Summary: How well do you know Jesus, really? Jesus probes some Jews who say they believe but don’t. Jesus says the truth will set us free, but sometimes we are speaking a different language and so can’t understand what he is saying at first.
How well do you know Jesus? Some of us grew up in church and think we know him. He’s the guy who walked on water and changed water into wine and started that Golden Rule thing. Others know Jesus as a good man who gave us a lot of good advice on how to live. To others Jesus is love guy-love your enemies, God so loved the world-that sort of thing.
But as it turns out, the more you know Jesus the more you realize how little you really know him. The more you learn about him the more you understand that it isn’t enough to acknowledge him as the baby carried in Mary’s arms or an historic figure who told us how to live.
In fact, Jesus seems in Chapter 8 to probe people’s belief in him to help them realize they don’t really believe in the one who has come but in the one they wanted. In the last part of chapter 8 Jesus digs under the surface of people’s hearts and beliefs and opinions to reveal the truth and offer the truth.
31 - 33
One of the things I love about Jesus is that he doesn’t want anyone to be fooled into thinking they belong to him when they really don’t yet. Notice that Jesus says "to the Jews who had believed in him." The gurus of ministry growth would tell you not to ruffle the feathers of people already in your camp.
But Jesus doesn’t want acquaintances, he wants disciples. It all starts with the words of Jesus "abiding" in us. That means to dwell, remain, endure and to be present. If the words of the gospel just bounce off and don’t take root they are not abiding. Then those words lead to true discipleship, not the "we like you now so we’ll hang out with you" kind of relationship the people he’s talking to have. And it is only true disciples (read: apprentice, learning how to be like Jesus) that are freed from sin.
The word "free" is what sparked the response from the Jews. The Jews were all about being "free." In fact they were a very stubborn and independent people. Ever since God rescued them from Egypt they rankled at ever being ruled by anyone (including God). God didn’t free them so they could chart their own destiny in the universe, he freed them so they could belong to him!
Ezekiel 16:8-9 "When I passed by you again and saw you, behold, you were at the age for love, and I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your nakedness; I made my vow to you and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Lord God, and you became mine. ESV
Since they didn’t want to belong to God, the Lord put them under worldly kings and kingdoms. Currently they were under bondage to the Romans and that political undercurrent is probably why the Jews react so quickly. "What do you mean we aren’t free?"
But Jesus wasn’t talking about physical or political freedom, he was talking about spiritual freedom-freedom in the truest sense of the word. What these people think they believe in is a rescuer for their nation but what they really need is a rescuer for their souls because even though they think they are free they are really helpless slaves.
34 - 38
These five verses pack a wallop. Jesus here lays it out pretty thick but totally plain:
1. If you do something, anything, that is outside the character of God you have sinned and if you have sinned you have made yourself a slave to that sin. Paul explains it later in his letter to the Romans:
Romans 6:16-19 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. ESV
So you see, we really are always slaves. We get the choice though, to be slaves of Satan and sin or slaves of God and right.
2. You think that as sons of Abraham that you are automatically and firmly in God’s favor but slaves can be bought, sold, or traded. Slaves have no right to remain in the house and slaves to sin have no right to be in God’s presence. Only a blood relative to God can hope to stay in the family forever. Jesus is telling them that though they are related by blood to Abraham they are not related by blood to God. The Law was always supposed to point to Jesus and the Jews who pointed elsewhere, and the system of rules they created, is also being rejected outside of belief in Jesus (see Romans 11). If they were truly Abraham’s offspring Jesus’ words would have resonated with them as the truth.