LORD’S DAY MORNING SERVICE, 1 December 2019
Sermon Text: John 8:31-36
I. Jesus’ teaching and the Jews’ rejection
II. Jesus’ freedom and people’s freedom
III. Jesus’ freedom offered to all who believe
The Lord’s word in this passage is about a faith that saves sinners. Explaining it, Jesus speaks about ‘truth’ and ‘freedom.’ Furthermore, our Saviour and Lord invites sinners to have the freedom He offers. Needless to say, all people on earth – including the Jews who stood before Jesus in Jn. 8 – must hear His invitation, respond to it, and through believing in Him, enjoy the everlastingly sweet and eternally refreshing freedom He offers.
Having said, we sense a problem with this teaching and invitation of the Lord Jesus. That is, this message is often rejected by many people as was by the Jews of Jn. 8. This invitation is a free offer of Jesus’ freedom, but many in the world dislike it and turn their eyes away from it – and that’s the obvious problem we see. Why is it rejected and disliked? Why is Jesus’ freedom offered freely to all people not welcomed, not received, and dismissed? Last Friday was a ‘Black Friday’ and on every Black Friday, people flock into shops and on online markets to get a good deal. Someone said that you get a 100 percent discount on a Black Friday when you stay home. Jesus’ offer of His freedom is unlike any deal we may find in this world. It’s incomparably better and greater than any bargain on all Black Fridays; even comparing it with any worldly commercial deal could be blasphemous. But why is Jesus’ freedom offered is dismissed and turned down by many people? It’s a mystery.
But this mystery is no longer a mystery when you grasp what sort of freedom Jesus offers, what His freedom truly means, especially to the ears and hearts of sinners. So, I invite you to see and know the true meaning of Jesus’ freedom and how one could receive it as explained in vs. 31-32 of our text passage in these words: “If you abide in My word, you are truly My disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
I. JESUS TEACHING AND THE JEWS’ REJECTION
Let me begin by briefly explaining to you the context of this passage in Jn. 8 to let you see what was going on with the Lord and the Jews. Going a couple of chapters backward in John, in Jn. 6, you read about Jesus’ feeding 5,000 people and walking on the water in addition to His normal ministry of healing and teaching. What He did drew people from all places and numerous followers were with Him wherever He went. Then, Jesus taught them that He was the bread of life coming from heaven and everyone should eat of Him. Then, in Jn. 6:66, you read about many of Jesus’ ‘disciples’ – more than simply ‘followers’ – turning back and no longer walking with the Lord. Many of them disliked Jesus’ teaching and left Him. What a disaster it must’ve been; Jesus lost many of His followers by one sermon!
Notwithstanding such a departure of massive followers, our Lord continued His works of teaching, healing and inviting sinners to His salvation through faith. Now, as you read in v. 31 of Jn. 8, there were still people who believed Jesus. And the Lord says to them what we focus on this morning, that is, ‘the truth will set them free.’ Hearing Him, those people still hanging around Jesus are puzzled and asks back in this sense, ‘Excuse me, Jesus, we’re of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anybody; so, what do You mean the truth would set us free? Are you sure what you mean by that?’ The Lord replies and says, ‘Yes, I’m sure. You’re not free and in need of freedom. That’s why I’m here, and I’ll set you free if you believe in Me.’
Then, the Jews who are still friendly toward Jesus with some sort of trust in Him reply in v. 39 of Jn. 8 (and I’m paraphrasing it), ‘No, no, no, You don’t get it; we mean, we are OF ABRAHAM, the one eternally blessed by our God; we’re the freest people in the whole earth because Abraham’s God guaranteed our freedom!’ Hearing them, Jesus tells them that they are not of Abraham; were they of Abraham, they would’ve believed in Him, the Messiah promised in the Scriptures. Then, in v. 44, Jesus says this, “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires.”
In a few verses after this, in Jn. 8:48, you read how those friendly Jews have become no longer friendly but hostile toward the Lord, and they say, “Are we not right in saying that You are a Samaritan and have a demon?” Then, in v. 52, their hostility gets solid and they say, “Now we know that You have a demon!” By the end of Jn. 8, their hostile intention is turned to an action as v. 59 tells us this: “So [the Jews] picked up stones to throw at [Jesus].”
The more teaching Christ delivered, the more people rejected and left Him. Since the beginning of Jn. 6, Jesus had lost a great number of His ‘disciples’ by preaching one sermon, and here at the end of ch. 8, by teaching them about the truth and freedom He offers, He lost most of those who stayed with Him. They now left Him, but it was more than that; they even tried to stone Him, the Lord! What was it that triggered and made the Jews to reject Jesus and His teaching? It was His teaching on freedom through knowing the truth, and that knowledge of the truth by abiding in Jesus’ word.
II. JESUS’ FREEDOM AND PEOPLE’S FREEDOM
This leads us to consider why Jesus’ message on truth and freedom upset and offended many people. People disliked Jesus’ freedom. Why? The answer is that the freedom Jesus taught was and still is not exactly what people think of freedom. In fact, Jesus’ teaching is completely opposite to the people’s thought on freedom. Truth is that Jesus’ freedom is an offence to people because His freedom implies men’s bondage and slavery.
So, the difference is this. Jesus teaches that all people are under sin and do carry out the desires of sin, so, they need to be freed from their bondage. But the Jews and all people think that they are not forced by anybody, not obliged to anyone or anything, so they’re free. That’s people’s concept of freedom. Christ’s diagnosis of men is that they are by nature the slaves to sin, bound by its curse. But people’s self-conclusion is that they’re free beings able to do whatever they like to do in whatever way they choose. Jesus sees people as under the inescapable captivity and servitude, whereas people boast of their mastery over their own body and mind and life. The difference is, therefore, like how far the east is from the west.
Whose idea of freedom, do you think, is the right one? Of course, the definition given by Jesus. Why? Because He is the One who created all things together with the Father and the Holy Spirit in the beginning of all things, and that includes every human being. The Designer knows all things of His creation; nothing of His creatures is hidden to the Creator’s eyes. A man was driving and his car – a Model T of the Ford Motor Company – broke down on the side of the road. He was out working on the car, unsuccessfully trying to get it started. Then, a man stopped and offered help. That gentleman looked at the engine, briefly touched a couple of places in the engine room, and told the owner of the car to start it up. The car immediately started with no problem. Wondered, the owner of the car asked his helper, ‘How did you fix the car so quickly and how did you know what it needed?’ The man answered, ‘I am Henry Ford. I built the car. I know what makes it work.’ The Designer and Creator of all men knows us, His creation, inside out, and He tells us that all people are lost and dead in sin, and in need of freedom.
Another obvious evidence of such condition of man is how blind we are to our evil nature. We are proud of our self-defined freedom; we fight for it and are ready to destroy anything that is against our freedom. In this attitude, we’re undeniably violent, self-boastful, intolerant, cruel, oppressive and lustful. This is why we always think of freedom in relation to such ideas as war, victory, defeat, slavery and mastery over self and others. This is why no one would consider being alone and living alone on the remotest island as ‘freedom’ but as isolation, solitude or desolation. Freedom in people’s conception always comes with the idea of strife, struggle or clash against others.
But, we’re blind to this evil, cruel nature! We simply consider ourselves as ‘proudly’ free beings. In searching for and keeping our freedom, we’re ruled by a lust for power because power is an essential element for gaining and keeping our freedom; we’re ruled also by a lust for money, lust of pomp and extravagance and self-indulgence because, without those, our freedom cannot be freedom indeed to our human mind.
This is why the Jews of Jn. 8 were puzzled and asked Jesus what He meant by ‘freeing’ them. Don’t we hear the same statement from people in our generation whenever Jesus’ gospel call for freedom reaches their ears? Many around us reply and say, ‘I’m alright (meaning, I’m free) and I don’t need His salvation (i.e., Jesus’ freedom).’ In this sense, those Jews of Jn. 8 are the representatives of all mankind. All alike are blind and do not see our desperate need of freedom from our evil nature.
III. JESUS’ FREEDOM OFFERED TO ALL WHO BELIEVE
Releasing us from this blindness is the freedom our Lord Jesus talks about in Jn. 8:32. No longer do we remain ignorant of the lusts of our hearts, but our eyes are opened to see ourselves and, by realising our desperate status in sin and need of a Saviour, we look to the only One who can help us, that is, Jesus Christ.
This is the ‘truth’ about which Jesus speaks as the agent that will set sinners free. The truth is that all men and women are slaves of sin and unrighteousness whose only end is death and eternal damnation. The truth is, therefore, that all men are in a desperate need of a Saviour who could save them from their servitude and from its end, death. This truth will set sinners free. More precisely, seeing and understanding this truth, a sinner may start search for his/her Saviour.
Moreover, the Lord Jesus points out in v. 31 that His word enables a sinner to know this truth. Abiding or remaining or continuing in reading and studying and meditating His word brings a sinner to opening his eyes and seeing the truth about himself. Then, the Lord in His grace will set him/her free from that bondage to sin, releasing him/her from the curse of sin once and for all!
So, the freedom Jesus offers is free, and everyone can come to Him and receive it. Moreover, Jesus’ freedom is to be set free from sin and death, and to return to man’s original purpose. And what is that? To live in God’s house, under the Father’s blessing, in an ever-deepening relationship with the Lord and with fellow members of God’s household. Freedom from the bondage to sin brings us back to where we’re supposed to belong. Christians live in the midst of the unbelievers in this fallen world, but we’ve been removed from its darkness and brought into the marvellous light of God. The only reason for our being here in this world is to worship God in the presence of all people and, by doing so, we’re showing Jesus to all people in the world and helping them to hear Jesus’ word and know the truth of who they are and who Christ is, and come to Him in repentance and faith. This is why seeing people coming to Christ is our great joy in the Lord Jesus.
What benefit is there for a believer who hears Jesus’ word and, by hearing Him, knows the truth of himself and of Christ, then, by believing in Christ, is saved?
First and foremost, no longer is he the saviour of himself, nor the judge, but Christ is his Saviour and Judge! The One who has all authority, the only Lord and King, is his Saviour and Judge – what a relief! No longer do you need self-delusion, self-deception to ease the accusation constantly rising from your conscience; your God through Jesus your Saviour has declared that you’re righteous. Moreover, no longer do you have to plan for your eternity, Christ has done it for you, and you’re told that none but Jesus will accomplish His plan to the end! What an exciting joy of the eternal hope! Don’t you agree?
So, now, we who believe in Jesus are confident not in our self, but in Christ! The truth He brought to you and me through His word has set us free, and this is indeed the best and ultimate freedom we and all in this world need! Praise the Lord for His marvellous freedom delivered to us through His word! ***