Summary: Jesus Christ is the great Liberator of His people. Come and see how He sets captives free.
John 8. Zanzibar is an old city in East Africa. It is the home of the Swahili Institute, the official guardians of the Swahili language. But, for nearly 300 years it was the home of one of East Africa’s largest slave markets. But, something happened in Zanzibar. About 150 years ago a man walked into Zanzibar with a message of freedom for those who were bound by slavery. David Livingstone set thousands of slaves free, and even today the name of David Livingstone commands deep respect in East Africa. Today, in Zanzibar, a Christian Church sits on the very site of the former slave market, and the very same platform that used to display slaves as they were being auctioned off, is now the platform that holds up the altar in that place of worship. This is a picture of what Jesus does in the hearts and lives of all His elect. John 8 verse 36 says “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” Jesus comes to us as Livingstone came to Zanzibar, and He meets us at the very place of slavery in our lives. He meets us at our very point of shame, the very place where darkness is holding us captive, and He makes His grace reign in that very place, so that our hearts which used to be enslaved are freed from sin and transformed into places of worship. The title of my sermon today is “Jesus makes us free indeed.”
So far in John chapter 8 we’ve seen the Pharisees try to trap Jesus, we’ve seen Jesus forgive and pardon a woman caught in adultery (vss. 1-11), we’ve seen Him declare that He is the Light of the world (vs. 12), we’ve seen Him point to the cross as the place of greatest revelation (vs. 28) and then last week we saw Jesus speak to the new believers beginning in verse 30, and He described the process by which people become free. You can see it there, it begins with faith in Jesus (vs. 30), the process continues as those new believers hold to His teaching, and remain in His Word (vs. 31). Then holding to the teaching leads to knowing the truth (vs. 32), which then produces freedom (vs. 32). This is the process: God gives us faith to believe in Jesus, we immerse ourselves in His Word, we come to know the truth, and we begin to live in freedom from slavery to sin.
So freedom has to do with our remaining in God’s Word. Let’s compare vs. 32 with vs. 37. Vs. 32” You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” Vs.37: “You are ready to kill me, because you have no room for my word.” Those who have no room for God’s Word continue in their sin, whereas those who hold to Jesus’ Word are set free.
But in Jesus’ saying that the truth would set them free, these Jews became offended and stated in verse 33 that they are Abraham’s descendants and had never been slaves of anyone. Now we mentioned what a terrible denial this is, because they were in slavery throughout their whole history as a nation, with brief periods of freedom interspersed. They were first enslaved to Egypt for 400 years, then they were taken captive to Babylon and currently they are in bondage to the Romans, with no freedom to be an independent nation. I mean their whole history is one of slavery.
And so we see that it is hard for people to acknowledge their slavery. “We’ve never been slaves of anyone.” Wow! Just write the word “Denial” across verse 33. And Jesus cuts through their denial, and explains what kind of slavery He is referring to when in vs. 34 He says “everyone who sins is a slave of sin”, thereby declaring these Jews, and all of us, and the whole world to be slaves of sin.
Here is the human problem. Some people talk about an “addictive personality.” He or she has an addictive personality. No, the actual term is “slavery” and it’s not a particular personality, it is actually all humans. It is just as true of India and China and Russia and Africa as it is of America; we are a race of slaves. We are born into the world with sin and self and Satan as our Trinitarian master, and in this condition we are not saved. You can see that in vs. 35, “a slave has no permanent place in the family.” Here Jesus is reminding them of what happened in Abraham’s family, as the slave woman’s son, Ishmael, was cast out of the family. Ishmael had no permanent place in Abraham’s family, and the Jews and us are like Ishmael while we are slaves to sin, we have no permanent place in God’s family. Jesus just described the human problem.