But Is It TRUE?
Text: John 8:31-36
Reformation Sunday, A
In speaking with Jesus, Pontius Pilate famously quipped “Quid est veritas?” “What is truth?” In his vexation this Roman governor showed himself to truly be a man ahead of his time. “What is truth?” could be the motto of this current generation. These are the days of misinformation, disinformation and fake news! Reporting has become storytelling. It used to be the job of the press to tell you what happened and then leave it up to you to decide what to think about it. Now it seems the self-appointed job of the media is to tell you what to think based on things you can never be sure actually happened in the first place or in the way they are portrayed!
Opinion is now heralded as fact and facts are simply written off as spin. So you say. But is it True? Just take the never-ending, and always changing parade of “truths” surrounding this pandemic. Travel bans or no travel bans? Masks or no masks? Surfaces or airborne? Lock-downs or no lock-downs? Safer indoors or outdoors? Restaurants are bad but grocery stores are OK? Protests with screaming slogans and chants are safe but Church is dangerous and singing will kill us all? The official word has flip-flopped on each and every one of these and more, sometimes reversing more than once! What is truth? Can we even know? Should we even try? You have your truth and I have mine. Can’t we all just agree to disagree?
“To many twenty-first century minds, the claim that there is objective truth is regarded with deep suspicion. To suggest that there is one, and only one, absolute truth about God is regarded by many today as absurd, foolish, ridiculous, or the sign of an intolerant and weak mind. Sadly, even many modern Christians now view claims of truth and certainty with a good deal of suspicion. But Truth and falsehood are real. It is possible to know truth and it is necessary to reject all errors that contradict the truth. God reveals absolute truth in His Word. The Bible is the rock-solid foundation ... of all our teaching, belief and confession [that] it is possible for people to know and be certain about truth. [We] are convinced. [We] are certain. [We] are sure. Why? Because the Lord Jesus Christ, [the very Word of God made flesh] said: ‘If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’” [General introduction to the Book of Concord]
The very first effect of sin is a rejection of truth, and with that rejection comes a slavery to every form of misinformation, disinformation and fake news the devil, the world and our own sinful flesh wish to peddle. As G.K. Chesterton once wrote: “A man was meant to be doubtful about himself but undoubting about the truth; this has been exactly reversed.” In other words, what I want must be good and what I believe must be true, because I can’t be wrong. Everything else, and any other claim should be treated with skepticism. What is truth? Whatever I want it to be and nothing more! That is why the stories you like are true and the ones you disagree with are fake news. This is why the Pharisees could tell Jesus with a straight face that they had never been slaves to anyone ... all under the watchful, punishing eye of their Roman overlords like Pilate! And if they meant it spiritually instead of literally, it is not one whit better and they look even more foolish!
Yet we are no better. Again and again, in our selfish thoughts words and actions we exchange the truth about God for a lie and worship and serve the creature (us) rather than the Creator! We assume we know what the Bible says, whether we’ve read it or not, because it obviously must agree with our own infallible feelings. We disregard the clarity of God’s law for the soft and comfortable obscurity of relativism to cloak our laziness and callousness toward our calling. We kneel before God in prayer and lie with a straight face that we are fine, we don’t need what He offers and that He must be mistaken. And that is why the very first truth we need to hear, just as those Jews before Jesus did is this: 34Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.
Or as St. Paul taught in the Epistle: 19Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. ... For there is no distinction: 23for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. ... 28For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. And this is the hard, but freeing truth. We are sinners and the truth is not in us. We are slaves to sin and cannot free ourselves. Before the Lord God almighty we deserve only to be told to shut our mouths!
Yet, it was precisely for sinners such as this that Jesus came, only Son of the Father. To speak the truth of sin and be the truth of God’s grace in the flesh. For when Jesus says that those who abide in God’s Word will know the truth, that doesn’t just mean sterile book learning, but actual real-life experience of the same. You know the truth of those sins forgiven, because you have lived that truth in Christ. Baptized into the Lord’s very life and death and resurrection to grant you life and faith. Taught by the Holy Scriptures, Jesus’ own words, where that Faith is trained to see and live right from wrong, good not bad, truth instead of error. Fed with the Holy Supper of Christ’s own Body and Blood, for the nourishing of that faith and the promise of life with Him in heaven. You know what is true. Because you live in the One who is true! 34Jesus answered them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. 35The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. 36So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
And that is the very heart of the Christian life and faith, the central truth of our Lutheran identity. The Son has set us free, so we are free indeed. Free to call out all fake news and every lie. Free to speak the truth in love and conviction – His eternal Gospel to be proclaimed. Free to take our stand on the Word of God – The Word of Truth. Free to say without hesitation that, unlike Pilate and our own culture, not only can you know what is truth – Jesus is that Truth!