John 8:33-38 : They answered him, “We are Abraham’s seed, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How do you say, ‘You will be made free?'” Jesus answered them, “Most certainly I tell you, everyone who commits sin is the bondservant of sin. A bondservant doesn’t live in the house forever. A son remains forever. If therefore the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. I know that you are Abraham’s seed, yet you seek to kill me, because my word finds no place in you. I say the things which I have seen with my Father; and you also do the things which you have seen with your father.”
The people said a truly strange thing in this passage. We know from the Bible that the Jews had been in bondage to Egypt and Babylon. Yet they say here that they have “never been in bondage to anyone.” That is pretty inaccurate. This is how we all look when we try to oppose the word of God. Eventually, the word of God exposes our inaccuracies and we look like the sinners we are.
Compared to what the people said, Jesus’ words are very meaningful. The Bible provides a coded message on this topic that was later to be revealed. This code is clear when you consider what Jesus says figuratively as it relates to Jewish history.
Abraham had two sons. One was born from a slave, and the other was born from Sarah his wife. The slave Hagar and her son was Ishmael. Now Hagar and Ishmael were sent away and were not to be a part of Abraham’s household anymore. You can read this story for yourself in Genesis 16 and Genesis 21:1-21. We know from Galatians 4:21-31 that this should be taken figuratively. The reason that Hagar and Ishmael had to be sent away, is because Ishmael was a child born out of a desire to “help God” using natural means. What God was seeking to do was miraculous. He was trying to take two people who could no longer have children naturally and give them a miraculous child by His power and not theirs. He accomplished this when He gave them Isaac. After this, Ishmael mistreated Isaac. It was this that caused Ishmael to be sent away.
We learn in the book of Galatians that Isaac represents that which is born of a promise and Ishmael represents that which is born naturally, or of this sinful world. Faith in Jesus will free anyone who believes from their bondage to sin and to following the law as a way to get righteousness. Jesus appears to have been speaking in a “code” that would only later be revealed.
In this sense, the “father” that more aptly represented the people’s actions was Ishmael not Isaac, because Ishmael persecuted Isaac. Spiritually, actions of these people, the actions of Ishmael, and the actions of all of us when we are born into this world come from a different father than Abraham as we shall read soon.