McFarland

Wednesday Bible Study by Pastor Tim

Light a candle

Read John 8:31-36

Today’s reading from John is assigned for Reformation Sunday, which we will celebrate this Sunday, Oct. 25. The last Sunday of October is typically when we celebrate the reforming movement in the Church, which Martin Luther helped to ignite by nailing 95 theses on a community door on Oct. 31, 1517. It’s much more than just celebrating one person like Luther, or our Lutheran history. On this Sunday, we give thanks for the “re-forming” movements of the Holy Spirit, who continually re-shapes and re-energizes the whole Church so that we can more fully live out the grace and love of Christ.

Our text today starts with three promises for those who continue in Jesus’ word: 1) they are truly his disciples, 2) they will know the truth, and 3) the truth will set them free (8:31-32). John gives us some interesting words to ponder!

The word for “continue in” (Greek, meno) means to dwell, remain with, abide. John uses this word a lot, especially in chapter 15, where Jesus says, “Abide in me as I abide in you.” (15:4) The word denotes that Jesus has given us a permanent home, a dwelling place. Later in this passage, Jesus says that the Son gives us a permanent place in God’s house (8:35-36).

These three promises are all connected by the root word “truth” (Greek, aletheia)—another one of John’s favorite expressions! John gives Jesus the nickname “truth” (14:6, “I am the way, the truth….”). Jesus’ word brings truth, and in fact, he is embodied truth. In him, we not only have a permanent relationship with God but are set free to live our true calling as his disciples. The Word made flesh, Jesus brings us the truth of God’s liberating grace. (“Word” or logos is another term John is fond of. See John 1:1-14!)

God’s Word in Christ sets us free.

Freedom is a significant promise in this passage. Jesus’ listeners in the story seem to forget their own history of being enslaved in Egypt and the God who had rescued them. The audience also neglects their current enslavement by the Roman Empire in the 1st century. Yet John proclaims that we are all in need of God’s freeing grace, we are all “enslaved” by something or someone.

David Lose writes that in our 21st century U.S. context, we often think freedom means the right to do whatever we please. But that is not what John means when he says we have been set free. We dwell in relationship with Christ, rooted in community. We are not “to live as individual automatons, divorced from the needs of our neighbor in the pursuit of self-satisfaction, but rather to find our true nature, call, and purpose…only in and through the relationship with others.” (David Lose, “In the Meantime” blog, October 19, 2020)

Jesus liberates us from slavery to self-centeredness and mindless individualism, sends us to serve our neighbors near and far, and calls us to seek the common good. Because Christ sets us free, we don’t need to worry about our status before God, but can focus our energy and gifts on the needs of others.

Thanks be to God, for the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ, who sets us free to be in community and to work for the well-being of our neighbors and creation.

Reflection Questions

1) What word or phrase jumps out at you in this reading?

2) How would you describe being “enslaved to sin” today? (For example, addictions, oppressive systems, breakdowns in communal/civic life)

3) How does God’s Word set us free? What does Christian freedom look like for you personally and for our community at MLC?

Extinguish the candle