The Truth About Freedom
I have read that Jesus’ words in Jn. 8:32–“you will know the truth and the truth will make you free”–are inscribed in stone on the CIA headquarters building. This misuse of Jesus’ words is meant to legitimate spies whose “intelligence” will (supposedly) keep their nation free.
When Jesus spoke those words, he was speaking to Jews with divided loyalties, wanting to hear from him while remaining loyal to their national leaders (especially the Pharisees, who ruled over the synagogues, where they taught and enforced the law of Moses given to their nation). Jesus said if they continued in his word, they would be true disciples, and know the truth, and find freedom (Jn. 8:31-32).
The Jews replied that they were already free, and were not slaves to anybody (8:33). Jesus disagreed, disclosing that the truth was they were actually slaves of sin (8:34). Even if they discounted the Roman occupation of Israel, and lived under the Jewish law of Moses and its authorities in the synagogues, Jesus asserted that they were not free. Freedom to live under their preferred national fathers still involved slavery to sin. Only if the Son of the Father made them free would they be truly free (8:36).
So the Jews reverted back to their favorite forefather, Abraham; he was their truly great father, the founding father of their nation (8:39). When Jesus questioned whether Abraham was truly their father, they got testy, turning to “intelligence” (rumors) probably coming from their ruling fathers, the scribes and Pharisees; they told Jesus, “We were not born of fornication; we have one Father, God” (8:40-41). After Jesus revealed that their true father was the devil–because they were full of lies, and wanted to get rid of Jesus, who spoke the truth–they turned to even more desperate rumors: Jesus was a Samaritan and had a demon (8:44-48).
The truth that Jesus was trying to tell them was thus about the fathers they followed: the devil (the ancient serpent) and their spying, rumor-mongering scribes and Pharisees (a brood of vipers). Because Jesus exposed the sin of their lies and plans to demonize and destroy him, they reacted even stronger to Jesus’ truth about freedom from such sin.
Later, in Jn. 16:2, Jesus warned his (true) disciples that they (the ruling fathers) would throw them out of the synagogues, and even kill some of them, thinking that was part of their service to God. But Jesus said that despite such tribulation in the world (due to lies and plots from ruling fathers), his disciples could still have joy, because the truth was Jesus had overcome the world and its sin (16:33). If they remained true to him, it would be his Spirit of truth speaking through them; so even though they would face the same kind of opposition Jesus faced, they would also remain faithful to their one true Father, just like the Son sent from heaven by the Father.
What was true then about freedom remains true today; revered ruling fathers continue to deceive and destroy, even in the name of God, as they desperately seek to gain or maintain their power and wealth. The Son who rejected such fathers in order to remain true to the Father who sent him can still show us the truth about freedom from such sin.