Seeing Jesus in Exodus

Did you know that the story of Jesus doesn’t begin in Matthew 1? It actually starts all the way back in Genesis! From eternity past, in creation, and all throughout the Old Testament, the Son of God and Savior of the world is present, active, and revealing Himself to the watching world. Sometimes, this presence is physically seen­ (like in the fiery furnace in Daniel 3, the wrestling match with Jacob in Genesis 32, the commander of the Lord’s army in Joshua 5, or key references to “the angel of the Lord” in places like Judges 6 and 2 Samuel 24). Sometimes, we see Jesus through shadows and shades of the gospel, symbolic things meant to point us to the grander work of God that was yet to come through Christ Jesus (Abraham and Isaac in Genesis 22, the ark in Genesis 6–9, the story of David and Goliath).

The Book of Exodus contains the best of both worlds, providing us with some of the most stark and profound symbolic representations of Jesus, but also some very real instances of His physical presence. Here are just a few ways you can see not only Jesus show up in Exodus, but also how certain events and phenomena recorded in this epic journey point us to the character of Jesus and the work Jesus would accomplish thousands of years later.

Jesus, the Burning Bush

In Exodus 3, Moses sees a strange sight on Mount Horeb while out tending to his father-in-law’s flock… a bush consumed by flames, yet not burning up. The fire that burned but did not consume the bush is Jesus Christ, who became a man and made His dwelling among us (John 1) in order that He could make His dwelling within us, to set us ablaze with the all-consuming fire and glory of God (Hebrews 12:29).

Exodus 3:14–15 (NIV): God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: I am has sent me to you.’” God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.’ “This is my name forever, the name you shall call me from generation to generation.”

John 8:58 (NIV): “Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” 

Jesus, the Passover Lamb

The entire Passover celebration points to the saving work of Christ. But none more clearly than the spotless lamb, whose blood was smeared over wooden door posts so that the Lord would “pass over” the homes of the Israelites. His sacrifice passes us over from death to life; it delivers us from the slavery to sin into the true Promised Land—heaven.

Exodus 12:3,7 (NIV): “Tell the whole community of Israel . . . to take a lamb for his family . . . They are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs.”

John 1:29 (NIV): “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”

Jesus, the Bronze Serpent

In the wilderness, the people sinned against God and it came back to bite them—literally. So, the people repented and God ten provided healing through a serpent lifted up on the pole. As the people looked upon the serpent, they were healed and would live! Similarly, Jesus was lifted up on the cross so that all those who would repent and look to Him would be saved!

Numbers 21:9 (NIV): “Make a fiery serpent, and put it on a flag pole; and it shall come about, that everyone who is bitten, and looks at it, will live.’”

John 3:14 (NIV): “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.”

Jesus, the True Manna

Now in the wilderness, the people were hungry; in fact, they were even contemplating whether they were better off as slaves in Egypt! Their tummies rumbled and their mouths grumbled; they were, for all intents and purposes, “hangry.” So, God provided bread from heaven: manna. In John 6, after having provided the people with a miracle of multiplying bread, Jesus reveals to the people that He is the bread of heaven that gives life to all and satisfies us fully.

Exodus 16:4 (NIV): “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day.”

John 6:32–35 (NIV): I am the bread of life; the one who comes to Me will not be hungry, and the one who believes in Me will never be thirsty.”

Jesus, the Pillar of Cloud and Fire

 In this wilderness journey, the Pillar of Cloud and Fire is a central figure guiding the Israelites everywhere. The pillar of cloud and fire manifested before Israel crossed the Red Sea and led and journeyed with them through the wilderness. It was a visible reminder for the Hebrews to see that God is with them and he will never leave them. During the last supper, Jesus tells the disciples that He will be with them always and abide in those who abide in Him and that He is the way to the Father.

Exodus 13:21–22 (NIV): “By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light.”

John 14:6 (NIV): “Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Jesus, the Living Water

Once again, the Israelites were complaining, only this time it was of thirst. So, God instructed Moses to strike a rock and water would pour out for the people to drink. When water gushed out after Moses struck the rock, we are again pointed to the New Testament. First, in John 4, Jesus declares that whoever receives Him will never thirst again! And on the cross, Jesus went thirsty for us and was struck/pierced for our sins. Because He did, we drink from the waters of His grace that flow from His saving work on the cross.

Exodus 17:6 (NIV): “Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink.”

John 4:13–14 (NIV): “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

Jesus, the Word of God

On the mountain, God gave Moses His Word, that which reveals His character, nature, heart, mind, and will. And He commanded that His people live by this life-giving Word and obey it. In John 1, we are told that Jesus Himself is the Word of God incarnate, who reveals the fullness of God to us and says those who obey His Word are called His friends and be saved!

Exodus 34:29 (NIV): “When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the covenant law in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the LORD.”

John 1:1–18 (NIV): “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

Jesus, the True Tabernacle

The Tabernacle was the dwelling place of God’s presence, the tented palace for Israel’s divine King! Each item and color within it showing us a different aspect of who He is. It was His house. Jesus, however, was the true Tabernacle who made His dwelling among us, served as high priest over the house of God and as full and final sacrifice, the temple that was torn down and raised up three days later!

Exodus 26:30 (NIV): Set up the tabernacle according to the plan shown you on the mountain.”

John 1:14 (NIV): “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

John 2:19 (NIV): “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.”

Jesus, the Greater Moses

Moses was God’s chosen, the one who would deliver the people from their chains of slavery in Egypt to the Promised Land, and the mediator between Himself and His people. But he was merely a shadow of the One to come who would deliver us from our sins into the eternal kingdom of God and who would be our perfect mediator to God.

Galatians 3:19 (NIV): “The law was given through angels and entrusted to a mediator.”

Exodus 3:10 (NIV): “So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”

1 Timothy 2:5–6 (NIV): “For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people.”

About the Author

Danny Saavedra

Danny Saavedra is a licensed minister who has served on staff at Calvary since 2012, managing the Calvary Devotional and digital discipleship resources. He has a Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling and Master of Divinity in Pastoral Ministry from Liberty Theological Seminary. His wife Stephanie, son Jude, and daughter Zoe share a love of Star Wars, good food, having friends over for dinner, and studying the Word together as a family.