And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.
There are two kinds of freedom: the freedom of the liberated prisoner and the freedom of the manumitted slave. Living in a country like England, we are most likely to think of the former kind. But it is quite evident that Jesus was thinking of servitude rather than captivity. Many may have to be under restraint because they have broken laws; it is right that they should be prisoners for a time, perhaps even for all their lives. But servitude never can be right; it has had to remain awhile because of the hardness of men's hearts, and as men have got more light upon human equality, they have seen that no man should be legally compelled into the service of another, whether he would or not. In the time of Jesus there were many bond slaves, and he had no magic process whereby he could liberate them. But there were bond slaves besides, unconscious of their servitude, deluded with the notion that they were already free, and therefore all the harder to liberate. To such Jesus spoke here. He spoke to slaves, and told them what would liberate them.
I. THE PROCESS OF LIBERATION MAY BE REAL, THOUGH FOR A WHILE WE ARE NOT CONSCIOUS OF IT. The prisoner is free when no longer in prison; the slave is free when no longer under the legal control of his owner. But Christian liberty cannot thus be made up of negations; it would be a poor thing if it could. It is of no use to attempt a definition of Christian liberty; it is a thing into which we must grow. We must grow until, even as Paul did, we look back on the days once counted free as days of the worst servitude. Going where Christ wants us to go, being what Christ wants us to be, we shall see in due time what a real and blessed thing spiritual freedom is. Still, though it must be a time before we know this properly, yet we may know something of it at once in studying the very greatest illustration of real liberty we can find, namely, the Lord Jesus himself. It is not abstract truth that liberates, but truth as embodied in the wisdom and power of Jesus.
II. TRUTH BRINGS US INTO THE LIBERTY OF DOING GOD'S WILL. Christ's own liberty was not that of doing as he liked. He went by the likings of his Father in heaven. He did nothing without liking to do it; yet he also did nothing just because he liked to do it. To desire what God desires, that is liberty, without a check, a jar, or a fret. Sowing just what we like, we shall certainly reap what we do not like. Christ wants to liberate us from the thraldom of our own strong, foolish desires. The psalmist exactly expresses the Christian's privilege and attainment, when he says so cheerfully. "I will run the way of thy commandments, when thou shalt enlarge my heart."
III. TRUTH BRINGS US INTO THE LIBERTY OF SEEING THINGS WITH OUR OWN EYES. The reputed wise in Jerusalem would only have led Jesus into a bondage of falsehoods and delusions. What a Pharisee they would have tried to make him! Really freethinking is the only right thinking, and our Teacher was the freest thinker that ever lived. It is our duty as much as our right to judge everything in connection with Christ for ourselves. By that rule we shall be judged at last. Others may help us in the way when chosen, but they are not to choose it for us.
IV. TRUTH BRINGS US INTO THE LIBERTY OF A LOVING HEART. The heart of Jesus could not be kept within rules and precedents and prejudices. It was a Divine love, shed abroad in his heart, that kept him safe, pure, and unspotted, in a world abounding with things to pollute.
V. TRUTH BRINGS US INTO THE LIBERTY OF A GRACIOUS LIFE. That is, the liberty of Jesus never interfered with the true liberty of others, but increased and established it. He never broke away from the beaten track for the mere sake of doing it. - Y.
Parallel VersesKJV: And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.
WEB: You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free."