Hebrews 3:1-6 (Transfiguration of Our Lord—Series C)
“Greater Than Moses”
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT
February 7, 2016
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Our text is the Epistle lesson, from Hebrews 3:
1Consequently, holy brothers, partakers of a heavenly calling, take a close look at the apostle and high priest of our confession, Jesus, 2who is faithful to the one who appointed Him, as Moses was also in all of His house. 3For this one has been considered worthy of more glory than Moses, as much more as the builder of the house has more honor than the house itself. 4For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God. 5And Moses, on the one hand, was faithful in all of His house as an attendant for the purpose of being a testimony of the things that will be spoken. 6But Christ [is faithful] as a son over His house; we are that house, if only we should hold fast the confidence and the boasting of hope.
There can be little doubt about who the greatest Old Testament example of a faithful leader would be—Moses. The Book of Deuteronomy concludes, as we heard in the Old Testament lesson this morning, “And there has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face, none like him for all the signs and the wonders that the LORD sent him to do in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to all his land, and for all the mighty power and all the great deeds of terror that Moses did in the sight of all Israel” (Deut. 34:10-12 ESV). Moses was faithful in all his house as an attendant, as one rendering service to the household. God acknowledged Moses as chief steward over His household, the people of Israel, the family of God. Numbers 12, “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” (Num. 12:7-8 ESV). But as great as Moses was, there is someone greater—a greater Moses who is faithful over the whole household of God, all believers in the one greater than Moses, Jesus the Son of God.
Moses was the faithful apostle and high priest to God’s Old Testament family of Israel. An “apostle” is one who is sent with an official charge and an official responsibility representing the one who sent him. Think, perhaps, in terms of an ambassador today. An ambassador speaks officially on behalf of the President of the United States and is received as if he or she is the President because the ambassador that special authorization. So Moses was faithful as God’s ambassador to Israel. He loyally discharged the commission with which he was entrusted. What’s more, Moses also served a high priestly function for the people of Israel. While Aaron, his brother, was the high priest of Israel as far as title and investiture are concerned, it was Moses who was Israel’s true advocate with God. He was the people’s most effective intercessor and mediator. For example, after the golden calf incident, in which Aaron himself was involved, it was Moses who prayed and went before God seeking pardon for his guilty people.
Oh that we would have someone like Moses who would be faithful over all of God’s house! Oh that we would have someone like Moses who would speak for God as His official representative and who would intercede for us on our behalf seeking pardon for our sins! The writer of Hebrews says that we do! “Take a close look at the apostle and high priest of our confession, Jesus, who is faithful to the One who appointed Him as Moses was faithful in all of his house.”
Jesus was appointed as an “apostle,” one sent by God as His official envoy, not just to the house of Israel, but to all of God’s household throughout the world. “The builder of all things is God.” All people are God’s creation and are precious to Him, so much so, that He desires that all people be saved from sin, death, and the power of the devil.
It is sin that sets us outside of God’s household by separating us from Him. Our desire is to serve ourselves and not God; to serve ourselves and not the household of God. Self-service is not being faithful over the things that God placed us in charge of on His behalf. Self-service is just that, taking care of yourself before others; loving yourself more than others. And that is not what God demands of us. He said through Moses, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (Deut. 6:5 ESV). According to our sinful nature, we desire to love ourselves with all our heart, soul, and might. God also said, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev. 19:18 ESV). We fall very short there, too. We are very good at self-love, but not very good at loving others, putting them ahead of ourselves.
Hear the word of the Lord written by St. Paul in Romans 12:
“For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. . . . Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. . . . Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:3-21 ESV).
Are you faithful in all of this? Have you done these things perfectly? Do you always love the Lord with your whole self and love your neighbor as yourself? We all stand guilty as charged. And Moses is of no use to us. “The law was given through Moses” (Jn. 1:17 ESV). The law accuses us and shows that we have fallen so far short of God’s holy commands that we indeed deserve His punishment, His eternal wrath and condemnation. The law is powerless to change this; it cannot save us. As faithful as Moses was over the household of Israel, he cannot intercede for us. He cannot save us because he is only a household servant, part of the family himself. So then, take a close look at the apostle and high priest of our confession—Jesus, the Son of God.
Jesus is marked out as being both God’s representative among human beings and their representative in the presence of God. And Jesus has proved Himself faithful. He fulfilled the charge given to Him by the Father. He preached the good news of the kingdom of God (Luke 4:43). In fulfillment of the Old Testament Scriptures, “the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have the good news preached to them” (Luke 7:22 ESV). In His high priestly prayer on the night in which he was betrayed, Jesus prayed, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed” (Jn. 17:1-5 ESV).
And that glorification took place, not in the brilliance on the Mount of Transfiguration, but in the cosmic darkness at Mount Calvary. It was there, nailed to a cross, that Jesus the Son, completed His work of salvation. As our great High Priest, Jesus offered the once-for-all sacrifice for our sins and the sins of the world—Himself. He suffered, bled, and died to win forgiveness for our failure to love God with our whole heart, mind and strength; for our failure to love our neighbors as ourselves. He demonstrated to us the opposite of self-love in the self-sacrifice of Himself, considering you more important than Himself, even though He is God and Lord, your Creator.
Jesus gave you His everything—His life into death—demonstrating the length and height and depth of God’s great love and grace for you. In Christ, through the waters of Baptism, we become God’s house over which Jesus is faithful. All who believe in Jesus as Lord and Savior are God’s family in the Son, forgiven and redeemed by Christ the crucified. With Jesus the Son, you and I become heirs of the Father’s blessings—rescue from death and the devil, life and salvation. This becomes our confidence and our hope in which we boast because one greater than Moses has saved us from sin and death.
This is especially of importance as we are on the doorstep of the holy season of Lent. Jesus on the mountain peak spoke with Moses and Elijah about His exodus, which would take place in Jerusalem at the cross. There, like Moses before Him, Jesus would sacrifice the Passover Lamb and shed its blood. This time, that Lamb would be Jesus, the Son Himself. The doorposts would be the wooden arms of a cross. By that sacrifice, Jesus would lead the household of God out of slavery to sin and death once and for all, bringing all believers in Him into the promised land of eternal life in the house of God, our heavenly home in a new creation for His family in Christ.
So we give thanks to God for His faithful servant Moses. We praise the Lord that Moses’ life of service foreshadowed and pointed us ahead to the life of service of the greater Moses, Jesus Christ, the Son of God. We give God all thanks and praise, glory and honor for His Son whose death has won the forgiveness of our sins, making us His children, heirs of salvation and life forever in the eternal home of God. During the season of Lent to come, as Christ’s family, hold fast the confidence and the boasting of hope that is yours in Jesus, His one-of-a-kind Son, our Lord, our Savior. Amen.