Weekly Bible Reading Reflection (Week 11): Christ in John and Christ in Exodus

Normally, in these weekly blog posts, I take one chapter out of our Bible reading for the week, and that is the subject of the post. This week, however, I’m going to incorporate two chapters, one from each of the Old and New Testaments. I think it’s important to take a step back from time to time and see how the Old Testament really does point to Christ, and how Christ really is the true fulfillment of all that the Old Testament promised. So, this week, we will look at Exodus 29, where we find the liturgy for the priestly ordination service, and John 8, where Christ shows that he’s not only the true priest, not only the true temple…he’s the great “I AM” who had spoken to Moses in the first place.


I am the Light of the World


So we begin in John 8. Up to this point in the Gospel of John, Jesus has been facing strong backlash to his message. Of course, that would continue. In John 7:3-8, we read that even Jesus’ own brothers didn’t believe in him. After he makes his way to Jerusalem, privately as he told his brothers he would,[1] and he is immediately met with objections. First, he’s told that he doesn’t have the proper credentials to be teaching (John 7:15). Then, when an argument ensues, it doesn’t take his opponents long to accuse him of being possessed by a demon (John 7:20)! Finally, the chief priests send officers to arrest him (John 7:32), but after they hear Jesus’ teaching they refuse (John 7:45-46). The chapter ends with the authorities and Pharisees still clinging to their unbelief, refusing to believe that Jesus is the Christ (John 7:47-52).


And so, in John 8:12, Jesus continues the debate, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” Jesus knew that his hearers were trapped in the darkness, trapped in sin and misery (as our catechism would put it). These people, even those who thought they had everything together, were trapped in sin. They were being held captive by a cruel and ruthless master. Yet to be told such was the height of insult to them. After all, they were Abraham’s children. They were God’s chosen people. How dare this man, who came from a backwater town with no education, the son of a carpenter, the son of a woman who was almost put away by her fiancé before they were married…how dare he tell them that they were enslaved to sin.


Ordaining a Priest


But if they really knew the Law of Moses, of which they were all supposedly experts, they would have seen that Abraham’s children had to face the problem of sin at every time in their history. Abraham himself had offered sacrifices for the sins he committed. The Passover lamb was a confession that the Israelites deserved God’s wrath no less than the Egyptians. The whole point was that the lamb was suffering the death that they deserved.


And if there was any doubt that the children of Abraham were enslaved to sin, one need only look at the priestly ordination service and simply look at the offerings. In verse 1 Moses is told to take one bull and two rams. In verse 10, Aaron and his sons are told to lay their hands on the head of the bull. This symbolically transfers their sin onto the bull. Verses 11-14 contain the instructions for what to do once the bull is killed, and this section ends with the words, “it is a sin offering,” just in case there was any misunderstanding.


Then, in verse 15-18, a similar sacrifice is performed with one of the rams. This time, though, the sacrifice is described this way, “It is a burnt offering to the LORD. It is a pleasing aroma, a food offering to the LORD.” The major difference seems to be that the entire ram is burned on the altar, whereas only part of the bull is burned on the altar. But the major takeaway is the same. This ram had to die so that Aaron and his sons could be consecrated as priests.


Finally, in verses 19-21, the other ram is sacrificed. This time, though, Moses is to take the ram’s blood and put it on Aaron’s right ear, his right thumb, and his right big toe (same thing for his sons). Then Moses is to mix the blood with the anointing oil and sprinkle it on all of them. This is called a “wave offering” because they wave it in front of the tabernacle, and it’s called a “food offering” because they eat part of it, but again the meaning is clear. Aaron and his sons literally have blood poured out on them. They are sinners. They need to be cleansed by the blood of the sacrifice. We know that all these sacrifices pointed forward to the one true sacrifice. In fact, the tabernacle itself points forward to the true temple. It all points to Jesus Christ.


Before Abraham was I AM


And that’s because Christ is the one who gave the instructions in the first place. He is the I AM with whom Moses spoke. Moses didn’t know it yet, but the God who spoke to him has eternally existed in three persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The Son became flesh (as we read in John 1:14), and in John 8:24 he was standing in the temple telling the people, “For unless you believe that I AM, you will die in your sins.” Our English translation usually renders that, “unless you believe that I am he,” but the Greek is “ἐγώ εἰμι,” I AM.


Jesus is the I AM who called his people out of Egypt. Jesus is the I AM who provided sacrifices to atone for the people’s sins. Jesus is the true and final sacrifice to which all those sacrifices pointed because Jesus, as truly God and truly man, could bear the sins of his people and withstand the wrath of the Father. He could give them his righteousness and stand on their behalf before the Father. Jesus is the light in the darkness. He’s the sacrifice for sins. He’s the Savior of sinners, and if anyone ever doubted that he could do such wondrous things, he’s the great I AM. His listeners didn’t believe, but his words were still true. In fact, his words are still true. So, Christians, believe these words today, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free… if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

[1] If you ever wondered why Jesus tells his brothers, “I am not going up to the feast,” and then a few verses later he goes to Jerusalem, where the feast was happening, here’s the answer. “Going up to the feast,” was a somewhat elaborate ritual which involved travelling in a large group, singing songs of ascent as you approached Jerusalem, etc. Jesus didn’t do any of that. He simply travelled, in secret, to Jerusalem.