Sermon on Jn. 8:31-59, preached on Sunday, 13 January 2019.
Bible Readings: (OT) Psalm 1:1-6 / (NT) John 8:31-59
I. Jesus is the truth
II. Jesus frees sinners
III. Jesus is our blessing
Imagine what the general Australians might do at this moment. Some would be resting, while others are working, holidaying, studying, eating, sleeping, watching, playing, reading, or talking. It cannot be listed because so many and diverse things must be carried out in so many different ways by so many individuals. In the midst of all these, you and I are here, gathered together as a family of God, worshipping Him in the Lord Jesus and, through the Holy Spirit, seeking to glorify and enjoy our Father’s blessings. We’re thankful to God for leading us this way.
Generally speaking, it seems to be difficult, if not impossible, to point one thing out as a common interest of the general public. But studying people carefully, we can see that there is a common interest all men and women hold. Simply put, everyone desires something good while rejecting anything bad, wishes for something ideal, something excellent, something with eternal value, while showing their indifference to anything poor in value. A survey carried out by a British non-governmental organisation called British Council a few years ago could be one of the evidences of such a common interest of people. That survey asked more than 40,000 people from various countries, not just from the UK, about their favourite English words. Nine words out of its top ten ranked words show people’s general interest and those words are ‘smile,’ ‘love,’ ‘eternity,’ ‘fantastic,’ ‘destiny,’ ‘freedom,’ ‘liberty’ and ‘tranquility.’ The next ten most favoured words are not much different to the top-ranking words. These runner-up words are ‘peace,’ ‘blossom,’ ‘sunshine,’ ‘sweetheart,’ ‘gorgeous,’ ‘cherish,’ ‘hope,’ ‘grace’ and so on. With these words, we can draw a conclusion and say that people dream of something that is excellent, high in value and noble in character; living in a world that is constituted by something that is true, good and lovely is everyone’s desire. I don’t think I’m exaggerating too much of one survey result here. Everyone desires such a world with full of truth and goodness and love and joy. This is an undeniable wish and interest of every human being.
This is exactly what our Lord Jesus points out in our text passage from Jn. 8. He says in v. 32 that ‘the truth will set you, people, free.’ He knows what’s in man’s heart (as Jn. 2:24, 25 tell us), so He talks about that desire of every man and how to achieve it. In other words, Jesus means, ‘You can have your desire and attain your wish by this, that is, knowing the truth.’ And He reveals that He is the truth. So, knowing Him, Jesus Christ, is to know the truth, and knowing this truth will set people free, that is, embrace and grasp their ultimate desire.
This is the message for us today – ‘Jesus who is the truth frees sinners.’ I’d like to see how Jesus is the truth, first of all, and then, contemplate what sort of freedom Jesus brings to the saved sinners, and lastly, why this freedom is the blessing from heaven given to all believers.
I. JESUS IS THE TRUTH
So, let’s begin with this truth that Jesus is the truth. How can He be the truth? How does He claim to be the truth? That’s what I’d like to consider first of all.
At least three proofs we hear from Jesus in this passage. Firstly, He is of God, His Father. In v. 42, Jesus says that He came from God, not of His own accord, but of the will of the Father. So, He speaks of what He has seen with the Father (v. 38) and heard from Him (v. 40). This means that whatever He tells us is the truth (v. 45). Then, the Jews questioned about Jesus’ age in comparison to Abraham, trying to box Him up in man’s finiteness in time. But Jesus said in v. 58 that He was not only before Abraham was, but is now and will be eternally. The words He says at the end of v. 58 is truly interesting. He says, “I am,” which is a repetition of what God said to Moses on Mt Horeb when He first appeared to him in a burning bush. Moses asked God what he should tell other Jews in Egypt if they asked the name of God. God gave His name to Moses, saying exactly what Jesus says here in v. 58, “I AM WHO I AM.”
Someone might question the credibility of Jesus’ testimony to His identity. To such a doubtful heart, a clear twofold answer can be given, that is, His words and life. He spoke nothing but the truth; even unbelievers cannot disagree with this fact – His words are true indeed. Also He lived a perfect life as pronounced by that Roman centurion who stood by the cross on Calvary and witnessed all things happened with Jesus on that hill. What did he say? Mk. 15:39 records this, “Truly, this Man was the Son of God!”, and Lk. 23:47 adds another saying of this foreign soldier, “Certainly this Man was innocent!” If anyone dismisses credibility of these evidences, nothing can be true to that mind other than what satisfies him/her. Jesus’ word and life prove that He is of God and He is God, thus, He is the truth.
The second proof of Jesus being the truth is this that He has a special relationship with God the Father. Because of shortage of time, let me briefly point this out. Jesus says that He knows His Father (v. 55). He not only knows God, but also honours Him (v. 49) which means that His knowledge of God is the true knowledge because everyone who knows God cannot but honour Him or, in other word, ‘fear’ Him as ‘fear of God’ is the beginning of knowledge – not just ‘a’ knowledge, but ‘the’ knowledge that leads to life eternal.
Then, this special relationship is not a one-sided love affair, but a mutual relationship of glorifying and honouring. Like the Son glorifies and honours His Father, the Father does the same to His Son. Jesus mentions this mutual glorifying and honouring between the Father and the Son many times in the Bible. For example, Jesus says in Jn. 17:5 as He prays to the Father, “And now, Father, glorify Me in Your own presence with the glory that I had with You before the world existed.” Has God ever said that He does this to anybody other than Jesus His Son? Absolutely not! Jesus has this special relationship because He is God, the second Person in the Triune Godhead. So, He is the truth.
The third proof is this that two groups of people respond to Him in two specific and distinct ways. One group rejoices in Jesus, whereas the other rejects Him and wants to deny and kill Him. This is quite a strange thing, if you think about this carefully. No one in the world receives such distinct reactions constantly like what Jesus receives. Mostly people are indifferent to others. So, indifference is the main reaction of general public to fellow members of humanity. Having indifference to others as the overarching reaction to one another, some people are welcomed and loved while some others are rejected and hated, for example, politicians or celebrities or criminals. But, even that hatred or welcome feeling soon disappears from people’s mind; they hardly last for a long time. For example, John Howard is the second longest serving Australian Prime Minister who was in his office for over eleven years. He was loved by many Australians and, at the same time, disliked by his political opponents. But once he resigned from politics, the majority Australians are simply indifferent to what he does or concerns at present. Many people say that they dislike Hitler, but their main feeling toward him is rather indifference than long lasting hatred. But Jesus is different; there have always been two distinct reactions from people – one group love Him and the other hate Him. Abraham rejoiced seeing Jesus’ day in the Spirit (v. 56) and all his offspring in this faith rejoice in Jesus. But the Jews of Jesus’ time sought to kill Him and all who are with them – in other words, the children of the devil – never stop but seek to dishonour Christ. That is because of Jesus is the truth!
II. JESUS FREES SINNERS
So, it is convincing that knowing Jesus is knowing the truth. It is also convincing that knowing Jesus will set us free from everything that is untrue, from all things that are false. Being freed from these things is a tremendous concept. This freedom is like a separation between galaxies in the universe. What I mean is a complete separation with zero possibility of reunion or any kind of contact between two. This amazingly overwhelming concept is what Jesus means when He says in vs. 31-32, “If you abide in My word, you are truly My disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free”!
Then, from what are we freed? From sin and its penalty, from the devil, Satan. But, what exactly does it mean? Let me explain this freedom in three areas. First of all, knowing Jesus, the truth, you and I are freed from ‘ignorance of the truth.’ In other words, our eyes are opened and now we can see things, both visible and invisible. We no longer are ignorant of the truth of the things of the world. What are the things of the world? To begin with, our origin, our current status alongside our destination. Where we’re from and what we’re dong here and now and to where we’re going. These are the questions that have bothered so many minds and will do the same to the lives after us. In addition to these fundamental queries, some other important yet difficult questions for every man and woman are, ‘What should we focus in our life?’ and ‘What is happiness?’ So many answers have been suggested, but none has satisfied human mind. Our Lord Jesus points this out and tells us that knowing Him, the truth, will give us not ‘an’ answer, but ‘the’ answer to all these questions.
So, knowing Jesus, we know that we’re of God who is our Creator and heavenly Father and Jesus our Saviour and Lord. Knowing Jesus, we know that we live to glorify God and enjoy Him now and forever. That is the purpose of our existence on earth and it will be achieved when we complete our earthly life in faith. And a place is prepared for us and that is heaven, then, later, the eternal kingdom of Jesus Christ! Knowing this is our happiness, isn’t it? Knowing Jesus Christ is our joy and this Christian joy has no expiry date at all! It only gets bigger, deeper, surer and better.
Secondly, knowing Jesus, thus, knowing the truth, we’re freed from death’s pang. In v. 51, Jesus says this: “Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word, he will never see death.” Here, ‘keeping Jesus’ word’ is the same as ‘knowing Him, the truth’; ‘will never see death’ literally means, ‘you will never experience or undergo a state of death.’ In other words, a Christian ‘may pass through physical death,’ as H. D. M. Spence-Jones pointed out, ‘Christians may taste of dissolution, may come before the judgment seat, may see corruption: but he/she will never know what death is.’ That’s because a true believer will never go into an eternal separation from Jesus who is the life, will never go into hell and gnash the teeth; but all true worshippers will remain in the bosom of the Lord and enjoy His eternal life. After all, our physical death is to retire, first, from any influence of sin over our flesh, then, to enter into our rest in Jesus. So, you and I and all who believe in Jesus will never see death’s pang.
In addition, we believers are also freed from death’s fang. By death’s ‘fang,’ I mean all kinds of fear and anxiety felt physically, emotionally and psychologically while we’re in this world. I believe that all of you here will agree and say that everyone in the world fears death. We don’t really need an example to understand this fact but let me tell you a story of a person who feared death. His name was William Hearst, one of the wealthiest and most powerful men of the 20th century. He built a castle in California, USA which took 28 years to completion, spread over more than 90,000 square feet. He used to invite celebrities over to his castle over a weekend, and that was a mark of a celebrity’s true star status. But, all guests invited had to keep a strict rule, that is, never to use the word, ‘death.’ If violated, the person who used that word would be immediately escorted off the property and never be invited again. William Hearst had a horrible fear of death. It is known that he was so afraid of death that when one of the palm trees died unexpectedly in his property, the gardeners painted its leaves green until it could be replaced at a time when Hearst was gone.
The point is that Hearst was simply one of the billions who are truly afraid of death, fear its approach. Only difference is that Hearst was so wealthy that he could express that internal fear outwardly, and others are not.
Christians are not like that. Of course, Christians feel afraid when we stand at the edge of a cliff with a giddy height or a bandit’s knife tip felt at our throat. We’re no different from others in situations like that. We fear as do all others. But our fear is rather a temporal one, whereas the unbelievers fear death, I mean, death that lasts eternity. Our freedom through knowing Jesus who is the truth frees us from all kinds of physical, emotional and psychological anxiety over death. In fact, we desire to be with the Lord in heaven, don’t we? The deeper our faith grows, the surer our hope of heaven becomes. To such a heart, physical death loses its weight, its fang loses its threat. Knowing Jesus, you and I are freed from death’s pang and its fang as well.
Thirdly, knowing Jesus frees us finally and ultimately from the devil, Satan. Our former bondage to that prince of the power of the air is terminated, severed, eternally cut. I experienced some years ago what I can call as a complete severance with an important part of my past. In the process of becoming an Australian citizen, my former citizenship of the country I was born was renounced. Soon, I received an official letter which informed me of that fact. Receiving that letter was a strange feeling, a feeling I had never felt before. It was official termination of my former citizenship.
Although that experience of mine is quite different from the severance between Christians and the devil, its terminal and official nature is the same. Being freed by knowing Jesus, no longer has the devil any right over us. In this sense, he is our past, no longer there’s any tie between us and the devil, not in the present, nor in the future. We now belong to Jesus; we’re His and He is ours! Because of this new relationship, we’re able to seek, as Phil. 4:8 tells us, ‘what is true, what is honourable, just, pure, lovely, commendable and excellent’! What a blessing of joy!
So, in this way, Jesus who is the truth frees sinners from three areas – first, from ignorance of the truth, second, from the death’s pang (and from its fang as well), and third, from the devil himself completely and finally!
III. JESUS IS OUR BLESSING
This naturally leads us to our last point, that is, ‘Jesus is our blessing.’ Let me remind you of what I introduced to you in the beginning of this message with the English word survey conducted by British Council. Almost all words in the top twenty showed people’s desire and interest in their heart and mind, that is, truth and goodness, and living under the direct rule of the value that is true, excellent and honourable. And think about what we’ve just heard over two previous points for today’s message. ‘Jesus is the truth’ and ‘He frees sinners.’ So, it is more than convincing that Jesus is our blessing. In other words, knowing Him is our blessing.
Every word in Ps. 1 we heard earlier this morning reconfirms this. Remember the words of Ps. 1 which begins and says, “Blessed is the man … [whose] delight is in the law of the LORD, and on His law he meditates day and night.” Here in Jn. 8:31, Jesus says exactly the same, “If you abide in My word, you are truly My disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Ps. 1:2 continues, “He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season … in all that he does, he prospers.” A vivid picture of this blessedness is also portrayed in Ps. 23 with these words, “The LORD is my Shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake”! What more do I need to explain to you that Jesus our Lord is our only and full blessing from above?
So the conclusion we reach is simple – know the Lord and have His freedom and enjoy it fully in our life. And this conclusion is consistent with last Sunday’s message from Ps. 63. What was it about? ‘Seek the Lord earnestly.’ This message has been consistently given to God’s people of both the Old and the NT. ‘Know the Lord Jesus’ is the message that never makes us tired but cheers us up because Jesus and knowing Him is all we need for life.
So, let me suggest you a couple of practical ways to know more of Jesus. First, start reading the Bible regularly and systematically. A Bible reading chart is in the Church Hall, available for you to pick up and use it for this year. Second, consider joining one of our church’s weekly Bible study meetings. Studying the word together with other Christian brothers and sisters, an amber that is in you can easily become a burning flame, being surrounded by other flames of faith. Then, listen to the sermons preached on every Lord’s Day from the pulpit and study them later. Weekly messages are uploaded to our church’s website and a sermon series is printed out regularly in booklet form for you to take home and read.
Jesus freed us and He is now our only and full blessing. May the Holy Spirit strengthen all of us through opening up His word to us; and knowing Jesus more, may our joy grow deeper so that we could reach out our unbelieving neighbours and friends with such an overflowing joy in Jesus! ***