30 July 2014John 8:31-47
“[Jesus said,] ‘... You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.’ They answered him, ‘We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean by saying, “You will be made free”?’” (vv. 32-33)
It can be embarrassing to watch an argument, especially when the arguments turn to family insults.
Again, Jesus presses the crowd about both his identity and theirs. As Jews, they are descendants of Abraham. As the Son of God, Jesus' identity is about the kingdom of God. One commentator says, "One's attitude towards Jesus is what makes the difference between having true descent from Abraham or not - between being a legitimate member of God's family or not a member at all. One's membership in that family is not affected by one's claims, but by ones relationship with Jesus."
Jesus here, therefore, is changing the tables on the openness of the kingdom of God - no longer is this offered to those who 'belong' to the right group of people. Instead, the kingdom is open to anyone who accepts a relationship with Jesus. In the face of those who would create boundaries to the edges of religion, Jesus challenges preconceptions and expectations of his antagonists, and turns their world upside down.
Significantly, Jesus does this by discussing truth and freedom - two values core to human identity - the challenges of truth and the experience of liberation (and its opposite). He tells a group of people, who annually narrate the experience of Exodus as a nation's liberation story, that freedom does not come through genetics, but comes through discovering the truth about Jesus' identity. This is worldview shaking rhetoric.
Liberation comes not through the experience of the past, but about the present reality of a relationship. Revelations of truth are not defined by taught behaviours, but by self-discovery and relationship with Jesus.
This relationship can turn the known world upside down.
In today's society, where theological positions can be portrayed as being oppositely entrenched, and where truth is inadequately described as being a relative commodity - it can be liberating for us to discover something more about the character of Jesus and the community to which he is calling us to belong. We too are challenged to a journey of self-discovery rather than a recitation of the narrative of the past. In the midst of our truth, our experience, our shared story and our sharing of bread and of wine - we too are able to discover how we might be set free.
To turn the world upside down.
- What does freedom look and feel like to you?
- What can you do to liberate someone, today?
- Imagine that you were watching this debate. How do you feel, and how would you want to interject?
- Turn on the radio and dance to a piece of music. How does this help you to experience liberation?