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’? Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.” (John 8:33).
It is interesting to observe the lengths people will go to deny the reality which is right before them. Webster’s Dictionary defines denial as a refusal to admit the truth or reality of something (such as a statement or charge). It is also a refusal to acknowledge a person or a thing.
Denial is evidenced in John 8:33 on several levels. Let’s unpack this verse and see what these levels of denial are exactly.
First, we see the identity of the deniers. The word “they” refers to the Jewish religious leaders who Jesus has been talking with since John 7:14. They have steadfastly refused to acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah. This is in spite of the many evidences Jesus has given and the many people, including some the Pharisees (John 8:30-31), who have believed in Jesus.
Secondly, the religious leader’s denial extends to their own heritage. They identify themselves as Abraham’s offspring. However, those who belong to Abraham and are his offspring are those who possess true faith in the One, True God. They are ones who are circumcised of heart and not just of body (Romans 2:25-29). They are now known as Messianic Jews: followers of Jesus Christ.
Third, the religious leader’s denial extends to their political situation. The Jewish religious leaders denied they had ever been enslaved to anyone. However, biblical and secular historians confirm Israel’s enslavement by Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece and Rome. Therefore, they must have been referring to spiritual bondage.
One commentator writes, “The pride of the Jewish nation, even now after centuries of humiliation, is the most striking feature of their character. “Talk of freedom to us? Pray when or to whom were we ever in bondage?” This bluster sounds almost ludicrous from such a nation. Had they forgotten their long and bitter bondage in Egypt? Their dreary captivity in Babylon? Their present bondage to the Roman yoke, and their restless eagerness to throw it off? But probably they saw that our Lord pointed to something else—freedom, perhaps, from the leaders of sects or parties—and were not willing to allow their subjection even to these. Our Lord, therefore, though He knew what slaves they were in this sense, drives the ploughshare somewhat deeper than this, to a bondage they little dreamt of.”
The fourth and final denial is the most striking. The religious leader’s denial of their need for freedom from their sin. It is a bondage Jesus immediately addresses in John 8:34 when He says, ““Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.”
Dr. John MacArthur explains, “The kind of slavery that Jesus had in mind was not physical slavery but slavery to sin (cf. Rom. 6:17–18). The idea of “commits sin” means to practice sin habitually (1 John 3:4, 8–9). The ultimate bondage is not political or economic enslavement but spiritual bondage to sin and rebellion against God. Thus, this also explains why Jesus would not let himself be reduced to merely a political Messiah (John 6:14–15).”
Some people often exist in a state of denial. It may be a denial regarding failing health, one’s financial stability, substance abuse, or the political mood of the country. Some even deny that the United States has enemies. Since 2001, September 11 is a reminder that there are those who hate Americans and will do whatever it takes to destroy our representative republic.
Even greater is a denial that one is a sinner and in need of Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. I encourage you today to repent of your sins and receive Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord today. May He begin to be your Master by He having set you free from the law of sin and death.
Soli deo Gloria!