True Freedom: John 8:31-59

Focus Passage: John 8:31-59 (NIV)

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.”

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.

Read John 8:31-59 in context and/or in other translations on!

Part way through Jesus’ ministry, He goes to Jerusalem for a festival and stands up to speak in the temple. In the message He shares, we find a powerful challenge to those present, and one that they may have not been ready to receive.

John’s gospel opens by sharing a detail I had never noticed before about the people Jesus spoke this message to. John tells us that, “To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’” (v. 31-32)

One of my favorite verses in the entire Bible is shared here, and perhaps it was because I always gravitated to this verse, I missed seeing the truth contained before. When reading the opening John shares to this portion of Jesus message, I am amazed to learn that Jesus spoke this message to “Jews who had believed Him”. (v. 31a)

This detail is significant because it makes me wonder if these Jews had believed in Him at some point in the past while then discounting Him in the present, or if these Jews had believed in Jesus up to the point that He challenged them with this message. Perhaps these Jews said they believed in Jesus, but they discounted or ignored His teaching.

Jesus opens His message to this group of Jews by saying, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.” (v. 31b)

By opening in this way, Jesus makes this challenge to everyone who calls themselves Christians, believers, followers, and/or disciples of Jesus. In this passage, the context happens to be Jews who said they believed in Him at one point, but Jesus frames His response in a much broader fashion.

Part of me wonders what is so significant about holding to Jesus’ teachings. Perhaps it has to do with the next verse, which happens to be included among my favorites. Jesus continues by saying, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (v. 32)

As I read this opening to Jesus’ message, we get a progression that says: When we hold to Jesus’ teachings (implying that we remember and obey them) then we are His disciples. As disciples of Jesus who hold onto His teachings, we will then be able to see the truth (spiritual truth, physical truth, social truth, and Godly wisdom), and the truth that we discover will set us free. The freedom we discover comes through knowing the truth that we can only find because we are obeying Jesus’ teaching. This freedom is not freedom from obedience, its freedom within obedience!

A portion of culture is trying to craft itself as opposite to God’s way in every way imaginable, but the challenge this group has is that they trap themselves through their actions because they essentially must know the Bible better than they might want to. They trap themselves because they let the Bible dictate what they are opposed to instead of using the minds God gave them to decide freely what is right.

While they claim freedom from the Bible, they are truly trapped, because they let the Bible force them into a corner that they are unwilling to come out of.

The freedom Jesus offers comes through obedience, and all of Jesus’ followers are invited to obey and experience God’s freedom for themselves!

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus "Reflective Bible Study" package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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