To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free,” (John 8:31-32).
This is another of those iconic statements that come to mind when people talk about the teaching of Jesus. It seems to be used frequently in contemporary culture without the first phrase; i.e. "If you hold to my teaching", or without crediting the speaker; i.e., Jesus.
The first century audience to whom Jesus was speaking took offense at the words. They responded by challenging Jesus with the fact that they had never been slaves and therefore didn't need to be set free. I laugh when I read their words. The truth was that they had spent most of their history in slavery, and life under the Romans was no cake-walk!
Jesus reminded his audience that anyone who sins is a slave to sin. That is pretty all-inclusive! I remember when these words were true in my life. I thought I was free. As a product of my times, I actually thought I was more free than most of the people around me who I dismissed as living in bondage to the prevailing cultural norms. But I was wrong. Of course, self-deception is a tricky thing. When you are snagged in its grip, it takes something powerful to break the spell. That's what Jesus does.
He first challenges our self-deception with his existence. If Jesus lived and was who he said he was, my whole life needed to be reassessed. If the Bible is revelatory, with God as its ultimate author, everything I thought I knew was wrong. Most of my faulty thinking in those days was deeply ingrained. I find that some of the wrong ideas I held still surface periodically. In those times I need Truth. Truth confronts error. It reveals bondage. It comforts the afflicted, and afflicts the comforted. It requires that we are so engaged with it that Jesus will later use the image of a vine and its branches to illustrate the "abiding" he speaks of here.
Ultimately, he will reveal that He is THE TRUTH. And he will challenge the disciples not only to abide in his word, but to abide in him! How about putting a "T" on your hand to remind you of this great promise: the Truth will set you free.