In “preaching study” posts, I’m really interested in fostering a “community” approach to study and prep for the message, so please interact as much as you like. All Scripture quotes are from the TNIV unless otherwise noted. Thanks!
What does it mean to say that Jesus is the Truth?
Last Sunday, I preached the second message in a sermon series considering Jesus as the Way, Truth, and Life. I was out of town all week prior in DC and didn’t have access to post anything, but I want to get this whole conversation on the blog, so here are some thoughts that I wrestled with en route to a sermon on Jesus as the Truth. This is not my sermon in written form, but it does capture the meat of the message I think. The previous study posts on this text/series are here and here. This Scripture is John 14:5-7.
In endeavoring to hear this Scripture well, as usual when endeavoring to hear the Scriptures, it becomes more and more clear that I spend an inordinate about of energy seeking to make Jesus more palpable to my and my hearers’ ears. I spend much of my time as a preacher and as a disciple trying to make the Triune God easier to take. Why I do this I’m not sure, because whenever God runs wild in my life, I’m most full of life and whenever I’m able to make God more managable I succeed in making him and my life more boring.
Saying that Jesus is the Way seems to mean, if we’re listening to this conversation between Jesus and Thomas well, that our obsession with the “where” (If you died tonight…) isn’t nearly as important to Jesus as the Way. This might be true because the “where” is the “way.” In other words, the “where” seeks to know our destination, which is citizenry in the kingdom of God and adoption into the family of God, which therefore is to be living in a different, transformed relationship to God. And this different, transformed relationship to God just happens to look an awful lot like the Way of Jesus! The “where” is the “way.”
This is a daunting Way that we would not have chosen on our own, either. We would have much preferred a divine escape from life here on earth to a far away place called heaven, an escape that does not place the demands and intrusiveness of transformation on us the way that becoming citizens of God’s kingdom, members of God’s family, and apprentices to Jesus in the Way does. Let other folks get left behind to have to change their lives! I’m interested in getting out of here without conforming myself to the character of Christ, thank you very much.
So it is further upsetting that Jesus is the Truth as well.
Notice what Jesus doesn’t say. He doesn’t say, “I know the truth,” or “I have the truth,” but “I am the Truth.”
Where is Jesus going in John 13-14 anyway? Where is this place of which Jesus says to Peter, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later” (13:36)? It is to Jerusalem and execution. There’s something about Jesus being the Truth that is not as comfortable as 7 habits or 10 steps or 3 rules or 5 purposes or my best life now. When truth is not a principle for life application or a propositional statement with which to agree or disagree, but a person, we find ourselves (to paraphrase Will Willimon) saying not, “yeah, I get it,” but instead, “woah! He’s got me.”
When the most true thing in all of creation is a homeless wandering Jewish rabbi who is executed by an occupying military force because he was a threat to disrupt the peace, and that in this death God has accomplished the salvation of the cosmos, I am in trouble. I’m just a little bit Roman myself; I like my peace non-disrupted, thank you. I used to have a quiet house until my kids came along. Now my peace is disrupted 24/7. Can’t Jesus give me a little peace?
But Jesus–who is the Truth–claims me, gets a hold of me. Steps or purposes or principles of application would be nice right about now. I’d still be in control of my life, just better equipped to do it well. If he’s got a hold of me, all of a sudden, he’s wanting me to walk in his truthful Way. This is because truth, as usual, is always more true shown than told. Truth is more true enfleshed, embodied, lived, narrated, than abstracted, disembodied, and outlined.
Which is more true? Abstracted, point-by-point teachings about forgiveness, or Amish families caring for the family of the man who killed their children?
Sounds to me like the sort of folks who are more likely to say, “He’s got us,” than, “We get it.”