Read: John 8:31-38
When I was doing campus ministry at the University of Texas, I remember routinely passing by the campus clocktower, on which was inscribed, “Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” A lot of the students I met with didn’t know this was from the Bible, so I’ve wondered what must have thought it meant. They probably thought it was saying something like, ‘knowledge is power,’ or ‘knowledge equals freedom from ignorance.’ But as I thought about how secular students might interpret this verse compared to what this passage really says, I realized my interpretation was really not so far off from theirs. What is it that Jesus actually means here?
Remember, Jesus has just finished talking to the pharisees and now turns to “the Jews who had believed Him.” In keeping with what He has said so far, He explains to them how they can have a connection to the Father like He does. Jesus is outlining the simple gospel in verses 31-32, although it’s not a simplistic gospel. You could write whole books on the implications of these verses, but for now we’ll focus on the comprehensive process Jesus outlines in 31-32.
Right off the bat, notice that the first thing Jesus says to these new believers. Instead of starting with forgiveness of sins, Jesus jumps right in and says, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples.” Obedience to Christ’s teaching is a non-negotiable for Christ’s followers. In fact, to claim faith in Christ and not make efforts to really obey what He said is oxymoronic. But when we read some of the things Jesus told His followers to do, we can’t help but think to ourselves, ‘He couldn’t really expect me to live this way!’. That’s a very logical reaction, but like we explored in John 8:12-30, Jesus isn’t interested in our reasonable arguments, He’s interested in whether or not we will trust the Father like He did.
This burden of obedience is not a heavy one as Jesus explains in verse 32. In fact, this kind of abiding is the best way to live. By way of obedience and following Jesus, we will have the one thing everyone has been searching for throughout history: truth.
Jesus doesn’t say that knowing the truth will just make us smart or wise. It’s not something you can pick up as an elective. It’s the kind of knowledge Jesus shared in His life with the Father and it’s why He was able to live the way He did. Remember, Jesus’ life is not just a monument to remember. It’s an example He honestly intends for us to follow.
Are there parts of Jesus’ life and teachings you’ve ridden-off as ‘impossible’ or ‘too hard’ to really take seriously? Pray for a desire and discipline to do His will. I think you’ll soon find that the tension between taking a leap and praying for strength to accomplish the seemingly impossible is where the Christian faith is meant to be lived.