Thursday, November 14, 2013

Be Free or Be Easy : The Business of Christian Education LXV

31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 33 They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?”
34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. 35 The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. 37 I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you. 38 I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.”
John 8:31-38

            Early in his ministry, Jesus already faced fierce opposition from the people.  In this context, people were upset with Jesus because Jesus did not meet their demand.  The people demanded him to be king (John 6:15).  But Jesus withdrew and did not give in.  They wanted Jesus to continue providing them with bread (John 6:25-27).  But Jesus redirected them to him, the Bread of Life.  The people then left Jesus because his teaching was unacceptable for them (John 6: 60-66).  Only the twelve stayed because they recognized that Jesus had the words of eternal life (John 6:68).  During the Feast of Booths, Jesus went into
the temple and taught the people (John 7:14), and the people were amazed at his teaching.  They wondered how a simple man like Jesus who never went through rigorous study under the Pharisees and the Lawyers could teach with such authority.  They wanted Jesus to come out of the traditional route in order for them to accept his teaching.  But Jesus revealed to them that he was no ordinary man.  Then dispute broke out among the people whether Jesus was the Christ (John 7:25-31).  The Pharisees were jealous and they sent officers to arrest Jesus, but the officers came back without Jesus, for they too were astonished at Jesus’ teachings.

45 The officers then came to the chief priests and Pharisees, who said to them, “Why did you not bring him?” 46 The officers answered, “No one ever spoke like this man!”  (John 7:45-46)

Later on Jesus declared that he was the Light of the World.

12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”  (John 8:12)

But the Pharisees did not accept Jesus’ words.  They disputed Jesus’ declaration and accused Jesus of bearing false testimony.  Jesus introduced to them that the Father in heaven also testified on his behalf.  But the Pharisees questioned Jesus: “Where is your Father?” (John 8:19).  Then Jesus had to reveal the painful truth about them that they neither knew the Father nor the Son.  This conversation led right through the passage about being set free by the truth and by the Son.

            The people thought that they were free and were never under slavery, and therefore never in need of being set free.  Thus it was shocking to them when Jesus pointed out that they were to be set free.  For one they were delusional, because the Romans’ occupation itself bore witness to their enslavement.  All Israel was waiting for the Messiah to free them from the bondage of the Romans Empire.  And so it was just out of pride that they rejected Jesus’ declaration that they needed to be set free.  For they did not desire a Messiah like Jesus.  They wanted a Messiah who would take up the royal and political kingship the way they wanted it.  Because of Jesus’ rejection of their demand to make him king, they then rejected Jesus as their Messiah who would set them free.  Later on we know that the people wanted a Messiah like Barabbas.  Someone who would lead the people in rebellion against the Romans.  Someone who would take up sword and kill the Romans.  So their rejection of the truth of their slave status was motivated by their rejection of Jesus as the Messiah who would set them free.

And second, they were even more ignorant of the spiritual realm because they did not realize of their bondage in sin.  Jesus revealed the very truth which the people had been blind to, that “everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin” (John 8:34).  Even after Jesus revealed this truth, they would not believe.  They continued to reject the truth.  For they did not love the truth.  No wonder Jesus then continued to reveal more truths about them.  Jesus revealed the truth that their father was neither Abraham nor God, but the devil.

39 They answered him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did, 40 but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. 41 You are doing the works your father did.” They said to him, “We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father—even God.” 42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. 43 Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. 44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. 46 Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? 47 Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”  (John 8:39-47)

So, naturally, the people embraced lies and they desired to kill Jesus.  For Jesus embodied the truth.  The truth shined in darkness and it revealed that what the people believed were all lies.  But yet they could not accept Jesus’ words.  They wanted to remain in the false knowledge.  It was hard for them to let go what they had held dear for a long time.  Unlearning what they had learned was undesirable to them.  They preferred forcing Jesus to fit into their categories.  And since Jesus did not fit into their paradigms, and they did not have any desire to shift their paradigms for Jesus’ words, then their conclusion was to get rid of Jesus.  They feared to let go of their comfort zone.  They feared to leave their lifestyle.  They refused to be set free than to lose their easy life.

            In the first installment of the Matrix Trilogy, the betrayal of Cypher illustrates this situation well.  Cypher met agent Smith to arrange for his reinsertion into the Matrix.  Cypher was free.  Morpheus set him free.  Like all other people who were grown in the Matrix, Cypher used to live under the enslavement of the Machine.  The meaning of his life was reduced to “power supply” for the survival of the Machine.  The Machine harvested his energy all the while he was sleeping and living in a dream world.  Morpheus woke him up and introduced him to the real world.  Then Cypher learned of the truth that he was a slave to the Machine.  Neo underwent the same ritual.  At first Neo did not want to believe it.  But then he embraced the freedom.  Now, Cypher on the other hand, after learning how hard it was to live as a free man, he desired to be enslaved again by the Machine.  He rejected the truth.  He rejected freedom.  He wanted easy life.  He wanted his old life back, with some augmentation.  And so his famous quote says: “Ignorance is Bliss.”  With that philosophy, he betrayed his entire crew.  He sacrificed his friends for the sake of his old lifestyle.  He even handed over Morpheus, his savior, to agent Smith.

            In the same way, many people in the world today prefer being enslaved by sin than being freed by the words of Jesus Christ, who is the Way and the Truth and the Life (John 14:6).  Instead of rejoicing at the prospect of being freed from sin and from the principles of the world, many people choose to eliminate Jesus and his words.  They replace the truth and the words of eternal life with what is not truth and what is only temporary.  Easy life becomes the number one choice.  Freedom is undesirable.  They do not wish to be free.  They do not want the free life, for the free life carries with it the dignity of the image of God.  Such dignity cannot be lived with carefree lifestyle.  Such dignity must be lived properly as demanded by the Creator.  Cypher did not want to fight the Machine anymore.  He wanted easy life under the slavery of the Machine.  Many people today did not want to fight the devil.  They want easy life under the slavery of sin.  The dignity as God’s image, which fits our nature, is not on demand by these people.  Those people who continued to debate Jesus’ words rejected the truth.  By rejecting the truth they also rejected freedom.  They did not like the true freedom that Jesus revealed.  They desired their own version of freedom.  A kind of freedom which would allow them to be left alone, free of any rules and regulations.  A kind of freedom which even permits them to enslave God.  This goes back to the motif of the first sin committed by Adam and Eve.  They disobeyed God’s direct command because they wanted to be God.  They wanted the kind of freedom which would allow them to detach themselves from God.  They wanted to live by themselves.  But, instead of getting the freedom they wanted, they circled the drain and went straight to slavery in sin.  This kind of slavery bound them for eternity.  Just like Cypher wanted the freedom in the Matrix at the expense of being bound and enslaved as power supply for the Machine all his life.  Thus, following Adam and Eve, these people also want freedom in sin at the expense of being bound and enslaved by sin for eternity.  The people that conversed with Jesus refused to let go of their bondage even though the Son already offered them true freedom.

            In their frustration, because they could not force Jesus to be their slave, they resorted to the next level of action, which was to kill Jesus.  They threw stones at Jesus at his revelation of his divinity.  They could not bear anymore the truth for they could not let go of their freedom to sin.  Jesus offered them life free of sin.  A life that returned to the dignity as Imago Dei.  A life that God had designed from the beginning.  A life with God that is full of joy and shalom.  A life that submits to the lordship of God.  A life that acknowledges that God is the Master.  Jesus offers all of us the fullness of life.  For he is the Life.  Morpheus offered Cypher true life.  But Cypher chose the life in the Matrix, a deception, over the true life.  The Jews were offered true life in Jesus Christ, but they refused.  They’d rather kill the author of life rather than submitting their lives to the owner of all life.  Peter spoke boldly in front of the Sanhedrin to give account of his miraculous healing of the cripple:

13 The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. 14 But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, 15 and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses.  (Acts 3:13-15)

As the Jews rejected the Author of life, many people today also reject the Author of life.  They would rather live in deception, in a fake world and its fake paradigm, than to live the true life as offered in Jesus Christ.  And so many people today, in their frustration because their conscience continues to bother them with the truth of the words of Jesus Christ, resort to the next level of action, which is to eliminate the idea of God altogether.  They obscure the truth by many devices of research and false knowledge.  Slowly but sure, they replace the truth with lies.  They call it the creation of neutral ground.  But we all know that there is no neutral ground.  Either we are of the truth or not.  But this so called neutral ground is gaining in our modern world today.  The proclamation of the truth is gradually being hampered and forbidden in public life.  Deceptions are everywhere surrounding our world today.  They build fortresses to guard themselves from being set free.  They surround their life with lies so that they would never face reality of their enslavement in sin.  Thus they change their hearts and set them to desire sin even more.  They abandon their natural dignity and any prospect of being restored to the dignified status as God created them.  Just as Cypher sold his friends for his dream world, they sell their birthrights for cheap enjoyment in the temporary world.

            What Jesus offers is true freedom.  He offers us the truth.  He offers us the way.  He offers us the life.  He offers us himself.  And he is real.  He is not an illusion.  He is not an abstract imagination.  He is more real than what the world offers.  For Jesus is God himself.  Wanted or not, by design, we depend fully on God.  Jesus is the source of all life, for he is God.  When all the people who followed him left him, he asked whether his twelve disciples would also leave him.  Then Peter gave a truthful answer that bore witness to who Jesus was.

68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, 69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”  (John 6:68-69)


No comments: