For all his greatness as the mediator of the old covenant, Moses, even if he wanted to, could not ultimately do what was necessary to effect salvation for God’s people. As a sinner, Moses was unable to render that perfect obedience needed to set men and women right with the Lord (Lev. 18:5; Num. 20:1–13). He was finally able to bring the nation to the edge of Canaan and thus fulfill the promises of God on that front, but he was not able to take them into their full inheritance (Deut. 34).
Knowing that he would not be the one under whom Israel would inherit the earth, Moses looked forward to another prophet to lead the people of God (18:15). Today’s passage informs us that this prophet is none other than the man Christ Jesus (Heb. 3:1–6). But this Jesus is no ordinary man, the author of Hebrews informs us. While he could point to Moses’ faults in order to prove Jesus is superior to him, Hebrews instead looks at the status of Moses as a servant versus the status of Jesus as a son (3:6) — the Son of God coequal to the Father in power and authority.
The author of Hebrews is unafraid to paint Moses as a faithful servant (3:2, 5), for indeed Moses can be accurately described as having lived a life that represented faithfulness to the Lord. Still, Moses was just a servant, and not worthy to receive the honor that a son, as the heir of his father, deserves as leader of the house. Jesus, on the other hand, is the faithful Son, the one who lived a life of utter faithfulness (v. 6; 1 Peter 2:22). As the incarnate God Himself, Jesus directs the church and is worthy to receive worship from the church. Moses, on the other hand, is never more than a member of the church of God. John Calvin comments, “Moses was committed to a doctrine to which he, in common with others, was to submit; but Christ, though he put on the form of a servant, is yet Master and Lord, to whom all ought to be subject.” Hence, Moses looked forward to the coming of the one who would surpass him in honor and glory (John 5:46).
Jews in the first century, who greatly esteemed Moses for the honor God gave him (Num. 12:5–7), found this teaching hard to accept. But Christ is indeed greater than Moses, the One who as the only begotten Son of God has done what Moses could not do and has purchased eternal salvation for His people.