“And the truth shall set you free…” (8:21-47

The truth shall set you free

In the previous two passages Jesus has faced disputes over what he has been saying and who he has been saying he is. In this passage the reader is witness to another dispute between Jesus and some of the Jews who had chosen to believe what he had been saying so far. Yes, you read that correctly. This passage records a conversation between Jesus and some of his new believers.

Why is that important?

It is important because those 7 little words at the beginning of verse 31 show that even when we have chosen to believe and follow Jesus, the temptation will always be there to fall back into our old identities and find meaning in them. Look at the people Jesus was talking to if you don’t believe me. Jesus says to them that having believed what he says, if they really are to be his disciples they will hold to his teaching, and when they hold to his teaching they will know the truth and the truth shall set them free.

What is Jesus’ teaching? In John 3 Jesus said to Nicodemus that no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again. New birth. New life. New identity. Or as Paul writes to the Corinthian church in 2nd Corinthians 5: “If anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation. The old has gone and the new has come.” In John 4 Jesus met a woman at the well in Sychar and invited her to drink living water and live a new life; a life different from her old one. In John 5 Jesus healed the man by the pool in Bethesda and encourages him to go off and live a new life free of sin.

Jesus’ teaching is that when you come to him; when you live your life in his way; when you really are his disciples you will know the truth and the truth will set you free, because you will know that the old has gone and the new has come; you will know that you are a new creation in Christ; you will know that in Christ you are adopted into the family of God; that you have become a beloved child of God.

In this text, the Jews who have believed Jesus have not realized fully what it means to believe Jesus. They have not understood that they have become new creations in Christ. How do we know this? We know this because when Jesus tells them that the truth will set them free they respond by stating that they are descendants of Abraham and therefore have never been slaves of anyone. In other words they believe what Jesus is saying, but they still don’t get that Jesus is inviting them to a completely new life, hence they continue to hold on to their old identity as children of Abraham. And Jesus even challenges them on that understanding of themselves: “But if you really were children of Abraham you would do what Abraham did.” What did Abraham do? He believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness (Gen 15:5, Rom 4:3, Gal 3:6) Jesus is saying that if these followers were really children of Abraham as they claim to be, they would recognize the Father in the Son; they would recognize that Jesus is who he is saying that he is and they would believe him, rather than plotting to capture and kill him. As Jesus goes on to say later in this passage, “Whoever belongs to God hears what God says.” If these believers really do recognize that Jesus is who he says he is then they will recognize God in their midst and will hear what Jesus has to say.

So I say it again, it is possible for us to hear Jesus and believe what Jesus has to say about all things and still not fully get what it means. We can hear Jesus and believe what Jesus has to say about one new life and new birth and still remain unchanged by it.

The Jewish believers in this passage had believed Jesus but had not considered themselves new creations in Christ, and i think that is a challenge to every reader of this passage. Are you a believer of the things Jesus has said? Has believing Jesus brought about a new birth in you? Have you had an experience of the new life? Has the old gone and the new come? Or are you living a life which believes that Jesus taught great things, but ultimately remains stuck in the old identity.

As John has said from the very beginning of this work, Jesus is the Word of God made flesh; Jesus is the light which the darkness cannot over come; Jesus is the Messiah; Jesus is the one sent by God. In Jesus you and me and every other human being in the world can be born again and can experience a new life and a brand new identity which is not marred by the old identity. This is the absolute truth from the lips of Jesus himself, and when we become his followers; when we really are his disciples we will know the truth and the truth shall set us free to live this new life as the beloved children of God.

So how about that? Is it time for you to be born again and experience this first hand?

I hope so.

The Face Off (7:14-24)

john-gospel

When I was a teenager I used to catch the bus to visit my friend in his town. he had a bunch of friends that he hung out with there and I enjoyed spending time with them and getting up to mischief. One of those other friends was a guy my age called Roy Essandoh. Roy was a handy footballer (soccer player) and i can remember at the time he was playing for one of the bigger local youth football/soccer teams in Northern Ireland. We all knew he had the potential to play professionally at some level of the game. We hung out a few times, had a few laughs together and that was that. He was a friend of a friend who I knew personally. After a few years the friendships drifted apart and that was that.

Fast forward from those days in the mid-1990’s to 10th March 2001. As usual I was spending time on that Saturday afternoon watching the football/soccer scores come in – I have always had a keen interest in sports. That day, in the soccer/football world, was a day when fixtures were played in the F.A. Cup tournament. The F. A. Cup is a tournament like no other because every single soccer club in England gets to play their part, from the very smallest and least successful clubs through to the largest and most successful clubs. The beauty of the F. A. Cup is that because it pits all levels of clubs against each other, there are times when smaller clubs get everything right on the field and cause an upset by defeating the larger teams. There is always an air of excitement when a fixture takes place between a small club and a big club. That day the smaller club were Wycombe Wanderers F.C., who played in the third their of English football at the time, and they had been pitted against Leicester City who played in the Premier League. Wycombe had succumbed to a bit of an injury crisis in their team and they had a distinct lack of strikers. Their manager, desperate to sign a player in time for the fixture, placed an advert on the national television media service (Ceefax) and hoped for the best. Roy responded to the advert and having literally come from nowhere in footballing terms, he found himself in the match day squad. Not only that, he came into the game as a substitute and with only seconds remaining in the game, he rose above every defender to head the football into the goal and score the winner.

Having come from footballing obscurity, Roy Essandoh’s name was now headlining every single news media outlet. In this footballing equivalent to the David and goliath encounter, Roy was the David and he had absolutely just played the giant. As I watched the results coming in that night, I smiled as I remembered the days that we had all played together as teenagers. If I have piqued your interest you can watch the story told by the players and characters themselves here

Sometimes, just sometimes, individuals come from absolutely nowhere and do something profoundly special and noticeable.

In this passage of John’s Gospel, Jesus arrives from nowhere and pretty much wows the Jews in the Temple Courts.

The Festival of the Tabernacles has been going for 3/4 days now and Jesus has quietly managed to hide his presence there until now. He has decided to go up to the Temple Courts to teach. The text does not say this explicitly, but the teaching of Jesus must have again been significantly strong and on point because the Jews there were left wondering where on earth Jesus had learned the things. Afterall, Jesus is the son of a carpenter, he is not, by upbringing, a part of the educated class in first century middle eastern society. And yet here he is teaching in the Temple Courts, and teaching well enough to make the Jews around him wonder where this teacher with this teaching appeared from.

In response Jesus reminds them that the power behind what he is teaching and saying is not a power that has come from any education system – it has come from the One who sent him. Again, Jesus is making the point that he is who he has been saying he is from the very beginning of the gospel: Son of God, Chosen One, Word become flesh, Light of the world. He is all that he has said he is and because he is sent from God, and the things that he says will always ultimately be found to be true. How does he know this? Where is his proof of this? Simple. Jesus tells the Jews that anyone who wishes to work out whether he is being truthful or not just needs to look at his motives. All that Jesus does and says points away from himself and towards the Father:

“Whoever speaks on their own does so to gain personal glory, but he who seeks the glory of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him.”

Jesus is all about the business God the Father’s mission. He has been sent by the Father to do the work of the Father and this is his complete focus. The people listening to him are left with the decision as to whether or not Jesus is telling the truth. If John 6 was about Jesus declaring aloud his identity to the Jewish people, then John 7 is Jesus demanding their response to what he said about himself in John 6.

Is Jesus a liar?
Is Jesus delusional?
Or is Jesus Lord.

In John’s gospel the reader is faced with a demand to respond to the claims of Jesus. We either choose to believe him or not. In this passage, Jesus is challenging his listeners to judge him fairly and with integrity because he knows when they do, they will know that his teaching comes from God.

So the question comes before you and me again: Is Jesus liar or Lord? Working out our answer to this question is simply the most important thing that we can do in our lives because the answer we arrive at has the potential to direct every future step we take.