John 8 is really challenging. Jesus said, “Whoever is of God knows the words of God, the reason you do not hear them is that you are not of God” (verse 47). But of course they were hearing what he said; the point was that they could not make sense of his words, they could not see what he meant because their minds were so fixed in their own way of thinking. The same problem exists today!
There are some listening to Jesus who want to believe and understand his words, and to them Jesus says, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free” (verse 32). This confuses them! Free from what? As descendants of Abraham, they say, we are not “enslaved to anyone, how is it that you say, ‘you will become free?’” (verse 33).
Jesus then makes the point, “everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin … if the Son sets you free you will be free indeed” (verse 36). Most of his listeners fail to get that point – and in the end all that matters is whether or not they are “of God”. If they are “of God” they will continue to listen and develop an understanding.
It is likely that some of these listeners would later hear Peter’s message on the day of Pentecost and “were cut to the heart” (Acts 2:37), ready to receive the true meaning of Christ’s words and be made free. This freedom comes through seeing what the sacrifice on the cross meant. It brought to a completion the purpose of the Law, the “letter” of which had enslaved them (to more fully ‘see’ the point read 2 Corinthians 3:6-16). Paul, the converted Pharisee puts it succinctly, “the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ” (Romans 8:2).
On the day of Pentecost the freedom of the hearers was completed the moment they accepted the true meaning of Peter’s message and were baptised! As a result, “when Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” (Colossians 3:4). They had heard Peter quote from the Psalms, “You have made known to me the paths of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence” (verse 28). We can link this with the words of Solomon in his dedication prayer, his awareness of the all seeing eye of God and the future. Let us commit ourselves to inviting the words of Jesus and his Father to abide in us and direct our lives – then we will be free indeed!