What did Jesus mean, “The truth will set you free”? Free from what? John 8 contains aspects of the teachings of Jesus that we have to think around and put into context to get the correct meaning.
In presenting the woman taken in adultery the critics of Jesus thought they had him cornered. If he said the Mosaic law should be observed and she should be stoned they would probably have done so, or got others to, and then blamed Jesus before the Roman authorities because the Jews had no right to put anyone to death (John 18:31). If Jesus has answered differently they would have denounced him before the people for not upholding the law! His reaction confounded them. After he said “Let him who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her” (verse 7). They slunk away from Jesus, no one was without sin among them.
Only Jesus was without sin, and he said, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you? She said, ‘No one Lord’ And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more’” (verses 10,11). Notice she addresses Jesus as “Lord”! She saw him as more than a “teacher” which is how the Jews addressed him.
Jesus speaks these words of comfort to us all, whatever our failures have been. The closer we come to “the light of the world” the more we are aware of our failures – but we this truth, “Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” (verse 12) and all the “darkness” in our character will be obliterated, indeed Christ will then be “formed in you” (Galatians 4:19).
Jesus went on to say, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free” (verses 31,32). The key action on our part is to abide in the word of Jesus. Are you abiding in his word? Is the word abiding in you? If the answer is ‘Yes’, you have been set free!
Jesus made the point, “… I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin” – it has become part of their character. But “if the Son sets you free you will be free indeed” (verse 36). He told the religious leaders, “… you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you” (verse 37). May it have found a place in us.