This weekend most of us will in some form celebrate our nation’s independence, as first declared 245 years ago, when John Hancock and others declared the 13 colonies free from British rule. Men fought for the freedom of the new republic, and many died for the cause of freedom. President Reagan once said, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”
In a similar vein, the freedom of the Christian is on the line. It’s a multi-faceted freedom: freedom to worship and publicly confess our faith as guaranteed under the First Commandment, and the Christian’s freedom from the curse of sin. Many have given their lives in defense of the Christian faith, including Jesus’ disciples themselves. Two thousand years later, Christian freedom—and the faith itself!—still needs to be defended and confessed. What was at stake, and what continues to be at stake, is the Gospel itself. It is the Gospel—the Good News that IS Jesus Christ and Him crucified, risen, and ascended—that is on the line, for the souls of all mankind hang in the balance. What is on the line is freedom for the Christian: freedom from the curse of sin, freedom from eternal condemnation. And ANYTHING that is preached or taught that obscures this freedom is nothing other than a pall that covers the casket of the human soul. It is Jesus Christ, true God and true Man, who by His death and resurrection lifts that pall and opens our casket, that we would have eternal life in heaven with Him. Jesus died on the cross—He bled and He died—to win your freedom from sin’s curse, to give you eternal life. It is through this blood of God the Son that your heavenly Father looks at you and declares you not guilty of your sins.
Without this blood of Jesus, without His death, there is no life, no forgiveness, and no freedom. In our text, the Jews declared their lineage from Abraham was good enough for them. They, who were under Roman oppression, had the arrogance to declare they had never been slaves to anyone. But Jesus says, “Whoever commits sin is a slave of sin.” In one of the Lutheran confessional rites “we confess that we are in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves.” God Himself says, “The soul who sins shall die.” This death is not merely the death of the body but also the death of the soul, which, apart from saving faith in Jesus Christ, will spend eternity in hell, to live an everlasting condemnation, weeping and gnashing his teeth in utter torment at the hands of the old satanic foe who has sworn to work us woe. We inherited this dreadful condition of bondage from our parents, all the way back to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden in Genesis 3.
This is why God’s Son Jesus—true Man and also true God—came into the world: to free us from this curse of sin and to win for us the promise of eternal life in the heavenly mansions. You see, as slaves we have no freedom, but the Son has full use and reign of the mansion. He speaks on behalf of His Father. “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.” The Son, Jesus, declared our independence, our freedom, from sin’s curse just before He died on the cross; He said, “It is finished.”
The path to our freedom takes us to the cross of Calvary, where your bloodied, beaten, crucified, and dead Jesus won this freedom for you by dying in your place, paying the ultimate price for your sin, my sin, and the sin of the world. There is nothing you or I can do to merit God’s favor; all we have is the grace of God. As a matter of fact, it’s all we need. Jesus Christ died for you. Jesus Christ rose from the dead for you. Not only are you forgiven, you get to be in heaven. “Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.”
There is no if about it; the Son HAS made you free, free not to live in sin but to live in Him, to walk in the newness of life, free of the wrath of God but full of His grace, eager to forgive us when we repent of our sins before Him.
Jesus Christ died on the cross for you—you are free! Jesus Christ rose from the dead for you—you are free! When you hear God’s Word, the Good News of Jesus Christ and Him crucified, risen, ascended, and coming down to you in His Word, and believe it, you are free! The freedom Christ on the cross won for you He gives you in His house through His Means of Grace, His Word and Sacraments. You are free, thanks be to God!
Mark Schlamann is pastor of First Lutheran Church in Tooele.