Story of the New Testament - Lesson 4
By Curt Niccum
Jesus in Matthew: The Prophet like Moses
Background Information for the Teacher
- The student can explain why Jesus was and needed to be the Prophet like Moses.
- The student can appreciate how Matthew tells the story of Jesus and be able to identify particular ways by which Matthew proves that Jesus is the Prophet like Moses.
- The student can recognize that, although Matthew emphasizes Jesus' role as the Prophet like Moses, for Matthew Jesus is much more, he is the presence of God among His people.
- Each student will need to have a complete Bible.
- You may want to use the handout (provided below).
Around the time of Jesus' birth, Jews had great expectations that God would send a redeemer, usually called "Messiah," who would restore Israel to its proper relationship with God. A number of Old Testament passages contributed to this Messianic expectation, and the New Testament writers show how Jesus fulfilled them. Matthew addresses a number of these, but the prophecy about a Prophet like Moses, found in Deuteronomy 18, appears to be his primary text for telling the story of Jesus in his Gospel.
Lesson Plan for Conducting the Class
Introduction: (15 minutes)
- Organizational matters (taking roll, etc.)
- Evaluation of previous lesson: Quiz the students over the seven signs in John and have them recite John 20:30-31 from memory.
- Prayer and/or song: The song "Break Thou the Bread of Life" or "Thy Word" would be appropriate to the theme. Prayer topics could include thanksgiving for the sending of Jesus and appreciation for the fact that the gospel message is for all who listen to and heed Jesus, the Prophet like Moses.
- Read Matthew 17:1-17 and ask the students which Old Testament character they decided comes closest to having the same experiences as Jesus? The answer, of course, is Moses. If nobody offers the correct answer, provide hints. If a student has the correct answer, then spend some time pointing out the various parallels: going up on a high mountain, having the glory of God revealed, coming down from a mountain to faithless people, repeating the language of God and Moses (See Numbers 14:26 and Deuteronomy 1:35 and 32:5.)
Learning Experiences: (about 25 minutes)
- It is important to provide the historical background before addressing Matthew's portrayal of Jesus, otherwise the importance of what Matthew does may not be fully appreciated.
- Did you know that Jesus was not the only one who claimed to be the Messiah? Many men proclaimed themselves Messiah around the lifetime of Jesus. We read about some of them in the New Testament. Judas of Galilee and Theudas are mentioned in Acts 5:36-37, an Egyptian pretender gets discussed in Acts 21:38, and it is likely that Barabbas, the man whom Pilate released instead of Jesus, also promoted himself to be the Anointed One. Other historical works dealing with this time period mention many others.
- Why did so many people claim to be Messiah? Jesus lived during a time of high Messianic expectation, a time when people believed that God would send particular people to restore Israel to its proper place. (Although Israel had returned from the Babylonian exile, it had remained a puppet government for most of the intervening time; first of the Persians, then the Greeks, then the Egyptians, then the Syrians, and, in Jesus' day, the Romans.) The Jews believed that God was going to redeem them at any moment. This idea was reinforced by past events (i.e, the successful Maccabean revolt), contemporary interpretation of many Old Testament prophecies (i.e., Daniel), and some horrible Roman officials (i.e., kings like Archelaeus and governors like Pilate). Some claimed to be Messiah because they were deceitful and could make easy money. Some claimed to be Messiah thinking that God would support them once they made that leap of faith.
- With so many people claiming to be Messiah, people looked to scripture to find out who was or would be the true Messiah. One of these passages is Deuteronomy 18:18-19. Although Matthew knows other Messianic prophecies, this one takes on particular importance.
- Read Deut. 18:18-19 and then ask the students to reflect on that passage and their assignment the last week. Q: With that information, why do you think Matthew draws out the parallels between Jesus and Moses? A: To convince people that Jesus is the true Messiah.
- Matthew highlights the parallels between Jesus and Moses throughout his Gospel. (You can either draw the parallels yourself or have the students identify the events in Moses' life to which Matthew connects Jesus' life. Depending on time constraints, you can pick and choose from the following.)
- Matthew 2:16=Exodus 1:22. A foreign king orders all young male children killed out of fear.
- Matthew 2:19-21=Exodus 4:19-20. This is relates to the above, but note that the phrase "those seeking" (plural) does not make much sense with Herod as the subject. Probably Matthew is retaining the language of Exodus to make the parallel clearer.
- Attention could also be drawn to Mathew 2:15. Although not specifically tying Jesus to Moses, this does connect him with the rescue of Israel from Egypt accomplished by God through Moses (see Hosea 11:1). This would also provide an interesting lesson in how Jesus fulfills scripture, for Hosea is not prophesying about Jesus at all. Instead, Matthew sees Jesus as the embodiment of true Israel. What Israel failed to do as God's "son" in the wilderness, Jesus successfully completes for Israel (and others) as God's "Son." Thus Jesus will rescue God's people from bondage, but the bondage of sin this time rather than that of Egypt (see Matthew 1:21).
- Matthew 5-7=Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5-30. Jesus, like Moses, goes up on a high mountain. Instead of receiving the Law, Jesus correctly expounds it (note Matthew 5:17-18 and 7:12).
- Just as there are five books of Moses, there are five speeches of Jesus.
- Each speech ends with the phrase "and it happened when Jesus finished," usually associated with "these words" or "these parables." After the last speech, Jesus finishes "all these words" indicating the completeness of Jesus' teaching. (See Matthew 7:28; 11:1; 13:53; 19:1; and 26:1.)
- This repetitive phrase is modeled after a similar phrase that occurs in Deuteronomy 31:1, 24; and 32:45.
- Jesus miraculously feeds the Jews in the wilderness and crosses bodies of water (Matthew 14:15-33), two miracles associated with Moses (Exodus 14:21-25 and 16:4)
- Matthew 17:1-17= Exodus 19:16-20 and 32:17-20. (Discussed above.)
- Matthew 26:28=Exodus 24:8. Jesus establishes a new covenant made with blood at a dinner (the Passover meal) that celebrated God's deliverance of His people from slavery.
- Matthew 2:16=Exodus 1:22. A foreign king orders all young male children killed out of fear.
- Matthew clearly shows us that Jesus is the Prophet like Moses. Although that theme is strong throughout the first Gospel, Matthew does not view Jesus solely in those terms. Jesus is much, much more. He is the presence of God with His people.
- Just as the Sermon on the Mount is framed with statements about the Law and the Prophets, as indicators of what the Sermon is about, Matthew does the same thing with his book. In Matthew 1:23 we read that Jesus will be called Immanuel. Q: Immanuel is Hebrew, and means what? A: God with us. Now read Matthew 28:18-20. Q: Do the last words sound familiar? For Matthew, Jesus is more than just the Prophet like Moses, more than just the Messiah. Jesus is "God with us."
- Note that Matthew does not tell about Jesus' ascension. He is certainly writing to people who knew about it. Q: Why might Matthew have omitted it? A: Because Jesus is still with us. The ascension into heaven is not the end of the story. Jesus still remains with his church (see also Matthew 18:20).
Applications: (about 5 minutes)
- Remind the students of what was learned from the previous lesson. If all four gospels were combined together, we might not see Jesus as the Prophet like Moses as clearly. It is important to let God speak to us through each individual Gospel.
- Read Acts 3:22-26. Underline the importance Jesus' identification as the Prophet like Moses has for us. Membership in God's people depends upon "listening" to the Prophet like Moses. If they don't heed that Prophet, they will be cut off from the people. In Peter's speech, Peter makes the claim that if citizenship in God's kingdom is based on listening to the Prophet, then gentiles (made explicit with "all the families of the earth," verse 25, and implicit with "first, verse 26") also have the possibility of gaining citizenship if they "listen" (see also Acts 28:28). We are included in God's kingdom precisely because Jesus was sent as the Prophet like Moses. Our citizenship also depends upon whether we "listen" (=obey) or not (Matthew 28:20).
- Reinforce the lesson by having the students repeat or answer that "Jesus is the Prophet like Moses in Matthew, but especially he is God with us."
Assignment: (about 1 minute)
For the next meeting, have the students read Psalm 2 and be prepared to discuss how Jesus fulfills the prophecy.
Evaluation: (next class meeting)
Have the students look for ways they "listen" to Jesus in the coming week.
Dale C. Allison, Jr. The New Moses: A Matthean Typology. Minneapolis: Fortress, 1993.
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