From our Gospel text, John 18, these words: Pilate asked him, "So you are a king?"  Jesus answered, "You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice."  Pilate asked him, "What is truth?"  Thus far our text.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ. Amen.

One of the more memorable scenes from recent movie history was in the film “A Few Good Men.”  Who can tell me the famous line from that famous scene?  “You can’t handle the truth!”   Daniel Kaffee, a military attorney played by Tom Cruise, and Colonel Nathan Jessup, played by Jack Nicholson, had this courtroom interchange: Jessup: You want answers?  Kaffee: I think I'm entitled! Jessup: You want answers? Kaffee: I want the truth! Jessup: You can't handle the truth! 

Truth.  Pilate asks a question that has been asked throughout the ages and continues to be asked in our time: "What is truth?"   Of course, there have been—and continues to be— a myriad of attempts to try answer that question.  People look to philosophers, to intellectuals, to poets and dreamers, to science, and to religion for answers, and each, in their own way, has provided a great variety of answers.  Yet each has proven inadequate.

Yes, even religion has proven to be inadequate in terms of providing the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.  The truth is not found in anything that humans think or say or do, including much that is thought, said, and done in the realm of religion.  Thus the mass of men, so often in the midst of lives of quiet and not-so-quiet desperation, continue to seek the truth.

And there are a few good men… and women… gathered here this morning who have perhaps found themselves struggling at various points of their life journey, perhaps even now, with that same question: "What is truth?"…  maybe even wondering if we can really handle the truth.

Where do we find the truth?  Now, if you ask many, if not most, Christians where they find the truth, they’ll say “The Bible.”  Is that true?  Yes.  But is it really an adequate answer?  People have used the Bible to reach all sorts of different conclusions about all sorts of different things.  People have been divided, seriously divided, violently divided, over their vast differences regarding the “truths” that they believe they have discovered within the pages of the Scriptures.

Here is what I firmly believe to be the core truth, the foundation of all truth: Jesus.  The person of Jesus.  In John’s Gospel, chapter 14, Jesus Himself said: “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”  The core purpose of the written word is to reveal to us the Living Word, to connect us to the Living Word, the Word that John tells us in his first chapter “became flesh and dwelt among us…”

Here is more of what John wrote: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being.  What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.  …  the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father's only son, full of grace and…  truth.”  There is where we find the truth.  There is nowhere else.

Later in John’s Gospel, as Jesus prepared His followers for the journeys that awaited them following His arrest, beatings, trials, crucifixion, resurrection and ascension, spoke of how His Gospel truth would continue to come to them when He said: “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.”  That is the role of the Holy Spirit of God, to lead us to the Truth, to connect us to the Truth, to empower us to abide in the Truth… the Truth that is Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God, the Savior of the world, and our friend and brother.

This is not a one-and-done experience.  The Spirit of Jesus does not simply come and lead us instantaneously into all of the truth.  Once the Spirit connects us to the Truth that is Jesus, He then continues to strengthen that connection, continues to draw us away from the darkness and into the light, continues to open our eyes and our minds and our hearts to grow in the truth.  The journey of our lives is a journey of growing in the truth, of learning and discovering the truth at deeper and deeper levels. 

The season of Lent is a type of truth-seeking journey.  And if we have sought to allow the Holy Spirit of God to enlighten us on this journey, we may very well have been led to a deeper level of understanding the truth about ourselves.  The truth is, we are dust, and to dust we shall return.  The truth is, we are deeply broken by sin, and in truth we deserve punishment and death. 

The truth is captured in verses of the hymns of Lent (while I share these words, I would encourage you to focus on the cross, even imagining Jesus hanging there): Jesus, I will ponder now, on your holy passion.  With your Spirit me endow for such meditation. Make me see Your great distress, anguish and affliction, Bonds and stripes and wretchedness, and Your crucifixion.  Make me see how scourge and rod, spear and nails did wound You, How for them You died, O God, who with thorns had crowned you. Yet, O Lord, not thus alone make me see Your passion, But its cause to me make known and its termination.  Ah! I also and my sin wrought Your deep affliction; This indeed the cause has been of Your crucifixion.  Here is more truth from another hymn: Ye who think of sin but lightly, nor suppose the evil great, here can view its nature rightly, here its guilt may estimate.  Can I handle that truth?   My sin has caused this?

There is, of course, the most powerful truth.  When I survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of glory died, my richest gain I count but loss, and pour contempt on all my pride. See, from his head, his hands, his feet, sorrow and love flow mingled down.  Did e'er such love and sorrow meet, or thorns compose so rich a crown?  That is the truth.  The truth is, God loves us.  It was not the nails that held Jesus to the cross, but His profound love for you and for me and for all of His children.

These are the core truths upon which all understanding must be built.  Yes, it is for our sin that Jesus died.  But God’s response to our sin was love and mercy and grace.  While the theme of Lent is repentance, and the culmination of the journey is the mount of crucifixion, we know that while all seems dark, the truth is the three most important words ever uttered in history were “It is finished!”  In other words, mission accomplished.  Jesus took our punishment upon Himself and died our death so that we might be set free.  Because of God’s grace, everything changes.

There is, of course, more truth.  The good news, the Gospel truth, is that God loves us and has taken extraordinary means to save us from sin and death.

But from that truth other truth is formed, including the truth as to how we are to live our lives in response to the love of God.  The truth is, God’s love is to greatly impact how we see ourselves, but also how we see the world and understand our place in the grand scheme of things.  God has very important work for His children to do.  God’s love is truly radical, which in truth calls for a radical response.

So may we be led deeper and deeper into the Truth.  May the One who is the way, the truth, and the life, continue to lead us, by His Spirit, into all truth… the truth about what is wrong with us and what is wrong with the broken world that surrounds us, the truth about God’s amazingly gracious response to sin and death, the truth about how radically and unconditionally loved we are, and the truth about how beautiful and peaceful and meaningful life can be when it is lived more and more fully in the truth.  Amen.

   April 2019   
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