“Moses supposes his toeses are roses… but Moses supposes erroneously.”
This strange little quip plays a pretty good comic role in the classic movie Singin’ in the Rain. If you’ve not seen it, let me recommend it to you. I am not a fan of musicals in general, but this one has enough laughs and sheer athletic skill displayed in dance to hold my attention. An easy task would be to simply google this phrase and watch the scene on YouTube. None of us really believes this phrase was the truth about our hero, Moses, from Israel’s ancient history, but I wonder how much we really think about Moses at all?
In Deuteronomy 18:15-19, Moses says that God will raise up a prophet like himself, for God’s people in their future. This passage was well known to first-century Jews and inspired great hope. For the oppressed descendant of Israel in the first century, Moses was the greatest of heroes, venerated and honored. He represented the best that humankind had to offer in relationship with God. He was their great deliverer. They longed for the next Moses to step forward and deliver them in their day just as Moses had done in the days of Egyptian slavery. Many who saw Jesus performing miracles, feeding crowds, and healing diseases, began to believe that he was their long-awaited deliverer. However, they could never have guessed that the deliverance he brought would come through his sacrifice on a cross and consist of victory over death itself.
We have an advantage over these first-century seekers. Ours is the advantage of hind-sight. We live on this side of the Cross. We can see, through the Gospels, where Jesus’s teaching and miracles were leading. The deliverance he offers is spiritual and eternal, not just political and physical. Still, I sometimes envy these first century would-be believers because they hold an advantage over us in longing and passion. It seems that they recognized that they were under the oppression of ungodly rulers in the form of Rome and Herod. They knew that they were oppressed, and they longed for deliverance.
Our ungodly rulers are less obvious. We are all under the oppression of the subtle passions of selfishness and sin. With honest reflection, I think each of us can admit that we have often not even felt this as an oppression. We can easily listen to the voices around us that tell us we are not self-centered or sinful. Rather, we are deserving of all we can get. We work hard and deserve good things. Sometimes the lines of morality and care for others have to be blurred or disregarded completely, in order to get what we deserve for ourselves or for our families. Gaining the American Dream can lead us to a place where we fail to recognize that we are in need of a deliverer like Moses to set us free from the bondage of our own passions.
This is why I think forty days of self-denial and reflection prior Easter is a really good idea. Without that we may not suppose that our toeses are roses, but we may suppose we have no real need for Jesus.