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.”
The truth will set you free. Two weeks ago we heard that for us humans it is impossible to enter the kingdom of God, but all things are possible with God. As Ephesians chapter 2 tells us, we were dead in our sin, but God made us alive in Christ; “by grace you are saved through faith. This is not of yourselves it is the gift of God.” (verses 1-10). And last week we heard that the eternal life we have with Jesus our Lord is one of suffering, obedience and prayer. This week we are celebrating, of course, Christ Jesus resurrection over death, but also the return of the church on earth to the teaching of justification by faith, celebrating the Reformation. To say both of those as one, we are celebrating the truth that sets us free!
But, hang on a moment, how can Jesus say that it is His words that set you free, aren’t you free already? We live in a free country, as we hear so often. We are free to say what we want, to associate with whomever, to practise any religion. We are already a free people because we are here in Australia. This was the same reaction Jesus’ followers had, ‘we are descendants from Abraham.’ A bit of a funny reaction I think, because they were subjects to the Roman Empire and the Israelite nation was defined as the people God brought out of slavery in Egypt and into the land promised to Abraham. And for you, you are subject to this nation, you must pay tax and obey the laws of the land, even those you disagree with. We are not completely free in this world.
But even more than that, you are not free in yourself. As a descendant of Adam, you are born in sin and from birth you are turned in on yourself, looking towards your own desires and wants corrupted by sin, and incapable of seeing the truth of the world around us. The Truth that Jesus Christ reveals. You are a slave to sin and you cannot free yourself (Romans 6). Slave to money, to work, to despair or pride. When you lie you can become trapped, and have to lie again and again until it all blows up; until the truth is revealed and you are finally free of your lies. Trapped by your pride, by bad habits, addictions; trapped by sin. If you sin, you are a slave to sin; this is truth that Jesus says (John 8:34). And elsewhere God tells us that sin earns us death (Romans 6:23). Even if you don’t realise it, just like these followers in the text, even if you don’t realise that you are a slave to sin, it is true. Maybe you do realise it and it kills you inside, that you did that horrible thing, that you crushed those you love, you hurt God, to serve yourself, and you wait for the punishment you earned still living with that sin and guilt or even keeping it hidden and failing again and again. But that is not the whole truth, there’s more.
God the Father gave you life, your body, this wonderful world of rain and sunshine. He sustains you through food and water, the air you breath, even your friends and family He has given life to. Then, Jesus suffered and died for you, He asks you to trust Him for your righteousness and forgiveness. And not only these but also the Holy Spirit gives you faith, hope and love; He shows you the truth of this world, your sin and the goodness and graciousness of God particularly through Jesus. Many times we may still reject God’s gifts and instead submit to our own ideas of truth, seemingly wanting to return to the slavery of sin.
But you have been freed from that slavery, you are free to hold to God’s forgiveness and the eternal righteousness and new life you have in Jesus. Saint Paul wrote that in baptism we are taken from that slavery of sin, even we die to that life; and we are brought to new life together with Christ, dead to sin, alive to Christ. Sin is no longer your master, no longer has power over you, you no longer need to submit to it. (Romans 6:1-14). In baptism the Holy Spirit washes it away and clothes you in righteousness, you are joined to Christ, part of His body and adopted as God’s beloved child (Acts 2:38, Titus 3:5-7; Galatians 3:27-29). We are freed by Jesus, the way, the truth and the life. You are freed from sin, death and the devil by Jesus suffering, death, resurrection and ascension. You are forgiven, and given life eternal by Jesus Christ.
That is the truth that sets you free. Jesus died for you, forgiving you by His blood and bringing you eternal life. You no longer need to live trapped by your sin, your failures or your wickedness, but you live by Christ’s words, His obedience, success and righteousness; by God’s gracious gifts, by His marvellous promises. And so, live! Amen