A sermon preached on
The Eleventh Sunday After Trinity (The Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost)
at The Anglican Church of St. Thomas the Apostle, Kefalas, Crete,
August 23, 2020 11:00 am.
The texts we read in St Thomas’s were Exodus 1:8-2:10, Psalm 124, and Matthew 16:13-20.
When the child grew up, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and she took him as her son. She named him Moses, “because,” she said, “I drew him out of the water.” Exodus 2:10
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Matthew 16:16
Do we have any dual citizens here?
Moses was a dual citizen, as it were, being born a Hebrew and raised by his mother, yet adopted by a princess of Egypt and raised as an Egyptian.
Who is Moses For Us?
Moses is a forerunner of Jesus, a prefiguring of what Jesus is and will be, and never so much as in this Gospel according to Matthew. Jesus is the new Moses.
Here are some things they have in common.
- Both were persecuted as infants, Moses by Pharaoh and Jesus by Herod the Great.
- Both delivered their people, Moses by leading the children of Israel out of Egypt, Jesus by liberating them from the bondage of sin and death.
- The number five is significant. Moses had the five books of the Torah – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Conservative rabbinical writings suggest that they were written by Moses — which would be a neat trick, as it also describes Moses’s death and burial — but they are known, among other things, as The Books of Moses. Now, in The Gospel according to Matthew Jesus gives five discourses; they do not have a 1:1 correspondence with the five Books of Moses, but the number is suggestive. The discourses are:
- The Sermon on the Mount in Chapters 5-7
- The Missionary Discourse in Chapter 10
- The Parables, in Chapter 13, from which we have been reading these past few weeks
- The Discourse about the Church, in Matthew 18
- The Discourse about the End Times in 24, 25, & 26, given on the Mount of Olives in the last week of his earthly life.
- Moses gives the Law, but Jesus fulfills the Torah and the Prophets, and creates a higher standard of righteousness. In the Sermon on the Mount he says six times, ““You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times” and then he quotes Moses, and then says,” but I say to you . . .” and gives a standard of higher righteousness. For example:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.” Matthew 5:38-42
- The Passover is initiated by Moses, the Christian Passover of the Last Supper is initiated by Jesus.
- Moses feeds the Children of Israel with manna in the desert, Jesus feeds us with the bread of heaven – his own body.
- Moses has a dual nature, being brought up both Egyptian and Hebrew, high and princely and low and enslaved. Jesus has a paradoxical dual nature, being both human and divine, both Lord and servant, wholly other and completely like us.
I could go on, to talk about how both were prophets, how both were mediators between God and humans, and how the cross was prefigured by that weird story about the serpent on a raised stick, as the Gospel of John asserts. But you get the idea. History, it is said, does not repeat, but it does rhyme. I think it can also be said that biblical themes rhyme and echo as well, and none more strongly than with Moses and Jesus.
How does it rhyme with us now? How does Moses and Jesus relate to us?
Who Is Jesus For Us?
The big question for us is this: “Who do you say that I am?”
When we went through the visioning exercise last Advent I asked this question – who is Jesus for you, and the responses were:
- miracle worker
- firstborn of creation
- made flesh
- an historical figure
- rod of Jesse
- a rebel put to death
- an icon
- an indigenous man put to death by a colonizing empire
- divinely inspired man
- the suffering servant
- Word of God
May you find in Jesus the Saviour you need, someone who exceeds all definitions and ascriptions, yet is as knowable as the person next to you.
May you know him, as he knows you, and be transformed.
“Who do you say that I am?” Earlier this year I read a book: JESUS, THE TEACHER WITHIN written by Laurence Freeman (2000).