Bethel CRC Lacombe

October 29, 2023 Broken signposts- Truth John 18:28-40

October 31, 2023 Pastor Jake Boer Season 6 Episode 6
Bethel CRC Lacombe
October 29, 2023 Broken signposts- Truth John 18:28-40
Show Notes Transcript

Today we will reflect on John 18:28-40, Broken Signposts – Truth. Jesus is standing before Pilate. He tells him that everyone on the side of truth listens to me. Pilate asks a really important question, “What is truth?” In a time like ours, where truth has become very slippery and subjective, this is an important question for reflection. Jesus calls Himself the way, the truth, and life, so if we’re looking for truth, the first place to go is Jesus.

Broken Signposts – Truth

John 18:28-40


The word truth in Greek is ἀλήθεια and is used in three senses: of being in agreement with fact or reality, as opposed to being false or in error; this is the main sense of “truth” in the New Testament. It’s also used to mean faithfulness or reliability, and the last way it’s used is to describe that which is real and genuine and describes that which is complete versus incomplete. In John’s telling of the story of Jesus’ trial before Pilate, we see all three of these senses of what truth is come out. 

Jesus has been convicted by the Jewish council of elders of the people, the Sanhedrin, for claiming to be the Son of God. Jesus is speaking the truth about who he is to the very people who should have recognized the truth in Jesus’ claim. Unfortunately, they were too afraid of what might happen with Rome if the regular people would accept Jesus as the promised Messiah and follow him. As Caiaphas, father of the high priest Annas said, “It would be good if one man died for the people,” unknowingly speaking a deeper truth than he recognizes, as Jesus’ death leads to the salvation of all God’s people.  

Professor Katherine Grieb talks about this passage and John’s use of the word truth throughout his gospel, “The Gospel of John uses the word “Truth” more than any other book in the Bible and way more than the other Gospels combined. Not only that, but many of the most-quoted verses in John, the ones that have shaped Christian discourse over the centuries, have been concerned with the question of truth. Consider only a few examples: 1:14, describing how "the Word became flesh ... the glory as of a father's only son, full of grace and truth." In 4:23-24 Jesus tells the Samaritan woman that "the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth." In 8:32 Jesus promises, "You will know the truth and the truth will make you free." In the discourse material of 14:6, Jesus describes himself as "the way, the truth, and the life."

Truth is important to John; Jesus speaks to truth, claims to be truth. Truth points us to God, to who God is, and how God’s at work through Jesus and the Holy Spirit for the world. Jesus calls himself “the way, the truth, and the life,” calling us to walk his way, the way revealed in his teaching and life which all point to his Father and the reality of the powers at work in our world. Jesus keeps pointing us to, and calling us to be part of the kingdom of heaven by believing in him; a kingdom where he is the king from David’s line. As Jesus tells Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”

Pilate grabs hold of what Jesus says here; this could save Pilate from this dilemma he finds himself in where Pilate knows Jesus is innocent, but what Jesus just said gives him the flimsy evidence he needs to hand Jesus over to be crucified. But Jesus goes on, “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.” It’s at this point that the exasperated Pontius Pilate asks, "What is truth?" Pilate is supposed to be on the side of truth and law. 3 times he declares Jesus’ innocence and yet the truth does not save Jesus, it doesn’t keep Pilate from handing Jesus over to be executed. 

Pastor Craig Koester’s fascinated by Jesus’ trial, “The trial narrative is a sustained exercise in truth telling. Throughout these chapters everyone’s pretensions are exposed: Peter the Christian proves to be no disciple. The Jewish authorities violate their own principles to achieve their own ends. Pilate the Roman proves powerless to put the truth into practice. As the narrative peels back the facades of strength and propriety for these people, it also asks readers: Are you so different? What would happen if we looked closely? The story of the trial is important, because it shows us the fallen character of the world for which Jesus came to die. It discloses the dynamics of sin at work in human relationships. It prepares us for the final aspect of the story, which concerns God’s relationship with such a world.” 

Truth is shown to be unimportant to so many of the characters. Truth is manipulated or ignored in order for different people’s agendas to move forward. As I read this story of how Jesus is railroaded to the cross, even though it’s God’s plan, I look at our society today and how careless so many people are with truth; creating alternate truths, manipulating the truth in order to fit their own agendas and inflate their own egos; or even worse, to deliberately mislead others into believing something false. Jesus is called a threat to God; the reality is he's more of a threat to the Jewish leaders. It’s ironic that the place where the truth about who Jesus is most clearly proclaimed is on the sign on the cross, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews,” written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek. Pilate, unintentionally on his part, tells the world who Jesus is. Looking back, we see now that the cross is where Jesus reigns because it's where the love of God reigns. God’s power is revealed as the love of God that acts to reclaim the world that has turned away from him. God sends Jesus as the king over the kingdom of heaven, a kingdom built through God’s self-giving love. 

We come back to Jesus’ statement that he is “the way, the truth, and the life,” N.T Wright, reflecting on Jesus’ claim writes, “This extraordinary claim should not be heard so much within the sounding chamber of our modern world, where “truth” is the arrogant claim of the powerful. Truth here is the strange, gentle yet powerful truth of new creation, the new creation that fulfills the old by taking the shame and death of the old into itself and overcoming it. Truth is the reality of love, divine love, Jesus’ love, the Love made flesh. This is not a claim to be measured alongside others, as though Jesus and half a dozen other teachers or leader were being weighed against some arbitrary modern standard of “religion.” Either Israel is the people of the creator God, or Israel is not; either Jesus is Israel’s Messiah, or he is not. Either the creator God launched his new creation in and through Jesus as Israel’s Messiah, or he did not. John’s gospel is written to affirm all three propositions: Israel is God’s people, Jesus is Israel’s Messiah, and through him God has set in motion his new creation.”

But the truth goes even further for Jesus came, not only for the Jewish people, but for all people; to establish a kingdom that crosses all borders and includes all the nations of the world. John reminds us that the truth is that Jesus is the creator and everything was created very good, but that sin entered into the world but God refuses to give up on his people or creation and promises a Messiah who will defeat the serpent and reconcile us back to God again and that Jesus is this promised Messiah. When the angel comes first to Mary and then to Joseph, they’re told that Jesus will be called Immanuel, God with us, and to name him Jesus, which means, He saves, because he will save his people from their sins. Jesus not only takes our punishment on the cross, but calls us to walk in his way; a rabbi’s way of calling his followers to follow his teachings and imitate him. This helps us to see the world for what it is, a world in God’s hands that’s also filled with many who refuse to acknowledge God and try to be like God themselves. But their way leads to brokenness and death, so if we’re looking for a deep life filled with purpose and meaning, Jesus shows us the way, his way. At its heart, this is what the Reformation was all about, a return to trusting Jesus alone for our salvation and to trust in his way and teachings over the church’s rituals and claims on people’s lives and souls.

Satan wants us to believe that meaning and purpose come from having power and might, from being able to do whatever we desire. But ultimately listening to him leaves us empty, wondering if there’s more to life than what Satan or our culture has promised. When Mary and Joseph take Jesus to the temple to consecrate Jesus to the Lord as a first-born male, they meet Simeon who was waiting for the consolation of Israel. Liz Curtis Higgs writes, “Usually we console people who are sorrowful or have lost someone dear to them. What had the people of God lost? They’d lost their way, just as we have in our generation. We turn to one another for answers, when God alone can provide the wisdom we nee. We depend upon possessions or position… as for the Israelites, they’d pursued false gods, worshipped idols, turned their backs on the Almighty, and done what was right in their own eyes. Now they needed to be consoled and longed to be redeemed. Just as we do.” The Holy Spirit reveals to Simeon the truth of who Jesus is, our Messiah, the one who comes to take away the sin of the world, and brings in his kingdom where the effects of sin are overturned and we discover new life in Jesus. 

What does this mean for us today? John reminds us that grace and truth come through Jesus. It’s a call to stay close to Jesus, and learn the truth of who Jesus is, who we are, and the forces that shape our world and culture. Earlier in John’s Gospel, prior to Pontius Pilate’s lingering question, Jesus gives us a very clear instruction concerning the truth, “If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free;” free from the lies all around us, free from fear, and free from sin.