Read John 8:31–41
31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
33 They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?”
34 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. 37 I know that you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are looking for a way to kill me, because you have no room for my word. 38 I am telling you what I have seen in the Father’s presence, and you are doing what you have heard from your father.”
39 “Abraham is our father,” they answered.
“If you were Abraham’s children,” said Jesus, “then you would do what Abraham did. 40 As it is, you are looking for a way to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. 41 You are doing the works of your own father.”
“We are not illegitimate children,” they protested. “The only Father we have is God himself.”
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
The central problem of the enemies of Jesus is summed up in 37—“because my word has no place in you.” When you were his enemy
years ago, did his word have any place in you?
Given the relentless pursuit of Jesus through the “courts” by his accusers up to this point in the Gospel narrative, readers could be forgiven for expecting him to respond positively to those Jews who believed on him (John 8:30). Such a claim, however, will be examined by the Light of the World as the “trial” continues.
Still acting as judge in the “courtroom,” Jesus masterfully exposes the claim of some as a lie, thereby providing a practical illustration of how his light exposes the darkness (John 3:19,20). His case rests on his knowledge of the truth that his accusers are still trying to kill him (37). This murderous disposition stands in stark contrast to that of Abraham (39), whom they proudly claim as father (33,39). Unlike the accusers, Abraham welcomed his heavenly visitors (Gen. 18:1–8). Therefore, despite their protests to the contrary, these accusers of Jesus disqualify themselves as legitimate children of Abraham because they do not display the family likeness; their spiritual ancestry therefore lies elsewhere (39–41). The contrast between slaves and sons (35) is quite possibly meant to evoke the contrast between Isaac and Ishmael. Both are children of Abraham, but the former a free son and the latter a slave son. The persecution of Jesus by his accusers recalls the persecution of Isaac by Ishmael alluded to by Paul (Gal. 4:29), confirming their status as slaves (to sin) in contrast to his status as the free son of the Father.
Earlier, the “courtroom” scene featuring the woman caught in adultery (John 8:2–11) provided a powerful demonstration of the truth that all are slaves to sin (34). It also signaled the lone source of freedom for all: not ancestry, nor tradition, nor blind adherence to religious observances, but Jesus.
How much room is there in the life of your church community for letting Jesus shine his light onto the things you do and the reasons why you do them?
Lord, you have delivered me out of the house of bondage and into the household of God as a family member. Help to uphold the family name.
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