Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Hard Truth

“To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’ 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?’

Jesus replied, ‘Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.  Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever.  So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.  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.  I am telling you what I have seen in the Father’s presence, and you are doing what you have heard from your father.’

‘Abraham is our father,’ they answered.

‘If you were Abraham’s children,’ said Jesus, ‘then you would do what Abraham did.  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.  You are doing the works of your own father.’

‘We are not illegitimate children,’ they protested. ‘The only Father we have is God himself.’  Jesus said to them, ‘If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me. Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say.  You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me!  Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me?  Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.’

The Jews answered him, ‘Aren’t we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed?’ ‘I am not possessed by a demon,’ said Jesus, ‘but I honor my Father and you dishonor me.  I am not seeking glory for myself; but there is one who seeks it, and he is the judge.  Very truly I tell you, whoever obeys my word will never see death.’

At this they exclaimed, “Now we know that you are demon-possessed! Abraham died and so did the prophets, yet you say that whoever obeys your word will never taste death. Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?’

Jesus replied, ‘If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. ‘ Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and obey his word. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.’

‘You are not yet fifty years old,’ they said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!’ ‘Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, ‘before Abraham was born, I am!’ At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.” (John 8:31-59 NIV)

This is such an interesting story.  It begins with John writing, ““To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said…”  So Jesus is speaking to people who believed in Him.  It ends with the same people attempting to stone him to death.  From believing in Him to trying to stone Him, in what, five to ten minutes?!

In this discourse, Jesus is trying to get across the message that truth will set people free, but it is a conditional—the truth has to be objectively true.  His audience, those who believe in Him, has a view of what it is true.  Up to this point they think they are in agreement.  They like Jesus, they’ve heard His preaching, they’ve seen His miracles. They’re drawn to Him.  They believe He agrees with them until they realize He doesn’t, and then they’re ready to let the stones fly.

Objective truth often goes down hard because we tend to believe what we want to believe.  None of us is objective in what we believe.  We all have blind spots and even believe lies because we have no information to contradict our beliefs.  And even if we are provided contradictory evidence, most of us are still reluctant to cede our ground.  We want to believe what we believe because change is difficult and admitting we are wrong even more so.  

This is why, often, it is so hard to accept all of Jesus’ teachings.  We would rather pick and choose according to our pre-set beliefs.  And why many try to distinguish the teachings of Jesus from the teachings of Paul or Peter, because they find some of the latter abhorrent to their rational sensibilities.  What they forget is that all of Scripture is divinely inspired (II Timothy 3:16) All Scripture is God’s truth and, as Jesus claims in this passage, He is God.

What this passage reveals, and what much of history has shown, is that we want a god that is created in our own image.  We want a god who will tell us what we want to hear and validate our “truth.”  If so, we’ll embrace him.  If not, then we will have nothing to do with him or remake him into the kind of god we prefer.  And, sadly, remain in the bondage of our own making.  

In order for truth to set us free, we have to accept it unconditionally.  We have to trust in the One who is the Truth (John 14:6).  We honestly may not agree with Him, but what we believe always must be submitted to Him for examination and correction.  That is the hard part of following Jesus.  It is always His way and only ours when it is in agreement with His.

Today, if you truly want to be free, then seek the Truth and submit to it regardless of whether or not you instinctively agree with it.  Having your own “truth” may seem very freeing, but in reality it is the surest way to remain in bondage.  

© Jim Musser 2015

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