“To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you truly are my disciples, then you will know the Truth, and the Truth will set you free.’”
It would be easy to get confused, and to think that Jesus was offering freedom based on ethical obedience to things like his sermon on the mount, or his commands on divorce. And to tell you the truth that is what I thought when I first looked at these verses.
I had planned on writing this nice article on how right living leads to right beliefs, which leads to more freedom from sin. While that is true, that would have been to miss Jesus’ point.
The discovery came for me when I took a minute to look at Jesus’ teaching in the book of John. One of the remarkable difference from the Gospel of John and the other Gospels is how much time John focuses on Jesus’ teaching about himself.
In the first 8 chapters there is almost no moral imperatives like that you would find in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Jesus doesn’t go around telling us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. Rather his teachings are almost exclusively about himself, and the father.
Jesus boldly says two things over and over in the first 8 chapters. First, He is sent from the Father, and He is the source all things. He is bread of life, He is the spring of flowing water, and He is the light of the World. Life exist in himself. His voice gives life to the dead. His testimony is valid on its own. He is equal with the Father.
Second, For those who will come to him Jesus offers our souls’ satisfaction, and life. He says things like “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty….Those who believe in me have eternal life. They have crossed over from death to life…If anyone is thirsty let him come to me, and I will give him drink. From him will come streams living water…I am the light of the world. He who follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.“
This is what God provided for Adam and Eve in the Garden, but they foolishly sought it apart from him. It is here that freedom from sin is found, and it is here where bondage to sin is born.
This freedom can only be found when we seek our happiness, and our life in him alone. It is only he who can offer what we long for. All else disappoints. Bread leaves us hungry again. Water only temporarily quenches our thirst. Yet for those who plunge themselves into Christ, satisfaction is had.
And this is the key to our chains. It is only when we hold so tightly to Jesus that all else seems bland, that we can have freedom from our sin.
I wish that I could say that I knew this freedom well, but I don’t. This world can so easily cloud our view of the true light of the world, and our hearts are so ready to believe the glittering gold of the world around us is another source of light. Here we stumble in the darkness thinking that if we can just get enough of that shiny stuff we could be content and have our freedom, but by and by we find ourselves captive to the very things we thought offered freedom.
Thankfully, Jesus continues to calls out to us, “Whoever comes to me I will never drive away…I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life… For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.
Jesus offers us everything. Life, and true satisfaction, and freedom from sin, but it is only given to those who seek it in him alone. There are no secondary lights to be found. There is no other stream to sip from.
In the Gospel of John, Jesus had one great teaching and that was himself. He boldly made known who he was, and what was to be gained by seeking him. We must hold to Jesus if we want freedom.