Jesus is not only the true and better Moses; he is also the true and better rock of Moses. It was, of course, quite common to describe God as a “rock,” as we see from Moses’ own context:
“The Rock, his work is perfect,
for all his ways are justice.
A God of faithfulness and without iniquity,
just and upright is he. (Deuteronomy 32:4)
This same imagery would later be adopted by men like David, who proclaimed that “The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold” (Psalm 18:2).
So it’s only fitting that Jesus would be described in terms that rang similar to those of the Old Testament:
For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, 2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3 and all ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. (1 Corinthians 10:1-4)
What is Paul saying here? Paul was, of course, addressing a people who had made an idol out of their ethnic heritage and religious tradition. Israel could look back on their history and celebrate what God had done for their ancestors, but Paul reminds them that these things mean absolutely nothing apart from the Person to whom they point. If Jesus is the true Rock, then the gospel challenges us to relinquish our trust on the unstable idols we cling to—even if that means letting go of our religious reputations. The cross represents a new exodus, a new deliverance, not merely from the realm of political captivity but also the realm of sin and self and the subtle tyranny of the familiar.
Social scientist Peter Berger once wrote that the “demand to follow this figure of the crucified one…calls us to an exodus, not only out of Egypt of social mythology but also out of the Zion of religious security. The exodus takes us out of our holy city, out past the scene of cross and resurrection, and beyond the desert in which God is waiting. In this desert, all horizons are open.”
Moses struck the rock and water flowed from its side. So too, was Jesus struck in the side by the soldier’s spear, and while observing the cross John watched as blood and water flowed down (John 19:34). He is indeed the true Rock, from whom we find sustenance in the arid desert in which we currently reside.
What is this “water” meant to represent? In John’s gospel, the “living water”—the same water he offers a woman by a well in Sychar (John 4)—represents the Holy Spirit. At the Feast of Tabernacles—one of the Jews’ customary feasts—Jesus says:
“If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” 39 Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. (John 7:37-39)
In the desert God followed them through cloud and fire; now Jesus promises that God would reside with them personally through his Holy Spirit.
And Jesus is also the true and better Bread. Moses and the Israelites famously ate manna and quail. But Jesus comes to tell his people that no, he is the true Bread:
32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”
35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. (John 6:32-35)
All of us will look to a thousand other sources for security and joy. Only Jesus is the Rock (the source of our security) and the true Bread (the source of our satisfaction). Nothing else truly satisfies.
“Our hearts are restless,” wrote a famous saint, “until they find rest in You.” Indeed, our hearts are restless, they are hungry, they thirst. But in Jesus we find satisfaction, and we find a call that stirs us beyond the borders of the familiar, and into a new exodus and toward a greater and better land of Promise.