Moses fills the offices of priest, judge, and prophet. As priest, he receives the law and teaches the people to obey. He sits as supreme judge over the people. And as prophet, he stands in the counsel of God, calls the people to repentance and warns them of the future consequences of sin. In Exodus 19, Moses is acting as High Priest when he ascends into the glory cloud, the Holy of Holies on Mount Sinai.
The people could not come near the mountain. It was barricaded off and the threat of death hung over anyone who dared to approach. Although Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, what they saw was a mountain wrapped in smoke and fire, lightning and thunder, and the sound of a great trumpet that caused the mountain and the people to tremble. God warned the people several times not to come near lest He break out against them and consume them.
It must have been some big show of power like this that Phillip had in mind when he said, “show us the Father.” Jesus’ whole life and work was spent in revealing the Father. He only said and did that which He saw the Father saying and doing. He tells His disciples that they will do the same – speaking, working, revealing, and glorifying God – even after He has gone to the Father. He gives His disciples the great promise that He will not leave them alone as orphans, but will bring them into the house of God and make His home with them.
God is still holy and awesome, a great consuming fire. But Jesus has come as the greater High priest, one who can bring His people into the presence of God. It is His death, the rending of His body, that rends the veil, the barrier between God and His people. In His resurrection, we rise with Him and ascend to the Father.