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Jesus & Truth
F. Earle Fox
St Luke's REC, Santa Ana, CA
1/10/39 Trinity 18
Jer. 30:12-22; Ps. 99; Eph. 4:17-32; Mt. 9:1-8
The people of Jesus’ day knew enough about the world to understand that there were certain regularities which could not be broken. Some things were reliable – such a gravity. Objects always fell down, they did not fly upward without something making them do that. Birds have to flap their wings in order to fly.
The people of Jesus’ day knew one could be temporarily blinded and recover, but that those who have been blind for a long time can be expected to remain blind until they die.
The people of Jesus’ day knew also that no one but God can forgive sins. They were correct on that point. But, when Jesus is brought a man on a bed who is paralyzed , or “sick of the palsy”, He, probably with a cheerful voice Himself, says, “Be of good cheer! Thy sins be forgiven thee!” “Cheer up! Your sins are forgiven!” One has to suppose that Jesus was setting up the scene to make a point. He knew what they were thinking, they were thinking the thoughts that any intelligent and loyal Jew would have been thinking correctly – if anyone other than Jesus had been doing this deed.
He got their attention. Every eye was no doubt focused on Jesus, waiting with ears wide open for the official condemnation from the scribes and Pharisees present. It would not take a scribe or a Pharisee to be taken back by that remark. Any alert Jew would have known that only God can forgiven sins. And so also, of course, did Jesus.
The natural conclusion, unless you had been let in on the secret of Jesus’ identity, would be that this man was committing blasphemy, as the scribes said within themselves. But Jesus was using this event to tell them who He really was.
So, why was Jesus telling it this way? Why did He not sit them down, and carefully, reasonably, and rationally explain to them who He was, the Son of God, and that He could therefore indeed forgive sins? He did not do that because they would have picked up stones to kill Him on the spot – openly claiming Himself to be God.
There are times when you have to explain things a bit circuitously. You have to do or say something which leads them indirectly but inevitably to the true conclusion.
So Jesus first gets their attention by doing something which (unless they have seen Him before doing these things) they have no reason to believe that He can do, he forgives the man’s sins.
Then Jesus presses His case, challenging their thoughts: “Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts?” “Why do you think I am doing evil?” He may also have been pointing to the evil in their hearts, understanding, as Pilate would recognize later, that they were reacting out of jealousy. The rulers saw their control over the people being eroded by the freedom with which Jesus ministered to the people, setting the people free from the legalism which wrongfully bound them to the rulers.
Then Jesus asks the deciding question: “For whether is easier, to say ‘Thy sins be forgiven,’ or to say ‘Arise, and walk’? Maybe He paused for a reaction.
“But that ye may know [He was giving evidence to prove something they needed to know] that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then saith He to the sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thy house.”
So, there they are, caught in the middle of a tough decision. They had an authority question in their minds – Did Jesus have authority to forgive sins? But Jesus responds with an ability answer. There is no easy way to demonstrate that one has a given authority other than a word from God Himself. But Jesus was God Himself. The trouble was that He looked like just another human being. He knew that.
So, what credible evidence could Jesus give to the people to believe His claim to authority. He healed the man of his paralysis, who then demonstrated the healing by getting up and walking home. Jesus had the ability to heal otherwise permanent and even fatal conditions.
The logic is simple. Only God can do such healings, so if Jesus can do such healings, then His word that He can forgive sins becomes credible also.
Together, the words ‘truth’ and ‘true’ occur over 500 times in the Bible. The Bible is deeply concerned with the truth of the issues of life. St. Paul tells us in Romans 1:18 ff., that the Fall began with the subversion of truth. The only alternative to truth, “what is”, is falsehood, i.e., “what is not”. The whole of the spiritual warfare which we follow from Genesis 3 on to the last chapter of the Book of Revelation is about the warfare to establish truth and to banish falsehood.
All of the great leaders of the Bible honed in on the issue of truth. Abraham challenges even God as the three angels pass by on their way to Sodom and Gomorrah: “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” Elijah challenges his people on Mount Carmel: “How long will you go limping on two (contradictory) opinions? If Baal be god then we will go with him, if the Lord be God, we will go with Him.” You have to choose between them because they are contradictory. And then an open and honest test (with the bulls on the altars) to see who was God.
Isaiah (1:18) hears God speak: “Come, let us reason together...,” that is, let’s get to the truth of this matter... In Isaiah 43:8 ff., God is pictured as inviting all the peoples of the earth to give their testimony about who is God, and then tells His own people, who have seen Him in action, to give their testimony. Again, an open and honest contest of evidence to decide the truth of who is God.
Paul in Romans 1, as noted above, and I Corinthians 15 on the resurrection. If Christ be not raised from the dead, then we cannot claim it to be so. Get the facts.
St. John, the theme of “judgement by light” runs through his whole gospel, and then in his first epistle, he urges us to live in the light. What can that mean but live by truth, by what is?
And Jesus: “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life,” “If you keep My commandments, you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free,” “I am the Light of the world.”
We westerners have allowed people who want to manipulate and control us to persuade us that there is no real truth, only so-called “relative” or “pragmatic” truth. Only by appeal to objective truth can we protect ourselves from those evil-minded manipulators and controllers.
There are only two ways to find the truth. You have to experience it yourself (which makes you a witness), or you must get clues from other people who have experienced some of it. Education is the passing on of truth by those who have some of it to those who do not.
Everybody in the world knows that there are some truths which must be stable for us to survive. Will the floor hold me up when I get out of bed? Will my oatmeal for breakfast poison me? Will my own body stay the same throughout this day, or will it disintegrate into dust? Will my body turn into that of a horse?
Everybody needs a stability in these kinds of truths. The real target of relative truth is not these truths which we all know we need, it is morality – because (1) morality is the basis for disciplining our lives, and some people do not want to be told what to do. Total autonomy is the new American dream. And (2) morality, a moral consensus, is the foundation for the unity of a people, which must be destroyed in order for tyrants to get control of we, the people. We must be divided and conquered. Moral truth is the real target of the relativizers. They want to destroy the difference between right and wrong so that they themselves can redefine morality to their own advantage.
That is precisely what our Supreme Court has done to us – an act of treason against the American people, and an act of blasphemy against God. Should the prophetic voice of the Bible be unleashed in today’s world? Yes. When we do, we find that that the American civil government is both apostate and treasonous. This government, once under God and of, by, and for the people, has rejected both God and the American people. It has replaced God with itself, and has become no longer our servant, but our taskmaster. That has been the story of government centralizers long before the Hebrews asked God for a king (see I Samuel, chapter 8).
So, it is no surprise that St. Paul would say to the Ephesians in our Epistle, “This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart....”
Those are harsh words, which make sense only if there is a real and objective truth by which we are measured.
Paul goes on to say, “...who being past feeling have given themselves over to lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.” That is a pretty accurate description of much of Western society – descending with little effective opposition deeper and deeper.
The descent into this cesspool has not been an accident of history, an inevitable evolution of things. It has been carefully orchestrated and guided by persons who have enormous power and influence, and who want to control all of us. These are the secular and pagan enemies of God in our time.
These persons live in an amoral world, with no moral limits which they will accept on their own behavior. People like this have been around since the Fall, but have succeeded lately, not by force of arms, but rather by control of how people think and feel. They have persuaded, not forced, the people to vote them into office.
Paul goes on: “But ye have not so learned Christ; if so be that you have heard Him, and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus...” There is a truth which Jesus imparts to us, a saving truth, which rescues us from this morass of death.
“...put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; and be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” These are changes to which we must submit our lives. We cannot continue living as we had been. We may not have been wildly profligate, but we can be quietly self-centered.
“Wherefore put away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbor: for we are members one of another.” We belong to each other now. We are responsible for one another. My sin life denies to others the blessing I might have been to them. We can take inventory of our past to perhaps get a glimpse of how much blessing our family and friends, and, yes, enemies, have not received because of our sin – whether external or internal, open or hidden, noisy or quiet.
It all hangs on whether we have somewhere along the way in our lives made the foundational commitment to be truth-seekers and then truth-speakers. Unless we are committed to that, our spiritual life will have only minimal impact for good. The best place and time to make that decision is when we are small and engaging in that childhood quest of curiosity – the search for the truth about our surroundings. That is the beginning of the search for reality. “What’s this/that all about?”
But we can make that commitment at any time in our lives. It is never too late to become a truth-seeker and a truth-speaker. Persons who are truth-seekers will much more quickly respond to an honest offer of the Gospel. It is as though the ground has already been plowed and fertilized so that when he Gospel seeds are planted, it can give a harvest of 100 fold, 50 fold, or 30 fold.
The deepest and most vital question for truth-seekers is, “Upon what do I depend for my existence? Who is my creator?”
Most school curriculum material today, you will find, hardly mentions the word truth. Lots about feelings, emotions, preferences, wishes, hopes, but little about truth. Truth has been factored out of the equation. That is what I mean when I say that this is deliberate. It did not happen by accident -- "Opps! Excuse me, I didn't mean to do that...." They did and do mean it. And they will fight fiercely anyone who opposes them.
So our children are being groomed to believe that truth is relative, and that supreme is one’s own desires to feel good. But feelings without the discipline of reason will soon become tyrants over us. We will be destructively driven by our feelings.
Consensus in such cases is then not about truth, it is about subjective unity and agreement. We do not agree about the truth, we just agree to agree. We come to an emotional, feel-good consensus, we feel good about "being together", there is no agreement about the objective reality of life. Several decades of children have been taught that way, going back to the 1960’s.
Then the next stage. When truth becomes relative, it will soon become forbidden. Truth-seeking is too dangerous to those who want to control the rest of us. Hate-crime laws, I have said many times, are not meant to protect a certain group from bad opinions, they are meant to shut down honest discussion. Truth-seeking and truth-speaking is the tyrant’s worst nightmare, especially when done by an intellectually, morally, and spiritually mature Church. When the Church becomes intellectually, morally, and spiritually mature, time is running out for the tyrants – because tyranny is an offense to God.
If you wonder why our once Biblically oriented American society is coming apart at the seams, glorifying mindless violence, the primary reason is a concerted attack on the foundations of truth, through control of education and the media, and deliberate subversion of the Church.
The lesson from Jeremiah gives us a part of the answer to our problem. The passage begins with condemnation of the Hebrews: “Your hurt is incurable, your wound is grievous, there is none to uphold your cause, no medicine for your wound... Because your guilt is great, because your sins are flagrant, I have done these things to you.”
But then God turns and speaks peace to His people that He will rescue them from those pagan kings who are not disciplining His people, but abusing them. God replies that, “All who devour you shall be devoured...” God will rescue His people from their degradation if they repent, even in exile, they will be restored.
We may have to go through such a discipline before we repent as a society, and return to God.
There are slowly growing signs of a spiritual renewal in America. I do not know if it is too little, too late. Please pray at least 15 minutes each day for St. Luke’s worship, our quiet times, our life together, and for our Godly offensive into the world to tell others about Jesus, to introduce them to the Good News. Please pray for our work at Chapman University, that we will grow in favor with the students and staff.
What would Jesus say if He were here? I think, just as with His own people 2000 years ago, He would target first the spiritual leaders of this time, most of whom have fallen prey to relative and pragmatic truth, and do not know what to do with “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life”.
Psalm 99 sums up the solution. We receive wisdom and stability in our worship of God. God has not fallen off His throne because of the worldly uproar and confusion. He who is the truth remains permanent and stable – the first and last verses of Psalm 99:
“The Lord is King, be the people
never so impatient; He sitteth between the Cherubim, be the earth never so
O magnify the Lord our God, and worship Him upon His holy hill, for the Lord our God is holy.”
Lord, make us holy like You, make us truthful like You, and make us Your children; in Jesus name. Amen.
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