Roman soldiers armed to the teeth with officers on horseback and soldiers packing short swords and long spears patrolled the cities, highways and villages of Israel.
This was called Pax Romana, “the Roman peace.” Limited religious freedom was granted to the nations occupied by Rome. They were free to worship whatever gods they had invented. Among pagan nations this worked well—tolerance of all manner of gods and all modes of worship made sense. With the Jews, there was a problem: they worshiped only one God and rejected all others. This practice sealed them off from the rest of civilization, and made them the exception to the Roman rule.
We have no king but Caesar.
In a few chapters of John’s gospel we will hear the leaders and the people confess this fateful chant. At that moment it was the subtext of everything said and done. As long as the worshipers of the One True God kept their religion out of politics, a fragile peace made daily life possible. To one degree or another, the people of Israel harbored a whispered hope—Messiah! Through His prophets, the One True God they worshiped had promised a Redeemer, a Deliverer, a King who would take the government on His shoulders and of His Kingdom there would be no end. This was the threat to Rome, especially as would-be “messiahs” often appeared making the claim to be the One. To survive this captivity, the leaders tried to keep worship going without the emphasis on Messiah. The appearance of Jesus disturbed this unspoken strategy.
More than Miracles
The miracles of Jesus were acts of mercy, relieving the suffering of so many and awakening hope in so many others. There was more to His ministry than deeds of mercy; there was a message of truth. The truth He taught was not a refutation of the Law; it was the fulfillment of it.
- After centuries of sacrifices and multitudes of lambs, Jesus was the final Lamb. John the Baptist said so!
- After wilderness tabernacles and palatial temples, Jesus was now the habitation of God by His Spirit.
- After generations of reading and chanting the written Word, Jesus came as the Living Word.
- Jesus was the final prophet, the promised King, the Sun of Righteousness rising with healing in His wings.
His message was as powerful and transformative as His miracles.
His message was the herald of true freedom, a greater freedom than Rome could provide or crush. It was a freedom born in faith in Him. Listen to His words:
“If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth,
and the truth shall make you free.”
Of course, the leaders could not let this invitation pass. They pled the case for their “freedom” under Rome.
“We are Abraham’s descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone.
How can You say, ‘You will be made free’?”
The truth was and is, all sons of Abraham—all human beings, for that matter—are slaves to sin. It doesn’t matter which politicians rule, people are slaves to sin until Jesus sets them free. When He rules in the heart, true freedom is the result.
History has proven this freedom to be greater than
- the dungeons and legions of Rome,
- the prisons of fascism or communism,
- the chains of American slavery,
- the shackles of poverty and
- any other prison or chain or oppression man can devise.
In all these historical tragedies, believers have been free in their spirits on earth and destined for eternal freedom in the great beyond.
Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” They answered Him, “We are Abraham’s descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can You say, ‘You will be made free’?” Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.
Isaiah 9:6-7 NKJV
For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace There will be no end, Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, To order it and establish it with judgment and justice From that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.
Lord Jesus, when I called out to You, You heard me. When I repented of my sinful life, You forgave me. When I confessed You as Lord, You became my Savior. The chains of sin that bound me fell from my life at Your command. You sent Your Blessed Holy Spirit to abide in my heart so that I can walk in the Spirit, walk about in freedom by Your power. Most of all, I am free to tell Your story to my world and to worship You with Your church on earth and heaven. Thank God I Am Free! Amen and Amen.
Thank God I Am Free
Words and Music: James McFall
1. For a long time I traveled down a long, lonely road,
My heart was so heavy, in sin I sank low;
Then I heard about Jesus, what a wonderful hour!
I’m so glad that I found out
He would bring me out through His saving pow’r.
Thank God I am free, free, free from this world of sin,
Washed in the blood of Jesus, I’ve been born again;
Hallelujah, I’m saved, saved, saved by His wonderful grace.
I’m so glad that I found out
He would bring me out and show me the way.
2. Like a bird out of prison that’s taken his flight,
Like a blind man that God gave back his sight;
Like the poor wretched beggar that’s found fortune and fame,
I’m so glad that I found out
He would bring me out through His Holy Name.
© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved
TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.