Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free
We are inveterate liars and helpless slaves.
In John chapter 8, that is Jesus’ verdict on the human condition. It’s a stark assessment. But who can deny that the shoe fits?
Let’s think about our slavery. Jesus says in John 8:32:
“Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin.”
Are there any who do not “committeth sin”? No, the incident with the adulterous woman has proven it – there is no-one without sin. Well then the question comes, Why do all the sons of Adam commit sin? Answer: Because we are slaves to it.
It is not just that everyone happens to make bad decisions. We don’t simply choose to sin, we are slaves to sin. Whatever illicit thing we seek to possess – it possesses us. We are not in charge of our sinning – sin is in charge of us.
We are like the alcoholic – free to choose beer, wine or spirits – but we can’t choose not to drink. We are slaves to it.
If a person imagines their problems are so slight they can “clean up their act, straighten up and fly right”, they don’t yet know themselves as they should. We need more than a self-help recovery plan, we need redemption – deliverance from slavery.
Therefore we ought to cry out to our Redeemer. But we don’t like that. And we don’t like to think of ourselves as helpless. So we lie.
Jesus’ listeners in John 8 are prime examples. When told of their slavery they are indignant:
“We be Abraham’s seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free?” (John 8:33)
This is the most stunning re-write of history imaginable. The Scriptures consistently identity “Abraham’s seed” as the people who were brought up out of Egypt. And the LORD identifies Himself as the God who redeemed them from that slavery. “Freed slaves” is just about as fundamental a label as you could put on God’s people.
These Jews have only one thing in common with the Pharaohs. They too are Kings of Denial. (You’re welcome to add your groans in the comments).
But they haven’t only been slaves to the Pharaohs. Historically, Abraham’s seed had been slaves of the Assyrians, of the Babylonians, of the Persians and Medes and of the Greeks. To crown it all, we can well imagine this whole conversation overheard by a Roman soldier, shaking his head and chuckling.
These Jews have been in bondage to pretty much everyone in the ancient world! Is there anyone to whom they hadn’t been slaves? Yet how quickly they re-imagine their history. And how often we re-imagine our own.
We have an astonishing ability to justify ourselves and to re-cast our history as noble freemen.
What the heart loves, the will chooses and the mind justifies.
As slaves to sin, we love false gods. We choose from among these counterfeit lords and are ensnared in as many ways as there are idols. Yet we refuse to cast ourselves as slaves. And so we expend all our mental and emotional energy on denial, masks, performances and self-justification. As slaves we flee from the truth.
Over Sunday lunch I met a friend of a friend who is an atheist. He hated the idea of “religion” since it was only a crutch for the weak. I said that I, for one, need a crutch since I know myself to be broken. He couldn’t identify with that admission of weakness. Yet this morning I hear that binge-drinking dominates his life.
We are slaves whose deepest bondage is our denial of slavery. “Redemption is for the weak” we cry as we serve our cruel masters, pretending that we are in charge. Yet the very solutions we turn to are our problems.
What do we need? We need the Truth to set us free.
“Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:32)
Jesus is not trying to educate us out of our bondage. He Himself is the Truth which liberates. As he goes on to say:
“The servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever. If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” (John 8:35-36)
“The Son” is equivalent to “the Truth”. Jesus is the Truth which does not simply judge our truth-denial. Instead He releases truth-deniers from their prison of self-justification. Jesus comes as The Free One and invites us to belong to Him in His freedom.
Every other lord pretends to be our servant but makes us its slave. Jesus is the true Lord who makes us free. False gods take life. Jesus gives His. To have Him as Lord is to find liberation. He justifies us so that we don’t have to anymore. In the freedom of Christ we can finally confess to our slavery and confess to our true state.
Truth frees us. And frees us into truth.