By Weylan Deaver
Fourteen centuries before Jesus was born, Moses told the Israelites, “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen” (Deut. 18:15, ESV). After the church was established (Acts 2), Peter hearkened back to the prophecy of Deuteronomy and identified the prophet when he said, “Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you’…God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness” (Acts 3:22,26). Indeed, Jesus and Moses bear many striking similarities.
Both were Jews. Moses was a descendent of Levi (Exod. 2:1) through whom God delivered the Old Testament law. Jesus was a descendent of Judah (Rev. 5:5) who was born under that law (Gal. 4:4).
Both escaped death in infancy. In Moses’ time, the wicked Pharaoh (likely Thutmosis I) ordered all newborn baby boys to be thrown into the Nile River to drown (Exod. 1:22). In God’s providence, the baby Moses was rescued from such a fate. After Jesus was born in Bethlehem, Herod—perceiving a future threat to his power—commanded the murder of all boys two years old and under in the vicinity of Bethlehem (Matt. 2:16). Yet, the young Jesus was kept safe.
Both were deliverers. Moses delivered the Israelites out of Egyptian slavery (Exod. 3:10). Jesus delivered spiritual Israel (Rom. 2:28-29; Gal. 3:29) from the slavery of sin (Matt. 1:21).
Both knew God face to face. Among all the Old Testament prophets, Moses was uniquely near to God so that the Lord spoke to him as a friend, face to face (Exod. 33:11; Deut. 34:10). Of course, Jesus knew God on a level far superior to that, being himself God’s only begotten Son (John 1:18).
Both were prophets. A prophet was one who spoke on behalf of God. God sent Moses to Pharaoh with the promise that he would be with Moses’ mouth and teach him what to do (Exod. 4:15). Later, Jesus would repeatedly stake the claim that he was only teaching what he had received from his Father (John 8:26). So, the words of Moses and Jesus both originated with God.
Both were law givers. The law that God gave at Mt. Sinai after the Exodus was given through Moses (John 1:17). It was Moses who furnished the Lord with tablets of stone on which were written the divine commandments. Christ fulfilled all the Old Law (Matt. 5:17), nailed it to the cross (Col. 2:14), and inaugurated a New Covenant (Matt. 26:28), which is also called the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:2).
Both worked miracles. By divine power, Moses turned the Nile into blood, initiated the other plagues, parted the Red Sea, and brought water from a rock at Kadesh. Jesus performed so many miracles that John reminisced—should they be all written down—they would fill too many volumes for the world to hold (John 21:25).
Both were mediators. Moses stood between Israel and the Lord to declare God’s word (Deut. 5:5). Moses mediated for Israel after the golden calf fiasco (Exod. 32) and saved thousands of lives. Now Jesus is mediator of a better covenant (Heb. 8:6). Paul wrote, “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5).
Both suffered disrespect. Several men launched a rebellion against Moses’ authority, which the Lord put down most effectively (Num. 16). Jesus—in spite of his miracles—was still not believed (John 12:37). “And Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household’” (Mark 6:4).
Both had family who temporarily failed them. Even Moses’ brother and sister, Aaron and Miriam, complained against him (Num. 12:1). Jesus had several brothers and sisters who—at least initially—rejected his claims (John 7:5).
Both were present at the Transfiguration. This event is recorded in Matthew 17. Though their earthly lives were separated by centuries, for a brief moment they were in each other’s presence: Moses with the prophet he foretold, and Jesus with the prophet who had written about him (John 5:46).
Both were baptized. Though we may not picture the Red Sea crossing as a baptism, the New Testament does. “For I want you to know, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea” (1 Cor. 10:1-2). Jesus was baptized by John in the Jordan River to fulfill all righteousness (Matt. 3:13-17).
Both prepared men to carry on their work. Moses readied Joshua to assume the mantle of leadership (Deut. 34:9). Jesus groomed a handpicked cadre of men whom he would send into all the world to preach the gospel (Mark 16:15).
Though their similarities run deep, God made clear who it is we are to obey when he made an announcement to the mountaintop gathering of Jesus, Moses, Elijah, Peter, James and John. “He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him’” (Matt. 17:5).