Peter Misselbrook's Blog
May 16 2013 - John 8:31-59 – The truth will set you free

Jesus offended the Jews when he told them that they needed to be set free. They considered themselves freeborn children of Abraham; they had never been enslaved to anyone. They seem to have forgotten their own history. They call themselves children of Abraham but had forgotten that their ancestors were enslaved and oppressed in Egypt. They had forgotten that it was the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob who came down to rescue them from slavery and lead them out into freedom. They cannot see that, in Jesus, this is what God is doing again. Instead they deny the very slavery from which they need to be freed.

Jesus responds by saying, “Everyone who sins is a slave to sin” (John 8:34). No matter their parentage or religious credentials, they remain enslaved by sin and on their way to death. Jesus alone can provide freedom from such slavery. Not only can he break the chains of sin, he is able also to conquer death – “Truly, truly, I tell you, if anyone keeps my word he will never see death” (8:51).

His listeners responded by asking, “Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?” (8:53). Jesus replied, “Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad” (John 8:56). This provoked a scornful response from the Jewish leaders, "You are not yet fifty years old, and you have seen Abraham!" But Jesus does not back down; rather, he makes the even more outrageous claim, "Before Abraham was, I am!"

What did Jesus mean by saying that Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing his day, and saw it? God promised Abraham a son and that his descendants would be as countless as the stars in the heavens. He also promised him that all nations on earth would be blessed through him – through his son; through his descendants.

It seemed to Abraham quite impossible that these promises would be fulfilled for he and his wife, Sarah, were old and beyond hope of having children. Yet Abraham trusted God with whom nothing is impossible; he rejoiced in the prospect of receiving a son as the gift of God. Not only did he rejoice in the prospect, he saw this first promise fulfilled; he and Sarah had a son, Isaac – the one who turned the hoped for joy into the laughter of realised blessing. In this son, Abraham saw the future fulfilment of all of the promises of God.

Jesus is claiming that he is the one in whom all these promises find their fulfilment. More than that, he is the fulfilment of these promises because he is the God of Abraham; he is the great “I am” come down to set his people free.

Let’s be honest with ourselves, we all have flaws of character (we hesitate to call them ‘sins’) which hold us captive, which prevent us being the kinds of people that God created us to be. All too often we are resigned to go on living with them; “That’s just the way I am” we tell ourselves – which amounts to an admission of enslavement. We have given up on the hope of freedom now; we hope for freedom only with death. Yet Jesus promises freedom now, “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

Lord Jesus, you are the truth that sets us free from all that would enslave us. It is for freedom that you have set me free. Captivate me with your love. Help me to stand firm and strong in you and not be burdened again by any enslaving habit or practice. Help me to live by the liberating power of your Spirit and to keep in step with your Spirit. Lead me out of slavery and into freedom.

Peter Misselbrook