Towering above the New York harbor is the Statue of Liberty, a symbol of hope for the oppressed people around the world. Inscribed on the pedestal of this monument are these words by Emma Lazarus: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore, send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me; I lift my lamp beside the golden door.” This monument is a symbol of freedom, but it is a freedom that has come at a great price. Thousands of people were killed during the Revolutionary War to obtain that freedom. Thousands more have given their lives to protect and maintain that freedom in the wars that have followed.
In the passage of Scripture we just studied [John 8:21-30], Jesus issued warnings to the Jews in Jerusalem, and they refused to heed those warnings. They wanted to be free to do what they pleased, and He wasn’t going to tell them what to do. In verse 30, the apostle John makes a surprising statement. After their bitter refusal to heed Jesus’ words, how could John conclude by saying, in verse 30, “As He spoke those words, many believed in Him.” That sounds like a contradiction to me. There’s more to the story and we’re going to examine whether or not their belief is real.
Here in John 8:31-36, Jesus is giving instructions to those Jewish leaders who believed the things He was sharing. In this case, Jesus is talking about another kind of freedom – spiritual freedom.
I. HIS INSTRUCTION (verse 31)
Verse 31 says, “Jesus was, therefore, saying to these Jews who believed in Him, ‘If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine’.” Jesus addresses Himself to their belief, correcting any misunderstandings on their parts through the use of an “If . . . then” clause. “If you abide in My word”. If you are continuing in My teachings and obeying them, “then” [and not until then] are you really and truly My disciples. Abiding in His word is a continuing process. It is a way of life. Apparently, these Jews were inclined toward Jesus’ teachings but weren’t ready or willing to put their trust in Him and give Him their full allegiance. The desire to know and obey God’s truth is one of the marks of genuine belief in Him. Jesus is challenging them to take that next step as a demonstration that they are true disciples of Him (John 14:21; I John 2:24).
A man by the name of Roger Staubach faced a similar challenge. Roger was the quarterback who led the Dallas Cowboys to the World Championship in 1971. He admitted that his position as a quarterback who didn’t call his own signals was a source of irritation to him. Coach Landry sent in every play. He told Roger when to pass and when to run, and only in emergency situations could he change the play (and he had better be right!). Even though Roger considered Landry to have a “genius mind” when it came to football strategy, pride said that he should be able to run his own team. Roger later said, “I faced up to the issue of obedience. Once I learned to obey, there was harmony, fulfillment, and victory.”
That is the lesson that Jesus wants these Jews to learn. Will they be willing to acknowledge His authority and submit to His will?
II. A PROMISE GIVEN (verse 32)
In verse 32, Jesus makes them a promise if they will respond to His challenge. He says, “and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” That’s quite a promise! It brings to mind the words Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor, asked Jesus in John 18:38. He said, “What is truth?” It’s a question that many people have been asking over the centuries. Jesus said to His disciples in John 14:6, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” The apostle Paul adds to that description when he says of Jesus: “In Him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and insight” (Colossians 2:3). If Jesus Christ is the source of all truth and life, and is the only way to the Father, wouldn’t it be foolish not to follow Him? It would be the biggest mistake of our lives!
That’s only half the promise. The second half of Jesus’ promise makes it even more inviting. If they commit themselves to Him, not only will they come into a personal relationship with Him, the source of all truth, but the truth will also make them free. The first sense of freedom usually comes at the moment a person chooses to repent of his sins and follow Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. It is the freedom from the penalty of sin. In John 5:24, Jesus described the experience clearly when He said: “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears my voice and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life; he does not come into judgment but has passed from death to life.” It’s a spiritual event that effects our whole being.
On the night I became a Christian, I experienced an immediate sense of freedom from the penalty of my sins. I was instantly released from the fear of death and hell. For three years I was a prisoner to those fears, seeking a way of escape in every religion I looked into. On Christmas Eve, 1970, when I responded to the Gospel message, God instantly opened my prison doors and set me free with a full pardon in writing. That was the most amazing experience in my life. The change was immediate and the effects have been continuous. God has created in me a desire to know Him and please Him as my Lord and Redeemer. He has also been delivering me from the power of sin each day through dependence on Him. What a difference He makes in our lives when He sets us free!
III. THEIR BOAST (verse 33)
That was my experience. How did Jesus’ listeners respond after His invitation to them? They made this ridiculous boast in verse 33, saying, “We are Abraham’s descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone.” What an exaggeration! Their whole history has been one of bondage. They’ve been in bondage to Egypt, the Philistines, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, and now Rome. Rather than believe Jesus’ words and commit themselves to him, they draw back in their pride and boast about themselves. By boasting about their political freedom, they are denouncing Jesus’ offer of spiritual freedom. They are lying to themselves and to Jesus, ending their boast with a question to Jesus: “How can you say, ‘You will be made free’?” I get the impression that they mean, “How dare you make such a statement! You don’t know what you’re talking about! We don’t need your freedom because we’ve always been free!” The greatest offer ever made and the greatest promise ever given is met with complete rejection and scorn.
IV. JESUS’ RESPONSE (verses 34-36)
The Lord Jesus reminds them, in verse 34, that He has been talking about spiritual freedom, not political freedom. They want to distract Jesus and get Him involved in a political argument but He stays on topic. The issue is spiritual freedom, and He makes that clear in verse 34 where He says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.” Jesus is not talking about a simple act of sin but habitual sin, a lifestyle of practicing sin. Such people are slaves, whether they care to admit it or not.
Leon Morris describes how a sin can become an enslavement. He says, “The first time anyone commits a particular sin there may have been a terrible struggle with temptation. But if the person gives way, then the next time there is not such a hard struggle. And if he continues in that path, there comes a time when there is scarcely a ripple of temptation. The person has become the slave of the sin that once was so strongly resisted.”
Commentator, William Barclay, describes the effects of becoming enslaved with sin. Here are his words:
“But the point is that a man who sins does not do what he likes.
he does what sin likes. A man can let a habit get such a grip
of him that he cannot break it. He can allow a pleasure to
master him so completely that he cannot do without it.
He can let some self-indulgence so dominate him that he is
powerless to break away from it. So far from doing what he likes,
the sinner has lost the power to do what he likes. He is a slave to
the habits, the self-indulgences, the wrong pleasures which have
mastered him. This is precisely Jesus’ point. No man who sins
can ever be said to be free.”
In verse 35, Jesus gives them a warning. He says, “And the slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever.” How is that a warning? Jesus is saying that the slave has no rights in the household. At any time a slave could be sold and hauled away to enslavement to someone else because he had no rights of his own. This was the fear and horror of every slave in the South prior to the end of the Civil War. A decline in his master’s income, a dislike for a particular slave, or an attractive offer from another slave owner could lead to the slave’s sale. His wife and family usually didn’t go with him because a slave had no rights, no say in his own fate. Those who are slaves of sin are in a similar predicament. Jesus is saying, “Be careful. You think you are sons of God because of your Jewish heritage, but your actions demonstrate that you are becoming slaves to your own pride and lusts. That slavery to sin could have disastrous consequences.”
His warning is followed by an invitation: “If therefore the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed” (verse 36). The Lord Jesus has the power to do so, at the cost of His own life, and the acceptance of His invitation has everlasting results. In Romans 8:1-2, the apostle Paul says, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.”
Will you heed the warning and accept the invitation? What are you waiting for? Don’t try to come up with some ridiculous excuse such as the one that these Jews gave Jesus. Even though you may be tempted to do so, resist that temptation by the grace of God.
Beginning a relationship with Jesus Christ is somewhat like a gift exchange. Have you ever had a gift exchange at Christmas? Let’s say you really wanted to give a wonderful gift for someone in the gift exhange this year. You spent a lot of time thinking about the perfect gift and you even went over the maximum amount for the gift exchange. When you open up the gift that was presented to you, you find an old, dingy shirt or blouse inside. It was purchased at a thrift store and has holes in it, stains on it, and it even has a bad odor to it. It’s useless to you. Would you be upset? I would! That’s not fair!
Now let’s compare Jesus’ invitation to His gift exchange. He has purchased for you the most wonderful gift that you can imagine at the infinite price of His own blood. That gift is Himself and He comes wrapped in a package of love, forgiveness, salvation, and freedom from sin forever. All He wants in exchange is yourself, just as you are, wrapped in a package of repentance and sincere faith. You don’t have to wait until Christmas. He wants to make that gift exchange right now if you haven’t made it already.
For those of us who are Christians, let’s make it a practice to thank God every day for the gift of Himself, and for the release from the bondage to sin forever. I also encourage you to memorize the words of Jesus in Matthew 11:28-30, where He says, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My load is light.”
CONSTRUCTION SITE: COMPLETED
Thank you for visiting this construction site, John 8:31-36. If you found helpful instruction and encouragement, please visit some of the other completed sites as well.