvation; it is His flesh we must eat to be saved, and His blood we must drink to nourish us on our journey to the Promise Land of heaven.  His flesh is the bread from heaven that is greater than the manna of Moses.
5. The Tabernacle: God's presence 5. Jesus is the God who is present: In Exodus 25:1-31:11 and 35:1-40:33 Moses received instruction on how to build the Sanctuary in which God's presence would dwell.  Centuries Later, King Solomon would build the Temple, God's Dwelling Place, in Jerusalem.  At the beginning of His ministry in chapter 2 at the Feast of Passover Jesus cleanses the Temple [John 2:13-22], a Temple which is prefigured by the Tabernacle of Moses where the presence of God resided.  When Jesus cleansed the Temple, God was indeed present in His Dwelling Place.  Jesus' cleansing of the Temple was to call Israel to repentance and to prepare the Old Covenant Church to be transformed into a fully redeemed New Covenant people. Moses built the first Tabernacle which housed the presence of God but Jesus' human body is the dwelling place of God and He will build the New Covenant Church, which after the coming of the Holy Spirit at the second great Pentecost, will be every covenant believer who becomes through the miracle of baptism by water and the Spirit, the dwelling place of God.
6. The Bronze Serpent which was "lifted up" to heal the people 6. In John 3:14 Jesus tells the people: As Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so must the Son of man be lifted up so that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.  Moses, at God's command, lifted up an image of a bronze serpent on a pole to heal the people.  Jesus, lifted up on the Cross as God's holy sacrifice, will give life to whomever looks up to Him and believes.  Moses saved the children of Israel; Jesus will save the world.  In the sacrifice of the Mass, it is Jesus' image on the Crucifix to which we look to remind us that though Him we are spiritually healed.
7. Moses the Prophet, Lawgiver, and covenant mediator 7. Jesus is the promised prophet of Deuteronomy 18:14-22, He is the giver of the New Law, and He is the mediator of the New and more perfect Covenant [John 4:19; 7:40; James 1:25; Romans 8:1-2; Hebrews 3:3; Hebrews 8:6; 9:15; 12:24].
8. Moses leads the children of Israel in the desert wandering, the Exodus generation of Israel is paralyzed from unbelief and cannot take possession of the Promised Land.  38 years later the old generation is dead and the new generation will complete Israel's destiny [Deuteronomy 2:14]. 8. In John 5: 5-9 Jesus heals a man paralyzed for 38 years.  The man's paralysis signified Israel's paralysis after her rejection of God's plan at Kadesh Barnes, the plan to bring the people to salvation in the Promise Land by the conquest of Canaan.  At God's command the people were be barred from entering the Promised Land until every member of that "accursed generation" had died [Numbers 13-14].  For 38 years Israel was paralyzed before she was restored and led by Joshua [Yehosua] and given salvation in the Promised Land.  Jesus [also named in Hebrew, Yehosua] has come to heal a paralyzed nation, to restore her and to lead her to the "Promised Land," heaven.
9. Moses and the water miracles 9. Jesus demonstrates His divinity for the Apostles in a private sign only for them when He walks on the water in John 6:16-21. Moses performed five water miracles that prefigured Christ:
  • Moses turned the water of the Nile River into blood [Exodus 7:14-24]; even the water which was being stored in stone vessels [Exodus 7:19].
  • Moses controlled the forces of nature when he parted the Sea of Reeds [Red Sea] so the people could pass safely to the other side [Exodus 14:15-22].
  • Moses struck a rock in the wilderness to give the people water to drink on their journey through the wilderness [Exodus 17:5-6].
  • In Numbers 20:10 Moses was instructed by God to "speak" to the rock in order to receive life-giving water. 
  • Moses turned bitter water sweet with the wood of a tree [Exodus 15:22-25].
Jesus reenacts Moses' water miracles and surpasses them:
  • At Cana Jesus turned the water in stone vessels into the blood of the grape [John 2:6-9].
  • He walked on water and controlled nature to calm the sea [John 6:16-21].
  • He identified Himself as the source of "living Water" [Holy Spirit] to the Samaritan woman [John 4:10-14].
  • Jesus announced to the covenant people that He is the source of the "living water" promised by the prophets at the celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles.  His is the Rock from whom living water flows [1 Corinthians 10:1-5]. He was struck down once for our sins and now all we have to do is call out to Him and He comes to us in the Eucharist [John 7:37-39].
  • Jesus will give up His life on a tree [the cross]. His sacrifice will bring the sweet gift of salvation to mankind when water and blood flow from the side of the "Rock" of our salvation.  The Resurrection will be His 7th and final public sign [John 19:16; 34].
10. The Feast of Tabernacles commemorated the events of the Exodus experience and the building of the Tabernacle and its dedication to Yahweh. 10. The Feast of Tabernacles was feast celebrated in remembrance of the Exodus experience with Moses when God led the people in the Pillar of Fire, the water miracles on the journey to Sinai, when Moses returned from the Mountain of God with the Law as their "light" to guide them in their lives, and when God took possession of His Tabernacle and later the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem by supernaturally lighting the altar of sacrifice.   At the Feast of Tabernacles Jesus announces in John chapter 8 that He is the Light and those who follow Him will have the light of life.  The Tabernacle that Moses instructed the people to build led them in the wilderness journey and symbolized God's presence with them.  Now Jesus' body is the true Tabernacle for now God is truly present among His people [John 2: 19-22].  Moses led the people in the Exodus from political slavery but the New Moses will give them greater than what the prophet Moses could give: He will free them from the death grip of sin and will give them eternal life.
Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2007 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.

John wants his readers to understand that Jesus the Messiah is the greater than Moses, leading the New Exodus to salvation.  In John chapter 5 Jesus confronts the Jews, accusing them of rejecting His teaching and His miraculous signs with the statement: Do not imagine that I am going to accuse you before the Father: you have placed your hopes on Moses, and Moses will be the one who accuses you.  If you really believe him you would believe me too, since it was about me that he was writing; but if you will not believer what he wrote, how can you believe what I say?  John 5:45-47.  The reason they don't believe Him, Jesus tells them, is because they don't believe Moses. But it will be their great prophet and "giver of the Law" Moses who, as prosecuting attorney before the throne of God, will testify that the Old Covenant Church did not listen to the Firstborn Son of God when He came to offer them the gift of eternal life as God's Holy Prophet, Priest, and King:

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