What is Truth – John 18:37-38

Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” “What is truth?” retorted Pilate. – John 18:37b-38a NIV

What is truth? Pilate is a politician and has been dealing with both Roman and Jewish officials for many years. And he has likely figured out that what is consider truth to some is not what others consider truth. And that is just as true today. Just look at the opposing groups who all passionately proclaim to be on the side of truth in politicking, protesting over social issues, or even who the greatest quarterback of all time is. If you listen to both sides of the debate on any of these issues you will likely end up jaded like Pilate was; is there such a thing as truth.

But while sometimes truth is relative, there is absolute truth, truth that does not change and is not subject to human perspective or desires. Jesus claims to be the truth (John 14:6), and tells Pilate that he has come to testify to the truth. While we do see absolute truth in other places, Jesus is the ultimate truth on which all other truth stands. He is our creator and sustainer (Col. 1:16-17) and the ground of all truth. In the midst of a world where truth seems so hard to find, hold tightly to Jesus, the ultimate truth.

The Only Way – John 14:6

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. – John 14:6 NIV

Jesus is preparing a place for us in the Father’s house and has promised to return for those who are his. After telling his disciples that they know the way to the Father’s house, Thomas responds with “we don’t even know where you’re going, much less how to get there.” Jesus answers with directions; he is the way to the Father’s house. There is no other way; if you miss a turn your GPS will not recalculate to find you another way. Apart from faith in and commitment to Jesus you will not reach the Father’s house.

That Jesus is the only way is not popular in our culture and is considered to be too exclusivist. There are many ‘other ways’ advertised all around us: other religions or philosophies; being good enough; or even denying that the Father’s house even exists. But Jesus doesn’t say here that he is ‘a way’, but that he is ‘the only way’. All of the other ways will end in disaster for the one who travels them. Follow Jesus along the narrow path that leads to life; all other roads lead to destruction (Matt 7:13-14).

Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” – Acts 4:12

The Great I AM – John 8:58-59

“Very truly I tell you,” 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. – John 8:58-59 ESV

I have had several people tell me that Jesus never claimed to be God; that claims for his divinity were a later embellishment of the church. But these verses makes clear that Jesus saw himself as God. The expression ‘I am‘, in reference to Jesus, is one that is common in John. Jesus says that I am . . .

  • the bread of life (John 6:35)
  • the light of the world (John 8:12)
  • the gate of the sheep pen (John 10:9)
  • the good shepherd (John 10:11)
  • the resurrection and the life (John 11:25)
  • the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6)
  • the true vine (John 15:1)

But here Jesus seems to be referring back to Exodus 3:14 where God gives his name, I AM, to Moses. And clearly the Jews understood this to be what Jesus meant as they picked up stones to kill him for what they perceived as blasphemy. Jesus is the ‘I am‘ of Abraham, the ‘I am‘ of Moses, the ‘I am‘ of John, and my ‘I am‘. And he is worthy of my praise!

Mimicking the Father – John 5:19

So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. – John 5:19 ESV

The Jewish religious leaders were wanting to kill Jesus because they believed he was claiming equality with God. And indeed he is one in essence with God the Father. But in Jesus response to the Jews he expresses submission to the Father. Rather than acting on his own accord, he instead follows the Father’s lead. Whatever the Father is doing, the Son will also do.

If this is Jesus attitude, should it not be mine as well? Many years ago I studied Experiencing God by Henry Blackaby and the one thing I remember from it came from this passage: “Watch to see where God is working and join Him.” It is easy to find something to do and jump into it. But how much better it is to follow Jesus example, seeking out the activity of the Father and joining him. God has not called us to labor on our own, but rather to labor alongside of him. If God is not in it, then neither should I be.

The Word – John 1:1-4, 14a

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. . . . The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. – John 1:1-4, 14a NIV

While we often use the term ‘the word’ to refer to the Bible, John used ‘the Word’ to refer to Jesus; Jesus is the Word. John appears to be writing here to combat some early misunderstandings on the nature of Jesus and these first few verses were instrumental in helping to formulate the doctrine of the Trinity as well as the dual nature of Christ. Jesus, as the Word, was . . .

  • In the beginning: He existed prior to time as God.
  • He was with God: In some way distinct from the Father.
  • He was God: While a distinct person, he is God; not a part of God. He is of one essence with the Father.
  • He is responsible for all of creation.
  • He has life in himself: He is the great I AM.
  • He became flesh: The mystery of the incarnation where God took on human form.

In Jesus birth, life, death, and resurrection, we most commonly see the Word as flesh. But he is so much more than that. He is God! He is the true light that gives light to the world (v. 9). He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (v. 29). He is worthy of our praise and adoration as our creator and redeemer. We cannot praise him enough.

An Exalted Intercessor – Heb 7:26

Such a high priest truly meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. – Hebrews 7:26 NIV

What do we need from a high priest? The Old Testament high priest, what the author of Hebrews is alluding to here, had the responsibility of interceding with God on behalf of the people. He would offer sacrifice first for his own sin, and then would offer sacrifice on behalf of the people. So who would you prefer as your intercessor with God; one who is not much different than me, who has to deal with his own sin, and who will die and leave me without an intercessor; or one who is himself God, is sinless, who offers the perfect sacrifice, and is always available to offer intercession? Jesus is such an intercessor; one who truly meets my need. So very thankful for him.

Jesus’ Divine Nature – Heb 1:3

The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. – Hebrews 1:3

Hebrews is primarily about Jesus, who he is and what he did. And here at the beginning the author of Hebrews makes clear the divine nature of Jesus. He is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of God’s being; he is fully God. This reminds me of the account in Exodus 33:18-23 where Moses asks to see God’s glory, and God grants him a glimpse. Since Jesus is the radiance of God’s glory, it must have been the preincarnate Jesus that Moses saw.

While Jesus lived among us, that divine nature was hidden by his human flesh, but that did not diminish who he was. Jesus was a man, but he was also God. This was an important point for Hebrews because of the work Jesus came to do. He wasn’t just a man who gave his life for us. It was God who made himself a sacrifice for us.

The Message of the Cross – 1 Corinthians 1:18-24

In writing to the Corinthian church Paul seems, at least in part, to be dealing with people who are putting too much stock in wisdom, and in doing so seem to be leaving behind some of the foundational truths of the faith.  In countering this, Paul focus’ on the cross and a crucified Lord.  For those of us in a more recent era, the cross is little more than a religious symbol and I suspect many of us give it little thought.  But in Paul’s day it was something entirely different.

Then, the cross was an instrument of execution reserved for the worst criminals.  It was shameful, horrible and cruel; not an object of veneration and worship.  To the first century Roman world, the cross was similar to the hangman’s noose of our recent past.  Not generally something you are going to have hanging around your neck or out in front of your religious ceremonies.  It is no wonder that the church at Corinth seems to be trying to make the message of Christ more palatable by minimizing the place of the cross.  I can see it being a challenge to entice people to worship a convicted and executed criminal.

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. – 1 Corinthians 1:18 NIV

What is the message of the cross?  Paul does not explicitly say here but I would include the following:

  • Jesus was God who took on human form and lived among us.
  • He died a criminal’s death on the cross, sacrificing himself on our behalf.
  • He returned to life, conquering death.
  • He is now at the right hand of the Father in heaven, making intercession for us.
  • All who have faith in Him and his sacrifice will share life with him through the remainder of eternity.

Paul acknowledges that the whole idea of a crucified messiah, a divine messiah at that, is foolish to the world in general  To those who are lost and perishing; it is an offensive idea.  But he also affirms its centrality at the heart of Christianity.  We are saved by the cross, or at least our faith in the one who died on it.

But why does God use the cross as an instrument of our salvation?  Could he not have found a way to offer salvation that did not include the scandal of a convicted and executed criminal?  It is not uncommon to hear believers today express the necessity of Jesus sacrificial death; that it was the only way we could experience forgiveness of our sins.  Without that perfect sacrifice, God would be unable to forgive us and welcome us into fellowship with himself.

But I think that presents a too small view of God, to limit him like that.  God is sovereign and can pretty much do whatever he pleases.  Rather than God being required to have a perfect sacrifice to forgive us, I believe that he choose to do that.  But why this way rather than one that was easier for people to accept?

For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.  Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom,  but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,  but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

1 Corinthians 1:21-24 NIV

From this passage, it appears that God intentionally choose a way to offer salvation to mankind that would be offensive to us; either a stumbling block to the religious, or foolishness to the intelligent.  But why?  Why not reveal himself in power and might and attract the masses in a dramatic demonstration?  I believe the answer lies at the end of the first sentence in the passage above.  He is looking for those who will believe, who will have faith.  He is not interested in those attracted to miracles or rational discourse.  He wants those who will demonstrate faith, trusting in the unseen.  And what better way to do that, than the cross with its crucified Messiah.

While the world may view the message of the cross as foolish and nonsensical, it is a demonstration of the wisdom and power of God.  Don’t be ashamed of the cross, rather rejoice in it and proclaim it to the world around you.

And They Crucified Him – Matthew 27:35

  • When they had crucified him, they divided up his clothes by casting lots. – Matthew 27:35
  • And they crucified him. Dividing up his clothes, they cast lots to see what each would get. – Mark 15:24
  • When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. – Luke 23:33
  • There they crucified him, and with him two others—one on each side and Jesus in the middle.- John 19:18

Without a doubt, at least for the Christian, the crucifixion of Jesus is only rivaled in importance by his resurrection a couple of days later.  Through faith in what he did, I can experience forgiveness of sin and experience a relationship with my creator.  The gospels look forward to this event, and the epistles look back at it.  Removing the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus from the scriptures would gut them, making them no more than one of a myriad of other ethical & moral guides.

And so it strikes me as strange how simply the crucifixion of Jesus is described; “they crucified him”.  No details or elaboration.  Not sure there’s even enough information in the Bible to really know what crucifixion is without external sources.  Did the gospel writers leave out the details because of how horrific it was, or because they assumed their hearers would know what crucifixion was?

I don’t know why we only get 4-5 words in each of the gospel accounts.  It’s so easy to miss it when you read through a gospel, or even the events of that day.  But it is well worth our time to stop at this expression when we come across it and meditate on what it is saying.  That the creator of our universe, who had taken on human form, has allowed himself to be executed by those he had created.  When I stop to consider just what those few words say, I am amazed and humbled.

The Mark of a Real Disciple of Jesus? – Matthew 7:21-23

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’  Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

Matthew 7:21-23 NIV

There are many people in the world today who call Jesus ‘Lord’, and many of them are active within the church or in other ‘Christian’ ways.  I count myself among them, claiming Jesus as Lord as well as teaching and leading both in the local church as well as locally in the denomination.  But how does Jesus feel about me?

The passage quoted above makes it clear that saying the right things, and even doing the right things, is not enough to gain Jesus approval.  He makes clear that many who claim he is Lord, and who are actively involved within their local church (performing miracles, driving out demons and prophesying), are only fooling themselves.  While they may claim Jesus, he is unwilling to claim them, or even to know them.

So what is it that Jesus is looking for in his disciples?  He is looking for those that are doing what God wants them to do.  If Jesus really is my Lord, them I am going to follow his direction, and go where he goes.  If I don’t, but instead go where I want, and do what I think is best, then it really does not matter what I call him; he is not my Lord.

I might think that having a bunch of jobs in the church, tithing, reading my Bible every day and going to prayer meeting would be enough to make Jesus like me.  But it is not.  I don’t believe there is anything wrong with any of that.  But they are no substitute for a real relationship with Jesus.  He wants your heart, not your resume.

Don’t just call Jesus Lord.  Let him be Lord.  Learn to listen to him, and be responsive to his direction.  Don’t make the mistake of replacing real discipleship with religious activity.  The consequences are dire.