12 April 2014

John 8:31-42

“If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (vv. 31-32)


We are told that some of the Jews listening to Jesus in the temple courtyards believed in him (verse 31) but almost immediately Jesus starts to expose the shallowness of that belief and realises that they are actually still not far from wanting to kill him (verse 40).

As earlier, those listening to Jesus continue to get confused about what he is saying. Jesus' suggestion that "the truth will make you free" is taken literally to relate to the common practice of slavery. Even though the Jews were under Roman occupation, they still regarded themselves as free men and woman, although those responding to Jesus appear to have forgotten the period of exile when many Jews were taken in to captivity. However the point is that Abraham had two sons, Isaac being free (Genesis 21) and Ishmael being the son of a slave (Genesis 16); the Jews were descended from the free son and cherished their Abrahamic lineage.

Jesus quickly uses the reference to Abraham to expose their misunderstanding further. If they were truly descended from Abraham they would follow his way of doing things. Abraham welcomed the three strangers in to his camp (Genesis 18:1-8) but the Jews listening to Jesus were instead threatening to kill him. They then take their argument a step further, taking their parenthood back further to God the Father (verse 41). Here again Jesus is able to contrast their actions with that of their loving parent; if they truly believed in him as they claimed then they would show that through their love.

Jesus is also able to restate his core message which not surprisingly those listening to him are finding it difficult to grasp - "I came from God and now I am here. I did not come on my own, but he sent me" (v. 42). This language of "coming from God", which is also used in reference to the Spirit (John 15:26) underlines Jesus' divine origin and provides a basis for later Trinitarian theology.

To Ponder

  • Consider the things that bind you and get in the way of your relationship with God. Pray that you may be set free to be a disciple of Jesus.

Bible notes author

Dr Richard Vautrey

Richard Vautrey is a local preacher and church steward in Leeds, and a former vice-president of the Methodist Conference. He works as a GP, is an elected member of both the BMA council and Royal College of GPs council as well as being the deputy chair of the BMA's GP committee.