Even Moses Preached Jesus!
12 April 2015
A study in the series on the Gospel of John by John Dugas
Grace Bible Church, Tulsa
Full Audio Message
One of the finest books on pastoral ministry was written by a Puritan pastor, Richard Baxter. It is titled, The Reformed Pastor. You might assume that Baxter is writing for pastors in the Calvinistic tradition. But J. I. Packer points out that such is not the case. He explains in the introduction that when Baxter used the term ‘Reformed,’ he didn’t mean Calvinistic but rather the idea of being “reformed in practice.” Pastors should always be reforming their theology and how they practice their ministry. Pastors should steadily improve in faithfulness and zeal. If they do, then Baxter believed that their people would also steadily improve in faithfulness and zeal. Why is this needed?
Baxter explained that while people may be involved in religion a long time, it seems that some of them behave and think as if they’ve never heard the gospel at all. In fact, they hope for salvation while the world holds their hearts and while they live according to the flesh. In other words, many church people have no real love for God and yet they hope He will still save them.
Baxter wasn’t the first to notice this. Jesus pointed out the same sad situation in His day. Religious leaders were not continually reforming themselves and their ministries and so their people were not reforming themselves either. Neither shepherd nor sheep sought to improve in faithfulness to God’s truth or in genuine zeal for God. And what was true in Jesus’ day and in Baxter’s day, is true in our day as well. Are you constantly reforming?
Jesus was always hardest on the religious leaders and that’s how it should be. But Jesus wasn’t soft on the people. He held both to high standards of truth and practice. He called both to follow Him and believe His gospel message. Why? A very unpleasant surprise awaits them.
In our passage today, Jesus alerts the religious leaders to the danger they are in because they reject Him. They don’t see any harm in rejecting Jesus. He didn’t come to them to seek their stamp of approval. They tried to build their religion around Moses. And yet, their own religion gets them in trouble with Moses. How does rejecting Jesus have anything to do with Moses? By rejecting Jesus, you reject what Moses taught. And so Jesus gives two reasons why they are in serious danger:
I. Misplaced love prevents faith in Jesus (John 5:41-44).
Jesus begins by saying, “I’m not like you.” He expressed His love for God when He said that His food was to do His Father’s will (John 4:34). That was the motivation that operated in His life and ministry. Jesus had His Father’s approval: “the Father loves the Son” (John 5:20 ). How are they different from Jesus?
He comes right out and says, I do not receive glory from men. He doesn’t seek their approval, esteem or praise. Sinners seek the approval of men. Our Savior only seeks the approval of His Father. And so that leads Him to what He’ll say in v. 42.
Here’s the contrast: But I know you all. While we might be expecting Him to say that they DO seek the approval of men, He shows the real spiritual problem behind that first. Jesus was able to look into the hearts of men and see what was really there (John 2:25). As the Word of God, He is able to discern the “thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb 4:12). So when He peered into their souls, what did He find? Zero love for God.
He revealed what was NOT in the heart of these shepherds. He said, You do not have the love of God in yourselves (your hearts). Love for God should have filled their hearts. Moses said, in Dt 6:5 “you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might”. Moses used heart, soul and might to get across to Israel that love for God should fill their entire inner man.
But love did not fill their hearts. It was a complete no-show! Instead of constantly reforming their religion—holding it up to the truth of Scripture and correcting as needed—they developed their own religion then tried to squeeze God into it. Barclay adds, “they did not really love God; they loved their own ideas about God” (quoted in Morris, p. 332). It was not a lack of evidence that caused them to reject Christ. It was a lack of love for God! Now they would argue with that.
So Jesus provides three evidences that they don’t love God. First, they rejected the Father’s representative. [read 43a] To reject a king’s ambassador is to reject the king himself. Jesus was sent by God the Father to officially represent Him. Coming in the Father’s name meant that Jesus came also with character and work that perfectly aligned with His Father’s character and work. Jesus stood for what the Father stood for. Jesus did what His Father was doing (5:19ff).
Second, they will accept false messiahs. [read 43b] These religious leaders don’t know the truth nor do they follow it. So, they are easy pickings for false messiahs and don’t recognize God’s truth when it is presented to them. They spent so much time in God’s truth, yet they can’t tell the difference between the real Messiah and false messiahs. People are more apt to believe anyone other than God.
Josephus tells of a string of men who came along claiming to be messiah. Historians have counted at least 64 people who claimed to be messiah. One notable character, Bar Kochba, was proclaimed by the great Rabbi Akiba that this was the star out of Jacob that was supposed to arise (Num 24:17). He led a revolt against Rome around A.D. 132 and was soundly defeated and killed by the Romans. Many Jews are still waiting for messiah to come and they will one day follow Antichrist hook, line and sinker (2 Thess 2:8-10). Someone from their own world is always more attractive to unbelievers.
Third, they desire the approval of influential men within their own circles. They should have been seeking the favor that comes from the one and only God. [read 44] As long as they seek the approval of men, faith will be impossible (how can you believe when…?). In their hearts, faith lost out to the impressive reputations, to impressive scholarship and to intellectual prowess. They talked much about God but loved Him not. Calvin explains that “the door of faith is shut against all whose minds are filled with a vain desire for earthly glory” (p. 141). Now, an unexpected twist…
II. Misplaced trust turns a prophet into a prosecutor (John 5:45-47).
Moses was highly revered among the Jews and they wouldn’t do anything knowingly to go against his teaching. Jesus wants the religious leaders to see that they are at odds with Moses. Why? Because Jesus is aligned with Moses. How so? First, Jesus and Moses both really teach the same thing. Many of the Jewish rabbis assumed that Moses taught salvation by works. But as we saw in Hebrews 11, salvation has always been by faith and has only ever been by faith. It has never been by works. Paul explained in Rom 9:30-33 that so many Jews failed in their quest for salvation because they pursued it by works instead of by faith. Second, Moses wrote about Jesus. In other words, Moses prophesied that Jesus would come. Third, when Moses wrote about Jesus, He said that Jesus would be a prophet like himself. Jesus taught the same truth as Moses. And now the twist.
While Jesus will sit as judge over all men, He isn’t the one who will accuse them. He won’t be the one who presses charges. He won’t be the prosecuting attorney. Instead, it will be the writings of Moses that will accuse them. By ignoring the One Moses pointed them to, they have rejected Moses’ teaching. Think about how startling this revelation would be to any who were open to rebuke. Imagine learning that the very thing you put all your hope in turns out to be what condemns you! Their hope became their accuser.
Moses’ law is intended to show men their inability to merit God’s favor and to drive them to God for mercy that is found only by faith in Christ. Moses meant to convict men of sin and thus to drive them to Christ. Moses never meant to be their savior.
Does Moses condemn men for failing this or that law? Yes, but there is far more to it. It will condemn men for completely missing the whole point of the Mosaic covenant. It was not an end in itself. The covenant served a greater end. It served to point men to Jesus as the Messiah who is the whole point of our religion. This is why the New Covenant in Jesus is better and greater and more effective than the Mosaic covenant.(Heb 8-10). Moses would be outraged that people would assume that his law was itself the hope of Israel. His law pointed men to Jesus as the only hope of Israel!
In v. 46, Jesus explains this. [read 46] Jesus spells it out for them so plainly. If they had believed Moses, they would believe Jesus. Why? Because Moses wrote about Jesus. Moses’ point was to point men to Jesus. They diligently studied the Law of Moses (v. 39) but they didn’t try to learn what he was teaching and they didn’t believe what he taught. They were unable to make the connection between the Scriptures and the Savior. When did Moses write about Jesus?
Gen 3:15 (the seed of the woman); Gen 22:18 (seed of Abraham); Gen 49:10 (the scepter or Judah); Num 24:17 (the star from Jacob); Dt 18:15-18 (the prophet like Moses). Types: Isaac, Passover, manna, the rock, the bronze serpent that was lifted up, offerings, high priesthood, Melchizedek.
Finally, look at v. 47,. The religious leaders diligently studied Moses’ writings, but refused to believe what they said about Messiah. If they had believed what Moses’ taught instead of just arguing about it and showing off about their knowledge, they would have recognized Jesus when He came to them. But not believing Moses made them incapable of believing Jesus’ words. If they had listened to the Law instead of trusting in the Law, then they would have recognized Jesus when they listened to Him. They would have been able to trust in Jesus. Moses’ Law is full of hope when you allow it to point to Jesus the Messiah. But when Moses’ Law is an end in itself, it leads to death.
Those religious leaders weren’t constantly reforming. They didn’t keep taking their religion to Scripture to see where it needed correction. And so, they couldn’t receive the Gospel message. How about you? You probably think you’re OK with God. Do you take your religion to Scripture to see if it holds up? Have you truly believed Jesus’ message? If so, are you constantly reforming—growing in faithfulness to God’s word and in zeal for His kingdom?