June 10, 2010 David Balzer

John 19: An Inconvenient Truth

An Inconvenient Truth. It’s Al Gore’s documentary about the environment. Did you see the quote in the trailer? “Nothing is SCARIER than the TRUTH”.

And Al Gore’s come proclaiming a message. And here it is – “The truth – the INCONVENIENT truth – is that our climate is changing. And we’re destroying it. The earth is getting warmer. And unless we make some major changes – at an individual level, a local level, at a national level, and especially at an INTERnational level. The world, as we know it, may be DESTROYED.

But the remarkable thing about the documentary aren’t the facts themselves. As a rule, people don’t seem to be disputing the facts. But what’s surprising is people’s RESPONSE to the truth.

As a general rule, they DON’T CARE.

The world MAY be in drought. The planet MAY be getting hotter. The ice caps MAY be melting…. But I don’t CARE – as long as my air conditioner still works. As long as I can keep filling up the pool. And until the rising sea starts lapping at my front door, I’m not going to worry.

AL GORE, AND HIS FELLOW ENVIRONMENTALISTS, ARE FIGHTING AN UNSTOPPABLE GLOBAL WAVE OF LUKE-WARM APATHY, LETHARGY AND CYNICISM.

And it doesn’t seem to matter WHERE in the world you are. Whether it’s in the THIRD world, where getting food on the table TODAY is more important than what MIGHT happen in 50 years. Or in the WEST, where we’re willing to sacrifice the future of our planet TOMORROW/ for our comfort and greedy consumerism TODAY.

It seems like, for the MOST part, the response to the inconvenient truth of Al Gore’s warning message is a resounding “SO WHAT?”

Which just goes to show that human re hasn’t changed very much in a of thousand years. Because it’s a very similar response that people have to ANOTHER man preaching an INCONVENIENT TRUTH. A SCARY truth. A truth that people are headed for disaster, unless they heed the warnings. A resounding “SO WHAT?”

TRUTH. It’s one of the major themes in John’s Gospel. The word appears 52 times in the NIV. Right back in Ch 1, we read that “while the law came through Moses, grace and TRUTH/ CAME through Jesus Christ.” True information about God. Straight from the horse’s mouth – so to speak.

And time and again, Jesus would begin his teaching with the words, “I tell you the TRUTH!”

And then, in 8:31, he says THIS about his teaching.

“If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth , and THE TRUTH WILL SET YOU FREE.”

Knowing the truth that Jesus is bringing will change your outlook. Will change your ETERNITY. That makes it pretty important that you LISTEN.

But, more than just WORDS of truth, Jesus WAS truth. John 14:6

6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and THE TRUTH and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

And along the way, Jesus’ words of TRUTH are attracting more and more OPPOSITION. For his enemies, he’s An INCONVENIENT truth. Who upsets their comfortable understanding of themselves and God. And so, he needs to be SILENCED.

Which brings us to the events in today’s passage. He’s ARRESTED, and brought before the Jewish leaders. Pick it up Ch 18 v20.

20 “I have SPOKEN OPENLY to the world,” Jesus replied. “I always taught in synagogues or at the temple, where all the Jews come together. I said nothing in secret. 21 Why question me? Ask those who heard me. Surely they know what I said.”

At which point they smack him across the face for disrespect. But look at what Jesus answers. V23.

23 “If I said something wrong,” Jesus replied, “testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke THE TRUTH , why did you strike me?”

And they haven’t got an answer FOR THAT. So they lead him away, via Caiphas, to Pilate. Where Jesus takes up the same theme AGAIN. Jump down to v37. Pilate says to him, “So you ARE a king then?” To which Jesus replies.

“You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, TO TESTIFY TO THE TRUTH . Everyone on the SIDE OF TRUTH listens to me.”

At which point Pilate makes the cynical comment in v38. A comment that says more about his own loose commitment to integrity/ than it does about the Jesus’ words. V38. “What is TRUTH?”

In other words “Since when has TRUTH had anything to do with it?” “There are bigger issues involved than who’s RIGHT or WRONG!”

He asks the QUESTION, but Pilate doesn’t hang around long enough to find out the ANSWER. HE’S not interested in listening to Jesus – in finding out the truth.

But the intriguing thing is WE/ DO get the answer. And not JUST from the lips of Jesus. Ironically, GOD’S TRUTH is found on the lips of a whole range of people in these verses – many of them SPEAKING better than they KNOW. People who speak out of ignorance, or ridicule. But the irony is/ God uses their words to teach us THE TRUTH. Truth they can’t even see!

  1. One man to die for the people (18:14)

First up – the FIRST truth- is that Jesus will DIE FOR THE PEOPLE. In PLACE of people. In Ch 18 v14, we get this little comment about Caiaphas.

14 Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews that it would be good if one man died for the people.

John’s reminding us of something Caiaphas said back in Ch 11:50. Jesus has just raised Lazarus from the , and the Jews are trying to work out what to do. They reckon he’s doing so many miraculous signs that everyone will flock to him, the Romans will get nervous about a rebellion, and they’ll come down on the Jews like a ton of bricks – destroy the lot of them. But for Caiaphas, the answer’s obvious.

49 Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all! 50 You do not realize that it is better for you that ONE MAN DIE FOR THE PEOPLE than that the whole nation perish.”

In other words, let’s wipe out this problem before WE get wiped out. But then John makes an interesting comment. V51.

51 He did not say this ON HIS OWN, but as high priest that year he PROPHESIED that JESUS WOULD DIE FOR THE JEWISH NATION, 52 and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one.

In other words, God spoke truth THROUGH Caiaphas. Caiaphas wants to kill Jesus to get rid of him, to save the Jews from the Romans. But God’s plan is for Jesus to die IN PLACE of the JEWS as a sacrifice to reconcile them to God.

Truth – but Caiaphas had no idea how true his words were.

  1. An man (18:38; 19:6)

Truth number two. Jesus was dying AN MAN. This one comes from Pilate.

For all Pilate’s political manoeuvring – his world-weary cynicism. Even HE could see there wasn’t any basis to the charges against Jesus. TWICE he says Jesus is . Ch 18, the end of v38.

“I find no basis for a charge against him.

Then a few verses on in Ch 19 v6.

“You take him and crucify him. As for me, I FIND NO BASIS FOR A CHARGE AGAINST HIM.”

He doesn’t realise the SIGNIFICANCE of it. But he’s RIGHT. Jesus WAS . Not just of THESE charges – but of ANY charges.

He HAD to be. It’s the only way Jesus’ d.eath works as a SUBSTITUTE for OURS – if he didn’t DESERVE d.eath. The dying in place of the guilty.

There we are – the first two truths – Jesus died FOR the people. And he died .

  1. Son of God (19:7)

Then right there in the next verse we get the THIRD truth. Again from the lips of people speaking BETTER THAN THEY KNOW. 19 v7.

7 The Jews insisted, “We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because HE CLAIMED TO BE THE SON OF GOD.”

They didn’t BELIEVE it, but they were RIGHT. Not only did Jesus CLAIM it, he WAS the Son of God. The ETERNAL Son, Fully God, WITH God in the beginning, become flesh.

The only one who could speak as the Father speaks. Reflect who the father is. Do what the Father commands – with perfect obedience. Only God himself could fully satisfy the perfect demands of his law by being SINLESS. That’s truth number THREE.

  1. By God’s Will (19:10-11) cf Isaiah 53:10, John 3:16

Then a few verses on, verses 10 and 11, we find truth number FOUR. As weird as it may sound, the whole thing – the whole awful chapter of history – is according to God’s WILL.

Pilate’s getting annoyed that Jesus won’t answer him. Thinks he’s being a bit high-and-mighty for someone in his position. So he says to him, v10,

10 “Do you refuse to speak to me?” Pilate said. “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?”

To which Jesus answers

“You would have no power over me IF IT WERE NOT GIVEN TO YOU FROM ABOVE.

In other words, you think YOU’RE the one with the power, but it’s really GOD who’s moving the chess pieces around. And I’m only HERE because I’m doing what HE WANTS. It’s in obedience to HIM I’m hanging around listening to your questions. It’s nothing to do with YOUR authority. It’s all about My Father’s authority. It’s what HE wants.

That’s the incredible, but shocking, truth of the Easter story. That it’s GOD’S WILL to kill his son. Way back in Isaiah 53 v10, it puts it this bluntly, prophesying about Jesus’ d.eath.

Yet IT WAS THE LORD’S WILL to crush him and cause him to suffer,

One author who misunderstands it/ has called the cross “barbaric divine child-abuse.” And, while that’s way off-track, we are RIGHT to shake our heads and wonder at how God could come up with such a plan.

But it’s John himself who gives us the answer. John 3:16. Why would God WANT to kill his son?

16 “For God SO LOVED THE WORLD that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

God sacrificed his son because he loved YOU. Because he loved ME. The cross is a sign of , of punishment. It’s a sign of justice, and of sacrifice. But the reason millions of Christians through the ages have worn it around their necks, or placed it at the front of their churches is because it’s, supremely, a SYMBOL OF LOVE.

That’s FOUR truths about Easter. It was God’s WILL to sacrifice Jesus, the Son of God, for the sins of the people. The for the guilty.

  1. Your king (19:14)

Which brings us to the FIFTH truth. Again, from the lips of Pilate. The people are trying to convince Pilate to find Jesus guilty. v12 of Ch 19,

“If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who CLAIMS TO BE A KING opposes Caesar.” 13 When Pilate heard this, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judge’s seat at a place known as the Stone Pavement (which in Aramaic is Gabbatha). 14 It was the day of Preparation of Passover Week, about the sixth hour. “HERE IS YOUR KING,” Pilate said to the Jews. 15 But they shouted, “Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!” “Shall I crucify your king?” Pilate asked. “WE HAVE NO KING BUT CAESAR,” the chief priests answered. 16 Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified.

Pilate probably says it to RIDICULE the Jews – Here’s your so-called “King”. What a poor, pathetic excuse for royalty! Is that the best you can do?

And yet, once again, the irony is that Jesus IS king. And MUCH more significant than any HUMAN Caesar. And his heavenly kingship is seen MOST CLEARLY in this act of going to his d.eath. Not in conquering the Roman Empire. The king above ALL kings who lays down his life for his citizens.

And so, the obvious response/ is to bow our knee before a king like that. In repentance and gratitude, and humble and lifelong obedience.

THE KING WHO GAVE US EVERYTHING/ DEMANDS AND DESERVES OUR EVERYTHING IN RETURN.

But is that what the Jews do? No. They do the exact opposite. Listen to their response to Pilate. They speak their own condemnation. The end of v15. “We have no king but Caesar”.

“We have no king.” It’s exactly the same cry that most Australians give. We’re not talking BAD people here. Nice, friendly, law-abiding Aussies. Your neighbours and workmates. Your cousins and parents and spouses.

“We have no king” We do what WE want. We don’t want anyone telling US what to do. We’ve got PLANS. No-one’s going to upset OUR FUTURE.

We have no king, they cry. As they pay off their houses, landscape their gardens, indulge their hobbies, waste their weekends, satisfy their urges, further their careers.

We have no king, they cry as they build their empires.

We have no king, they cry as they travel down the wide road that leads to destruction.

But Jesus came to SPEAK TRUTH to that sort of attitude. An INCONVENIENT truth. The truth that that sort of attitude is UNACCEPTABLE to God. And that he’ll JUDGE people who refuse to accept Jesus as King.

But there’s GOOD NEWS TOO. Just like Al Gore’s documentary, if we TAKE NOTICE of the warnings – if we BELIEVE that Jesus is God’s King. If we believe that Jesus’ d.eath has paid for our punishment. If we confess our sin. If we bow the knee before Jesus.

Then Jesus’ promise is TRUE and SURE. Life that never ends. With HIM. Escaping judgment, and enjoying Jesus forever.

A of chapters on/ John sums up the message of the whole book. The end of Ch 20. (v30).

30 Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

Will you do that? Will you take note of the inconvenient truth, believe the message, that the one God-man, Jesus Christ, died in the place of many, according to God’s will. And so deserves to be your king.

Believe it, and LIVE!

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