Studies in John's Gospel -- Part 13
The Illusion of Freedom
By: A.J. Higgins, M.D.
Passage: John 8
Long before the signers penned their names to the U. S. Declaration of Independence that called for "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," the heart of man has longed for freedom, claiming it as his birthright. Centuries later the now famous inaugural speech of President Roosevelt, spoken in the dark valley between a world wide depression and an approaching world wide war, reaffirmed this belief as he guaranteed the "Four Freedoms" to the nations.
Among our own generation who can recall the moving oratory of Dr. King, "Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill in Mississippi.... free at last, free at last...," without feeling the moral justice and power of his words?
Freedom has ever been the goal and the glory of men and nations. Perhaps only exceeding the tragedy of its loss, is the tragedy of its assumed possession. In John 8, the Lord Jesus spoke to men about the path to freedom. His emphasis was undoubtedly upon spiritual freedom. They nevertheless in their pride responded: "We were never in bondage to any man." Never was freedom more strangely defined. The coin of every day usage bore the image of Caesar. Above the Temple gate was the massive Roman eagle, symbolic of Roman dominion. Upon the seat of authority in Jerusalem was Pontius Pilate, a Roman governor. Foreign soldiers roamed the streets, according to Josephus. Freedom wore a strange garment.
But perhaps some might say that the freedom they spoke of was a freedom independent of political domination: the freedom of thought, action, and worship. Certainly the mind can be free even in a prison. But the Lord Jesus made clear that the professed liberty was not even genuine in that sphere. Their hands were stained with sin that left telltale fingerprints on all their activities (vs. 43-47). Their hearts were
But the Lord Jesus made clear...the professed liberty was not...genuine.
devoid of love to His person (vs. 42). Morally and spiritually their distance from God and true freedom was measurable in light years.
Is there no true freedom then? Is not man a free will moral being? The testimony of the Bible is that he is. His freedom, however, lies in the sphere of choice. He must choose to be in one kingdom or the other...to own allegiance to God or Satan...to live for this world or the next. His ultimate freedom depends upon that decision. Those who choose to live their lives according to their own wills are really reenacting the choice of Satan, "I will be as God." There is no bondage so cruel and bitter as bondage to sin. The apostle Paul in his Roman epistle makes clear that sin is both monarch and master
There is no bondage so cruel and bitter as the bondage of sin.
(Rom. 6) for those who choose its dominion. It is self imposed slavery; the surrender of true liberty. Yet those who glory the loudest in their supposed freedom often do so to the accompaniment of the sound of their chains.
We live in a generation that has imbibed the hedonistic philosophy that allows all that is pleasurable and attainable. Moral absolutes have no place in today’s "advanced" society. We have moved beyond the barbaric thinking of our Puritanical forefathers. Our enlightened generation has finally gotten it all together: sin really doesn’t exist. Please pass the word back down the corridor of time: they are all wrong.
Somehow amidst all the rhetoric and claims, there is the sound of hollowness, of longing. A cry for reality, a plea for meaning still rises from the collective voice of the human family. All their freedom seems to be but bondage. This was exactly what the Lord Jesus was revealing to those of His day. He Himself was excluded from the mere illusion of freedom. In this very chapter He declared how He always pleased God (vs. 29), and challenged His audience to point to one sin in His life (vs. 46). Outwardly before men, and inwardly before the eye of His Father there was no sin and no bondage. His was true freedom. Yet in that freedom He chose to leave heaven and go to Calvary to pay the price of sin and provide men with a way back to God. He told His audience: "If the Son therefore shall make your free, you shall be free indeed." The freedom He offers mankind is one purchased by His blood upon Calvary. It is a freedom from the bondage and bitterness of sin. It is a freedom that brings man into an eternal, indissoluble relationship with God (vs. 51). It fulfills for man his deepest longing: "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."