“Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself. Moses was faithful as a servant in all God’s house, testifying to what would be said in the future. But Christ is faithful as a son over God’s house.” – Hebrews 3:3, 5-6a
This passage of Scripture was part of the text for my sermon last week, and there is a powerful message in this. To get there, it’s important to ask a question. Why did the author of Hebrews find it important to mention the fact that Jesus was greater than Moses? Certainly part of it has to do with the fact that in this book Jesus is elevated to a place above people and angels in an attempt to show His superiority. In the first chapter we have the prophets, which would have included Moses, and the angels, who were superior beings to humans in the Old Testament. So why this?
To discover the message, it’s important to remember who Moses was. Moses was the man who was chosen by God to lead the people out of Egypt. From his hand came many, many miracles, displaying the power and delight of God on his life. When Aaron and Miriam said he should share his leadership, and spoke of him as a selfish leader, God Himself came down and defended Moses, telling them that Moses had been chosen by God, not the other way around. Moses didn’t do what he did because he wanted to, which is evidenced in the burning bush experience. Instead, he followed the will of God, being faithful “in all God’s house.” God had called Moses to be a servant. Moses was faithful in that calling.
In addition to this, it was Moses who gave the law to the Israelites, teaching them to obey God, and what it meant to serve Him. It was Moses who wrote more of the Bible than anyone else, including the Apostle Paul. To the Israelites, Moses was a hero, a leader, and someone with an intimate relationship with God. He communed with God in ways no one else had the opportunity to do.
But why not Abraham, the friend of God? Or what about David, the man after God’s own heart? Why Moses? The answer, I believe, can be answered in what John Maxwell calls “The Law of the Lid.” In his book “The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership” Maxwell states that the Law of the Lid is this; “Leadership Ability Determines a Peron’s Level of Effectiveness.” What this law states is that a leader will only be able to lead others to his own level in any particular category. In other words, I am a pastor, and as such, I can only lead my people to my level of spirituality. I can’t lead them closer to God than I am. They may be able to get there, but not because of my leadership.
If you take this idea to the passage about Moses and Jesus, we see that the distinction the author makes between the two has nothing to do with whether one or the other was called by God. They were both doing as they were supposed to do. Moses was faithful in “God’s house.” Jesus was faithful as an “Apostle.” He was sent by God. It also has nothing to do with whether they were faithful. The author states the faithfulness of both. The difference is that Moses was faithful as a servant, while Jesus was faithful as a Son.
If you apply The Law of the Lid, you see that Moses could only teach the people to be the servants of God. Certainly he did this, faithfully and with great patience and diligence. He gave the law, led by example, and showed true love and compassion. He encouraged the people to follow after God. However, he was still only a servant of God, and that was the highest level he could lead the people. Under his leadership, the people would never be more than servants of God.
Jesus, however, came as a faithful Son over the house of God. When He came, it was with the intention of teaching us to not be servants of God, but to be sons and daughters. Certainly some of the aspects of servant hood still apply. We are called to be obedient, but now it is out of love, not duty. Jesus taught us to call God our Father, and to pray in that sense. His death was for the purpose of making us part of His family.
So the important distinction between the two is in where they can take us. Many of the Hebrews were considering going back to the ways of the Old Testament, and the author of Hebrews is telling them that is only so good. Those who continue to follow the legalistic patterns set forth by the Pharisees of Jesus’ day only prove that those who follow Moses will only ever know God as a master, and never as a Father. Jesus came to lead us to a higher level, and the highest of servants is sill nothing compared to the lowest of children. The law has its place; of that there can be no doubt. But the law can only take us so far; it can only teach us to be servants of God. If we want to learn what it means to be a son or daughter of God, we must follow the pattern of Christ, becoming His disciple, and learning through His example what it means to be part of God’s family.