If you believed Moses, you would believe me, because he wrote about me. (John 5.46)
For the longest time the clause: “Indeed, he (Moses) wrote of Me,” I, like most other commentators, believed this referred to the prophecies of Christ’s coming in predictive form such as in Balaam’s oracles: “A Star out of Jacob, and a Scepter shall rise out of Israel.” However, looking at the wording of Heb. 10. 5-10, another more pervasive, albeit implicit reference is indicated.
The key verse in my contention is Heb.10:7 – Then I said, ‘Here I am: I have come—it is written of me in the scroll of the book—to do your will, O God.’ This clause connects well with the claim in John’s Gospel of Moses writing about Jesus since the content spoken about in Hebrews 10.5-10 is solely written by Moses (sacrificial system) while predictive prophecies of Christ’s advent in Moses’ writings are rare.
Mosaic High Priests
A note about the Law of Moses at this juncture is appropriate since Christians, along with society in general today, are removed both in thought and practice of animal sacrifices. First, Num. 3.10 indicates that only Aaron and his sons are to serve as priests. This is why Jesus could say in Mk. 2.26: “When Abiathar was High Priest.” Abimelech was technically The High Priest and Abiathar was a son among many others. According to several biblical sections, the living sons of Aaron performed the High Priestly work while Aaron was living. Therefore, it seems best to regard all of The High Priest’s sons as alternate High Priests. This reality seems implicit since any number of reasons could occur to render the father either unclean or possibly ill and so, a son could stand in the father’s stead to perform the yearly entrance into the most holy place on Yom Kippur. The succession of the priesthood (death of the High Priest) would be the firstborn son with the other sons then relegated to other priestly duties but not as alternates which would then be inherited by the new High Priest’s sons.
The rationale of animal sacrifices is the substitution of an innocent victim in the stead of the confessing sinner. The institution of these sacrifices was gracious after the Fall of Humanity in Eden. The covering of the guilty pair required animal skins, hence a sacrifice. The Mosaic Law of sacrifices greatly expanded and codified the observances to further reflect The Redeemer. So, when thinking about the “Law of Moses,” it is primarily about the law of sacrifices instead of the laws of human regulations like the Ten Commandments. The Law of Moses included both regulations and Temple observances.
Returning to our text, John 5: 45-47, this section seems a discrete ‘sense unit’ where the flow is closely related in the narrative. Jesus presents His purpose in a partially veiled way: He did not come to condemn the world but to save it as He said elsewhere. The false hope of punctilious Sabbath observance by the Pharisees while they plotted murder in their heart, is what will condemn them in the end. The reason is clear: no one has or is able to keep the Mosaic regulations flawlessly except Jesus.
This is where the prescribed sacrifices for purification from sin appear in the text as a remedy for failure to perform the regulations: The “sin offering” code involved putting one’s hands on the head of a prescribed animal and confessing the sin they committed. Then the substitute victim would be slaughtered and the blood ritually splashed on the exterior of the Bronze Altar. Also, once a year The Day of Atonement purified the observant worshipers for that previous year. Thus, the real blessings of the Mosaic code was not the performance of laws tediously kept, but the laws of the sacrifices, since they were shadows of the “the good things” to come in Christ.
Since the law has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered year after year, make perfect those who approach. Otherwise, would they not have ceased being offered, since the worshipers, cleansed once for all, would no longer have any consciousness of sin? But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sin year after year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said,
“Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body you have prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. Then I said, ‘See, God, I have come to do your will, O God’ (in the scroll of the book it is written of me).” When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), then he added, “See, I have come to do your will.” He abolishes the first in order to establish the second. And it is by God’s will that we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. (Heb. 10.1-10 NRSV)