Monday, June 27, 2011

The Gospel of John and Moses: I

In the next few posts I want to explore the reflection of Genesis – Deuteronomy in the Gospel of John; with a particular emphasis on the Creation account, Moses, and the Tabernacle. I’m going to do this beginning with the passage we have been in lately, John Chapter 5.

You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me…Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father; the one who accuses you is Moses, in whom you have set your hope. For if you believe Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words? John 5:39; 45 – 47.

When I was young in the Lord Deuteronomy 18:15 was the verse used to illustrate Moses writing about Christ/Messiah. The LORD you God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to him.

While I believe that Moses was writing about Messiah in this passage (see John 1:45 for an example of a possible reference to Deut. 18:15), I also think that the virtual sole use of this verse, or the primary use of this verse, to serve as a background for passages such as John 5 is unfortunate because it creates tunnel vision; that is, it becomes the only verse we virtually see in the Law as referring to Jesus Christ. While this may not be true for folks in academia, it is true, I think, in popular Christian perception. Next to Deut. 18:15 in popular perception is likely the system of sacrifices which are generally held to point forward to Messiah; but I’m not sure that popular perception goes much beyond the foregoing.

When we approach the Scriptures piecemeal, slicing and dicing and compartmentalizing, we miss the tapestry; and in missing the tapestry of the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings (the Old Testament) we miss the backdrop and motif of the New Testament. People read and try to interpret Revelation who cannot see Exodus, Ezekiel, Isaiah and numerous other Old Testament motifs, thereby missing the tone, texture, and context of the Apocalypse. The same can be said for the body of the entire New Testament; the same can be said for the Gospel of John.

Consider Luke 24:44-45, Now He [Jesus] said to them, “These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures…

There is a similar description of Jesus speaking with the two people on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24:27, Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.

A data-driven and proof-texting approach is especially prone to occur, I think, in our Western society which has pretty much lost any semblance of sustained attention span; it takes sustained attention to get the story, to see the patterns, to recognize the point-counterpoint.

In our John 5 passage Jesus is saying that the Scriptures testify about Him, that Moses wrote about Him. Most of Jesus’ listeners did not understand that Moses wrote about Jesus; perhaps they saw individual trees but they did not see the forest; and the trees they saw they saw in isolation and seeing them in isolation they made idols of them. The serpent in the Wilderness was not the only idol that was made (John 3:14; Numbers 21:6; 2 Kings 18:4); the Sabbath was also made an idol. If we fail to see that the New Testament, indeed, that the entire Scripture, is about Jesus…what idols shall we make? What idols have we made? Idols fashioned from trees found in the forest of Scripture.

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