The Truth Will Make You Free

– Wednesday Week 5 of Lent –

‘The religious leaders answered him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing what Abraham did, but now you are trying to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did.”’  [John 8:39–40]

Here again, Jesus is struggling with the inability of the religious leaders to understand who he is and what he is about. And it seems that they had reached a point of frustration with Jesus. The passage is a tight volley of misunderstanding on the part of those questioning him.

They interpret Jesus’ words literally and are insulted by his promising them freedom because this implies that they are enslaved. They object to his challenging their understanding of freedom and his assertion that it is the truth that will make them free. He is talking about the truth of his relationship with God the Father, and he indicates that embracing the truth of who Jesus is, is the path of discipleship. This, he says, is the way to eternal freedom. Again, he is misunderstood.

Their frustration continues; they claim Abraham as their father in an attempt at spiritual one-upmanship. Jesus remarks that Abraham did not act as they did, so Abraham could not have been their father. This enrages his listeners, who take Jesus to be saying that they are illegitimate. So they appealed to someone greater than Abraham; they appealed to the paternity of almighty God. Again, Jesus challenges them; if they were indeed children of God, they would know who he really is.

The religious leaders thought that, just because they were physical descendants of Abraham, they were his spiritual descendants as well. Moreover, they would therefore be pleasing in God’s eyes. But this passage from John shows that our human heritage has nothing to do with our salvation. Instead, that depends upon our deep personal knowledge of Jesus Christ.

“To discern the truth, we need to discern everything that encourages communion and promotes goodness from whatever instead tends to isolate, divide and oppose” (Pope Francis, World Communications Day, February 7, 2018).


by Janiene Wilson

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