Day 136: May 16, 2013

Today's Reading(s)

John 8:21-59 Read Online

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Today's Reflection

Key Verse(s)

Therefore, if the Son sets you free, you really will be free.

—John 8:36

You Can't Handle the Truth
by Brandon Abbott,

If I were casting Jesus in the next History Channel special on the Bible, I must admit that Jack Nicholson wouldn’t be the first name on my list. Yet as I read this passage, I can't help but remember the legendary actor as Col. Nathan R. Jessup of the United States Marine Corp being interrogated by Lt. Kaffee (Tom Cruise).

In case you've forgotten this scene from A Few Good Men, it goes something like this:

Jessup: "You want answers?"

Kaffee: "I think I'm entitled."

Jessup: "You want answers?"

Kaffee: "I want the truth!"

Jessup: "You can't handle the truth!"

Jessup is indignant at having his judgment called into question. His comments remind us that while it may be easy to play judge and jury, there’s often a larger reality at work—one we might not always see and probably wouldn’t like if we did.

In John 8, the message Jesus delivers to the Jews in the temple complex is very similar.  

"Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me. Who among you can convict Me of sin? If I tell the truth, why don’t you believe Me? The one who is from God listens to God’s words. This is why you don’t listen, because you are not from God” (John 8:45-47).

The Jews in the temple complex thought they understood, but they didn't. They thought they were free, but they weren't. They thought they knew the truth, but they couldn't handle the truth. They heard it, and still didn't believe it.

In fact, forget truth. These guys were downright delusional.

“‘We are descendants of Abraham,’ they answered Him, ‘and we have never been enslaved to anyone. How can You say, “You will become free”?’” (John 8:33).

Really? Did you SEE the big Roman guards when you crossed the street? You think they're in town for a Gladiator convention?

In fact, Rome was just the latest in a series of nations to occupy or enslave the Jewish people. Others included the Egyptians, the Assyrians, the Babylonians, and the Persians. But Jesus wasn't talking about occupation or slavery to man. He was talking about slavery to sin.

But they couldn't see the chains around their hearts any more than they could hear the Truth in God's words.

I keep going back to the phrases "God's Words" and "My Word." Jesus says if we know His Word, we’re true disciples. If we know His word, we’ll know the Truth, and the Truth will set us free.

We don't have to be slaves to sin. There’s a larger reality at work. For a child of God, this reality is good news. For anyone else, not so much.

Given that, I'm sure this must have been a tense conversation. Jesus was laying it all out here. He is the Truth. He is the Son of God. 

Jesus said to them, “I assure you: Before Abraham was, I AM” (John 8:58). And that's when they picked up the rocks.

Isn't that our natural response when we don't understand something? To judge it? To throw stones? We pray for God to reveal His Truth to us, to show us His will in our lives. But then he does. And we can't handle the Truth, not if it changes our schedule, or address, or our bank account. 

But this is the Truth that can set us free. His Word speaks for itself. As He was saying these things, many believed in Him (John 8:30).

Do we believe in Him and His Word? Can we handle the Truth that will set us free? Or are we content to hear what we want and see what we want? There’s a world waiting to find out.

Reflection Questions

  1. According to Jesus, the Truth is His Word. How much Truth seeking are we doing? And depending on our answer, how free are we from the sin "which so easily entangles us."
  2. Jesus is very direct in his comments to the Jews in the temple complex. Why do you think He uses such strong language here?
  3. Has your study of God's Word revealed something to you that you didn't like about yourself? What did you do with that? Ignore it? Argue with it? Change?

About the Author

Brandon Abbott
» Blog/Website

Brandon Abbott serves on the staff of Brentwood Baptist Church as Marketing Director, helping to manage the major messages of the church and its ministries. When he’s not at work, Brandon spends his time at home in Thompson’s Station where he builds websites, writes a novel that never seems to end, and hangs out with the people he loves most, his wife and three kids. Brandon and his family attend The Church at Station Hill, where Brandon serves as a LIFE Group coach and plays drums for the Worship Team. You can learn more about Brandon and read more of his devotions and short stories at