Why did Jesus say that Moses is our accuser?

Email Received:

In John 5:45, Jesus says that Moses is our accuser. Yet, the same is said of Satan. What does this mean? How can Moses be our accuser?

Ted's Response:

Jesus was not saying that Moses was our accuser. He was talking to the Jews who wanted to kill Him. He was saying that, one day, Moses would accuse them to the Father because they did not believe that Jesus was the one that Moses had written about who would come.

Here is the verse to which you are referring, along with the two verses following it (in both the NIV and KJV):

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—NIV)

Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust. For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words? (John 5:45-47—KJV)
However, to understand these verses, it is important to consider them in the context of the whole passage. We see in John 5:16 that the Jews were persecuting Jesus for healing on the Sabbath, which displeased them, so they wanted to kill Him (5:18). He had healed a crippled man, who then told the Jews that Jesus had made him well (5:5-15).

Jesus told these Jews that He had come to finish the work that the Father had sent him to do (John 5:36). However, Jesus was talking to non-believing Jews who had rejected Him; He told them that they never had heard the voice of the Father, nor seen His form, nor did His word dwell in them (5:37,38).

They mistakenly thought that studying the Scriptures would bring them eternal life, not understanding that the Scriptures testified that it was Jesus who could give them eternal life (John 5:39,40). So when Jesus said that Moses was their accuser (5:45), He was not talking to those who believed in Him; He was talking to those who had rejected Him.

The Jews held Moses in high esteem. However, they failed to understand that Moses had written about the coming Prophet, Jesus. Moses told the Israelites that God would raise up a Prophet from among them (Deuteronomy 18:15,18)—who was Jesus—and that God would hold to account anyone who did not listen to the words that the Prophet (Jesus) would speak in His name (18:19). It was testified by others that Jesus was the one Moses wrote about, the Prophet who was to come into the world (John 1:45, 6:14).

When Jesus appeared to His disciples after His resurrection, He reiterated that everything would be fulfilled that was written about Him by Moses and the Prophets and in the Psalms:

He said to them, "This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms." Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. (Luke 44,45—NIV)

And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures. (Luke 44,45—KJV)

Jesus had said to the unbelieving Jews that He would not accuse them before the Father because it was Moses who was their accuser (John 5:45). He meant that they would be guilty in the eyes of the Father due to their failure to believe what Moses had written about the coming Prophet, Jesus.

So although they had claimed to believe the words of Moses, they failed to believe His prophetic words about Jesus. Therefore, they were unable to believe all the things that Jesus said and taught (John 5:46,47). As a result, God would hold them accountable for failing to heed the words that Jesus spoke in His name (Deuteronomy 18:19)

Return to Email Questions and Ted’s Responses

Go to Ted’s Bible Commentaries and Other Links

View the New International Version of the Bible

Go to Ted’s Homepage