Moses and Jesus – a Life Comparison

Church of St. Anne - Transfiguration
The internal painting of the church of St. Anne, an illustration of the Transfiguration. The author – Ivan Protsiv.

Moses and Jesus’ lives are linked from the very start. Their stories both begin with the death of innocent children. In each case, Satan sensed that someone of importance was coming and inspired the leaders of the nation to execute small children to thwart the plan of God.

With Moses, Pharaoh ordered that the Hebrew newborn males should be thrown into the Nile River. Moses mother, Jocabed, while obedient to the letter of the law fashioned a basket and placed the child inside.  Moses floated on the Nile until he was saved by none other than the daughter of the Pharaoh!

With Jesus, King Herod sought to find and destroy the newborn King of the Jews. So he ordered every newborn child under the age of two killed. St. Joseph was warned in a dream to flee to Egypt and the Holy Family escaped.

When the Holy Family escaped to Egypt they passed through the tribal lands of Simeon, which means “God heard”.  This is a reminder of what God said to Moses at the burning bush.  If you adapt it to Jesus, it is apparent that the mandate was the same.

I have seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt (sin), and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters(Satan); I (Jesus) know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them up out of the land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey (heaven).[1]

Just the Living God spoke in a burning bush before the start of Moses’ public ministry, so Jesus heard the words of the Father at His Baptism.  Jesus was led out into the desert for 40 days paralleling the forty years that Moses led the Hebrews in the desert.  At the end of the forty years, Moses instructed the Hebrews on what lessons they should have learned from that time. Jesus successfully defeated Satan in the desert by quoting from Moses’ instructions.

In another parallel, Moses’ first plague was to turn the Nile’s water into blood.  Jesus’ first miracle was to turn the water in wine. Jesus too performed many miracles, signs and wonders before the people and the unbelieving religious authorities of the day.  The hearts of the religious authorities just grew harder and harder like Pharaoh’s.

At the Transfiguration, Moses and Elijah spoke to Jesus about the exodus Jesus was to accomplish in Jerusalem. [2] This emphasized that everything Jesus had accomplished up to this point was leading toward His people’s deliverance from their slavery to sin. Before the exodus from Egypt could begin, there first had to be the Passover.

During the last plague of Egypt the angel of death killed the first-born of every Egyptian family.  The Hebrew families sacrificed the Passover lamb in the place of their first-born. They placed its blood on the wooden lintels of their doorposts.  They then ate the body of the lamb to participate in its death.

This foreshadowed both the Last Supper and the Passion of Christ.  He ordered His disciples to eat the bread and drink the wine after transforming it into His Body and Blood. He became the Passover Lamb. In this way, they participated in His death.  The first-born of the family of God really did die and His blood spilled on the wooden beams of the cross, the doorway of our salvation.

[1] Ex. 3:7b-8a

[2] Luke 9:31


Shepherds of the Passover Lambs

stained glass widow of nativity

Every year at Passover, Jews from all over the world would come to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover.  They needed to have a lamb without blemish approved by the priests for their Passover feast.  Rather than cart a lamb that long distance they would buy lambs for the Passover that were raised locally for that very purpose.

The shepherds would graze their flocks on the fields near Bethlehem which is about 5 miles due south of Jerusalem.  It was to these shepherds of the Passover lambs that the angels brought tidings of Christ’s birth and proclaimed “Glory to God in the Highest”. It is fitting as Jesus, the Lamb of God, would become the ultimate Passover sacrifice.

Some of these exact same shepherds would see Jesus again thirty three years later.  It was on our Palm Sunday before their Passover that the shepherds drove their flocks into Jerusalem to be inspected by the priests.  Jesus entered by the same gate. I wonder if any of those original shepherds thought of that night as they heard the people shout, “Hosanna!”

Those shepherds who had already died followed behind Jesus, the Good Shepherd, as He entered heaven triumphantly. Behind him were those He had ransomed.  They heard those same angels saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!”

In the Orthodox churches and the Byzantine rite, they often have icons in a set of three called triptychs.  I’ve thought of these three images as God’s triptych.  All three images have some of the same characters, there is rejoicing and praise in all three, and they center around Jesus and lambs.  This mental triptych is worth pondering.

For more background on this I recommend Frances Hogan’s series on the gospel of Luke, her second half of Gospel of John,  also “Behold the Lamb” by Scott Hahn.  Jeff Cavins in his Bible timeline does a wonderful job of tying all the old Testament stories about lambs to Jesus.  Dr. Brant Pitre also has a wonderful book on the Jewish rites and Jesus.


Related scriptures:  Luke 2:8-20, John 12:13, Rev. 5:12