Who is better, Moses or Jesus? The writer of the biblical book Hebrews compares the two and comes down on the side of Jesus. “Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself” (Heb 3:3). Jesus is both the builder of the house and the son of the house, while Moses is only a servant in the house. The implication is that Jesus is God (the builder of everything), and Moses is only a servant.
So I suppose the answer is obvious. Jesus is better than Moses. But do we really live that answer? On the one hand, do you have an academic answer to the question and, on the other hand, an answer we live in our daily lives?
The two men are actually quite similar. Moses was drawn out of water; that’s what his name means. He was drawn out of the Nile River by the daughter of Pharaoh. He was not the actual son of the king, but he was certainly privileged. However, that privileged position came with responsibilities beyond anything you and I would ever encounter. He was stuck between two worlds. He was one of the Hebrews who were enslaved but was also a part of the royal court. Eventually, he was called to bring a whole people out of slavery, no mean task.
Jesus emerged from the Jordan River. At his baptism, it was announced that he was the son of the Father in heaven. He was poor by our standards, but he was still in a privileged position. In a way, he was caught between two worlds. That privileged position came with responsibilities beyond anything we could imagine. He was the Messiah. He was called to bring a whole people out of slavery, no mean task.
The Israelites were baptized into Moses. He led them through the Red Sea. They were delivered from their enemy, the Pharaoh and his 600 charioteers. Moses led them onto dry ground, safe ground, on their way to a promised ground. However, it was not Moses who would lead the Israelites into that promised Land. It was Joshua, “God Saves” (that’s what Joshua’s name means), who would have the privilege of leading Israel into that Promised Land.
Jesus smashed the law in a different way. He took away its power to accuse his people.
Christians are baptized into Christ. Through the water, we are delivered from our enemy, the devil, and his legion of minions. He leads us onto dry ground, safe ground, on our way to a promised ground. And this Joshua (Jesus is the Greek version of Joshua) completes the task that Moses could not complete: our entrance into an eternal Promised Land.
Moses marched up Sinai, and he came back down with law. It was a magnificent scene. The law is magnificent. Laws, in general, have a way of producing awe. They have an aura of gravitas. Something written. Something permanent. Something beyond us. Chiseled in stone or written on hearts, solidified in nature, or molded by great legal minds. We are attracted to them. We love them. Even when we hate them, we love them. Moses was magnificent carrying the tablets of the law down Mt. Sinai.
Jesus marched up Calvary and came down limp. Jesus one-upped Moses. He put down glory for a cross. He did not smash the tablets as Moses did in frustration at his people for not keeping the laws. No, Jesus did something about the problem. He forgave sin. He smashed the law in a different way. He took away its power to accuse his people.
So the writer to the Hebrews lays it out. There really is no comparison at all, is there? Why then does the writer even ask the question? I think it comes down to this: Jesus is the son of the house. He is the one with the deed to the house; he has access to the home, he is the heir to the inheritance. He allows us into the house.
Jesus is greater than Moses. You got the multiple choice correct; everyone does. But why is Jesus greater? Is it simply a matter of Jesus having more glory? Is it just a matter of who came last? Is it a matter of who is sovereign God and who isn’t?
The difference between the academic answer and our lives is this: the gospel. Jesus is finally better because he frees you. And if he truly frees you, then why do you put yourself back under law? You marked down the right answer on the test! You said that Jesus was better than Moses, but in your life, you put yourself and others under laws. You declare with all the frustration of Moses, “They aren’t good enough. They aren’t righteous enough.” You whimper, “I’m not good enough. I’m not righteous enough.” And you are right; on all accounts, you are right. If Moses and his law are greater than Jesus, then we end up with nothing but fits of frustration or sad whimpers of self-pity.
But if Jesus is better than Moses, then everything changes. If Jesus is better than Moses, then the ultimate becomes the penultimate.
Maybe we would blow the whole thing up then? Go ahead. It’s all corrupt. Blow it all up. Just know that whatever you rebuild will be just as flawed because you are not the builder of all. You will never be satisfied with any institution or with any relationship. Every person and every institution will fail to meet your expectations. If Moses and his law are the answer, then you will at some point be so disappointed with yourself and others that you will smash the law into pieces in utter frustration just as Moses did with those tablets of the Ten Commandments. If… if Moses is better than Jesus.
But if Jesus is better than Moses, then everything changes. If Jesus is better than Moses, then the ultimate becomes the penultimate. There really is a promised land after this vale of tears. Not everything depends on this singular moment, event, or institution. If Jesus is better than Moses, then the frustration becomes a cross. God really does use suffering and pain to draw us closer to him. Our suffering has theological meaning beyond simply reminding us that this life is broken. If Jesus is better than Moses, then the person who disappoints you becomes an object of love. If Jesus is better than Moses, then you who disappoint become the redeemed of God. If… if Jesus is truly better than Moses. Well, Jesus > Moses: “Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses” (Heb 3:3).