A Question I Was Asked:

What Did Jesus Mean in John 5:45-47?

The Question:

In your Bible Question series you have answered questions which I have had for years and I want to thank you. The Bible is strengthened by what you write although you don't always agree with the usual line. Here's another one for you:

What did Jesus mean by what He said in John 5:45-47? I don't understand. Isn't it the problem that these people did believe Moses but not Jesus?

UK Apologetics Reply:

Okay, let us look at this:

"But do not think I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set. If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?" (John 5:45-47).

So these people pinned all their hopes on Moses and on the old covenant which was ratified at Mount Sinai. Yet very soon Jesus - effectively - pulled the mat from under their feet!

But, first of all, let us ensure we know just who these people were.

Tracing all of this from the beginning of John 5 will enable us to see that these people were the appointed Jewish religious authorities of that day. The whole thing kicked off when Jesus healed a man on the Sabbath and a group of these people (we never know exactly how many) accused Jesus of dishonouring the Sabbath by healing. Go through verse 8 onwards of John 5 to get a really clear picture. Finally, verses 42-47, Jesus states this:

But I know you. I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts. I have come in my Father's name, and you do not accept me; but if someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him. How can you believe since you accept glory from one another but do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? "But do not think I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set. If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?"

So these people thought they knew Moses but they did not know Moses very well and - effectively - they did not believe everything which Moses wrote. Why? Because Moses clearly prophesied about Jesus, as we are about to see.

But first, we should understand that it was already known that Abraham had been told that a great leader would come through his seed. Let us remind ourselves of that:

"And through your offspring, all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me." (Genesis 22:18).

Moses would have been taught this truth by his Hebrew birth mother. (Exodus 2:5-10).
But, more specifically, how do we know that he (Moses) looked for a Christ yet to come?

"By faith Moses, when grown up, refused to be called the son of the daughter of Pharaoh, choosing to be ill-treated with the people of God rather than to have the temporary enjoyment of sin, because he esteemed the reproach of the Christ as riches greater than the treasures of Egypt; for he looked intently toward the payment of the reward." (Hebrews 11:24-26).

This strongly suggests that Moses was well aware that a great redeemer had to come to satisfy 'payment of the reward' in order to fully restore men and women to God. But here is the 'clincher' on this: Moses' own recorded prophecy on the Christ Who was to come:

The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him. For this is what you asked of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said, "Let us not hear the voice of the Lord our God nor see this great fire anymore, or we will die." The Lord said to me: "What they say is good. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites, and I will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him. I myself will call to account anyone who does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name." (Deuteronomy 18:15-19).

All Bible authorities agree that this is a prophecy of the Messiah to come.

The Jewish religious leaders of Jesus' day thought they 'knew' their Scriptures, they awaited a Messiah who would 'restore the kingdom to Israel' (Acts 1:6), so they had come to see the promises of God as national, political and elitist, having no conception of the price of redemption. Incidentally, this very same error may be found today among many modern cults and sects, in which they reduce the victory of Christ to a political message of a 'super Israel' to be worshipped and adored by all during a so-called 'millenium,' a physical, national, political and elitist realm. They look for world rule, with Israel as the premier nation. Redemption? Oh yes, but that (apparently) is not so important! Their (biblically-flawed) perspective is similar indeed to that of the Pharisees and Saduccees.

Moses, however, apparently 'looked intently toward the payment of the reward,' He knew that a price had to be paid. He knew the Messiah had to be the Great Redeemer! He understood that divine restoration and salvation was not cheap and easy. Therefore Moses appears to have known more about the Christ to come than the Pharisees and Saducees whose vision of the Hebrew Scriptures was flawed, seeing only a political, conquering king but seemingly having no understanding of the Christ who had to suffer and die upon a cross (Isaiah 53:1-12).

Since these people pinned all their salvific hopes upon Moses, Jesus plainly told them that the Moses whom they thought they knew and understood, prophesied of Him and His coming.

Robin A. Brace. July 24th, 2013.