March 21, 2021 BWK, Elim Lutheran Church
John 12:20-33 (Jeremiah 31:31-34)
Madeleine L’Engle’s quote: The Frightening Truth! (see the ending)
Some of us might remember the old television series “To Tell the Truth” that goes back to the 50’ and 60’s. There is a new version of that now.
Hosted by “black-ish” star Anthony Anderson, “TO TELL THE TRUTH.” It is a funny reimagination of the earlier version. In each round, the panel is presented with three people who all claim to be the same person with the same incredible talent, job or achievement. One is sworn to tell the truth while the other two use every trick they can to deceive the panel. The panel of celebrities has a chance to grill each participant before taking turns deciding who they think is telling the truth.
How do you decide who is telling the truth and who is pulling your leg? What makes someone believable? Unbelievable? Have you ever fallen for a line? Have you ever been taken in by a con-artist? Scammers and con-artists are having a hay-day during these tumultuous times. I know over numerous individuals who have been tricked and lost money. It is embarrassing.
A couple of pieces of advice:
- Never give any information over the phone to someone who is calling you. Some tricksters pretend to be a grandchild who is in trouble and ask for money, or a gift card. But they are imposters. Don’t believe them.
- Never click on a link someone sends you when you do not recognize the sender’s email. Clicking the link can take you to a risky website or give a stranger access to parts of your computer. I never click on links even from companies that look familiar before I check the sender’s address. It is always best to go to the website you are familiar with. Play it safe.
Unfortunately there are hucksters and tricksters in the spiritual and religious realm too. “Qanon” has many evangelical followers who believe in these crazy, outlandish conspiracy theories. There are even “evangelical preachers” who claim to be prophets making political and end-time predictions. Don’t give them credence. Don’t believe them. There are false prophets today just as there were in former days.
Remember Jesus’ warning to us:
23 At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. 24 For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. 25 See, I have told you ahead of time. Matthew 24:23-25 (NIV)
Moses told the children of Israel that God would send a “prophet like him” (Deuteronomy 18:15-22). This is a messianic prophecy regarding the coming of Jesus. Connected with that promise is the warning that if a prophet said they spoke for God and that prophecy did not come true, then that prophet was a false prophet. Moses then says do not be afraid of that prophet. Don’t listen to them.
Jesus is no false Messiah. He is the One we need to focus on and listen to. Jesus, in our Gospel reading says, “very truly I tell you…” He is saying, “I tell you the truth…” and then speaks about the necessity of His approaching death on the cross on our behalf. He is our Messiah; the Savior of the world. He knows His purpose for coming into our world was to go to the cross and die in our place. He was taking away our sin that separates us from God. He restores our broken relationship with God through His death on the cross. Through Him we have life!
“Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain (seed); but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” (John 12:24)
Six times through John’s Gospel Jesus has used the phrase “my hour has not yet come…” Jesus was very aware of His purpose in life and the timing of His death on the cross. When the Greek believers come wishing to see Jesus it is as if Jesus knows the stage is set. He is Savior not for Jews only but for Greeks and all people of all nationalities. The time is now! The time has come!
And this is where we get—or at least should get—uncomfortable.
“Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves Me must follow Me, and where I am, there will My servant be also. Whoever serves Me, the Father will honor…(vv. 25-26)
Jesus then says, “Now is the judgment of the world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out.” (v. 31)
What darkness do we wrestle with?
Selfishness, greed, pride, arrogance, bigotry, lust, hate, self-serving and power grabbing, abuse, addiction, enslavement, shame, be lost and confused…the list is almost endless. Jesus is saying all that “stuff” no longer has the upper hand. Satan’s power—the ruler of this world—is defeated. Jesus, through His life, death and resurrection satisfies our deepest longings and need. He gives us freedom from despair, shame, and guilt. He gives us a reason and purpose for life. He gives us hope and meaning.
Jesus is the Savior of the world. The truth is His life, death and resurrection makes all the difference in the world for us. Truth be told, Jesus gives us hope, freedom and strength to love others the way He loves us.
When we discover His love and power over our sin and shame He gives us freedom to live past ourselves. He gives us strength to be different and to make a difference. He changes us. His love transforms us. Then through us the world can see Jesus too.
In Jesus’ name. Amen.
The Frightening Truth
Truth is frightening.
Pontius Pilate knew that, and washed his hands of truth when he washed his hands of Jesus.
Truth is demanding. It won’t let us sit comfortably. It knocks out our cozy smugness and casual condemnation.
It makes us move. It? It? For truth we can read Jesus.
Jesus is truth. If we accept that Jesus is truth, we accept an enormous demand: Jesus is wholly God, and Jesus is wholly human.
Dare we believe that? If we believe in Jesus we must. And immediately that takes truth out of the limited realm of literalism.