“Just like, but even more so.” According to Hebrews 3, that is the logical connection between Jesus and Moses. This logic does not denigrate Moses in the least. Rather, it acknowledges Moses’ unique role in the story of God’s people (and if you thought Moses was something special, wait until you understand who this Jesus actually is!). The role Moses plays in the household (people) of God is embedded in a particular part of the story. Both the role and the narrative setting point us to Jesus.
Jesus is cast as an apostle and high priest of our confession, just like Moses was. Moses was a “sent one,” sent by God to lead and to rescue God’s people. Moses was also the intercessor extraordinaire, the one who represented God to the people and the people to God. Jesus is just like that, but even more so.
Moses had an entirely unique status in the history of God’s people. Hebrews 3 is citing Numbers 12:7, where God describes how prophets usually receive revelation. But here Moses is unique: “Not so with my servant Moses. He is faithful in all My house. With him I speak mouth to mouth, clearly, and not in riddles, and he beholds the form of the Lord.” Moses is entrusted with, or faithful in, all of God’s house, over all the community God has built, rescued, loved, and led. And Jesus is just like that, but even more so.
[Transfiguration digression: If Exodus were a Marvel movie, I would want Moses to walk up into the glory cloud on Mount Sinai and out of the glory cloud on the top of the Mount of Transfiguration to talk to Jesus. Would that not be a fantastic way to capture the truth of how God talked to Moses “face to face” and Moses beheld “the form of Yahweh”?]
Moses has a unique and primary role in God’s house, that of a chief steward or head servant, entrusted with the entire household and honored for the faithful service he renders. Jesus also has a unique and primary role, just like Moses, but even more so. Jesus is the Son over the whole household and honored as Sent One, Intercessor, Heir, and Builder, not just the manager, of God’s House.
Jesus is the Son over the whole household and honored as Sent One, Intercessor, Heir, and Builder, not just the manager, of God’s House.
Moses should receive honor, Jesus even more. Moses should be followed, Jesus even more. Moses should be trusted, Jesus most of all and above all else.
And that is really what this reading boils down to. The setting of Numbers 12 (quoted in Hebrews 3) is a scene where even Aaron and Miriam have failed to honor, follow, or trust Moses. Hebrews 3 will go on to quote Psalm 95:7-11 (“Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts...”), which also refers to the narrative setting of the wilderness wandering in the book of Numbers. We should expect the audience of the book of Hebrews not only to know Moses is uniquely important in the history of God’s people, but to have a clear sense that you do and should honor, follow, and trust Moses in a unique and preeminent way, or risk no longer being part of God’s people.
And here is the whole point of these verses: Jesus is like that, but even more so.
Like the people wandering in the wilderness, we have the empirical evidence of our own day to day experience that wars against the promise we have received and now confess (by “confess” I mean to same-say, agree with, commit to). Wandering in the desert can be hazardous to your spiritual health. Recurring grumbling and a loss of faith are common side effects.
Wandering in the desert can be hazardous to your spiritual health. Recurring grumbling and a loss of faith are common side effects.
That all-too-familiar story of unfaith in the wilderness is exactly why Hebrews 3 points us to Jesus. If Moses was faithful, and people could have/should have trusted what Moses said and did and believed the promises Moses spoke on behalf of God and been confident in the hope Moses gave, then how much more should we, who have now received promises and hope not only from the preeminent servant, but from Jesus the preeminent Son, how much more can we trust and hope and honor and follow? Jesus is just like Moses, only more so.
This pericope begins by calling us holy members of the family of God. We are those who share in a calling which comes directly from Heaven, those who have received and now same-say Jesus as the faithful sent one and intercessor (3:1). It ends by calling us the household of God, under the leadership of Christ, the Son, and encouraging us to hold fast to the confidence and hope we have in Jesus.
That status of membership in God’s family is not in doubt. Yet, when you are wandering in the wilderness, your confidence and hope can start to slip. We could have/should have listened to Moses. And now someone greater than Moses is here. Hebrews 3:1-6 is an invitation to take all of the confidence, trust, and willingness to follow, which Moses should have received in the desert, and to give it now to Jesus. In our own wandering experience, Jesus is just like Moses, only more so.
Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in Hebrews 3:1-6.
Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach Hebrews 3:1-6.