Good Friday 2017 - Do you trust in the truth of Jesus?

(John 18:1 – 19:42 (cf. 1 Cor. 1:18-31))

I think it’s hard to know what’s really true and what isn’t: Of having a deep knowledge of the truth you can trust. For example, every time I get my car serviced I’m anxious about how truthful the serviceman is when he rings me up during the day and lists all the extra repairs needed. I don’t know anything about cars, so how do I know if he’s telling the truth? Or, my brother just sold his house. It seems like it’s a great time to sell, because they received two offers above the advertised price. They quickly accepted the first offer, but it was subject to a builder’s inspection. The builder found a problem: apparently there’d been some movement in the roof structure. So the buyer pulled out. Then my brother accepted the second offer, also subject to a builder’s inspection... This builder found no issues, the house is now sold. And my brother said, ‘It’s funny how two builders have very different reports.’ But was my brother being dishonest in not telling the buyer about the potential issue?

It’s hard to know the truth. And that’s just for cars and houses. But in our relationships, in our jobs, in our decisions in life, our priorities, it’s hard to know what to trust. There are so many competing voices, and different cultures and beliefs out there. So how do we come to a knowledge of the truth?

I’ve noticed in the last few Federal elections, a big issue has been that of trust. Can we really trust this leader to do what they say in 1 or 2 or 5 years’ time? And both major parties have lost our trust, so now independents and small parties receive much of the vote. Because it’s hard to really find the truth. It’s hard to find a true message you can trust.

But amidst the drama, the betrayal, and trial on the first Good Friday, Jesus remains faithful to the truth. But not only is he faithful, he says, ‘I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.’ (John 18:37)

This is because Jesus embodies the truth. In chapter 1 of John’s Gospel, Jesus is described as ‘full of grace and truth.’ (vv. 14, 17). In fact, in nearly all the 21 chapters of John’s Gospel, there’s a specific emphasis on truth. And in chapter 14, Jesus says, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life.’

And not only does this Gospel use the word ‘truth’. But throughout we meet a variety of testimonies to Jesus. We hear from different voices and see many different reactions. And all of this is written for us to decide if Jesus is telling the truth, and if he can be trusted. And this has been important for my own story.

For even though I was raised a Christian, and assumed that Jesus died for my sins on the cross, it was at university that I came to a deeper knowledge of this truth. Then the message of the cross took deeper root in my heart. Because by studying the cross of Christ with other Christians I realised, ‘Oh, Jesus is to be at the centre of my whole life. Jesus really is the Son of God. He is the source of my life.’ But I had to ask again, ‘Did Jesus really die for the sin of the world?’ Is he really the death destroyer, who rose again? Because if this message is true, then it changes everything. It changes the whole world. It changes my world.

And it has changed my life. It’s changed my loves and priorities. My decisions and planning. It’s changed my bank balance and how I spend my time. It’s changed how I view others and how I want to live.

And because I believe the message is true, I’ve continued to seek a deeper knowledge and trust in this Jesus. Because if there’s one man you can trust, it’s Jesus. We see that in the cross, in what we just heard.

He has been betrayed by Judas. He is faced with soldiers bearing clubs and swords. Peter denies him three times, even after being so passionate for him. And there’s this drawn-out debate between the chief priests, and Pilate, and Jesus. And there’s emotion. The chief priests are shouting, ‘Don’t release Jesus, and release Barrabbas!’ (18:40). ‘Crucify Jesus, Crucify him!’ ‘Away with him!’ (19:6, 15). They want Jesus dead. They don’t want to talk. They don’t want to listen to reason or logic. They have a particular view of Jesus and they’re not going to change. And this is a reality in our own world.

Many have a particular view of Jesus, and they’re not open to change. Some despise him, not open to him at all. Rather than discussing matters of history or the Bible, they resent the church or religion. Maybe they’re victims of abuse. Maybe they’ve been bullied or mistreated by the church or in a religious school. Maybe they didn’t receive love from the church as child, or their family was judged by those acting in Jesus’ name. Whatever the case, my point is that most people form an opinion on Jesus based on what they feel, rather than on what is true. Many won’t listen to the details or consider how it applies to their lives. Many saw the September 11 attacks and said, ‘If that’s what religion produces, I want nothing to do with it.’ Many won’t even acknowledge the truth.

But then there are some in the other category about Jesus. Maybe instead of being like the chief priests, they are more like Pilate. They have a certain respect for Jesus. They’re willing to defend him before an angry crowd. But in the end, they wash their hands of his guilt (Matt. 27:24). They never listen enough to realise that only Jesus can cleanse guilt. Only Jesus can save us from the evil of others. Only Jesus can truly show us how to live. Just like Pilate, they give in to bullying, or to fear, or to the voices around.

Maybe they give in to those who say, ‘To be happy you have to have money, or success, or sex, or something else.’ People like this don’t deliberately oppose Jesus, but they find it too hard everyone else is going that way. And in the end, the noisy crowd shouting for your attention wins out. Why would I give up this relationship for Jesus? Why would I risk my job for telling the truth about Jesus? Why would I give up this money for Jesus? Why would I give up my pride, or popularity, for Jesus? In the end, we respond like a coward, like Pilate. We want the comfortable, easy choice that makes us feel nice. It’s so sad when friends just gradually drift away from Jesus. They don’t really put Jesus at the centre of their lives, or their priorities. Like Pilate, eventually they give in and condemn Jesus to death.

But there is one model of faithfulness in this story. There is one man to look to and trust. Pilate called out to the crowd, ‘Here is the man!’ (Jn. 19:5). And he is the one we can trust. He is the innocent one, dying on behalf of the guilty.

You might be worried about money. But we know, though he was rich, he became poor, for our sake, so that we might become rich. (cf. 2 Cor. 8:9). He is the God-man, Jesus Christ, giving his own life for us. He is the one who brings healing by his broken body.

Perhaps you’re worried about sickness or death. But Jesus proved to us that we will live even though we seem to die. He has been forsaken by God so that, in the end, we never will be. He defeated the myth of death, proving that God is the God of the living. And we see that on Easter Sunday. God is making all things new through Jesus, as he dies our death.

Perhaps you’re suffering and trying to find meaning. But in suffering, Jesus breaks open our hearts to receive his truth: Through his love, by his grace. His kingdom is not of this world (Jn. 18:36). He is glorified through the shame of the cross. He embodies weakness and suffering. The cross provides a different story to what the world tells us. For this purpose he was born, to testify to the truth and show his power through weakness (Jn. 18:37; 1 Cor. 1:25, 27). The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God (1 Cor. 1:18). And this death is vindicated on Easter Sunday, declared to be the Son of God with power (Rom. 1:4).

But this message demands a response. It demands trusting activity of following and believing. Jesus declares himself as the truth, destroying the myth of death as he enters into it. And this changes our whole lives, our whole perception of the world. But the question is, ‘Do you really believe this is true?’