From Moses to Jesus
Why some people believe God and others don’t.
ECLECTIC is how I would describe my mother’s taste in furniture. Nothing really matched when I was growing up. Furniture was not her thing, but tchotchkes were another story.
A tchotchke (Yiddish) is a trinket, bauble, or what I call a dust collector. My mother liked to display souvenirs from trips and events, and each new excursion produced a new tchotchke. She changed them up regularly, except for one: a ceramic sculpture of Moses receiving the Ten Commandments. That particular item communicated our identity.
We heard about Moses as we gathered around the Seder table every Passover. Moses was God’s spokesperson to Pharaoh, God’s prophet to Israel, and God’s scribe of the Torah. If Moses said it, we knew it was God’s Word.
The New Testament writers agreed with us. They mentioned Moses more than any other prophet. Two passages in particular, Luke 24:27 and John 5:45–46, highlight the Jewish people’s esteem for him. Yet many don’t realize Moses’ words will either accuse us before God or guide us into a personal relationship with Him, depending on whether we have spiritually stony or soft hearts.
Moses the Accuser
Jesus invoked Moses’ name when He upbraided the Jewish leaders who accused Him of blasphemy: “Do not think that I shall accuse you to the Father; there is one who accuses you—Moses, in whom you trust. For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me” (Jn. 5:45–46).
They knew Jesus had healed a paralyzed man on the Sabbath (vv. 9, 15), which they said made Jesus a lawbreaker worthy of punishment (v. 16). And when they heard Jesus say, “My Father has been working until now, and I have been working” (v. 17), they tried to kill Him for “making Himself equal with God” (v. 18).
Judaism considers it blasphemy for a human being to claim divinity. But Jesus’ claim was true. He even satisfied Moses’ requirements.
Moses had stipulated that truth be verified by two or three witnesses (Dt. 17:6; 19:15). Jesus provided three witnesses to verify both His Messiahship and deity:
1. The prophet and Levite John the Baptist (Jn. 5:33)
2. The miracles themselves that He performed (v. 36)
3. The Hebrew Scriptures (v. 39)
The witnesses all corroborated one another. But the Jewish leaders rejected their testimonies anyway because their hearts were hard (v. 42).
Moses commanded, “Love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength” (Dt. 6:5). Instead, these men had hearts of stone (Ezek. 11:19) because the love of God was not in them (Jn. 5:42). If they truly believed Moses, they would have been looking for the one Moses spoke of more than 1,000 years earlier: “The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear” (Dt. 18:15). Scripture is meant to touch the heart, not merely the head.
Moses the Illuminator
When Jesus died, discouragement and disappointment overtook many of His followers. Convinced He was the Messiah, they felt His death meant all hope for Israel was lost.
Three days after the crucifixion, two of Jesus’ followers began the seven-mile trek from Jerusalem to the village of Emmaus. En route they met a stranger who seemed unaware of what had transpired in Jerusalem. So they told him about Jesus, the “Prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people” (Lk. 24:19), whom they hoped would redeem Israel (v. 21); but the chief priests and rulers “delivered Him to be condemned to death, and crucified Him” (v. 20).
They had heard “certain women of our company” (v. 22) had reported the tomb empty and Jesus’ body missing. The women even said angels told them He was alive (v. 23), and they knew others had gone to the tomb “and found it just as the women had said” (v. 24). But the stranger perceived these men did not believe the women. So He taught them from the Hebrew Scriptures:
“O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?” And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself (vv. 25–27).
The stranger, of course, was the risen Lord Jesus, who led the men in the most insightful Messianic Bible study in history. They later declared, “Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?” (v. 32). Jesus used the same Hebrew Scriptures we have today to reveal His identity and mission.
However, unlike the stony-hearted, unbelieving men in John 5, these two Jewish men had tender hearts for God; and as they listened to the words of Moses and the prophets, they came to faith in Jesus.
Because they believed, their hearts were “koshered”—made fit to love God as Moses wrote: “And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live” (Dt. 30:6).
God had circumcised their hearts, and they were changed men. Their plan changed as well. “They rose up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem, . . . saying, ‘The Lord is risen indeed!’” (Lk. 24:33–34). Moses had pointed them to Jesus.
Moses and Michele
Moses pointed my sister Michele to Jesus many years ago. In the late 1950s, our mother took us to see the Hollywood film The Ten Commandments, and the burning-bush scene impacted Michele so strongly that she dreamt God was a raging fire.
Later, in high school, we would talk about what I had learned in Hebrew school. “I learned more about Moses when Steve told me every Jewish person in the whole world had to keep all the laws,” Michele said. “And when they did, all the dead Jews would rise; and we would all live in peace because the Messiah would come. I told Steve, ‘It’s impossible for every single Jewish person to keep every law.’
“Fast forward to age 22. I was hired at a Christian preschool, most likely the only time an unsaved Jewish person was ever brought on to teach at the church. I promised the director I would teach the lessons exactly the way they wanted. One of the earliest lessons was from Luke 9:28–36, when Jesus was transfigured with Moses and Elijah. I knew Moses and Elijah were two of the most important people in our Bible. Just reading the story to the children removed my blinders because I realized Jesus was greater than Moses.”
The Spirit of God took the Word of God and opened my sister’s eyes to recognize that, as great as Moses was, Jesus was greater. Michele believed the book of Hebrews before she ever read it:
Consider . . . Christ Jesus, who was faithful to Him who appointed Him, as Moses also was faithful in all His house. For this One has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as He who built the house has more honor than the house (Heb. 3:1–3).
Jesus “built the house” because He is God. In fact, Jesus is not only the Messiah of Israel, He is the Savior of the world, as is written in the book of Isaiah:
And now the LORD says, who formed Me from the womb to be His Servant, to bring Jacob back to Him, so that Israel is gathered to Him, . . . “It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles, that You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth” (49:5–6).
As with many people whose lives change after receiving Jesus as personal Savior, my sister could not stop talking to others about Him. I am so glad she didn’t because she shared her faith with me, as well; and by His grace, I got saved too. Who would have thought that a Moses tchotchke would mean so much?