John 8:21–41—The Truth Will Set You Free

21 Later Jesus said to them again, “I am going away. You will search for me but will die in your sin. You cannot come where I am going.”
22 The people asked, “Is he planning to commit suicide? What does he mean, ‘You cannot come where I am going’?”
23 Jesus continued, “You are from below; I am from above. You belong to this world; I do not. 24 That is why I said that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I Am who I claim to be, you will die in your sins.”
25 “Who are you?” they demanded.
Jesus replied, “The one I have always claimed to be. 26 I have much to say about you and much to condemn, but I won’t. For I say only what I have heard from the one who sent me, and he is completely truthful.” 27 But they still didn’t understand that he was talking about his Father.
28 So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man on the cross, then you will understand that I Am he. I do nothing on my own but say only what the Father taught me.29 And the one who sent me is with me—he has not deserted me. For I always do what pleases him.” 30 Then many who heard him say these things believed in him.
31 Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. 32 And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
33 “But we are descendants of Abraham,” they said. “We have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean, ‘You will be set free’?”
34 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin. 35 A slave is not a permanent member of the family, but a son is part of the family forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free. 37 Yes, I realize that you are descendants of Abraham. And yet some of you are trying to kill me because there’s no room in your hearts for my message. 38 I am telling you what I saw when I was with my Father. But you are following the advice of your father.”
39 “Our father is Abraham!” they declared.
“No,” Jesus replied, “for if you were really the children of Abraham, you would follow his example. 40 Instead, you are trying to kill me because I told you the truth, which I heard from God. Abraham never did such a thing. 41 No, you are imitating your real father.”
They replied, “We aren’t illegitimate children! God himself is our true Father.”

Points of Interest

  • ‘You will search for me but will die in your sin’—Jesus is warning them that his offer doesn’t stand forever. There will come a time when they will realize that the eternal life Jesus is offering would come in pretty handy. Hopefully, it won’t be when he can no longer do anything for them.
  •  ‘We have never been slaves to anyone’— though they’re originally enthusiastic about him, as soon as Jesus suggests that they might actually need something from him, they turn on him: ‘Hold on there, buddy. Who said we needed rescuing?’ A similar thing happens with Nicodemus (3: 4) and the people from Capernaum (6:41-42). They’re huge fans of Jesus, as long as he leaves them alone right where they are. But he can’t leave them alone right where they are, because his very nature is to offer them a better life than they currently have. They can’t have anything to do with him unless they want more out of life.
  • ‘Our father is Abraham’—the people of Capernaum focus on Jesus’ parentage: ‘You’re not such a hotshot. You’re Joseph and Mary’s boy.’ These people focus on their own lineage: ‘Don’t you know who we are? We’re children of Abraham!’ Abraham was the first ancestor of all the Jews (he’s the grandfather of Israel). He’s also the Bible’s primary example of what it means to live a life of faith, and he’s described as the source of God’s blessing for the entire world.
  • ‘Abraham never did such a thing’—Jesus responds, ‘I knew Abraham. I don’t see the family resemblance.’ The very thing that made Abraham special was a willingness to accept good gifts from God. That’s what they’re refusing to do right now.

Taking It Home

  • For you: Most of us can empathize with these people’s resistance to admitting that they need something. Sometimes we know very well that things would be much better if we just asked for a little help, but we just can’t get ourselves to do it. How do you feel about the idea of needing something from God or from others? What is something you need today? Wisdom? Rest? Encouragement? A meal that somehow magically prepares itself? More time? Whatever it is, try telling Jesus. Look for ways today to tell Jesus that you need him and want what he has to offer.
  • For your 6: Are your 6 facing any continual struggles that they would like to be free from? Maybe it’s worry or a bad job situation or a conflict with a family member. Ask Jesus to set them free.
  • For our church: The people in this passage hold on to what’s been passed down to them from generation to generation, yet, sadly, rather unreflectively. We wonder if churches have a propensity to do the same, and just act out the models of church that have been passed down through the ages without much reflection. Ask Jesus to help our church be innovative and to not be limited by the models of church that we have seen before us. Ask Jesus to keep our church fresh, vibrant, and closely connected with him.