What is Truth? John 18:33-38, 1 Corinthians 1:18, Matthew 10:34

ascension

So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?”  Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?” Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?”  Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”  Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.”

 Pilate said to him, “What is truth?” John 18:33-38 (ESV)

Pilate was not a Jew and had little to no understanding of Jewish laws and customs. He would not have known all the references in the Old Testament that speak of Jesus and of His kingdom. Pilate would not have been able to comprehend that as he was condemning the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 55 he was also condemning the Lord of Life, the I AM God.

Pilate did understand the power of Caesar- of tangible, absolute, military authority. However, Roman society was very tolerant of just about every type of religious belief or observance as long as it was understood that in practical and temporal applications, Caesar was “lord of all.”  As far as religious belief went, the attitude was, “I have my truth, you have yours.” Pantheism (the worship of many gods) was the norm in Roman society.  There were gods for everything from fertility, to the oceans, to the harvest. People were thought to be strange if they didn’t indulge in worshiping a pantheon of gods.

We can identify to some degree with Roman society in that there is a smorgasbord of philosophical, religious and spiritual beliefs out there. As Americans we hold the freedom of religious exercise in high esteem if for no other reason than we don’t want to face persecution for our own beliefs.  Political correctness blurs the line even further when we are shamed or made to feel uneducated because we speak up for the truth even when it offends some people.  Truth is never made false simply because it is unpopular.

Christianity is not compatible with the postmodern concept of relativism or with the pantheistic, hedonistic, anything goes idiom of ancient Rome. The message of Christianity has never been the nebulous “find your own truth” philosophy that is so prevalent and pervasive today. Pilate had a philosophical conundrum with “the truthiness of truth,” but reality is that truth is objective.

Truth is not based on feelings. Truth is not based on expediency. Sometimes truth is painful. The way of the Cross is the way of the truth even though it seems silly to the rest of the world.  The apostle Paul teaches us: “For the word of the Cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:18 (ESV)

Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” Matthew 10:34 (ESV)

As the church year ends, we certainly are aware of the things are wrong with this world, and we groan right along with the rest of creation as it endures the weight of the curse of the Fall. We are bogged down in the world of now, and the promise of not-yet seems far away.

Truth is concrete. It is not flexible or subjective.  The truth is there is a Lord of All.  The truth is that the way to life is found only in the Way, the Truth and the Life- Jesus- the One Who went to the Cross to die to save us from sin, death and the power of evil.

 

 

November 8, 2018 – The Second Article, What We Believe About Jesus-Isaiah 7:14, Isaiah 53:4-5, Revelation 21:1-4

Jesus the Savior

I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. 

He descended into hell. (sheol*)

On the third day He rose again from the dead.

He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.

He will come again to judge the living and the dead.

*The English word “hell” here is misleading, for “hell” has changed its sense since the English form of the Creed was fixed. Originally, “hell” meant the place of the departed as such, corresponding to the Greek Hades and the Hebrew Sheol. That is what it means here, where the Creed echoes Peter’s statement that Psalm 16:10, “thou wilt not abandon my soul to Hades” (so RSV: AV has “hell”), was a prophecy fulfilled when Jesus rose (see Acts 2:27–31). But since the seventeenth century, “hell” has been used to signify only the state of final retribution for the godless, for which the New Testament name is Gehenna.- J. I. Packer, from Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross.

The Second Article of the Creed teaches us about our salvation by faith in Jesus. His conception and birth as well as His suffering and death for our redemption were clearly spoken of through the Old Testament prophet Isaiah:

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and -shall call his name Immanuel.  Isaiah 7:14 (ESV)

Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows, yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities, upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His wounds we are healed. Isaiah 53:4-5 (ESV)

We affirm the eyewitness testimony of the apostles, who saw, walked and ate with Jesus after He was raised from the dead.

In Luke 24 we learn that Peter came to Jesus’ tomb only to realize He wasn’t there.  Jesus, by dying on the Cross and descending into the world of the dead, defeated death.  Jesus rose again and was seen by many witnesses- walking, talking, eating, just as He had done before His crucifixion.  On the road to Emmaus, the risen Jesus was revealed to the disciples in the breaking of the bread.  Again Jesus was revealed to the disciples in the Upper Room as He ate with them.  Then, after He blessed the disciples, Jesus ascended into heaven.

As much as we may find the eschaton (i.e., the final event in the divine plan; the end of the world, as defined by the New Oxford Living Dictionary) to be a frightening concept, we believe that Jesus is returning to restore and remake heaven and earth. We are included in that new creation. Those who have faith in Jesus have nothing to fear, because He has promised we belong to Him and will be with Him in this new creation forever.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:1-4 (ESV)

Martin Luther explains the Second Article of the Creed and what it reveals to us about Jesus in the Small Catechism:

Of Redemption.

And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary; suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; He descended into hell; the third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

What does this mean?–Answer.

I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord, who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature, purchased and won [delivered] me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil, not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, in order that I may be [wholly] His own, and live under Him in His kingdom, and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, even as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity. This is most certainly true.

March 28, 2018- Judas in the Mirror? John 13:21-30

judas 2

After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, “Very truly I tell you, one of you is going to betray me.”  His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant. One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him.  Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, “Ask him which one he means.”

 Leaning back against Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?”

Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot.  As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him.

So Jesus told him, “What you are about to do, do quickly.” But no one at the meal understood why Jesus said this to him.  Since Judas had charge of the money, some thought Jesus was telling him to buy what was needed for the festival, or to give something to the poor.  As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And it was night. John 13:21-30 (NIV)

Who among us has betrayed a friend at some time or another? Whether we betray others to save our own hides, or for personal gain, or even from our own fear, the sin of betrayal has a special kind of sting to it.  It is a violation of an intimate understanding between friends, a breach of trust.

Jesus is fully human as well as He is fully God.  Judas’ betrayal had to be painful for Jesus just as it is painful for us to be betrayed by a friend or a family member.  The ones closest to us have the greatest power to hurt us, because they are the last ones who should.

It is easy for us to think that we would never betray Jesus the way that Judas did- selling the Holy One of God down the river for less than the equivalent of what it would take to fill up a Toyota Camry. The reality is that any one of us could have been Judas given the right set of circumstances.

We sell out Jesus every day. We betray Him in our actions. Like Peter we try to stay strong and we plead our allegiance and our love for Jesus, but in our moments of crisis we deny Him. (Matthew 26:69-75) Like the disciples, we aren’t able to stay with Him and pray an hour in the garden without falling asleep.  (Mark 14:32-42)  In our fallen humanity we are not even able to come to faith in God, let alone stand strong for Jesus.  The Holy Spirit must intervene on our behalf.

The good news is that Jesus still loves us. He still went willingly to Caiaphus and stood before the Sanhedrin, who had plotted to kill Him.  He was handed over to Pontius Pilate and was chosen for crucifixion by the people, while Barabbas was set free.

Thankfully Jesus does not betray us. He is faithful even when we are not.  We can always trust Him and we are set free, knowing that because He took our place on the Cross that we are free to share in abundant and joyful life now, as well as we enter into His eternal life.

We want to stand strong with Jesus. We want to pray with Him in the garden, but we are weak.  Jesus walks the path with us and for us because we cannot endure it alone.  He alone was able to bear the cost of our sins- and the sins of this fallen world.  He will not betray us.

 

July 24, 2017- Fools Are Everywhere, Talk Is Cheap, but God Has the Power- Proverbs 14:7, 1 Corinthians 4:20, 2 Corinthians 4:6-8

ship of foolsLeave the presence of a fool, for there you do not find words of knowledge. Proverbs 14:7 (NRSV)

For the kingdom of God depends not on talk but on power.- 1 Corinthians 4:20 (NRSV)

For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us.- 2 Corinthians 4:6-8 (NRSV)

Anyone who follows any kind of TV drama, or even who watches the news, will learn that talk is cheap. It’s easy to learn how to talk a good game.  Politicians attempt to color themselves as the best thing out there since sliced bread.  Athletes put on the swagger- and the smack talk- before key sports events.  However, in the end, only actions and results stand the test of time.

We live in an era of instant information and instant gratification, but how much “information” is really just foolish babbling? How do we know what information is edifying (things we need to know) and what information we should just let pass by?

Much of what we know to be good science and history are backed up in Scripture, even though Scripture was never intended to be a science or a history textbook. Many things science once thought to be “fact” have later been proven to be completely wrong- based on erroneous assumptions or conclusions drawn before all of the evidence was considered.  We now know the world is round, not flat.  We know that germs cause disease, not “miasmas” or “bad air.” We are slowly discovering that the archeological record backs up many of the events portrayed in the Bible.  Humans don’t always do the greatest job figuring out things, or getting to the truth.

Pontius Pilate remarked, when Jesus was brought to him for judgment, “What is truth?-“(John 18:38) as if truth were something that is arbitrary and subjective as we humans can be.  Many times we can be fools.  Many times we just go with society’s flow, or go dancing around to whatever tune sounds good today.  We aren’t always noted for the words of knowledge that leave our lips, or come forth from our pens or keyboards.

The apostle Paul was very aware that God’s kingdom is built on God’s power- not on the power of weak and fallible humans, but real power. Power that transforms and makes things-and people-new.  Even in spite of our fragility and weakness, God finds a way to shine through us.

Are we living in and trusting in God’s power today? Even when we seem to be sailing on a ship of fools, and the words and so called wisdom of the prevailing culture tell us to do otherwise?