God’s image implies that by nature, all humans belong to the God family. Lost in degradation, very few humans accept this reality. Jesus faced the most strenuous opposition, by the Jews who could not entertain any idea of being likened to God. The Jews had held the truth that a Messiah would come, and free humanity from the condition of degradation. But their understanding of prophecies had been limited to human degradation.
To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?”
But free from what?; is the question unanswered, even to this day. The most important consideration is that Jesus was talking to those who had virtually believed Him. However, the above statement ignited an argumentative storm, exposing the false belief displayed by those Jewish people.
Being of Abraham’s genealogy, the Jews had all along considered themselves free. How free can one be? A person can be as free as unable to die, anymore. But a person can be as enslaved as unable to get freedom, either in this life or for all eternity. These are the two opposites that can never be reconciled.
Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. I know that you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are looking for a way to kill me because you have no room for my word. I am telling you what I have seen in the Father’s presence, and you are doing what you have heard from your father”(John 8:31-32 NIV).
Jesus delivered the compellingly sweetest news ever delivered. “A slave has got no permanent place in this world.” Who, in this world, can ever claim to be permanently free? Certainly not, as everyone alive knows that death awaits him/her. The time of death is most dreaded. It doesn’t matter whether one is of the royal family or not; death is an equalizer of the rich and poor of this world.
Jesus unequivocally stated: “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” How free can humans be free? The answer is, as free as no longer able to experience death. But at that point of revealing this, the Jews were already building up their emotional anger.
“I know you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are ready to kill me because you have no room for my word. I am telling you what I have seen in the Father’s presence, and you do what you have heard from your father.”(John 8:37-38 NIV).
Jesus had all along been privileged to be in God’s presence. Had the Jews known that reality; they would not have argued with Jesus. There is a stark difference between truth and assumption. The most dangerous thing on this planet is taking comfort in assumption, rather than certainty.
When not certain of any piece of information, the safest consideration is adopting scepticism, until accurate understanding is obtained. The primary obstacle to learning is assuming to know, even without full understanding.
“Abraham is our father,” they answered. “If you were Abraham’s children,” said Jesus, “then you would do the things Abraham did.(John 8:39 NIV).
Abraham was a God-fearing man, having separated himself from relatives in Ur, obeying the voice of God. At one point, he had offered to sacrifice his own son, Isaac, to obey God. Such a display of commitment separated Abraham from worldliness. If they truly understood being Abraham’s children, they would not murderously behave in that manner, as later expounded by Paul:
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise”(Galatians 3:29 NIV).
Those Jews were speaking from the viewpoint of being genealogical descendants of Abraham. But Jesus showed them that Abraham had not been ordinary. Abraham, whose promises sustained the Jewish community, held something special. Those Jews could not see the special blessings, beyond physical existence.
“As it is, you are looking for a way to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. You are doing the works of your own father.” “We are not illegitimate children,” they protested. “The only Father we have is God himself.”(John 8:40-41 NIV)
Unlike the rest of the Jews, these had displayed a commitment to believe Jesus, who gave them a litmus test they could not confront. They knew that, as descendants of Abraham, they were God’s children, because Abraham was regarded as God’s child.
However, their level of understanding could not go beyond Abraham’s physical existence. They denounced the Son of God, who had directly come from God. Their denial of Jesus proved their estrangement from God, although professing to be God’s children. This is notwithstanding that they had believed Jesus’ teachings.
Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me. Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him.
“When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.”(John 8:42-47 NIV).
Those Jews had originally displayed a willingness to believe in Jesus. However, this conversation exposed their dishonesty. Were they God’s children or fake children of God? They were, at this stage, captured as desiring to kill a man they had all along proclaimed to believe in.
They manifested the most deadly syndrome, being of mixing knowledge with ignorance. Jesus may have deliberately provoked them with this topic. This could have been for purposes of repelling their partial commitment to be His followers?
Truth is repulsive, just as the positive and the negative electric currencies cannot be combined. Those dubious Jews could no longer remain in their false belief. They started mocking the man they had all along professed to believe in.
The Jews answered him, “Aren’t we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed?” “I am not possessed by a demon,” said Jesus, “but I honour my Father and you dishonour me. I am not seeking glory for myself; but there is one who seeks it, and he is the judge. Very truly I tell you, whoever obeys my word will never see death.”(John 8:48-51 NIV).
They had now become confident in declaring Jesus, demon-possessed. Jesus had managed to repel them, discouraging their bid to become his followers. Bear in mind that Jesus taught in parables, for purposes of hiding truth against the unscrupulous people.
That provides a special reason why He declared that those following Him were to discard everything. There cannot be divided attention, on truly committed children of God. Repelling those pretenders proved to be another of the battles won by Jesus.
Telling them that anyone who obeyed His word would never see death, was more than anything they could entertain. Although those Jews could not understand, Jesus pronounced the basic truth they ought to have known, as recorded in Scriptures.
Jesus replied, “If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and obey his word. Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.”(John 8:54 NIV)
The mockery of Jesus appears as unfair. But this was necessary, as serving to protect those Jews, unaware of the dangers of blaspheming against the Holy Spirit (Matthew 12:31-32). Their false belief was shattered. While they were writhing with exasperation, Jesus scored a victory to protect the naïve pretenders.
“You are not yet fifty years old,” they said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!” “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.(John 8:57-59 NIV).
The so-called followers of Jesus became disappointed, unsure of the next move. They may have attempted to convince their fellow Jews, about what they found to be truthfulness about Jesus. But Jesus provided what repelled them from ever following Him again.
Jesus had existed before Abraham, just as any other human being, even though still encaged in sinful slavery. The creation of a man in God’s image should not be mistaken for forming Adam from the dust of the ground. There is nothing Godly in physical Adam.
“God is Spirit”(John 4:24). Therefore, the understanding of God’s image should be verified in the context of the Spirit. This includes the ability to create, just as God, in whose image humans were created, is a Creator. These are the pivotal points that the Jews could not entertain.
Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are “gods”’? If he called them ‘gods,’ to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be set aside—what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son?’” (John 10:34 NIV).
Jesus had it in Scriptures, relied upon by those Jews, implying that humans were gods (Psalms 82:6). They either misread that Scripture, or they simply misunderstood it. Where was their confusion? It is impossible to fully understand a concept when clouded with misunderstood words.
There is comfort in slavery. On several occasions, Jesus was constant in decrying the lack of faith in humanity. He stated that nothing would be impossible for those, carrying faith, even as little as a mustard seed. Although many people claim to believe in Jesus, very few, if any, believe that nothing is impossible in this world.
They choose to believe that they are mere humans who cannot do as much as God can do. This, then, would be taken to be an act of piety. this is what sustains Christianity, across the world. But Christianity ought to be sustained in believing everything taught by Jesus?
Like the Jewish pretenders, most of those, apparently, dedicated Christians, easily get offended by those advancing the teachings of Jesus. They are very comfortable in the belief that a mere man cannot be like God. This is notwithstanding that such belief, is in stark opposition to God’s word. How else can such people be salvaged from their depravity?
The sin that has enslaved humanity, throughout the ages, makes it impossible for humans to imagine being likened to God. Jesus came to straighten up the way. His teachings are recorded in the Scriptures. The so-called dedicated Christians prefer cherry-picking what is convenient, using it to manipulate the gullible.
Truth has always been the most difficult reality to confront. Bless are those who are willing to confront the truth; as such are the only ones able to access freedom. The comfort in falsehood can be irresistible among the degraded humanity. This will continue, until the second coming of Jesus.
Jesus used this truth to repel Jewish pretenders. It is sincerely hoped that pretenders could also be repelled so that only the truthful ones get attracted to freedom. A human being is a creator, just as God; in whose image humans were created, is a Creator.
There is no value in misrepresenting Christ’s teachings. Scriptures are not ambiguous in stating that humans are originally God’s children. It can only be the comfort in slavery that keeps humanity encaged in falsehood, rather than the truth. May the Almighty God bless the truthful readers?
Andrew Masuku is the author of Dimensions of a New Civilization, laying down standards for uplifting Zimbabwe from the current state of economic depression into a model for other nations worldwide. A decaying tree provides an opportunity for a blossoming sprout. Written from a Christian perspective, the book is a product of inspiration, bringing relief to those having witnessed the strings of unworkable solutions––leading to the current economic and social decay. In a simple conversational tone, most Zimbabweans should find the book as a long-awaited providential oasis of hope.
The Print copy is now available at Amazon.com for $13.99