JESUS EXPLAINS WHO THE SON IS
HOW ARE THE JEWS SLAVES?
On the last day of the Festival of Tabernacles, the seventh day, Jesus is teaching in the part of the temple called “the treasury.” (John 8:20; Luke 21:1) This apparently is in the Court of Women, where people deposit their contributions.
At night during the festival, this area of the temple is specially illuminated. Four giant lampstands are there, each with four large basins filled with oil. The light from these lamps is strong enough to illuminate the surroundings to a great distance. What Jesus now says may remind his listeners of this display: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will by no means walk in darkness, but will possess the light of life.”
The Pharisees take exception to Jesus’ statement and say: “You bear witness about yourself; your witness is not true.” Jesus replies: “Even if I do bear witness about myself, my witness is true, because I know where I came from and where I am going. But you do not know where I came from and where I am going.” He adds: “In your own Law it is written: ‘The witness of two men is true.’ I am one who bears witness about myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness about me.”
Not accepting his reasoning, the Pharisees ask: “Where is your Father?” Jesus gives the forthright reply: “You know neither me nor my Father. If you did know me, you would know my Father also.” (John 8:19) Even though the Pharisees still want Jesus arrested, no one touches him.
Jesus repeats a statement he has already made: “I am going away, and you will look for me, and yet you will die in your sin. Where I am going, you cannot come.” The Jews, completely misunderstanding Jesus’ words, begin to wonder: “He will not kill himself, will he? Because he says, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’” They do not understand what Jesus means, because they are unaware of his origin. He explains: “You are from the realms below; I am from the realms above. You are from this world; I am not from this world.”
Jesus is referring to his prehuman existence in heaven and to his being the promised Messiah, or Christ, whom these religious leaders should be expecting. Nevertheless, they ask with great contempt: “Who are you?”
In the face of their rejection and opposition, Jesus answers: “Why am I even speaking to you at all?” Still, he directs attention to his Father and explains why the Jews should listen to the Son: “The One who sent me is true, and the very things I heard from him I am speaking in the world.”
Then Jesus expresses confidence in his Father, which these Jews lack: “After you have lifted up the Son of man, then you will know that I am he and that I do nothing of my own initiative; but just as the Father taught me, I speak these things. And the One who sent me is with me; he did not abandon me to myself, because I always do the things pleasing to him.”
Some Jews, though, do put faith in Jesus, and he says to them: “If you remain in my word, you are really my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
To some, this talk of being set free seems strange. They object: “We are Abraham’s offspring and never have been slaves to anyone. How is it you say, ‘You will become free’?” The Jews know that at times they have been under foreign domination, yet they refuse to be called slaves. Jesus points out, however, that they still are slaves: “Most truly I say to you, every doer of sin is a slave of sin.”
Refusing to admit their slavery to sin puts the Jews in a dangerous position. “The slave does not remain in the household forever,” Jesus explains. “The son remains forever.” (John 8:35) A slave has no rights to an inheritance, and he may be dismissed at any time. Only the son actually born or adopted into the household remains “forever,” that is, as long as he lives.
Thus, the truth about the Son is the truth that sets people free from death-dealing sin forever. “If the Son sets you free, you will be truly free,” Jesus declares.