John 8 is often used as an example of people who profess belief but never really believed, I want to look at it as it stands: people who believe who refuse to be disciples. Now disciple is one of those archaic words that have religious overtones making it almost incomprehensible in modern day discussion. When dropped in conversation it automatically evokes images of a Jedi-like figure, hooded and dust-covered or of one of Christ’s Dozen. But “disciple” simply means someone who follows and molds their lives from the teachings of their teacher: a student.
But this isn’t a student from the modern education system—sitting in class and compartmentalizing their Real Lives from their Scholastic Life. This is more the relationship of pupil-to Sensei. The Disciple/Student listens to the teacher, is molded by the teacher, learns where they’re lacking and does the proper adjustments. But what is also important about this relationship is that the Student isn’t alone in the learning process. The Student is adding to their learning because they stand in a community of students that are also listening, being molded, learning and adjusting their own lives.
We see Jesus then, pointing out that since these people have rejected Him as Messiah they will seek Him and not find Him. He is speaking of the fact that they rejected Him as filling the demands of the category Messiah as promised by God: they were stuck on their own idea of how that category would be filled. Being that they rejected Him in that slot they will still look for the Messiah but looking in the wrong place. They rejected the Truth and now they still seek but without Truth: they’re left with the UnTruth.
Some of the people listening go onto believe Him but Jesus turns to them and rattles their thoughts: “If you continue in My word then you truly are My disciples. As such you will know the Truth and the Truth will make you free.”
The first lesson for the student disciple is to rely on their teacher but these folks refuse to accept their teacher’s words and deny the truth of their condition. Therefore by not following the teacher they accept their own Lie about their own condition.
Now I know its wrong to apply to Christians a label that is equated with that of the unregenerate. It’s something that we shouldn’t be doing. Yet for a moment I’d like to suggest that it is possible for True Believers to believe something (anything) about how the Lord works and what He’s doing in their lives but reject the Truth of what He really wants to do.
I know many believers who have much faith in Christ directing their business and ensuring that their company would prosper and yet they have no problem doing some very illegal things to curb on expenses. I know just as many Christians who have no problem hosting Conferences and inviting as many Christians as possible then spend most of their time dividing with other believers over peripheral matters. Heck, I personally am guilty of promoting the importance of gathering with believers while in my actions and study life thinking I can do it on my own (a trap that I’m sure over 99% of Americans fall into).
But the oft repeated truth that Christ offers is that He is Light and we are of Darkness. He came Into the World while we are Born Of this World. And although, as followers of Christ, as pertaining to the final destination, Believing Disciples are considered Not Of the we are currently very much embroiled in things Of the World–particularly our bodies, our lives, our daily activities, etc.
And, as being Citizens of This World we all have an immense amount of shortcomings and faults that the Lord’s Light exposes–if we deny this, says John in his epistles, we are liars and the Truth doesn’t abide in us. But as He exposes our shortcomings and faults and outright sins we are told that He is faithful and Just to forgive us those things.
What a Teacher! He doesn’t slap us down or taunt us but by exposing us to those faults He unshackles us from them, He illuminates them, He molds us to take steps to be more and more like Him.
What a Class! He doesn’t have us sitting alone in a corner, repeating useless catchphrases to get us to learn: memorization doesn’t really mean understanding after all. But in a community of other Students, other Disciples, we see what the Lord is doing in that person, and this person and you and even me–and we’re amazed. In this classroom we hear what the students learn from the Teacher and as one shouts out “You have freed me from slavery of sin!” another can equally cry out “You have saved me for a purpose!” and another “You have saved me as a demonstration of your grace!” and another “You have saved me to expose the truth to those here on earth!”. Those triumphant cries would be well-learned by those who have been unshackled and by those nearby enough to listen to the chains clanking to the ground.