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Not Since Moses

With today's reading from the Book of Deuteronomy, we come to the end of the Torah (Pentateuch). The verses we read today tell us of Moses' last conversation with God, of his death and burial, and of the orderly transfer of authority to Joshua, son of Nun. The Torah ends with these words:

Since then no prophet has arisen in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face, in all the signs and wonders the LORD sent him to perform in the land of Egypt against Pharaoh and all his servants and against all his land, and all the great might and the awesome power that Moses displayed in the sight of all Israel. (Deuteronomy 34:10-12)

Of course the evangelists knew the Torah as well as any Jew at the time of Jesus. Tasked with the daunting responsibility of committing the Gospel in written form, they knew that somehow Jesus had to outshine Moses. Was this possible considering the awesome regard in which Moses was held? St. Matthew takes on this responsibility with particular sensitivity. In his retelling of the life of Jesus and his ministry, teaching, passion, death and resurrection, St. Matthew portrays Jesus as the new Moses. From the very first pages of the Gospel, Jesus is set alongside the towering figure of Moses. Just as Moses came out of Israel to save the Israelites, Jesus also comes out of Israel after being exiled there by Herod's treachery. Just as Moses gave Israel God's Law from the top of Mt. Sinai, Jesus teaches about the Law in his Sermon on the Mount. Just as Moses passed on his authority to Joshua, Jesus passes on the power to bind and loose to Peter. Just as Moses interceded for the Israelite people with God and sought to assuage God's anger at their sin of idolatry, Jesus steps in and saves us from our own sin by offering himself as a sacrificial lamb. Just as Moses gave the Israelites a memorial of their covenant with God in the Passover supper, Jesus gives us a memorial of our covenant in the eating of his body and the drinking of his blood.

With his skillful portrayal of Jesus as the new Moses, St. Matthew gives us the exception to the last verses of Deuteronomy. Since Moses, there has been one man, one prophet who arose out of Israel as his rival. Jesus, the Son of God and Mary, has replaced the Old Covenant with the New.

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