While riding in the car recently, my eighth-grade son was playing with his hair. He was parting it on this side, and that side, and finally landing on a part right down the middle when he turned to me and said, “Look, mom! My hair is parting like the Red Sea. Basically, my hair is Jesus.” Because I like to take myself too seriously sometimes, especially when it comes to expounding theological wisdom on unsuspecting participants (no room for growth there, I’m sure), I was about to tell my 13-year-old son that, technically, his comb would be Jesus, because Jesus is the new Moses, not the new Red Sea. Obviously.
But before the words tumbled out of my mouth, I stopped and thought about it. When we speak of the Exodus in biblical-theological terms, seeing different types of Jesus in the story even though he is never explicitly mentioned, I think we often tend to assign roles to the main players and then leave them there. Pharaoh is sin. We are the Israelites. And Moses is Jesus. Just like Moses rescues the Israelites from the bondage of Pharaoh, Jesus rescues us from the bondage of sin. Put a bow on that. It’s done.
Except God doesn’t grade our understanding like our first-grade teachers did, where we have a worksheet with names of things on one side and corresponding pictures on the other, and we have to draw a line connecting the two. Because with God and his story, there may be many lines connecting many things, and all of them could be correct. That’s why we can see Jesus in Moses, but also in the Passover lamb. It’s not one or the other, it’s both.
So, back to the Red Sea. Could Jesus be seen there as well? The more I thought of it, the more appreciative I became of my son’s obsession with where he parts his hair. In this small, off-handed comment, he unwittingly turned the diamond of Scripture in the light and dazzled me with the merciful reflections it cast.
When the Israelites were caught up on the banks of the Red Sea, with Pharaoh and his army barreling down on them promising a certain bloody death, God told Moses to lift up his staff and stretch out his hand over the sea and divide it, that the people of Israel might go through the sea on dry ground (Ex 14:16). Up his arms went, his staff reaching towards the heavens, and the water split, leaving them a path to safety, one which their enemies would not be able to follow. When all had passed through, up safely onto the opposing shore, God told Moses to again “stretch out your hand over the sea, that the water may come back upon the Egyptians…so Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to its normal course when the morning appeared” (14:26,27). Salvation had been found, and it came through the Red Sea, which had torn itself open to make a path where there had previously been none.
Yes, Jesus is the new Moses, who intercedes and provides a way to safer shores. But yes, Jesus is also the new Red Sea. At Calvary, it wasn’t a man of God who lifted his hands and staff to tear the sea in half, but an unnamed Roman soldier, who upon seeing Jesus was dead on the cross, lifted up a spear and pierced the side of Jesus, blood and water pouring out from the wound (Jn 19:34). Days later, Jesus would appear to the disciples and tell Thomas to put out his hand and place it in his side, the wound now a permanent byway in the parted, or harmed, body of Christ, sealing in the promise of safe shores for those that had sought respite “when the morning appeared” three days later (Ex 14:27, Lk 24:22).
See, we are like the Israelites who were backed into a corner by sin, unable to push our way through to the holiness of God, and so he allowed these same broken people to open up dry ground right through his very body, splitting the literal red sea of his blood. It is through this escape, through the broken flesh of Christ, that we reach our salvation on the other side. He at once was the one who made the way, but also the way itself. This gives new meaning to Jesus’s promise earlier in John (also, I’m sure coincidentally *wink wink*, in a conversation with Thomas), that he is “The way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (Jn 14:6). Except literally through Jesus’s sacrifice. Jesus, the new and better Red Sea.
The Word of God is indeed a diamond, with many more facets than we realize. And when God uses the mouths of babes to remind us old, set-in-our-ways-selves of this, it’s a further reminder that he doesn’t let our confidence in ourselves keep us on the wrong side of his saving shores.