“A Saint Asks: How Can I Belong to the Truth?”                          November 25, 2012

Revelation 1:4b-8 & John 18:33-37                                                Stephens City UMC

 

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

 

I.                   The Rev. Jim Parsons in article entitled “The Voice of Truth” makes reference to the following scripture passages about truth:

 

John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth.

John 1:17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth and the life.”

John 3:21 He who does what is true comes to the light.

John 16:13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.

John 8:31-32 Jesus then said to the Jews who had believed in Him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

 

A.    According to Parsons’ count the word truth shows up in the Gospel of John 14 times.

1.     Biblical scholars would say that that may well be due to the fact that John was writing for a Greek audience.

2.     Mark appears to have been written for the people of Palestine during the Jewish/Roman War that occurred about 35 years after the death and resurrection of Jesus.

3.     Luke wrote to a Gentile community and Matthew addressed Jews who had become Christians or were thinking of doing so.

4.     But John is trying to connect with Greeks and specifically those who liked to talk about philosophy.

5.     In the Greek heritage there were great philosophers such as Socrates and Plato and these men were admired because of their search for truth.

6.     John the Gospel writer was of the opinion (and the Apostle Paul will be of the same opinion) that Jesus of Nazareth was actually the Truth those philosophers and so many others had been seeking.

7.     In our religious tradition the saints who have gone before us have given their lives to Jesus as his followers because they believed that He was the Truth and for that belief many were martyred.

B.     Since you are aware of that historic fact I need to ask you if you can handle the Truth?

1.     If you think you can then let me offer a correction using Jack Nicholson’s famous line in the 1991 movie A Few Good Men “You can’t handle the truth.”

2.     Now I say that because you may be smart, educated, possibly even a philosopher but you are incredibly naïve if you think you can handle Jesus.

3.     That was the lesson learned by the Ideal Toy Company back in 1957.

4.     The Board of Directors produced a Jesus doll which they concluded would make them a ton of money.

5.     They had a big marketing campaign and figured they’d sell millions but it turned into the biggest doll flop of all time.

6.     Parents were horrified at the idea of undressing the Jesus doll, carrying it around, cleaning it in the washing machine and stuff like that.

7.     To make things worse it was packed in a box that was made to look like a Bible.

8.     Christians didn’t “buy it” because they believed that the real Jesus was God in human form.

9.     He had come to earth to teach and heal and feed and preach and die and rise again and that truth shouldn’t be trivialized.

10.                         Jesus is not baby doll stuff.

11.                         It is improper to think that you can handle the Truth with a capital T like you can handle a baby doll.

C.     And along those lines if you are genuinely seeking the Truth then beware that the closer you get to the Truth the more you will be changed, the more you will be pushed and shoved, the more you will be transformed.

1.     Just understand that that’s the outcome if you do get close to the Truth.

2.     Moreover, as you get up close to the Truth it will be revealed to you that this Truth loves you just as you are AND He loves you so much that He wouldn’t let you stay that way.

3.     If He didn’t love you then He would let you just continue doing the same sinful things, making the same mistakes and never correct you so you can adjust in order to get on the proper path in life, the path that really does lead to life.

D.    If you are uncomfortable with that truth then your response might be like Pontius Pilate who when staring straight into the face of Jesus asked “What is truth?”

1.     Nicholson’s quote is right on for Pilate because Pilate couldn’t handle the truth so he had Jesus crucified.

2.     That’s one way to handle the truth – just try to make it cease to exist so you don’t have to deal with it.

3.     But I wonder how Pilate dealt with the truth that was proclaimed after he had Jesus crucified when three days later Jesus rose from the grave and had returned?

4.     The truth is that Jesus isn’t going away and he is coming back for us.

5.     This is a truth that we must face and I think it is a truth that is worth celebrating.

E.     The truth that Jesus loves us is revealed by the fact that he returns for us.

1.     Most of us when we feel that someone has done us wrong we walk away from them and avoid them.

2.     The truth of the Gospel is that Jesus came to be our Savior and he will come again.

3.     He will come again because the truth is that we belong to him whether we know that or not.

II.                 And that allows me to get to the question that the saints have been asking for centuries and I want to address to today and that is “How Can I Belong to the Truth?”

A.     You see, I think many people over time have been asking the wrong questions.

1.     Philosophers have asked “How can I find the truth?”

2.     The movie with Jack Nicholson asked “How can I handle the truth?”

3.     But the saints ask “How can I belong to the Truth?”

4.     In other words, since I as a Christian believe that Jesus is the Truth then how can I belong to Jesus?

B.     The answer is that you must decide who is the King of your life.

1.     In our Gospel lesson for today Pilate is confronted with the Truth and he has to make a decision.

2.     He can continue to belong to Rome with Caesar as his King or he can go in a completely different direction.

3.     As Pilate interrogates the prisoner before him he asks a very strange question, “Are you the King of the Jews?”

4.     Pilate is not at all sure who is standing in front of him.

5.     Jesus actually tries to help him by asking “Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?”

6.     And Jesus continues to try and help Pilate by explaining “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” (John 18:36)

7.     Upon hearing this Pilate shows a bit of excitement by asking, “So you are a king?”

8.     And again, Jesus tries to be helpful by both qualifying and clarifying by answering “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.” (John 18:37)

C.     If you want to belong to Jesus then you do that by listening to his voice.

1.     Pilate eventually decided that he would continue to listen to the voice of Rome and its’ king, Augustus Caesar, and so he washed his hands of Jesus.

2.     The dictator and despot Adolph Hitler did not want anyone to listen to any voices other than his.

3.     He established his own kingdom, the Third Reich, that was to last for a thousand years.

4.     If anyone failed to listen to his voice, which meant that they did not belong to him, then he had that person put to death.

5.     Those who listen to the voice of Jesus their King are given life because that is the blessing he bestows on all who belong to him.

6.     Christ the King Sunday greatly bothered Adolph Hitler.

7.     The established church, in a fit of nationalism, went along with Hitler and the Nazis, but Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Karl Barth and others formed the Confessing Church which was an underground movement that stood firm in their commitment to Jesus as Lord.

8.     They said “We have no King but Jesus and we make that confession for all to hear on Christ the King Sunday.”

9.     The members of the Confessing Church took that stance because they could not reconcile the Nazi states’ claim to total control over citizens with ultimate sovereignty that, in Christian orthodoxy, must belong only to God. (Wikipedia)

III.              So friends, today is Christ the King Sunday for us.

A.    Where do you stand on this matter of who is your King?

1.     The saints have believed that Jesus is the Truth.

2.     The saints have believe that for as the Rev. Kirk Moore, a UCC pastor in Illinois has written:

We do not possess Jesus. We belong to Jesus

We do not make up Jesus. We belong to Jesus.

We do not tear up or shred Jesus. We belong to Jesus.

We do not define Jesus. We belong to Jesus.

We don’t handle Jesus. We belong to Jesus.

We follow Jesus’ call to live by the two rules of loving God and each other. We belong to Jesus.

B.     My brothers and sisters, on this Christ the King Sunday I urge you to listen to Jesus for if you listen to him and his voice alone then he will be your King and you will belong to Jesus and thus you will belong to the Truth.