Here is another instance in the Gospel of John’s use of irony: an argument between Jesus and the Jews about freedom.
Jesus tells the Jews that to accept the revelation he has brought from his Father is to grasp the truth about themselves – and that this truth will make them free.
In John’s understanding, our bondage in sin comes because we are caught up in lies, deceit and subterfuge. We traffic in illusions, about ourselves and others. But God’s word comes as a light in our darkness. It illumines the truth, who and what we really are; and this truth brings us the experience of freedom.
The Jews resent this implication of becoming ‘free’. “We are children of Abraham,” they assert, “and have never been in bondage to anyone.” They are talking of slavery as a condition in society. Jesus speaks of the invisible slavery of sin. They take slavery as the obvious condition of subservience in society. They do not see how sin enslaves through habits of vice and keeps our souls in darkness.
Let me make you free, says Jesus. I am the son of God. Accept the gift of truth from me, and you will be as I am, free indeed. For the life which I bring to you includes truth and freedom and every good thing.
But the Jews ignore his offer. “We have Abraham as our father,” they cry in arrogance. “We do not need you or your Father !”
Jesus counters: “If Abraham was truly your father, you would do as he did, when he obeyed God and listened to him. No, your father is the devil, for there is no truth in him.”