A Moment with Truth

Religion and politics came together to face the Truth. And the result was the most significant confrontation in all of world history. That’s really the story that I read in Chapter 18 of the gospel of John.

These two segments of society joined forces out of expedience. Jesus was shaking the status quo, challenging the fragile human alliance that had been crafted in the region of Judea.

The empire of Rome confederated with the religious and social leaders who claimed to represent the people of Israel.  It was a marriage of convenience that somewhat served to preserve order. This arrangement made a number of people fat and wealthy, self-important and powerful. These dominating and manipulative figures, naturally, were in no hurry to give up their grip on the way of life as it existed in and around Jerusalem.

For all the good that Jesus brought to their place, He now was deemed too dangerous. His ways of feeding and healing made Him popular for sure. The desperately ill, the profoundly needy, and the forgotten, ostracized ones had more than a champion among them. The very Source of Life had shown up.

And He was gladly heard. The common people got what He was saying. None had ever spoken words as He spoke them.

Truth stood in their streets and on the shores. Truth sat at their tables and on the hills.

The ministry of Jesus made waves that began to wear away the closely held authority of the religious and the political.  His raising Lazarus from the dead became the tipping point.

A man dead for four days was brought back to life. This made him a celebrity. People thronged to see Lazarus, and this stirred tension among those who thought themselves large and in charge. Lazarus’ story spread fast and brought such attention that there was talk of having him killed; such was the fear among the leaders of the day.

The time had come to bring Jesus to account. Seeing no legitimate or decent course of action in the matter, the religious leaders pursued a course of bribery and brute force. A mob was gathered and led by Judas Iscariot. This Apostle made a deal with the Temple managers. He got 30 pieces of silver to set up Jesus for the taking.

Mob Rule

John 18 begins with the description of how this band came to seize Jesus just as He finished a season of prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. With lanterns and torches and weapons, they came to search for the Prince of Peace.

The Son of David could have chosen to do as David did when he was being hounded by Saul (see 1 Samuel). Jesus and His group could have slipped into one of the caves in the hills that surrounded Jerusalem.

Instead, the Savior offered Himself at once. It was He who posed the question:  “Whom do you seek?”  They answered, “Jesus of Nazareth.”

“I AM He.”

That was His response. Just this statement of identity carried force. The whole group was toppled by these words. They all fell down before Him in confusion.

And so He asked the question again. “Whom do you seek?”

“ I AM He.” Again, He made no attempt to hide. He told the Truth. He was ready to be taken.

Peter rose and swung his sword wildly and severed the ear from Malchus. The name here is important because it serves to verify the record. Jesus, according to Luke’s account, put the man’s ear back in place, and because his name is known to John it is most likely that Malchus became a follower of Jesus.

Religion took aim at Jesus when He was paraded before the High Priest and his father-in-law, Caiaphas and Annas. The line of questioning in the atmosphere was directed at His teaching and His claims of being the Son of God.

“I have spoken openly to the world. … Ask those who heard Me.” His words were a matter of public record delivered in the Temple and in synagogues before crowds of witnesses. For this answer, He was struck by a Temple officer, to whom Jesus said, “If what I said is wrong? Bear witness about the wrong. …”

Here we come to the real issue about Jesus; the issue that was then, is now, and always will be. He lived by the Word of God, and He challenged all to live by the Word. He spoke of love and how love behaves toward one’s self, toward his neighbors, and toward his enemies.

Love God. Love yourself. Love your neighbor. Love your enemies.

Love -- this was the essence of the teaching of Jesus. The greatest commandments rest on these love principles; Jesus said so Himself. Click To Tweet

Love — this was the essence of the teaching of Jesus. The greatest commandments rest on these love principles; Jesus said so Himself.

Religion, however, knows nothing of love, for love involves relationship, intimacy, nearness, and most of all forgiveness and mercy. Human religion is really a business model. There’s a whole scheme of buying and selling that is involved.

Do this thing. Donate so much. Purchase favor and good fortune and even eternal paradise. Martin Luther’s 95 Theses, nailed to a German church door, were a series of protests against such a merchandizing program which operated by the dominant religion at work in 1517 Europe.

True Authority

The Jewish leaders raged at Jesus. He must die, they determined. But they possessed no power to carry out such an execution.

For this, the religious ones played their political cards, appealing to the region’s Roman representative, one Pontius Pilate. Only Roman authorities could exercise a capital sentence, and the empire was ever ready to administer punishment in order to control the mixed multitude of people groups that chafed under its rule.

The Cross was the vicious, visible instrument of enforcement used to eliminate those who dared to challenge the decrees of Caesar. And so the priests portrayed Jesus as a wannabe king, a charge that got Pilate’s attention.

The governor asked Jesus point blank, “Are You the King of the Jews?”

Jesus answered directly, “My Kingdom is not of this world.”  The Savior then took the conversation about Him to another level. “For this purpose was I 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” (John 17:37).

Something greater than Law – whether political or religious – stood before Pilate. Truth in Person stared into the face of the governor. He saw Truth and heard Truth and yet still questioned it:  “What is Truth?”

Here was real Authority — the Son had come to the earth He created; and neither religion nor politics knew how to answer His presence.

So, as we see later in John, the religious ones and ruling ones did all that they could to erase Him.

Truth remains. Grass withers. Flowers fade. The Word of the Lord abides forever. (Isaiah 40:8)

Jesus was flesh and bone and Blood, Blood to be shed for the sins of the world. And still He was the Word. This is Truth. Truth is the Person of Jesus Christ, the only Son of the only living God.

Truth was right there. Ready to be received. Ready to save. Ready to die. Click To Tweet

“What is Truth?” Pilate posed the question. Perhaps, he posed with smirk or a mocking glance. Or, maybe he shook in fear as he said it. The Scriptures tell us that Pilate’s wife dreamt of Christ and proclaimed His innocence.

Truth was right there. Ready to be received. Ready to save. Ready to die.

And Truth is with us, here and now. More than that, Truth is us for we are His and He is ours. By His life and breath we have our being.

Saved and redeemed through His death, burial, and resurrection, we are citizens of the Kingdom of Jesus. We are destined for eternal life given from the realm that is above and beyond our evil world.

 

 

 

 

Steve Andrulonis
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