Letters to the Prison - Week 81

Hello!  We miss you.
Last week, we saw many people believe in Jesus (John 8:30) as he taught in the temple in Jerusalem during the Feast of Booths.  And they believed even as he predicted his own death at the hands of the crowd they would be a part of.  Here is perhaps another glimpse of the numerous other disciples Jesus had (besides the twelve).  But not all are true believers.  Not all are truly Jesus’ disciples.  Jesus offers them a way to know the difference:
•“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.” -John 8:31b-32
This is a profound reality that Jesus describes.  First, Jesus makes it plain that true disciples do more than just claim to believe in him.  True disciples abide in his word.  In other words, they live according to what Jesus says.  Jesus’ true disciples obey him.  “Abide” means to dwell, as we have seen.  So, to abide in Jesus’ word is to found one’s very life on the principles Jesus teaches and to model our lives after his.  Jesus offers a summary of all that he teaches in several places (Mark 12:29-30 is one).  In short, Jesus commands us to love God and love our neighbor.
Further, those who abide in Jesus’ words know the truth.  Many posts ago, we noticed the distinction between believing and knowing.  We believe the brakes on our car will stop the car (otherwise, who would ever drive the first time?), but we don’t actually know that’s true until we go and drive once and use the brakes to stop the car.  In a similar fashion, those who believe in Jesus and live according to what Jesus says will come to know that everything he says is the truth.  They believe and, as they abide, they will come to know the truth.
And, according to Jesus, that truth will set us free.  We’ll see, in John 14:6, where Jesus claims to be the very truth he’s speaking of when he says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.”  What a claim to make!  And he is indeed the one who sets people free…
But free from what?  The believing Jews Jesus is speaking to want to know, too.  They say:
•“We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?”-John 8:33
This is a strange “freedom” these Jews are claiming for themselves.  The history of the Jewish nation from its infancy in Egypt up to the very moment these Jews are speaking was fraught with oppression and enslavement by other nations…  including the Roman government that currently ruled them heavily –with maybe a few hundred years of relative independence here and there –and everyone knows it.  Surely, no one in this conversation means this kind of national or physical freedom.  Jesus clarifies with his 12th “truly truly” statement:
•“Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.-John 8:34
There is the true oppression.  There is the true slavery all people face.  And Jesus is the answer.  We’ll look more closely at this profound statement next week!  We love you!

Dean A.

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