Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
John 8:22-24 (Holman) So the Jews said again, AHe won=t kill Himself, will He, since He says, >Where I=m going, you cannot come=?@ AYou are from below,@ He told them, AI am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. Therefore I told you that you will die in your sins. For if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.@
The leaders perceived what Jesus was saying, and brazenly threw a cutting taunt in return. The leaders, convinced they were going to Heaven, taunted Christ as if He were going to Hell.
The leaders believed the darkest regions of Hell were reserved for those who committed suicide. They were saying in essence, AIf you are going to the lowest part of Hell, we most assuredly will not come there.@
Such an insinuation was diabolical, and revealed the evil condition of their hearts. Jesus had Heaven in His soul. They had Hell in theirs.
Jesus again warned them against unbelief. They could not perceive how serious it was. Unbelief is like quicksand. The person who walks on it will ultimately sink and be lost forever.
John 8:25-28 AWho are you?@ they questioned. APrecisely what I=ve been telling you from the very beginning.@ Jesus told them. AI have many things to say and to judge about you, but the One who sent Me is true, and what I have heard from Him B these things I tell the world.@ They did not know He was speaking to them about the Father. So Jesus said to them, AWhen you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and that I do nothing on My own. But just as the Father taught Me, I say these things.@
ALift up@ (v. 28) was used not only of a physical action, but also figuratively denoted a climax. When the leaders lifted up Jesus physically, in the crucifixion, they brought history to a climax. The cross was the zenith of human wickedness, human suffering, human-divine shame, and of God=s acts of love.
To the world the crucifixion looked like failure. To Jesus it was merely the planting of a seed in the ground. The cross by no means ended His influence.
When the leaders murdered Jesus, they felt they were rid of Him forever, but it was only the beginning. They had merely given Him opportunity to demonstrate the full extent of His love for sinners.
As a result of their own cruel deed, many of their kinsmen would believe in Jesus. At Pentecost alone, 3000 Jews did become believers. The cross, coupled with the sweeping tide of the Holy Spirit, did what argument had not been able to do. The hearers were pricked in their hearts. They who had persecuted Him honored Him; they who had killed Him let Him live in their hearts; they who shed His blood received His blood.
John 8:29 AThe one who sent me is with Me. He has not left Me alone, because I always do what pleases Him.@
Jesus was undaunted in the midst of overwhelming opposition. What supported Him? What was His power source? He knew the Father was with Him. The Father=s presence gave Him power and encouragement.
AI always do what pleases Him@ should be every Christian=s motto. Jesus our example was a doer. It is not enough to talk or pray about doing. Do not merely feel charmed about virtue or fascinated with duty. Actually carry it out. Don=t let good deeds be strangled in their birth. Let them be born into actual deeds.
John 8:30-31 As He was saying these things many believed in Him. So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed Him, AIf you continue in My word, you really are My disciples.
Some in the crowd made gestures toward accepting Christ=s words as truth. Jesus, sensing their commitment did not go very deep, gave a litmus test for proving genuine discipleship. AIf you continue in My word, you really are My disciples.@
Continuing in Christ=s word requires, first, meditation. Our access to Jesus= words is through the Bible, God=s written word. As we read the written word, be still and dwell on the message. Meditation helps free us from worldly thoughts, and makes us focus on Him.
Continuing in Christ=s word requires, second, repetition. Continuing requires repeated study. No other path leads to continuous leaning. A shut mind ends discipleship, for the word Adisciple@ means learner. The first disciples were sometimes slow to learn, but they stayed at Jesus= feet, and were ultimately successful because they kept listening and never quit learning. This remains true of Christ=s successful disciples.
No one can read God=s Word once and absorb all its wealth. Even a life-time of study cannot exhaust its full meaning. I read the whole Bible annually and never find it an unprofitable practice. Scripture is always fresh, almost as if I=m reading a new book each year.
Continuing in Christ=s word requires, third, intimacy. Learn to be at home with the Bible. Dwell in it as a man dwells in his house, which is his center, rest, and refuge. Let the word be our atmosphere. Live in it and let it live in us.
The teachings of Christ must be the element in which Christians live. Saturate yourself with it, or Satan will use our shallowness as one of his devices against us. When we have little spiritual nourishment, our fruit withers, for the world chokes it.
Read and re-read, repeat and re-repeat, absorb and re-absorb, meditate and re-meditate. No other keys unlock the treasures of Scripture.
John 8:32 AYou will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.@
Freedom has ever been the quest of mankind. Many of history=s finest hours have been spent seeking it. We thrill to think of 300 Spartans at Thermopylae, King John of England being forced to sign the Magna Carta in 1215, 182 Texans at the Alamo, and the Statue of Liberty=s promise, AGive me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.@
The USA is the land of the free, the dream of the world. Yet as individuals, we too often languish in bondage, having something wrong inside us. We have become a nervous, depressed, discontent, cynical, spoiled society.
Most of us have not learned the true meaning of freedom. As a result, in the midst of political, social, and religious freedom we too rarely find personal freedom.
Jesus came to earth from Heaven to bring us the freedom we instinctively yearn for.
AThe truth will set you free@ is not abstract truth, but rather ultimate reality. Jesus Himself is the Truth (John 14:6). By knowing Jesus we find personal freedom in several ways.
First, knowing Jesus brings freedom from the fear of tomorrow. We are a society afraid, ridden with fears about living life. AFacing the world@ each day is a formidable task for some.
But all who know Christ never walk alone. Wrath to come is averted. Condemnation is removed. Death no longer forebodes, but promises better things to come.
Second, knowing Jesus brings freedom from the guilt of the past. Without forgiveness, our sin-stained past hangs around our necks like a noose. Memory can be one of the conscience=s sharpest swords. Jesus gives freedom from the past. He wipes away sin, remembering it no more. For the unforgiven, the haunting burden is ASon, remember . . .@ (Luke 16:25) now and forevermore.
Third, knowing Jesus brings freedom from self. Many of us know we are our own worst handicap and enemy. We are enslaved by our own cravings. Even the pagans realized self-control is essential to true freedom: Socrates said, AVice is ignorance.@ Plato claimed, ALusts are the hardest tyrants.@ Seneca believed, APassion is the worst slavery.@ Epictetus said, ALiberty is the name of virtue.@ Cicero realized, AThe wise man alone is free.@
We have no freedom until we master of ourselves, but often find it impossible to change ourselves. We do not have in us a solid foundation on which to build. We need outside help, the kind Jesus gives. We echo the poet=s cry: AO that a man may arise in me, that the man I am may cease to be.@ This is exactly what Jesus wants to do in us.
Fourth, knowing Jesus brings freedom from compulsion. Without Jesus, there is no true freedom of choice, only the choice of sin. Apart from Christ our corrupt natures are shackled to choosing evil. Our true liberty is found when we begin to make headway against the current of evil, and progress toward God.
True liberty is secured when our will moves freely within its true element, which is righteousness. Moral good is to us what air is to a bird and water is to a fish. Birds and fish have freedom in their respective element, but a bird in water will drown and a fish on land will soon die. They find true liberty by staying in their element. Adding a capacity for self-destruction does not add to their liberty.
The same is true for us. Our healthy, invigorating element is moral good. This is what our minds and bodies were made for. When we decide freedom includes the right to sin at will, we move into an area of self-destruction. Like a fish on the creek bank, we flop every direction, not knowing where our element is, but still seeking for it. This is bondage in its worst form.
Sin, the suicidal action of human will, cripples our ability to find true freedom. When Jesus indwells us, we have true freedom of choice for the first time.
John 8:33 AWe are the descendants of Abraham,@ they answered Him, Aand we have never been enslaved to anyone. How can You say, >You will become free=?@
Jesus taught that continuing in His word would result in knowing truth that sets people free. The obvious implication was, the listeners were not free at that moment.
This raised the ire of these proud leaders. They immediately claimed they had never been in bondage to anyone. They evidently forgot Egypt, Babylon, Assyria, Greece; and at this moment a Roman garrison was looking down from a fortress into the Temple courts.
The leaders evidently viewed these as coincidental accidents, nothing of substance. To admit servitude to a heathen nation would tarnish their reputation as God=s people, but the truth was, they had been in bondage before, were in bondage then, and were on the verge of a bondage that would scatter them throughout the earth.
What was true of them politically and physically was also true spiritually. Bound by their own superstitions and legal burdens, they were not free to worship God. They could not see their own spiritual slavery.
The leaders were no more unreasonable than people today who boast of freedom while their lives bespeak otherwise. Our power of self-deception is infinite. Spurgeon said, in nothing do people err more grievously than in self-analysis. We have a strange propensity to ignore disagreeable facts about ourselves, and by ingenious manipulation take the wrinkles out of our bad practices.
People often blind themselves to the truth about themselves, refusing to confess and forsake their sins. They fail to see the full extent of their own guilt. Our greatest need is to know what our greatest need is B deliverance from sin.
We imagine in vain that we can be right with God, yet at the same time be living in contradiction to God=s rules. Sinners commit evil without remorse, expecting religion, rites, ceremony, or good deeds of compensation to bail them out of trouble. They sometimes act as if intellectual belief in God is enough, but even the devils believe, and they at least have the decency to tremble.
Some sinners commit evil, go through a Amagical@ notion of penance, and then feel all is well. They live as if God does not care how we live as long as we go through the right religious motions.
These leaders were feasting, sacrificing, and worshiping, but living in sin. They had no consciousness of spiritual bondage and hence had no attraction to Christ=s promise of freedom.
This problem still haunts us. Ignoring or minimizing the fact of sin makes it impossible to appreciate fully Christ and His sacrifice. Churches which downplay sin are ineffective because they ignore the very reality that makes Christ worthwhile.
Jesus is mainly not a teacher or moral example, but a deliverer from sin. He died for the sin of the world. This is the central fact of Christianity. Without it we have no Gospel to preach.
Our first step toward freedom is to recognize our slavery to sin. The second step is to realize we have no power to liberate ourselves. As long as people ignore their spiritual bondage, they will be indifferent to Christ=s offer of liberty.
When we realize the power, treachery, and pervasiveness of sin, we will cling to Jesus with a life-and-death grip. There will be no lackadaisical praying and easy-going Christianity. When we see sin as the tyrant it truly is, we hide deep in the cross.
John 8:34 Jesus responded, AI assure you: Everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin.@
Skeptics rant and rave about freedom, claiming they have broken their religious chains, but they cheat only themselves. Sin cannot be put aside at will. A cruel taskmaster, it enchains us.
It is far more common for a person never to have done a particular evil than to have done it only once. When sin gains a beach-head, it throws all its energy into assaulting the opening. Once a sin is tasted by us, the Devil has an extra device with which to tempt us B the memory of a temporary pleasure.
People living in sin do not do what they like, but what sin likes. Sinners are often in the grips of a habit they cannot break. Many hate and love their sins at the same time, creating agitated turmoil within, a constant upheaval. Is this freedom?
True freedom is more than political freedom. It also has to include freedom from our own lusts. Socrates wisely asked, AHow can you call a man free when his pleasures rule over him?@
Slavery to sin is worse than slavery to a human owner. A physical slave, if overly oppressed, at least has a chance to flee, but where can a slave of sin flee? He carries his slave-driver with him wherever he goes. This is a lesson too many of us have learned too well, the hard way.
Sin is an alien power that has captured us. This is a sad fact of life. Even the best among us are beset by sin. AThere is no one righteous, not even one@ (Romans 3:10). Sin never ceases to antagonize us. AWhen I want to do good, evil is with me@ (Romans 7:21).
Something is always present in us to thwart aspiration toward good, and to incline us to evil. This inner weakness not only prevents us from rising as high as we want to, but also drags us down to doing deeds and thinking thoughts we hate and know are evil.
The intruder within us is sin. It thrives on our corrupt natures. This may sound pessimistic at first, but herein we find the truth our hope springs from.
Our sin is not hopelessly attached to us. As a foreign foe, an alien, it can be expelled. Our corrupt nature is admittedly fertile territory for sin, but sin itself is not us. It can be removed.
We were made for God and good, not Satan and evil. Sin has no right to control us. It is a mutation, a cancer, a deformity, a fungus. It is unnatural, abnormal, and capable of being terminated, but can become so entwined with our nature that we cannot separate the two in our minds. The demoniac did not know the difference between himself and his parasites. He said, AMy name is Legion, for we are many@ (Mark 5:9).
There is a difference between us and sin. It can be dragged from our heart. It may rend, tear, wound, and nearly kill, but can be removed.
Sins bonds may be snapped at any moment. All we need is Someone stronger than the sin-clasp. This Someone is Jesus.
Sin is strong, but Christ is stronger, and can destroy its strength. Never let a particular slavery to sin make us think we have no hope of ever gaining freedom. Our bondage is the very reason Jesus died. He came to free us from sin.
John 8:35 AA slave does not remain in the household for ever, but a son does remain forever.@
A behavioral slave (v. 34) is in as sad a state spiritually as a human slave is physically. In the Roman world, slaves were completely at the mercy or whim of their master. Having no security or assurance, slaves could be ejected or killed at any moment. Their life was haphazard at best.
Jesus, though, holds for Himself and offers to us a permanent position in God=s family. Christ can never be removed from His Father, and offers this security to all who accept Him. True freedom includes not only freedom from sin, but also freedom to be a full-fledged citizen in the Kingdom of God. Jesus confers on freed slaves all the rights and honors of a son.
A slave and a son don=t sleep in the same room. What satisfies a slave will not satisfy a son. Freedom in Christ means a change in our standing. A life of insecurity is discarded for a life of security.
John 8:36 ATherefore if the Son sets you free, you really will be free.@
The implication is, anything other than Jesus will not make us truly free. People have unsuccessfully tried many alternatives.
Political forces cannot free us. Winning a war has never brought people inner freedom.
Had Jesus wanted to, He could have led Israel to rebell against Rome. Had He done this, only one nation would have been free, and even then only from foreign oppression. The people would have still suffered from spiritual tyranny.
Force is not the means to true freedom. Since World War II, the USA has tried to do right in foreign policy and help governments abroad. We have often found ourselves in the Ano win@ situation of supporting one totalitarian regime against another. We do the best we can, but have learned force cannot bring true freedom to people.
Civilization can not free us. To advance freedom we have tried laws, education, advancement of culture. Every triumph of civilization is a victory over some lower bondage, but also contains elements of fresh servitude. We conquer powers in nature, but become enslaved to the systems we create.
The factory worker becomes owned by long work-hours and dependence on a company for wages (and boredom). The office worker is enslaved to stress and tension.
We acquire more luxuries, and then cannot live without them. Members of a highly civilized community tend to become slaves to dress, schedules, etiquette, conformity.
People are the world=s strangest mystery. We stand in awe before wealth and technology, but when we look at the ones who achieved these successes, we see their immoral lives and inability to cope with living.
Lawlessness cannot free us. People try to find freedom in casting off restraint, but instead find a quagmire of filth and rottenness.
The best liberty is one that finds its satisfaction within the limits of a law that is loved. Freedom is when a person can say AI delight to do Your will, my God@ (Psalm 40:8).
Life without law is a body without a skeleton. The law sends us to Christ for salvaation; Christ sends us back to the law to find the best way to live life.
Force, civilization, and lawlessness are attempts to find freedom through external means, but freedom is an inner spiritual condition. It does not depend on circumstances or position. Joseph was as free in prison as he was on the throne. John the Baptist was free in prison; Herod was in bondage on the throne. Christ in bonds was free; Pilot in royalty was bound by the crowd.
Samson, enslaved by his passions, was not able to find inner freedom until he was blinded, jailed, and treated as an animal. In physical bondage he found inner liberty and was free to accomplish his mightiest deed.
Liberty is in inward concern. Where a watch is placed, if wound, it is free and will function normally. But if you tinker with its insides, it will not work wherever you put it.
People need to know the true meaning of freedom. It is finding a place of good, right, and safety that is found only in Jesus.
On a ship, a bird once escaped from its cage, and took off flying, enjoying its supposed freedom. The bird soon disappeared, but later re-appeared, struggling to make the ship. It landed on the deck, panting and breathless.
Somewhere in its flight, the bird had a change of heart, and no longer saw the ship as a prison, but as a dear home. This illustrates what happens when a restless human heart breaks away from the restraints of Christianity. It flies from God as if He were a prison, and from church as if it were a jail. After roaming over meaningless paths, many come back with eager heart to God the harbor and church the home.
Jesus achieved the real purpose of mankind. He alone was absolutely free. He is willing to share with others what He has always had, real freedom.
John 8:37 AI know you are descendants of Abraham, but you are trying to kill Me because My word is not welcome among you.@
The leaders desired to kill Jesus because they did not want to receive His words. People still reject Jesus= words, for at least two reasons.
First, people love their sins. Many are against the Bible because they know the Bible is against them. To evil people, the Bible is a weary book, a burden. Rules of virtue shackle the impenitent.
Second, God=s word is often drowned out by the words of others. We are hyperly-peer-conscious. H. G. Wells said the voice of our neighbors sounds louder in our ears than the voice of God.
Despite the world=s obstinance, the words of Christ deserve acceptance by every heart. They deserve a dwelling place there, and should be recognized and known as belonging there. They deserve a working place there; give His words room to operate; let them work out sin. They deserve a ruling place there. His words must be on the throne of our heart. All else must be subservient to them.
John 8:38 AI speak what I have seen in the presence of the Father, and therefore you do what you have heard from your father.@
Without apology Jesus traced the difference between His views and theirs to a different source of origin. Jesus was of God. The religious leaders= spiritual ancestry was easy to determine by their works.
Jesus had not mentioned the Devil yet, and did so only after His hints were brushed aside, but His meaning here was obvious. The family resemblance was unmistakable. The leaders could not have resembled the Devil more if they had consciously set themselves to achieving that very goal.
John 8:39-40 AOur father is Abraham!@ they replied. AIf you were Abraham=s children,@ Jesus told them, Ayou would do what Abraham did.@
The leaders immediately appealed to genealogy. They trusted in pedigree, proud to be Abraham=s children.
Jesus popped their bubble. When speaking of ancestry, what is historically true can be morally false. People can at the same time be blood kin and spiritual aliens.
True children are those who walk in the steps of their parents, who inherit their character, and follow their example. The real descendants of Abraham are the ones who act the way Abraham acted.
Abraham received God=s messengers. He revered Melchizedek and the three angels, but these leaders wanted to kill Jesus, God=s High Priest and most important messenger. Alienated from God, they were a discredit to Abraham=s name.
Salvation is not hereditary. It can not be inherited. The rich man, in flames, found little comfort in Abraham calling him Ason@ (Luke 16:25). Each individual must have their own personal relationship with God.
John 8:41-43 AYou=re doing what your father does.@ AWe weren=t born of sexual immorality,@ they said, AWe have one Father B God.@ Jesus said to them, AIf God were your Father, you would love Me, because I came from God and I am here. For I didn=t come on My own, but He sent Me. Why don=t you understand what I say? Because you cannot listen to My word.@
Jesus drove home the point. They had a father other than Abraham. Rather than give any indication they knew what Jesus was hinting at, the leaders pressed on to make an even greater claim, AWe have one Father B God.@
The reference to fornication was their way of combining two facts they felt assured them of their privileged position. They considered themselves physically and spiritually pure.
These leaders quickly asserted their Abrahamic descent was pure, uncorrupted by heathen blood. They also felt they had done nothing to jeopardize this position of honor because they had stayed free of spiritual fornication, the worship of false gods or idols. They felt very secure.
But Jesus assaulted their smugness by pointing out two facts that revealed they did not know God: they did not love Jesus, and they did not understand Him.
Anyone who knows God will recognize the Divine in Jesus. They will know He=s more than human, and will perceive He is precious to the Father, which will automatically make Him precious to them.
John 8:44 AYou are of your father the Devil, and you want to carry out your father=s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning and has not stood in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he tells a lie, he speaks from his own nature, because he is a liar and the father of liars.@
Jesus no longer hinted. The gauntlet was thrown down. There could be no mistake about what He meant. The lines of division were becoming more distinct. Somebody had to be wrong. These two claims had to have a head-on collision.
Jesus= plain-spoken frankness necessitated one of two responses: revenge or submission. The leaders chose revenge. Deciding Jesus was in total darkness, they killed Him, but God had the last word.
Jesus was blunt honest. If they were not God=s children, they had to be the Devil=s, for God and Satan divide all mankind. Unfortunately, the vast majority are children of Satan. He works in his own. They partake of his nature, bear his image, obey his commands, and follow his example.
Satan carried out his plans through these leaders. Their whole lives throbbed with Devilism. Satan was in them at every juncture. Their malice, obstinacy, and hatred of truth made them fit keepers of the family name.
Two vital traits especially marked these men as children of Satan. First, they were murderers. Their desire to kill Jesus was an attitude that perfectly resembled the Devil=s. When God had completed creation, Satan brought death on us by his intrigue. He tempted Adam and Eve to sin the sin that brought death into our world. He thereby became the murderer of all mankind.
Second, they were liars. Satan=s natural habitat is falsehood. He is perfectly at home when telling a lie.
He beguiled Eve with a lie, and still carries on temptations by lies. He calls evil good and good evil, plus promises immunity from sin=s wages.
Whenever a person speaks a lie, it is borrowed from the Devil. A liar speaks for Satan, serving as his mouthpiece.
John 8:45 AYet because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me.@
The leaders= perverse propensity for falsehood made them reject Jesus= words. The truth was to them a foreign element, a language they would not understand.
Jesus was not likely to become a popular preacher. He told people things about themselves they did not want to hear. The Jewish leaders decided to remove Him at all costs.
They hated Jesus, but He still loved them. Had any of them repented, they would have been accepted and forgiven.
Children of evil can become children of good. A member of the Devil=s family can be adopted into God=s family. Being born again is the key.