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March 10, 2024

Jesus and Moses Are Not Identical

Passage: Deuteronomy 18:15-19

Thousands of years ago, in the Middle East, the Israelites stood at the edge of the promised land. The children of Israel had finished their forty year journey through the desert of the Sinai peninsula, and much of the old generation who began the journey had passed, all but Caleb and Joshua. The new generation now stood at the end of the journey about to receive their home promised by God. But Moses, who knew he was not long for this world, stopped them in order to preach to this new generation, warning, instructing, and reiterating the promises of God to them.

In his book of Deuteronomy, Moses gives his lengthy sermon in which he discusses history, ceremonial laws, civil laws, and God’s holy law of the ten commandments. And in all this discussion and preaching, right in the middle of the entire book of Deuteronomy comes a most intriguing promise: “"The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear.” Who could Moses be talking about? Many today think Moses was simply referring to the prophets who came after him: Elijah, Jeremiah, Hosea, etc. Islam thinks that this passage refers to Mohammed. Yet none of these speculations could be further from the truth. Israel, hearing this promise, perhaps had their memories stirred up to the promise given at the fall into sin, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your seed and her seed…” or the promise given to Abraham, “through your seed all the nations of the world will be blessed.” This prophet to come was more than just a spokesman. In fact, this prophet was like Moses, only better. This Prophet is unique and in a class all of his own. This Prophet was not Moses’ twin. Jesus and Moses weren’t twins. Sure, Moses by God’s glory was great, but Jesus is even greater, being the express image of the Father. Jesus is the greater and final prophet then, and he is not Moses’ twin for many reasons, reasons that spell out your salvation. And so, seeing that Jesus’ glory outshines that of Moses, let us begin our thematic study that Jesus and Moses aren’t twins with prayer

(we pray…)

So, if Moses and Jesus are not twins, that is identical in their work, then what are the differences? These differences are important and crucial distinctions to make, for one stands on Mt. Horeb, the pinnacle of Mt. Sinai, amidst the lightning and the smoke of wrathful and glorious God to mediate with conversation; the other hangs limp on the darkened hill of Mt. Calvary taking the whole wrath of Sinai upon Himself, mediating with loving sacrifice for all people.

So we already we see the key distinction. But let’s continue on to demonstrate the distinction further, beginning with Moses. What was Moses commissioned to do?

Perhaps this quote from our text will give you a glimpse. Israel says to Moses, “Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God, nor let me see this great fire anymore, lest I die.' And the LORD said to Moses: “What they have spoken is good.”

Moses mediatorship is shown here. Israel asked for a mediator in connection with giving the Law. This happened at Horeb, the peak of Sinai, when all Israel was gathered to hear the Ten great Words of the Law, the ten commandments. This is enough to recall the terrifying occurrence. Now all the people of former generation of Israel witnessed the thunderings, the lightning flashes, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood afar off.  Then they said to Moses, "You speak with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die."

They heard the voice and didn’t die, but it was so dreadful that they didn’t want to go through that again. The sheer voice of the terrifying holy God…we can only imagine. Shouting out of what seemed to be a volcano, reverberating over the whole assembly as God uniquely speaks to Israel. The visible fire and lightning from thick black clouds and the huge billowing smoke God showed to them caused fear of sudden death to come upon the Israelites. This is judgment. This had to be revealed to impress upon man God’s hatred for sin and what He can do to it. Man needed to be shown his sins, for if you don’t know what you’re being saved from, then why a Savior. You cannot reach calvary except through Horeb. Still though, Horeb was too much to handle. The Israelites wanted Moses to talk to the powerful being upon the mountain, and the Lord approved the request, for that was the desired result of showing Israel this holy glory. Israel learned that they needed mediation, but far beyond the mediation Moses was capable of furnishing, who could indeed transmit the Law and the regulations connected with the old covenant, but no more than that.

So Moses acted as Mediator, but only to bring God’s holy will to the people. He brought down the ten commands of God upon tablets of stone, and then breaking them out of righteous anger over their sin with the golden calf idol, He did it again. He then brought this law and the laws specific to Israel in Leviticus. He would then go on to lead Israel through the wilderness as presented in the book of Numbers. And throughout this wandering, he would point out their sins, using snakes and chasms in the earth to call them to repentance and lean on their God. So, Moses was a law bringer sent by God to keep Israel focused on the only one that can save them, their Lord. All other Old Testament prophets after Moses did the same thing, reiterating the Law of Moses to keep Israel on track.

So then, Moses was distinguished you could say, but how about Jesus now? Is He the same as Moses, being His twin, or is He more than that. Answering this question may take the answering of some soul-searching questions. First of all, how do you look at Mt. Calvary? Do you look at it like Israel did Mt. Horeb, seeing it as threat rather than a blessing? Don’t look at Calvary thinking: Jesus got it bad and your next, or that Jesus is angry with you because you made Him go through that. That would be detrimental. And how do you look at your faith? Do you look at it like a scared Israelite would toward his obedience in the eyes of almighty God? Don’t think that your faith depends on your forcing fruit lest you be swallowed by the earth like the rebellious sons of Korah or bitten by hundreds of venomous snakes like with the bronze serpent? Don’t stop short by thinking that Jesus and Moses are the same, identical twins; for that would spell nothing for you but despair.

Let us then rather turn to the last two verses of our Gospel reading to see where the key distinction lies. Here’s what multitude did with Jesus after He fed five thousand miraculously: “Then those men, when they had seen the sign that Jesus did, said, "This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world." 15 Therefore when Jesus perceived that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, He departed again to the mountain by Himself alone.”

The people almost understood. Jesus is a prophet, but not Moses’ twin. He wasn’t going to be the earthly leader like Moses was, producing manna and water while overthrowing the Roman government. No, He had better, cross-shaped plans that He must take care of. And so, Jesus and His mission is the promise of the Lord given through the prophet Moses. The Covenant God of grace, and the God of almighty power who owns us has provided for us, sent a Prophet for us. Jesus is certainly a prophet in that He preaches the Words of His Heavenly Father, but He is more than that as well. Whereas Moses preached promises, Christ preaches fulfillment. Moses was also the greatest among prophets in the scope of his work. He was a mediator prophet, God’s special instrument for arranging the whole first covenant in detail with Israel as a nation. Moses led Israel, represented it, he dealt with it as God’s representative, all far more than the standard prophet. And yet, Moses simply prefigures Christ, who is the far greater Mediator of a greater covenant. Christ is from our midst, the midst of mankind, like Moses in that He is a mediator prophet. Christ arranged the covenant of grace. Christ leads us, His Israel. He represents us. He deals with us as God’s representative. He offers the fulfillment to all of Moses’ promises. So, Hear Him! Christ is like Moses in that He is from mankind, and Christ has been given the very words by His Heavenly Father. He, the God-Man, guides us. He teaches us in all things, especially the most important: His Messiaship—His work to save us. It would be natural than to listen to this one. Imagine, all these promises to finally see the fulfillment of them in Jesus!

And so, Jesus is not Moses’ twin. He is much more. Jesus is true man, yes, and yet true God! Unlike Moses who couldn’t take in the face of His Father but had to be hidden in the cleft of the rock, Jesus came from Heaven, having spoken with His Father face to face, and He came with the words of His Heavenly Father to teach you. The Son of God took human flesh to come into this world and preach to you the truth that He has come to save you. No one, not even Moses is like that.

Jesus is much more than Moses, for Moses at the Mountain of God’s anger, Mt. Horeb, said, “Lord, Have Mercy on us!” But Jesus, on the Mountain of God’s Love, Mt. Calvary, said, “Lord, show mercy on them.” Moses appeased God’s wrath to bring down tablets of God’s will, while Jesus endured God’s wrath, checking every box of those tablets of God’s will by keeping the Law of God perfectly for you, and on top that He cancelled your guilt. Moses spoke of promises, and Jesus fulfilled the promises. Jesus then is not a twin to Moses, but supersedes him.

So then, what does this mean for you? We’ll ask again a question that I asked earlier: how do you view Mt. Calvary? Did Jesus get it bad? Yes. But are you next? No. Jesus got it bad, taking upon Himself the abandonment of His Father so that you never will have to. And He revealed this to you, saying in His prophetic promise, “"Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 "For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." Also, is Jesus angry then that you made Him go through that? When Jesus appeared to the disciples in the upper room after the resurrection, did He punch His fist into His hand and say, “you’re next!” No, He said, “Peace be with you.” He went willingly to suffer in your place. And when He did that suffering, He preached like the prophet that He is, not saying, “it’s only partially finished.” No, He said, “It is finished! What prophet could ever declare such perfect salvation in the name of God other than Jesus Christ! And finally, how do you view your faith life? Do you think your motivation comes from the scary thought that Jesus is watching you, threatening you with snakes and earthquakes? Or doesn’t He say, “I am the vine and you are the branches. He who abides in me bears much fruit.” Your faith in Christ will naturally grow as He, Jesus the Prophet, Priest, and King, sends you His Holy Spirit in Word and Sacrament to give you the blessings of forgiveness in Him, salvation, life eternal, and strength to continue in faith and the growth in thanking your God, and your great Prophet, Priest, and King Jesus Christ.

So then, are they twins? Moses served a great purpose, serving as God’s instrument to bring His Law to His people of all time, but this only served to show the people that they have fallen short. And so, to answer the guilt-stricken hearts of man with comfort, Moses simply points to someone greater as he does in our text, “18 `The Lord will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him.” This Prophet is Jesus Christ. He is the Ultimate Prophet, the Son of God who brings us the words directly from His Father to show us that we have been forgiven through Him. As the Father said about Jesus at His baptism and at the Mount of Transfiguration, “Listen to Him!” we with Spirit given faith gladly do so to hear that all has been made well and new in our better Prophet, who’s not Moses’ twin, but rather exceeds Him, filling all in all and being the foundation for our hope, joy, and the eternal life that awaits us.