Friday, March 30, 2012

Tasting a Deceased Kingdom

In our studies, we are turning back to the Synoptic Gospel timeline now, where recently Jesus had asked His disciples who they thought that He was. When Simon replied that Jesus was the Messiah, Jesus renamed Simon as Peter and claimed that Peter would be given the keys to Heaven. From then on, Jesus told His disciples about how He would be killed in Jerusalem and resurrected on (Matthew 16:21, Luke 9:22) or after (Mark 8:31) the third day.

According to Matthew 16:22-23 and Mark 8:32-33, Peter rejected Jesus' vision for the future, so Jesus called him Satan and told him to get out of the way. (Of course, with this incident juxtaposed to Jesus having given Peter the keys to Heaven, this seems to be more evidence suggesting poor aggregation by Matthew of that prior episode.) Luke edited out Jesus calling Peter Satan from his Gospel, probably due to the harshness of such a rebuke or the theological problems it creates.

Tasting a Deceased Kingdom
"Faith is believing in something you know ain’t so." - Mark Twain
Mark Twain was a brilliant satirist. There is no doubt about it, and not just because of his views on religion. With his quote in mind, we are going to take a closer look at some verses and their Christian interpretations, which they "know ain't so." Context defines their meanings, but reality proves them to be incontrovertibly wrong, so we will see the faith that they put into "alternative" meanings.

We will be examining Matthew 16:24-28, Mark 8:34-38 + Mark 9:1, and Luke 9:23-27. The accounts are principally the same, but there are some very notable differences, which I will discuss along the way.

In these passages, Jesus is speaking to His Disciples (Mark has Jesus addressing the crowd too) regarding what they need to do in order to be rewarded by God in the coming days. All three accounts agree (Matthew 16:24, Mark 8:34, and Luke 9:23) that for someone who wants to be saved, "he must deny himself and take up his cross" and follow Jesus. Luke adds the word "daily" in there, presumably to emphasize the continuous commitment required.

There is a distinct ascetic undercurrent in the instruction to "deny" yourself. We have touched on this theme before in an earlier study on the Sermon on the Mount, where it was clear that Jesus' words encouraged living in poverty; and in another earlier the study regarding the First Mission, where from parallel passages in Luke we saw the call to forsake your family and possessions, and instead only focus on Jesus.

There are scant few Christians today who live ascetic lives, in complete devotion to Christ. The rest of Christianity has come to terms with the fact that such a lifestyle is not practical if the world is not ending anytime soon, and so they simply ignore these verses, or claim that they applied only the the Disciples, or modify the meanings. For example, John Gill claims that this meant to deny the "sinful self, ungodliness, and worldly lusts," but that interpretation is undermined by the verses which follow.

The next two or three verses (depending on the verse count) provide the familiar refrains of whoever seeks to save his life will loose it, but whoever loses his life for Jesus will gain (eternal) life, and it will profit a man nothing if he gains the world but loses his soul (Matthew 16:25-26, Mark 8:35-37, and Luke 9:24-25). In other words, forsake this life, and focus on the next one, because owning the entire world would not do you any good in the next life. So while Gill's version of "deny" was probably an aspect of that command, its full rendition is seen by the accompanying suggestion of actually losing your life for Jesus. This is far deeper than just trying to be a good little boy or girl who is unimpressed by materialism.

The next verse is the most varied in these passages; Matthew 16:27, Mark 8:38, and Luke 9:26. I will combine these three into one verse, and color-code it so that you can see the sources. What is common to all three will be in black. Matthew-only will be in red. Mark-only will be blue. Luke-only will be purple. Mark-Luke overlap will be in brown. Here are Jesus' composite words, in bold for enhanced color visibility:
"If anyone is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory and in His Father's glory with the holy angels, and then He will reward each person according to what he has done."
The differences in the versions are really trivial. Mark adds a little extra condemnation of the people of his time. Luke makes sure that Jesus gets His share of the glory too. Also, Mark and Luke emphasize how Jesus would be ashamed of those who were ashamed to follow Him, which is an implication of a judgement, and that same judgement is more-directly proclaimed in Matthew's exclusive words.

So we have a clear sense of that verse: It is referring to Jesus' Second Coming, and at that time Jesus will show up with angles and will execute judgement on all of mankind based on what they have done. This agrees with James 2:14-26, that it is what you do that matters, not just what you believe.

Continuing on, the next verse is where Christian interpretations really go haywire. There is much better consensus between Matthew 16:28, Mark 9:1, and Luke 9:27 than with the last verse, but I will render another amalgam for you in the same color-coding as above:
"I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in His/the Kingdom of God with power."
In context with the verse above, it is plainly evident that this is still referring to Jesus' Second Coming, when the actual Kingdom of God will become established. Furthermore, the establishment of that Kingdom would occur soon, at some subsequent time which was no farther away than one human lifespan.

The implicit fact that "some" would die before seeing the Kingdom also suggests that perhaps significant time would pass before the manifestation of the Kingdom, perhaps five to ten years, perhaps decades, but this could also be a reference to Judas Iscariot, the Disciple who would later kill himself before Jesus' resurrection due to the guilt of betraying Jesus. So this is a weak point at best.

When the Kingdom does come, this is going to be an unmistakeable event, as is implied from Mark's "with power," where the Greek word for power is "dunamei," which shares the same root for the English word "dynamite." In fact, seeing the Kingdom of God with power could be another way of saying that the Kingdom of God would be firmly established at that time, as opposed to just beginning.

The Second Coming and establishment of the actual Kingdom of God interpretation is so evident that John Gill begins his exegesis of Matthew 16:28 with its refutation: (punctuation slightly adjusted for clarity)
"...till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom;" which is not to be understood of [Jesus'] personal coming in His kingdom in the last day, when He will judge quick and dead...
You know you are in likely in trouble when you begin by explaining why something does not mean what it appears to mean, and even more so when you ignore its surrounding context.

To Gill's credit, he also later refutes the notion that this verse may be referring to the Transfiguration. Instead, Gill explains the meaning as:
...of the appearance of [Jesus'] kingdom, in greater glory and power, upon His resurrection from the dead, and His ascension to heaven; when the Spirit was poured down in an extraordinary manner, and the Gospel was preached all over the world; was confirmed by signs and wonders, and made effectual to the conversion and salvation of many souls; which many then present lived to see, and were concerned in: though [this verse] seems chiefly to have regard to His coming, to show His regal power and authority in the destruction of the Jews; when those his enemies that would not He should reign over them, were ordered to be brought and slain before Him; and this the Apostle John, for one, lived to be a witness of.
Gill covers here nearly all of the Christian explanations which I have countered on this verse. It is interesting that Gill does partially come to terms with Jesus coming with power, but mistakenly applies it to the destruction of the Jews. It was Titus who led the Roman legions against Jerusalem, not Jesus.

Matthew Henry does add a small tweak of interpretation with: (with which John Wesley also agrees)
At the end of time, [Jesus] shall come in His Father's glory; but now, in the fulness of time, He was to come in His own Kingdom, his mediatorial Kingdom.
So let us sum up the given Christian interpretations of seeing Jesus coming in His Kingdom with power, and refute them as we go:
  • The Transfiguration (sometimes thought of as a glimpse of Heaven or and emblem of what was to come, but has nothing to with the establishment of the Kingdom)
  • Jesus' Resurrection (has nothing to do with seeing Jesus come in His Kingdom)
  • Jesus' Ascension into Heaven (has Jesus going somewhere else, not coming in His Kingdom)
  • Pentecost (has nothing to do with seeing Jesus or His Kingdom*)
  • When the Gospel message was preached to the world (has nothing to do with seeing Jesus come in His Kingdom with power*)
  • When the Roman legions, under the command of Titus, crushed the Jewish rebellion and destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 CE (has nothing to do with seeing Jesus come in His Kingdom)
  • When Jesus established His "mediatorial" Kingdom (which nobody can actually see)
The "*" flagged points indicate a possible alternative definition; that gaining believers and building the "kingdom" of the church was seeing Jesus coming in His Kingdom. This is the "faith" which I spoke of in the beginning of the post, because Christians choose to isolate this verse from the context of the preceding one in order to make this interpretation, which they know is not the way that they should be reading the Scriptures. Furthermore, they have to isolate this verse from Jesus' message which He began proclaiming at the very start of His public ministry, with its associated prophesies, in order to maintain that position. Jesus said the time has come for judgement and the establishment of the Kingdom of God, but Christians have faith that He meant something else.

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Shepherd and the Gate Are One

We are continuing on the Gospel of John, following the anecdote where Jesus had healed a blind man by rubbing mud, made from Jesus' spit, on the blind man's eyes on a Sabbath day. Eventually, when the man was brought before the local Pharisees, the Pharisees launched an investigation into the matter, but eventually ended up throwing the ex-blind man out of their synagogue after he had mocked them. Jesus later met up with the ex-blind man, who then worshiped Jesus.

The Shepherd and the Gate Are One
Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so, but does God the Father love Jesus? Yes, of course, and the Bible tells us that also. Do you know what else? The Bible tells us why God, the Father, loves Jesus, and that is pretty special. We will see the reason for His love, and some other "special" reasoning, as we cover another passage of John.

We will start at the end of a chapter, John 9:39-41. Immediately after a formerly blind man started worshiping Jesus, Jesus spoke. Where Jesus was and to whom He was speaking is unknown, but we do know that He was speaking about some metaphorically blind Pharisees, among others, when according to John 9:39:
Jesus said, "For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind." NIV
With this statement, you can see Jesus' purpose. He was coming with both Salvation and condemnation simultaneously. He was to make those who think that they already know God (those who think that they "see") "blind," thereby binding them in their sins. At the same time, He was to help the "blind," which, by implicit contrast, were those people who did not think that they knew God. As the chapter concludes, Jesus condemns the Pharisees because they claim that they see the truth. This is an important concept, because, contrary to what some Christians believe, Jesus did not want to save everyone.

The next chapter seems to continue this same discourse up to John 10:19-21, ending with the Jews having mixed opinions about Jesus after hearing Him speak. Some Jews cite, as a defense for Him, that He obviously cannot be demon-possessed because He has made blind men see (as in literal blindness, and literal seeing, unlike metaphorical John 9:39 mentioned above; a reference to Jesus healing the blind man in the previous chapter).

In between the above mentioned "book ends" is a series of metaphorical allegories. These type of allegories are the closest things that you will find in the Gospel of John to the parables you see in the Synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Unlike in the Synoptic Gospels, where Jesus used parables to prevent people from understanding, in John, Jesus used allegories to help explain things to whom He was speaking. So let us take a look at what He was trying to say.

John 10:1-6 sets the stage. Jesus told them that a shepherd will go into the sheep pen by the gate, but thieves jump the fence instead. The watchman opens the gate for the shepherd. The sheep will only be led out by their shepherd because they only recognize the shepherd's voice. Got it? Good, because hereafter Jesus explained what He meant by this.

In John 10:7-10, we discover that Jesus is the gate for the sheep, and whoever enters through that gate will be Saved, coming in and going out to the pasture of abundant life. Everyone who came before Jesus was a thief, bent on destruction, but Jesus' sheep did not listen to them.

Let us reflect on this explanation. When we refer to entering a gate, we imply entering some enclosure of property. So the sheep in the pen have presumably already entered the gate, and, in turn, are already saved. This is the doctrine of predestined Salvation, the Elect. There is no clarification of the watchman who opens the gate, either here or later. At best, we could assume that this was supposed to be John the Baptist. Yet we have that enigmatic statement, that "[a]ll who ever came before" Jesus were thieves. John the Baptist started his ministry prior to Jesus, so was he a thief? Even if we do not include John the Baptist, what about all of the prophets; Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, etc.? That does not add up either, so by "all" it seems that Jesus meant some. That "some" possibly referred to the other false Messiahs which had sprung up in those times, and perhaps even extended to pagan oracles.

That brings us to another important point to touch on: One of the defenses sometimes used by Christians is that it is unlikely that Jesus and/or the Disciples would have created a false religious movement because of the great personal risk involved. Yet there were other false Messiahs who did just that, both before and after Jesus.

Anyway, Jesus continued His explanation in John 10:11-13, where He said that He was the "Good Shepherd" who lays down His life for the sheep, unlike a hired hand who would abandon the sheep when a wolf attacked, scattering the flock. Yet this is an odd distortion of what a good shepherd does. A good shepherd is one who protects the flock (ideally by killing off wolves who threaten the sheep to help prevent future threats), not one who lays down his life. We would not expect a shepherd to go to the wolf and say "hey, wolfy, eat me instead of the sheep." A dead shepherd is worth nothing to the flock. Contrast that with a shepherd who instead constantly and perfectly protects his sheep. Which of these two shepherds would really be "good?" Which type of shepherd is Jesus?

Jesus built on that same theme as He continued in John 10:14-18: He repeated that He was the Good Shepherd and that His sheep know Him, just like He knows God, the Father. He also said that there were other sheep not of this pen (implicitly the Gentile "sheep") who Jesus would gather and unite with these sheep into one common flock. Also, God, the Father, loved Jesus because He would lay down His life, and then take it up again, which Jesus would do under His own authority.

Wait, why does God love Jesus? Let us look at the actual words in John 10:17-18
"The reason My Father loves Me is that I lay down My life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of My own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from My Father." NIV
God loves Jesus because He will do what He is told to do, voluntarily. But how could Jesus do anything other than the will of God if He is part of God? This is akin to you loving your toes, because they always wiggle when you want them to wiggle, for Jesus had no real choice or desire to do other than what God commanded. Furthermore, God is commanding Jesus to do and undo that which Jesus Himself can both do and undo, which makes it not particularly special. It is like if someone had commanded you to give all of your money to Fred, with full knowledge that you could take your money back from Fred at any time.

Summing all of this up: Jesus leads people to or keeps people from Salvation in the roles of both gate and shepherd. Those who are saved were destined to be saved, and they know His voice. God loves Jesus because He does what He is told, even though He really does not have a choice. Well isn't that special?

Friday, March 16, 2012

Blind Hearsay

We are following the Gospel of John, where recently Jesus had a discussion with some Jews on the Temple grounds of Jerusalem. Many of these Jews had put their faith in Jesus, but Jesus told them that they that they were trying to kill Him, and that they could not understand Him because they were the children of the Devil. At this, those Jews changed their minds, and thought that Jesus was a crazy heretic. As Jesus continued, He claimed that He had seen Abraham, and that He was part of God. The Jews had heard enough, and picked up stones to kill Him, but He slipped away unscathed.

Blind Hearsay
Hearsay is testimony given by someone who has no first-hand knowledge of the event. It is normally inadmissible as evidence in court, because often it cannot be easily verified. Hearsay is not necessarily wrong. Historians make a career out of hearsay, but a credible historian has an obligation to reveal the source of that hearsay. This practice facilitates discerning the truth, or at least a version of truth based on best available information. Accordingly, there should be some caution regarding historical unsupported hearsay, even in sacred texts. All of the Gospels include some unsupported hearsay, such as the details around Jesus' birth and John the Baptist's beheading, and the Gospel of John is no exception.

The entire chapter of John 9 is centered on a man who was blind from birth, up until Jesus intervened. Before we get to the hearsay, the story begins with a fascinating revelation in John 9:1-3:
As [Jesus] went along, He saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked Him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?"
"Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life." NIV
You may be wondering how Jesus' disciples could have come up with such a crazy idea: that this man was blind because of sin; either his own sin (which would have necessarily happened after his birth) or that of his parents. Well, to them it was not a crazy idea, but rather a fact of life.

As we covered in a study of Leviticus, according to God's Law, if you became sick (or if your house got mildew), it was due to your sins. It is a short logical distance to lump blindness together with other sin-caused sicknesses, provided that it had not been cause by demon-possession. (But, hey, this is the Gospel of John we are talking about, which never mentions Jesus casting out any demons, so we know that demon-possession would not be the case here!)

Also, with regard to the punishment of the parent's sins being applied to the child, God promised to punish subsequent generations if the parents worshiped idols (Exodus 20:4-6). This line of thought extended far beyond that one divine commandment, such that Ezekiel 18:2 tells us that the Jews had a generalized proverb that "parents eat sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge."

Notice that in Jesus' reply, He did not correct their line of thinking in general, but rather addressed this specific case, telling them that this man was born blind to make manifest the work of God. This implicitly means that God made this man blind from birth. As Exodus 4:11 tells us, it is God who makes people deaf, dumb, or blind, but that is not the "work of God" Jesus is referring to.

As the story continues, Jesus claimed that we must do God's work while we have daylight, and He was that daylight, but night is coming. So Jesus made some mud with His spit, rubbed it on the blind man's eyes, and then told him to wash off the magic spit-mud at a certain pool in the city. The man did what he was told, and he gained his vision (John 9:4-7).

So the "work of God" was to give this blind man sight, thereby displaying God's good powers. From the eyes of the pious, this makes some sense, but an outsider cannot help but be appalled by it. Why? Well, imagine a king who had locked up a baby in his dungeon on the day that it was born, with the king planning to release the baby after twenty or so years in order to prove that he was a good and powerful king. Such is the case with this man's blindness.

Now, about that hearsay problem. Jesus did not send a disciple with the blind man to verify that he went to that pool and got his sight back, but that is no problem to explain, because Jesus would later meet up with this man, and the man would actually see Jesus for the first time, and worship Him (John 9:35-38). That implies that the man did what he was told.

The real hearsay issue is what happened after the blind man washed off the spit-mud and got his sight, up until when Jesus finds him again. In that time gap, John records that the man is doubted by his neighbors, who then take him in front of the Pharisees, who then get angry because Jesus had healed this man on a Sabbath and, in turn, they launch an investigation which included questioning of the man's parents. The tall tale ends with the ex-blind man mocking the Pharisees for their lack of discernment and him being thrown out of the synagogue for that mocking (John 9:8-34). All of these details are fully fleshed out beyond measure of a second-hand telling, replete with recorded dialog. Yet there are no disciple witnesses, and when Jesus does meet with the ex-blind man again later, there is no mention of the man recounting this "history."

If that level of voluminous hearsay is not enough to cast some doubt on its veracity, perhaps you need only look within it to find an intrinsic inconsistency (which is very characteristic of the Gospel of John) to arouse some suspicion. When the Pharisees tell the ex-blind man that they know that Jesus is a sinner, the man replies that he does not know whether or not Jesus is a sinner (John 9:24-25). Contrast this to later in the story in John 9:30-33, when that same man mocks those same Pharisees for not realizing that Jesus must be sinless to work that kind of a miracle.

Or, if that internal contradiction is not enough to cast doubt, consider John 9:29, where the Pharisees claim that they do not know where Jesus comes from. Yet in John 3:2, Pharisees considered Jesus to be a man from God, and in John 6:42 and John 7:27, the Jews knew Jesus' family and hometown.

I dare say, these issues make it worthy of reconsidering the truth that you think you know.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Full Circle

This study will continues and completes a conversation which Jesus had with some of the Jews on the Temple grounds of Jerusalem. Many of these Jews had believed what Jesus was saying, and even put their faith in Him. In turn, Jesus told them that they had no place for His word, that they were trying to kill Him, and that they were the offspring of the Devil.

Full Circle
In the conversation we began studying in John, Jesus told a group of Jews, who had believed Him and had put their faith in Him, that their intent was to kill Him. Do not worry. As we conclude this conversation, we will surely find Jesus' words made true, even at the expense of logic.

We left off at John 8:42-47, with Jesus telling the Jews that they could not understand His words because their father was the Devil. (Blessed are the peacemakers.) If these Jews had no reason to want to kill Jesus before, a comment like that might be reason enough to provoke such anger, but that is not what we find. In John 8:48, the Jews instead reply in inexplicable unison like so:
The Jews answered [Jesus], "Aren't we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed?" NIV
A Samaritan and demon-possessed? Let us look at these claims a little closer, but "the first will be last." ;-) The phrase "demon-possessed" is used here in place of "crazy" or "insane," as this was the common explanation of that era for someone who was suffering from mental illness, or who was deaf, or mute, or any number of medical conditions which cause someone to act abnormally or disabled without an obvious cause.

Now, about Jesus being a Samaritan... There are a couple angles to look at. The first is Jesus' origin in the region of Galilee. This region was part of the old Kingdom of Israel after the split from the Kingdom of Judea. This kingdom had also taken on the name "Samaria," which was its capitol city. However, this is not likely the sense in which "Samaritan" is used here.

Instead, the second, and most likely, angle is the use of Samaritan as an ethnoreligious group. When the kingdoms had split, their shared religion effectively split too; it was a schism which was almost similar in basis to that of the later Islamic one for Sunni versus Shia. As John 4:9 reports, the Jews did not associate with the Samaritans, despite having the same foundations.

So these Jews replied to Jesus by essentially saying that He was a crazy person who believes in a perversion of the true religion. Through the repeated discouragement of His chosen words and direction of the conversation, Jesus converted Jews who had faithfully believed Him (John 8:30-31) into Jews who thought that He was a crazy heretic. This is hardly behavior worth emulating.

As the conversation continues, Jesus claimed that He was not demon-possessed, that He seeks glory for God, and if anyone obeyed His words, they would not taste death. The Jews balked at this, said that they now knew that He was demon possessed (crazy), and asked Jesus if He thought He was better than Abraham. Jesus replied that God glorifies Him, and that Abraham was happy to see Jesus' day come. The Jews scoffed at this, because Jesus was not old enough to have seen Abraham (John 8:49-57).

The episode concludes in John 8:58-59, with Jesus incontrovertibly claiming to be part of God, and the Jews, instead of thinking that Jesus was just a harmless lunatic, trying to kill Him:
"I tell you the truth," Jesus answered, "before Abraham was born, I am!" At this, they picked up stones to stone Him, but Jesus hid Himself, slipping away from the Temple grounds. NIV

Friday, March 2, 2012

Why Is My Language Not Clear to You?

We are continuing through a section of the Gospel of John. Recently some Pharisees brought a woman taken in adultery to Jesus as a trap, but He ended up turning her condemners by telling the person without sin to cast the first stone. Later, some Pharisees challenged Jesus in a nonsensical manner; by claiming that He was acting as His own witness. Jesus essentially agreed with them, but said that His testimony was still valid.

Why Is My Language Not Clear to You?
The language used by the author of the Gospel of John, particularly the language used by Jesus in that Gospel, is quite different than what you will find in the other three Gospels. This is more than just a matter of word choice by different authors. This is a different kind of Jesus. John's Jesus never speaks in parables and is prone to having lengthy, lecturing dialogs which do not have an equivalent in the other three Gospels. The trouble is that John's author was rarely clever enough to pull off an intrinsically logical dialog.

In John 8:21-29, Jesus spoke to some Jews, where, among other things, He confirmed in a somewhat less-than-direct way that He was God's son and the Messiah. Some of them did not buy it, but, according to John 8:30:
Even as [Jesus] spoke, many put their faith in Him. NIV
Great news! In John 8:31-32, Jesus, presumably sensing these many believers, speaks directly to them:
To the Jews who had believed Him, Jesus said, "If you hold to My teaching, you are really My disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." NIV
Jesus essentially said to them that believing is not enough; you also have to follow His teaching. And we get to that oh-so-famous line that "the truth will set you free." I am sure it was attractive lines like that which made John's Gospel so hard to resist including it in the canon.

Here is where the Gospel of John takes one of its characteristically odd turns in dialog. Those Jews replied to Jesus by saying that they are sons of Abraham and that they have never been slaves. So they ask how can they be set free (John 8:33).

The odd part of that reply is the reference to being sons of Abraham. It is not necessary. You are either free or a slave, or some hybrid thereof, but being a descendant of Abraham has nothing to do with it. If they hail all the way back to Abraham, then their descendants were slaves in Egypt.

More importantly, God's Law (Deuteronomy 15:12-15) had provisions for them to sell themselves as bonded servants, essentially temporary slaves, so being of Abraham's lineage actually makes it possible for some of those Jews in the audience to be slaves (or at least not truly "free" men)! Yet this odd suggestion is presented as the consensus rebuttal of that entire group of Jews.

Jesus then explained that everyone who sins is a slave to sin, but if the son (implicitly Jesus) of the slave owner (implicitly God) sets them free, then they will be free indeed (John 8:34-36). Yes, you read that right. Check it out for yourself. You can tell that the author of John did not mean to say that, but the convoluted metaphor he used equates slavery to sin as slavery to God, and both conditions are therefore equally undesirable, but that is just one shocking thing in Jesus' alleged reply. Read the next verse, John 8:37:
"I know you are Abraham's descendants. Yet you are ready to kill Me, because you have no room for My word." NIV
OK, do you remember to whom Jesus was speaking? As we saw above, according to John 8:31, Jesus was speaking to "the Jews who had believed Him." So the Jews who believed Jesus had no place for His word, and they were trying to kill Him. That seems logical, right?

As the conversation continued, Jesus told them that He does what He has seen God do, but they do what they learned from their father. They replied that Abraham is their father. Jesus replied that they want to kill Him, which is not what Abraham would have done, but what their father would do. They replied that God is their only father (John 8:38-41). There is no reason for them to have changed their appeal, to change from Abraham to God being their father. It is just a convenient segue for John to elaborate on his point.

John's version of Jesus' reply in John 8:42-47 is priceless:
Jesus said to them, "If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I came from God and now am here. I have not come on My own; but He sent Me. Why is My language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me! Can any of you prove Me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don't you believe Me? He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God." NIV
So the Jews were unable to truly hear what Jesus said, making them unable to believe Him, because they belong to the devil, not to God. This, Jesus said to the Jews who had believed Him. Is it really any wonder why Judaism still exists today, as opposed to converting to Christianity?

If the situation really was that intractable, one must also wonder why Jesus wasted His limited time and breath on these Jews. It makes no sense, unless, perhaps, this text is partly propaganda to put the Jews at arms' length from the still-burgeoning, increasingly Gentile, cult of Christianity.