Friday, April 14, 2017
What Is Truth?
See, my servant shall prosper, he shall be raised high and greatly exalted. Even as many were amazed at him – so marred was his look beyond that of man and his appearance beyond that of mortals – So shall he startle many nations, because of him kings shall stand speechless; For those who have not been told shall see, those who have not heard shall ponder it. Isaiah 52:13-15
After this, Joseph of Arimathea, secretly a disciple of Jesus for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate if he could remove the body of Jesus. And Pilate permitted it. So he came and took his body. Nicodemus, the one who had first come to him at night, also came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes weighing about one hundred pounds. John 19:38-39
Let us pray: On this Good Friday of the Passion of the Lord, we pray to God to make us truth-seekers, believers among unbelievers. When everyone else is abandoning Jesus, let us stand up with Joseph and Nicodemus to the bitter end, an end that will become a sweet beginning. Amen.
In reality, who was really condemned today?
Two truth seekers reached different conclusions on Good Friday. The disciples closest to Jesus during his recent ministry had scattered and abandoned, denied or betrayed him. They were not there to witness the Passion of the Lord, the culmination of the incarnation of God.
On Christmas morning, we woke up to the gift that was freely offered to us. Today, that life is “finished.” The Spirit of the Lord that was upon Jesus in the Nazareth temple has been emptied out of his mortal body and poured out into the world.
The work that Jesus set out to do – “I must be about my Father’s work” – from the time he was a boy, is finished. Now, after the last of all the signs and miracles and wonders are done, Jesus wants to know what we will do with what he has taught. What will we take of the truth of the cruel and unusual punishment of God’s Friday? Will we be like Pilate or will we be like Nicodemus?
Pilate has the “criminal” brought before him in daylight. He interrogates Jesus just as Nicodemus did in the middle of the night. Yet despite finding no cause in the law to condemn Jesus to death, he hands over the Lord to the wishes of the crowd.
It is easy to lead a crowd to do whatever mob violence they already are predisposed to commit. Pilate allows the crowd to determine “What is truth?” Rather than pay attention to the words and works that Jesus offered in the temple, Pilate allows others to determine “What is truth?”
It is much harder to act when the truth leads you in a different direction than the crowd. Nicodemus knew that this Nazorean was different. He sought out Jesus. He defended Jesus in the temple when the plot to kill him was picking up steam. And in the end, when all of Jesus’ friends had scattered, Nicodemus was there with Joseph to “Behold the Body.”
That first visit held the key to the mystery of Jesus…the mystery that Nicodemus realized was the truth but that Pilate and the rest of the Jews did not.
Jesus answered the charges he faced before Pilate with silence and an act of love for us. Although he was done teaching with words, recall now the words recounted in John 3:
Amen, amen, I say to you, we speak of what we know and we testify to what we have seen, but you people do not accept our testimony. If I tell you about earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has gone up to heaven except the one who has come down from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. John 3:11-15
Although Jesus faced the verdict inflicted by human judgment today, his truth, his verdict was summarized by John in the most famous of all Gospel passages:
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. John 3:16-18
This is the verdict. This is the truth. This is the life Jesus led. Today, that life is finished. Yet another, born of the Spirit, is about to begin. Will we be born again of the free flowing Spirit or have we already been condemned?
Fast today in order to show that you believe in the name of the only Son of God that you might have eternal life. See, my servant shall prosper, he shall be raised high and greatly exalted.