Flashback Episode — Loving Obedience: John 8:31-59

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During one of Jesus’ times was in the temple teaching and challenging those present, He describes who He is, where He came from, and also what He came to accomplish. However, with all these details shared to this group of people, we find out that they were not as ready to learn the truth about Jesus as they thought they might have been.

Our passage comes from the gospel of John, chapter 8, and we will be reading it from the New International Version of the Bible. Starting in verse 31, John tells us that:

31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Pausing really briefly, I want to draw our attention to this opening line. John opens this passage by describing those Jesus shares this message to as “the Jews who had believed Him”. I believe this is significant, especially when we start seeing them push back at what He tells them.

Rereading Jesus’ challenge in the second part of verse 31, John tells us:

31b Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

33 They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?”

34 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. 37 I know that you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are looking for a way to kill me, because you have no room for my word. 38 I am telling you what I have seen in the Father’s presence, and you are doing what you have heard from your father.”

39 “Abraham is our father,” they answered.

“If you were Abraham’s children,” said Jesus, “then you would do what Abraham did. 40 As it is, you are looking for a way to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. 41 You are doing the works of your own father.”

“We are not illegitimate children,” they protested. “The only Father we have is God himself.”

42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me. 43 Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. 44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! 46 Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? 47 Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.”

48 The Jews answered him, “Aren’t we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed?”

49 “I am not possessed by a demon,” said Jesus, “but I honor my Father and you dishonor me. 50 I am not seeking glory for myself; but there is one who seeks it, and he is the judge. 51 Very truly I tell you, whoever obeys my word will never see death.”

52 At this they exclaimed, “Now we know that you are demon-possessed! Abraham died and so did the prophets, yet you say that whoever obeys your word will never taste death. 53 Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?”

54 Jesus replied, “If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. 55 Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and obey his word. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.”

57 “You are not yet fifty years old,” they said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!”

58 “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” 59 At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.

Looking at this whole event, I am amazed when realizing it is framed as Jesus talking to some Jews who believed in Him. This is significant because it sheds light on human nature and on how God wants us to grow.

While I don’t know why Jesus specifically decided to share this message, I suspect it may have had to do with wanting to challenge these Jews on whether their belief or faith was willing to take the next step. Chances are, this group of Jews had faith that Jesus was able to heal the sick and teach the crowds truth about God. However, we clearly see that when Jesus challenges these people regarding obedience, they push back.

This whole teaching hinges on the opening statement Jesus makes: “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (verses 31-32)

Following this statement, we learn that sin’s goal is to enslave and trap us. Jesus came to set us free and adopt us into God’s family.

Following this statement, we learn that Satan is the father of lies and that when we pay attention to him for too long, we will not be able to hear the truth God wants to share with us. Jesus came to expose Satan as a liar and to draw God’s people together.

Following this statement, we learn that death is reserved for those who disobey Jesus. Jesus came to honor God, and to set us free from the fear of death.

Following this statement, we learn that all the petty excuses that people try to use to discredit Jesus, like calling Him a Samaritan and demon-possessed, doesn’t change who He really is. Jesus is God who came to earth as a human.

While this truth is impossible for us to fully understand how Jesus is both completely God and man, we are called to accept this truth, and all the other ideas Jesus taught and challenged His followers with, through faith. While faith in Jesus can start on the basic level of what can Jesus do for me (such as teaching and healing), it truly grows into maturity when we discover that faith in Jesus becomes a “what can I do for God because of what He has already done for me” type of faith. Obeying God and obeying Jesus is not legalism any more than obeying your spouse when they ask you to do something for them is legalism. Obedience demonstrates love, and while there are plenty of exceptions to this truth, the principle is solid.

We demonstrate to others that we love God when we are obedient to Him. Through obedience, we learn the truth, and like one of my favorite Bible verses says, “the truth will set you free”.

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave with you:

Be sure to continue seeking God first in your life. Choose to believe in Jesus and be willing to take your belief and turn it into obedience. Let God lead you into His truth and follow His leading and guiding in your life.

As you grow your relationship with God, be sure to always pray and study the Bible for yourself, because through personal study, you will learn, grow, and discover who God really is, what He is like, and how much He loves you. As you study and grow closer to God, God will send His Spirit into your life and He will lead and guide you moving forward in life.

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, chicken out of, or abandon where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Flashback Episode: Year 4 – Episode 25: During one of the times Jesus teaches and challenges the crowd of people in the temple, we get a glimpse of who He truly is, where He came from, and what He came to accomplish. But were those listening ready to learn the truth? What about us living today?

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