“Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, in whom you have put your hope. If you had believed Moses, you would believe Me, because he wrote about Me. But since you do not believe what he wrote, how will you believe what I say?” John 5:45-47
What’s your tribe? This is a big thing right now. Everyone’s getting their DNA done, researching their ancestors. I confess that I like to know my tribe. I like to hear stories about my grandparents, and their parents, and so on. I can trace my mother’s maiden name, Tillinghast, all of the way back to the 1600s in Rhode Island.
For the Jews, one of the defining members of their tribe was Moses. He was their historical savior. He wrote the Torah. He gave them the law from God, which governed everything about their lives.
So Jesus hit them in the gut when he told them Moses was accusing them. He was like, “You say Moses is your man, but you don’t give cred to what he said.”
What did Moses say that they should have believed? Here are some statements about the coming Messiah from the first 5 books of the Bible, which were widely accepted to be written by Moses. (And many of us still believe that Moses wrote them, through the Holy Spirit!)
- “I will put hostility between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed. He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.” (Gen 3:15)
- “All peoples on earth will be blessed through you [Abraham].” (Gen 12:3)
- “The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he to whom it belongs shall come and the obedience of the nations shall be his.: (Gen 49:10)
- “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.” (Deut. 18:15)
If the Jews believed Moses, they would have been watching for a prophet who had power over the devil, brought blessings, was from the line of Judah, and was a savior, as Moses was. If we look at the life of Jesus up to this point in the book of John, we see what the Jews should have seen. Jesus could do miracles and heal. (John 2:11, 23) He spoke as if speaking for God. He had a message of salvation and life. (John 3:15, 4:14) Plus, it would not have been difficult for the Jews to determine his lineage as a descendant of Judah. It was probably common knowledge in his hometown.
So Jesus’s indictment here, which comes at the end of a lengthy speech, pinned the Jews to the wall. When it came to Moses, they hadn’t put their money where their mouth was. They weren’t walking the walk.
It’s sobering to see how Jesus expected God’s people to understand the scriptures correctly. Yes, he came to the simple and the uneducated, and many of them recognized him. But it was the teachers of the law, the ones who had the scriptural knowledge. who should have had the clearest view of who Jesus was. And they didn’t. And they got called out for it.
It’s a heavy expectation, so I want to protest, “But the scriptures are complicated.” The thing is, it wasn’t like they were missing a nuance. It was like they were missing the whole shooting match. Everything in the Bible is about Jesus. The Fall in the Garden hints of a time of redemption. Abraham set in motion blessings which would be fulfilled in Christ. Moses saving the people was a foreshadowing of Christ saving the world. And so on. For more on this check out “From Shadow to Reality,” by John Oakes.
Even if the Jews didn’t see the fulfillment of Moses’s words, or the foreshadowing, one thing in the Old Testament is so clear and huge, it should never be missed — the repeating message of redemption, hope, good will, faithfulness, loyalty, and salvation. If they got that, how could they not see that those qualities were embodied in Jesus? All of the things that should have thrilled them about God had come to life in a man.
What can we learn from this? That it’s highly important for us to seek to understand the Bible correctly. What gets in the way? Our tendency to look at it through the wrong lens.
We can look at it through the lens of our culture. For instance, due to popular opinion, many Christians are now saying that a loving God wouldn’t condemn homosexual behavior. Another big trend today is postmodernism. One pastor summed it up, “The postmodern era is where everyone just wants to decide that they can believe in everything, in nothing, or in some things. If someone wants to believe that Jesus did not exist, that can be truth to him or her. If another person wants to believe that Jesus did exist but he didn’t die on the cross and rose to everlasting life that could be truth for them.”
We can look at it through the lens of our upbringing. Many have a tough time seeing God as a caring Father because they’ve had bad experiences with their fathers, or just with life.
We can look at it through the lens of our personal needs and agenda. I have a great desire to affirm myself, so I can make the Bible about how I can be good and pat myself on the back.
Perhaps what happened with the Jews is that they looked at the scriptures through the lens of tribalism. They focused so much on their identity from their forefathers that they got away from the focus on God.
Let’s not fall into any of these traps. Let’s make it our goal to have a clear lens, so we can understand the scriptures correctly. How can we do this? By making it our primary pursuit to find and know God and Christ, through reading the whole Bible. And then, as we know them better, to seek to see through their eyes, and have their heart.
“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” (I Tim 2:15)
“This is what the LORD says: ‘Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches, but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,’ declares the LORD.” (Jer 9:24)