31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 33 They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?” 34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. 35 The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”
Truth is a difficult concept to talk about. Some people believe that what is true for me might not be true for you. Jesus however, says that we CAN know the truth. How do we find truth and freedom in a crazy world?
Let’s start by looking at the context of this passage. Jesus is speaking to a group of Jews who believed in him and is explaining the meaning of truth. Based on their responses to Jesus in this passage and his responses to them, it appears that this group of Jews have a rather shallow faith based on Jesus’ miracles, rather than a deep desire to obey and follow him. They are interested in the show but their faith is ultimately superficial. With the context of the group Jesus is speaking to let’s look into the passage.
In this passage Jesus makes a seemingly straightforward statement: if people will abide in his word, they are his disciples, they will know the truth and the truth will set them free. Jesus is talking about spiritual freedom, but the Jews misunderstand him and take his comment in the sense of political freedom. The Jews took a political tack on this question because as descendants of Abraham and children of the covenant between God and Israel, they did not consider themselves to be in any spiritual danger. They probably believed they were more or less guaranteed a place in heaven simply through their heritage.
As I was working through this passage I wonder, how often do people rely on external factors for their relationship with Jesus? For example as a child it is normal and natural to rely on the faith of one’s parents, but as one gets older one must make their own decisions about faith.
To move away from the misunderstanding about heritage, Jesus makes his teaching more obvious. He is explaining the difference between true freedom and slavery to sin. Slavery to sin is often not immediately obvious; however anyone who consistently and willfully practices sin is a slave to sin. Sin and truth are set as opposites. Sin takes one captive and makes one a slave, but truth sets a person free.
Jesus goes to the concept of slavery to illustrate his point. A slave has no standing in a household, they are at the whim of others and have no inheritance from the family. On the other hand a son of the family has a permanent standing in that family. In spiritual terms, slavery and freedom are not determined by heritage or family lineage; they are determined by our choices. The devil and the world dangle the pleasures and rewards of sin in order to entice, but once a person is caught in a lifestyle of sin they find it to be a trap. “Sin takes you further than you want to go, keeps you longer than you want to stay, and costs you more than you want to pay.”
Slavery to sin ultimately leads to death. There is only one way to be freed from slavery to sin; Jesus sets a person free. Jesus has conquered death and the freedom that he offers is hope, joy and eternal life. Jesus paid the ultimate price when he died on the cross, and through his sacrifice, death and resurrection he offers freedom and eternal life to any who would choose to follow him! (See read Romans 8:31-39)
Jesus offers a new perspective on the world. No longer are people slaves to sin, bound by the power structures and dominant people of the world or the spiritual forces of evil. We are free in the gift of grace that Jesus offers! To wrap up, what kind of saviour are you looking for? Many of the Jews at Jesus’ time were looking for a saviour, but when they encountered the saviour they found him to be a savior they did not want. They wanted a superhero, a military general, a king, a political leader, not a servant who offered his life in exchange for freedom from sin. If you encounter Jesus offering you freedom what is your response to him? True freedom in Jesus is the most beautiful and freeing thing you could ever know. Embrace freedom today!
 Barker and Kohlenberger III eds, Expositors Bible Commentary Abridged Edition: New Testament, 1994 pg 325
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 Arrington and Stronstad eds, Life in the Spirit New Testament Commentary 1999, pg 56