“If the Son therefore shall make you free, you shall be free indeed.” John 8:36
Little words can make a big difference. Take “Yes” and “No” for example. Or how about “up” and “down”? And right here I’m thinking about the word “if.” The fact is that You spoke these words in which You chose to use the word “if” instead of “but” or “when”. And I think that means something.
This comes during Your discussion with the Jews about how they must have a relationship with You to have a relationship with God. And then that relationship must continue in close fellowship to grow. Then, in that relationship and from that fellowship in You, they (or we) will be able to identify those things that are true and separate it from what is false in life. This, You say, is being set free. Well, and the extraordinary fact of being set free in You and free from eternal separation from You.
I think the Pharisees and Scribes liked to play with words too. Only I’m not so sure how much they were looking for the truth or just trying to be clever in the words they used and how they used them. So they started playing with this word “free.” “We’re Abraham’s descendants, and we’ve never been anyone’s slaves. So how can you say that we will be set free?” But I’m wondering about their play on words. I mean, if I were going to play on the words of a “man” like this, I’d really be careful with what I was saying. Because if you think back about their example, I think they chose the wrong one here. Abraham had twelve sons. One of them was Joseph. Joseph went to Egypt. Then his family was brought to Egypt. In Egypt they eventually all became slaves. So….Abraham’s descendants all became slaves. And that is Jesus’ point. Now, maybe in Jesus’ times they weren’t slaves to Egypt anymore, but they were under the Roman army. So, in that respect they were a type of slave also. But, of course, Your point, Jesus, was going beyond that to point out the effect of sin in every one of our lives.
So You explain. And God’s Word translation says, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be absolutely free.” Now, I think it matters that You chose to say, “if” here. You didn’t say, “When the Son sets you free.” “When” would mean something different. “When” implies a definite time, that it’s a done deal that just hasn’t happened yet but it will. “If,” on the other hand, implies that a condition must be met first before the promise is fulfilled. What is the condition that must be met for the Son to set me free?
Well, the problem here with the people speaking and listening to You, Jesus, is that they don’t even see themselves in need of freedom. They consider themselves already free by nature of their ancestry. Some of us consider ourselves already free. It might be by nature of our ancestry of having grown up in church. That’s the “We’ve always been Christians” ancestry syndrome. And there’s the “I’ve always been a good person” type of “ancestry” syndrome. So this kind of thinking has been going on for ages. And I suppose there is the “I’m doing fine on my own” syndrome too. But You are trying to tell us we are not fine on our own. We are not fine without You.
Therefore, condition number one is that I must see my need for You. I must understand that I can’t take care of my sin problem on my own. Well, first I have to even realize that no matter how good I seem, this is my problem, because I don’t need to measure up to man, I must measure up to You, to God. And according to Your Word, every one of us falls short. Not one of us hits the mark that You have set. Because You are the Mark.
Jesus, You asked this important question of them. It’s just important to me today. “Why don’t you understand the language I use? Is it because you can’t understand the words I use?” In other words, You were asking these scholars if Your words were too profound for them. I bet that was insulting! You explain things more and then answer those questions for them. “The person who belongs to God understands what God says. You don’t understand because you don’t belong to God.” Well, that’s quite bold telling “men of God” that they aren’t men of God.
And You keep explaining. They keep getting angrier at You. Finally, they ask You, “Who do you think you are?” In the words that followed, they knew that You were telling them that You were God, You were His equal. Which angered them enough to want to stone you. But that’s not what stands out to me. You pointed this out about Yourself. “If I bring glory to Myself, My glory is nothing. My Father is the one who gives Me glory, and you say that He is your God. Yet, you haven’t known Him. However, I know Him. If I would say that I didn’t know Him, I would be a liar like all of you. But I do know Him, and I do what He says.” And I think that You just pointed out to these learned men what their problem was. It’s something You lack but they have. Pride. You weren’t about bringing glory or praise to Yourself but it was what they were all about. You just wanted to obey and glorify Your Father and as You did, He would glorify You. They were so busy desiring the praise of other men, they forgot how to please God. They were even creating their own rules and distorting God’s. They were so far from knowing His heart and mind that they couldn’t recognize You when You stood in front of them.
The only One who can set us free was standing right in front of them. You still are standing in front of each one of us today, or You have, or will at some point. And You will only set us free if we see our need for You. You were calling these Scribes and Pharisees and others to You. But the only way to receive Your freedom is to accept it. And once I or anyone accepts Your freedom we are set absolutely free in You!
So, why wouldn’t they accept Your freedom? Why wouldn’t they accept You? They were already full. They felt sufficient to fill their own needs. But You said they couldn’t know You because they didn’t know the Father. Isn’t that a vicious cycle? Weren’t they condemned already then? I don’t think so. Because they could have know God. They just made Him in their own image through their learning and pride. They should have studied humbly, seeking and crying out to Him to reveal His Word to them and give them understanding.
Lord, keep me from forming You in my own image. Let me always be mindful of Who You Are. Let me remember continually that I am the one in need of change. Keep me always alert to the ways You show mercy, longsuffering, love, and forgiveness throughout Your Word. I want to always remember what a proper response to You resembles. It looks like a prophet of God who says, “Woe is me, I am undone!” and is more than concerned about his own sinful lips. In other words, Lord, let me always place myself before You. And I am eternally grateful, and that is an understatement, for the grace and love You have shown me at the cross and beyond. Because as I cry, “Woe is me!”, You wrap Your arms around me, cleanse me, and make me holy day after day like You. If I have anything to boast about, Lord, it’s You and Your response to me. Because You are what makes me good solely because You are Good.