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.