John 8:36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
The Jewish people wanted to be free from the Romans, and their thoughts of Messiah were mostly political. They were not completely wrong, since Messiah will rule over the world one day. Jesus Christ will overthrow the antichrist (2 Thessalonians 2:8), and put an end to oppression everywhere. In the mean time, Jesus sets us free from the oppression of the evil one.
The classic case is the man who was possessed by a legion of demons (Mark 5:1-20). People were afraid of him because he could not function socially. Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones (Mark 5:5), wrote Mark.
Self-cutting can be a distraction from the emotional pain of self-hatred. The work of Satan is to make us lonely, disturbed and haunted. First he draws us away from God, then he binds us with chains of despair. But after Jesus set him free, the man sat at Jesus’ feet, fully clothed and in his right mind (Mark 5:15). He found his freedom at the feet of Jesus Christ, and so do we.
Some people stay away from Christ because he is so demanding. But his demands are truly good for us. I have never met a converted person who said, I wish I was still a blasphemer. I wish I was still on drugs. I wish I was still a thief. I wish I was still a hater. I wish I was still a liar. I wish I was still far away from God. Jesus rules over us to set us free from the sins that would destroy us.
In fact, the Bible is the perfect law that gives freedom (James 1:25), wrote James. We don’t think of laws as producing freedom, but they often do. If they took away the traffic laws, it would not be safe to drive. And if they took away all the laws, it would not be safe to go outside. Laws produce the freedom we need to live without fear.
Children at a city school huddled in the middle of the playground because they did not feel safe. Then the school put a fence around the playground, and the children felt free enough to run and play. The freest people on earth are those who live in the safety of God’s will.
John 8:44 You belong to your father, the devil.
Jesus was speaking to religious people who assumed they were children of God. To call them children of the devil was one of the most provocative things Jesus ever said. But if the Jews who did not believe in Jesus were children of the devil, what about people of other religions? What about everyone who is not a Christian? Are they all children of the devil? Is everyone who does not believe in Jesus Christ a child of Satan? Is that what the Bible teaches?
Do we not all have one Father? Did not one God create us? (Malachi 2:1), asked Malachi. According to the prophet, there is only one God: the Creator and Father of everyone. Everyone in the world is designed, created and loved by their heavenly Father. This is what the Bible teaches, but it’s not all the Bible teaches. There is always more to the story.
In the Garden of Eden our first parents had a choice to follow God or Satan. God had given them everything, with only one restriction: not to eat from a certain tree. But the devil suggested that God was being unreasonable, so Adam and Eve changed sides (Genesis 3). And because they sided with Satan, human nature was corrupted. God is still our Maker, but we can also resemble the devil sometimes.
A man and a woman had an affair, and she became pregnant. They were both married, and wanted to stay married, so the woman pretended the child was her husbands. He was happy about it, but things became complicated because both families went to the same church. As the child grew, he began to resemble his biological father more and more, until everyone at church could see whose child he really was.
At the time of our birth we appear to be children of God. But as we grow, it becomes clear that someone else was involved. According to Jesus, the only solution is to be born again (John 3:3). Then we become children of God, not only by creation, but also by conversion. Christianity is not about good manners, but about who (and whose) we really are.
John 8:47 Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.
Jesus did not say, The reason you do not belong to God is because you do not hear; but The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God. Likewise, Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say (John 8:43).
One of the most offensive teachings of Christianity is that, in and of ourselves, we are unable to hear God’s word. Our ears pick up the sound, and our brains sort out the meaning, but we cannot accept, receive and embrace the teachings of Jesus Christ without divine assistance. We are spiritually deaf, and only Christ can heal us.
On one occasion, Jesus put his fingers into a deaf man’s ears, looked toward heaven and said, Be opened. Immediately the deaf man was able to hear (Mark 7:32-35). Whether we know it or not, that is what Jesus did for us, when we heard the word of God and believed.
When I was growing up, I went to church every week, but the words did not sink in. I could make sense of them, but they rested so lightly on me that I missed their significance. That changed dramatically after my conversion. I went back to the same church, and heard the same words, but now they had ultimate significance. Thinking back, I was stunned by how often I heard them, without ever really hearing them.
A sadder example comes from an outspoken atheist who said, Whenever I hear talk about God, the gospel or the Holy Spirit it is like white noise. The man was hearing the words of eternal life, but to him, they were nothing more than white noise. Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand (Matthew 13:13), said Jesus.
Reflection and Review
Why does obeying Christ lead to freedom?
Are unbelievers children of God or Satan?
Why is it hard for some people to hear God’s word?