Offended by the Truth
We looked at John 8:31-32 in a previous study. Let’s read these two verses again in order to provide context for today’s study.
Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (NKJV)
Now we come to John 8:33. It says,
They answered Him, “We are Abraham’s descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can You say, ‘You will be made free’?” (NKJV)
In John 8:31-32 Jesus is addressing the Jews who came to believe in Him. However, It appears that it wasn’t these new believers, but rather the Jews who were previously engaged in a conversational battle with Jesus, who felt compelled to challenge what He just said.
“Descendants” in John 8:33, is the Greek word σπέρμα (sperma) with the range of meaning seed, posterity, descendants. I think these Jews are claiming a very personal, close relationship with Abraham. It’s as if they are saying, “we are not just distant shirttail relatives through marriage of the great patriarch Abraham. No! We are literally sons in the direct linage of this great man!”
“Bondage” in the same verse, is the Greek word δεδουλεύκαμεν (dedouleukamen). It’s an active verb meaning “to server” or “to be a slave”. The word bondage here is not talking about the passive oppression of a people group. This word is communicating the idea of an individual actively serving a master. Look at the second sentence in verse 33. It says “How can You say, ‘you will be made free’?” It seems to me they are asking a rhetorical question designed to embarrass Jesus for making what they consider to be an outlandish claim. This passage paints a clear picture of their religious outrage. I can almost hear their thoughts, “What are you talking about?? Our father, the great Abraham, was a slave to no man. Come on Jesus! It should be obvious to you that we of the royal linage of Abraham have never, and could never have been in bondage. We are not slaves!”
These Pharisees saw Jesus’ comments about being His disciples and being set free as a personal attack against their station in life and their very person. They were offended.
Consider Jesus’ response in the next verse.
Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. (NKJV)
Notice that Jesus maintains control over the narrative. He does not let them pull Him off target by introducing a genealogical (family tree) discussion. Jesus knew well the principle stated in Titus 3:9 which says,
But avoid foolish disputes, genealogies, contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and useless. (NKJV)
The Greek word commits is ποιέω (poieō) which has the range of meaning make or do. It is an active present tense verb. Jesus gets right to the heart of the matter. You are a slave because anyone who is currently practicing sin is a slave of the master, sin. Sin holds all of us captive and is a cruel master.
The only one who can break the power of sin over our lives is Jesus Christ. We can choose to respond like the Jews in this passage, or we can embrace the truth that Jesus so lovingly shared with the original biblical audience.
Notice that Jesus was not accusatory in this passage. He was simply telling them the truth. The truth touched a raw nerve. It offended this crowd. This wasn’t their first encounter with Jesus. They witnessed our Lord move with compassion as He healed the sick. Jesus was no vindictive man. He loved people. They should have realized the reason He was telling them the truth was because He loved them. But Jesus exposed their guilt and shame and they took offense.
If you are avoiding talking about the good news of Jesus Christ because you don’t want to offend your friend, then you are misunderstanding the nature of truth. When you tell the truth of the gospel to someone who is not walking in it, they will take offense. Your job is to love the person. Be patient. Don’t be combative or offensive in your presentation. Allow the truth to do the offending. You just be there to lovingly guide them through their shame to the cross of Jesus. Simply introduce them to the truth and let the Truth make them free.
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
The New King James Version. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982. Print.