Truth. What is truth? How does one define it? Merriam-Webster gives this answer:
Truth noun \ˈtrüth\
the truth : the real facts about something : the things that are true
: the quality or state of being true
: a statement or idea that is true or accepted as true
“The real facts about something: the things that are true.” Okay, but what does that mean, exactly?
As parents we often ask our kids to tell us the truth. We are required when giving testimony in court to tell “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” We lose respect for public figures who lie to us. We believe we have the right to know the truth behind news stories. We want to get all the facts on current issues before deciding our stance. Obviously our society places a great amount of importance on this simple word: “truth.” But who decides what is true? Facts can easily be twisted to support a certain agenda. Many people believe that truth is relative- “Whatever you believe is true for you, and whatever I believe is true for me. Neither of us is wrong.” Well, but that’s not quite true, now is it, dear one? By definition it cannot be. Yet that is what we are conditioned, from a very young age, to believe, especially in matters of religion. “You have your own belief system and I have mine. Both are correct.” Again, though, a lie. So how are we to know where to find real truth? The answer is very easy: Jesus.
One of my favorite religious movies is The Gospel of John, starring Henry Ian Cusick as Jesus and Christopher Plummer as the narrator. The translation they chose to use for this particular movie is the Good News Bible, which works well in it. One of the repeated phrases throughout is when Cusick, as Jesus, prefaces a teaching with, “I am telling you the truth!” Cusick has a distinctive way of saying this. I like this translation of the original text. The English Standard Version (ESV) translates this phrase as “Truly, truly, I say to you…” and the New International Version (NIV) has “Very truly I tell you…” All of these translations point to the same thing- Jesus is giving us the truth. Not relative truth, not a half truth, not a lie twisted to look like truth- no, dear one, He is giving us absolute truth. Count on it. Find comfort in this. Read through the book of John and count how many times the word “truth” or a close derivative (“true” or “truly”) is used. It’s all over the book. Why? Because Jesus wants to assure us that here is where we can find real truth- in Him. John 14:6 tells us, “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’” (ESV, emphasis mine). Did you catch it, dear brother or sister? Do you see what He reveals to us here? Not only can we count on Jesus to reveal the truth to us, but by believing that truth we have eternal life. Eternal life in heaven with Him! I can’t even comprehend that, can you? But that’s exactly what He promises. He is the way to heaven, the One who speaks the truth, and the only one who gives eternal life.
So what does Jesus teach His followers about truth? Open your Bible to John 8:31-36. (Go ahead. Really open it!) First of all Jesus tells His followers that “’If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free’” (John 8:31-32, ESV). Three uses of “truth” and “truly” in that one sentence. Obviously this is something pretty important. Let’s read on, shall we? The Jews listening to Him ask what He means about being free, since they aren’t slaves of anyone. Jesus tells them, “’Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed’” (John 8:34-36, ESV). Have you ever sinned, my friend? Yes, of course you have. So have I. So has every single person who has ever lived on the face of this earth, except for one notable exception. Jesus, true God and true man, was completely sinless. But WE have all sinned. We sin every day, multiple times a day. We can’t help ourselves. That’s why Jesus tells us we are slaves to sin. We serve our sinful nature like, well, slaves. We are constantly tempted to gossip or lie or cheat or think evil thoughts or any number of sinful things, and like slaves, we obey. But thanks be to God we aren’t doomed to remain a slave to sin. Jesus has set us free from that. Those of us who believe in Him are not in slavery anymore. We are free. Jesus is telling us the truth. When we are tempted we can use God’s Word to stand up against the temptation. Will we still sin? Of course. And when we do, Jesus will forgive us. We are His now. The devil cannot claim us anymore. We belong to Jesus, the truth.
Fast forward a few chapters in the Gospel of John to John 18. Now Jesus is standing before Pilate, who is trying to decide if there is just reason to condemn this Jesus to crucifixion. An interesting conversation ensues between Jesus and Pilate. Pilate seems intent on getting Jesus to admit that He is a king. If Jesus does say He is a king, you see, Pilate has an easy way out here. He can condemn Jesus for political insurrection against Caesar. But Jesus doesn’t play that game with Pilate. He tells Pilate his “kingdom” is not of this world. Then He says, “’For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world- to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice’” (John 18:37, ESV). Whoa, that was Jesus’ purpose for coming to earth- to “bear witness to the truth?” The Good News Bible (the one used in The Gospel of John) translates that phrase like this: “’I was born and came into the world for this one purpose, to speak about the truth.’” Beautiful. Because remember, dear one, Jesus IS the truth. He came to reveal God’s beautiful plan of salvation to us. And what is that plan? Jesus, true God, became man for our sake. He led a perfect life that we could never live, He was punished for our sins by death on a cross, and then He rose from the dead three days later. It sounds completely unbelievable, and it really is. He, God, took the punishment we deserve. Incredible. But Pilate isn’t getting that. He throws in one last little dig at Jesus by asking, “’And what is truth?’” (John 18:38 GNB). Interestingly, Jesus doesn’t answer this. Pilate asks this derisively, dismissively. He doesn’t realize that Jesus, the truth, is standing right in front of him. He thinks truth is relative. After all, who could be bold enough to make the preposterous claim that they have a grasp on absolute truth? Jesus doesn’t answer Pilate because Pilate isn’t seeking an answer. Sadly, many people today are just like Pilate 2,000 years ago. “Yeah, right. You Christians know the truth, huh? How arrogant to think you’re the only ones who are right!” Well, yes, in one sense that’s true. It is arrogant for any one person to assert such a thing. But there is the beauty. We aren’t inventing a truth from our own imaginations. We have this truth given to us by Jesus Himself. Just think about God’s plan for salvation, dear one. We honestly believe that God died and rose for us? Seriously? And to get to heaven we don’t have to earn it? We only have to believe in Jesus? Logically that makes absolutely no sense. To our finite minds, this is absurd. We must have to do something, anything, to merit heaven. But we don’t, my friend. And that’s why I believe through faith that Jesus is indeed telling the truth. If some small group of men sat down to decide to invent a religion, there’s no way they would come up with a plan like this. I mean, who would believe it? If any one person or group of people tried to invent a religion, they would make up something much more logical. But thank God for this plan that to human reason is “illogical.” His plan is perfect. His plan is absolute. His plan, dear one, is truth.