Q & R with Brad Jersak – In John 5:45, what does it mean that Moses is their accuser?
Q: Hey Brad, I’m wondering if you could shed some light on John 5:45-47. What does it mean that Moses is the accuser? How does this fit into the rest of the section concerning believing in Jesus and the purpose of scripture?
Here’s the passage: “Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope. For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?”
That’s a great question. I believe what Jesus might be getting at is that his opponents kept trying to claim the high ground on Jesus by invoking Abraham or Moses. They claimed to be children of Abraham and that they believed in Moses, jabbing at the legitimacy of Christ’s birth and implying that he was playing fast and loose with the Law.
But Jesus’ rebuttal is that Abraham and Moses had already testified of him in the Scriptures. If they now reject Jesus, then they are also rejecting the testimony of Abraham and Moses. In that sense, Abraham and Moses (and their prophecies) stand with and for Jesus.
In that culture, as best I understand it, it’s not like you had a court-appointed prosecution attorney and a defense attorney. Rather, you just had witnesses, for and against. Thus, any witness was either an accuser or an advocate, depending on whose side he was on. Since Moses is Jesus’ advocate by way of prophetic anticipation, his testimony is also a de facto accusation against Jesus’ opponents–judging their testimony as false.
My source for this line of thinking is Craig Keener’s 2 volume commentary on John’s Gospel.
I hope that helps send you in the right direction,