The grace, mercy, and peace of Christ Jesus rest upon each and every one of you this day.
There’s a reason that this morning’s Gospel text is appointed as the Gospel we hear each and every time we celebrate the Reformation. It’s timeless. It speaks to the problems in Jesus’ time. It speaks to the problems in Luther’s time. It speaks to the problems in our time. “If you abide in My Word…you will know the Truth, and the Truth will set you free.” Beautiful, powerful words…but here’s the problem: so often we approach these words of Jesus from a purely philosophical standpoint. We understand “truth” only in the sense of “the opposite of lies.” We faithful disciples of Christ abide in the truth—His Truth. We don’t abide in or traffic in the lies of false doctrines and heresies. We only deal with the truth of God’s Law and Gospel.
Okay…this is good, but is it true, though? Culturally, we are living in what’s known as “post-modern” times (cf. Dark Ages, Enlightenment era, etc.). The era of Modernity, which dates from around 1900 to just after WWII, dealt in truth and absolutes. Right was right, and wrong was wrong. Right was right, and everything in opposition to “right” was wrong. It was real simple; real cut-and-dry. However…we’ve moved on from that. Beginning with the Baby Boomers, we’ve “progressed.” We’re now in post-modern times. Everyone is right. No one is wrong. Nothing is wrong. We’re all just different. There is no one absolute truth. That would be offensive and oppressive. Rather, we all have equally valid versions of our own personal truths. Your truth may not be my truth, but that doesn’t make your truth right and my truth wrong. We all have “truths” (plural).
And if you don’t think that this lunacy hasn’t trespassed into the confines/life of the Church, think again! “This is the truth.” And we all nod our heads in agreement…until that truth confronts us in our sin. Then it’s no longer absolute truth. Then it’s more of an opinion. It’s somebody else’s version/understanding of the truth of God’s Word. It’s somebody else’s personal take; their own personal truth. “I see things differently. My truth is different, and yet it’s equally valid and just as God-pleasing. We’ll just have to agree to disagree.” This, my friends, is NOT abiding in the Truth! But here’s the thing: This, again, is still filtering these words of Jesus regarding Truth through a purely philosophical lens. Jesus could say this about Truth. Aristotle could say this. Confucious could say this. Many people, even some who dare to call themselves Christians, wouldn’t know the difference, nor would they think it’s a big deal to clarify the difference. “We all want Truth. That’s all that really matters.”
“I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” Folks: When Jesus speaks of Truth, He isn’t playing armchair philosopher. Rather, He’s correcting some serious error, pointing people to the salvation that is found only in Him. He is the Truth that they need to abide in. It’s not a matter of philosophy, but Christology. The pure, unadulterated truth is that you can’t properly know God if you don’t properly know Christ. If you don’t properly know Christ, you don’t know the Truth.
And there’s the problem. People don’t know Christ. It’s not simply a matter of not knowing certain truths, or falling prey to certain lies. Those are problems too, but those philosophical/theological problems ultimately find their root source in the ontological problem—the problem of not knowing Christ. People don’t know Christ. They don’t know the Truth that is Christ—God Himself in the flesh. We can easily recognize this in the works-righteous Jews of Jesus’ time. We can easily recognize this in the works-righteous fools in Luther’s time, with all their indulgences and purgatories and penance. Do we recognize it in our time though?
Now, I know we can look out at the world we live in and identify scores of people who don’t know Christ. They don’t know the Truth of their justification—their free and unmerited salvation—because they don’t know Christ. Faith comes through hearing, but how can they believe if they haven’t heard? How can they hear if no one has told them? This is most certainly true.
But what about closer to home? Remember: Jesus made this statement to Jews who had believed in Him. He wasn’t preaching to a bunch of Atheists who had never heard of Him before. What about those in our own circle of family and friends who profess love for Christ? Where the Word is rightly taught and the Sacraments rightly administered, there is the true Church; there is Christ, dwelling in the midst of His people. What about where the Word isn’t rightly taught? What about those places that teach—in the name of Jesus—that you need to do this, that, and the other thing in order to be saved? What about those places that really don’t teach anything at all, but instead simply focus on entertainment; i.e., having fun and feeling happy? What about where the sacraments aren’t rightly administered? Do you really know the Truth that is Jesus if you willingly reject the Truth that is His Body and Blood? Newsflash: If this is the case, then you don’t know Jesus as well as you think you do! That may offend some of you, but that’s the absolute, undeniable Truth. Either this is Christ (His Body and His Blood) or it is not. Either this is for the forgiveness of sin, or it is not. It’s that simple. It’s that cut-and-dry. It’s like pregnancy. Either you’re pregnant or you’re not. There is no such thing as “a little pregnant.” “Those who aren’t with Me are against Me.” There is no middle ground.
What about you? What about the reflection in the mirror? Do you know the Truth? Such a question may offend some of you. “Of course I know Jesus!” Do you? Maybe you don’t know Him as well as you think you do. Here is the Truth of God’s love in the flesh, sent to this fallen and sinful world for the sole purpose of redeeming this fallen and sinful world. Here is the Truth that men like Luther boldly and faithfully took their stand upon, even as they stared into the face of the Father of Lies himself. Salvation through faith alone in God’s grace alone, which He bestows upon us fallen men because of Christ alone. Many a faithful martyr shed his blood while standing on this solid Rock of Truth. Nowadays…we’re not willing to hurt a complete stranger’s feelings because they might say something mean about us on Facebook. We’re not even willing to speak the Truth to our own loved ones. We prefer the lie if the lie will keep the peace around the dinner table or the Christmas tree. My…how we’ve progressed.
Folks: Here is Christ! This isn’t A truth, as if it’s one good option among many. This isn’t even a matter of philosophical assent; i.e., “I believe this is the truth.” This is the Truth of God, whether you believe it or not. Here is the Truth Himself, feeding you and nourishing you with His own body and blood for the forgiveness of all your sin; for your comfort, your assurance, your peace that surpasses all understanding. “I know, pastor.” Do you? If you truly knew this Truth, this is where you would be every chance you could! Maybe you don’t know the Truth as well as you like to think you do. Repent. This is where faith flees to and clings to, in good times and in bad times; for better and for worse; in sickness; in health; in all things and all times! Faith that abides in Christ wants all the Christ it can get. Abiding faith in the ever-abiding Christ is never content with “good enough.” Abiding faith wants nothing more than to abide with Christ each and every chance it gets.
And that’s how I’m gonna end for today: Pointing to the Truth that is Christ in your midst. Here He is! Faith comes through hearing; hearing the Word of Christ. Here is the absolute, indisputable Truth that is Christ. It is this singular divine Truth that cried out in victory from His cross, “It is finished!” This is the Truth who has set us free from sin, death, and the grave, and it is this same divine Truth who kneels down from heaven and abides with you right here today, coming into your midst with angels, archangels and all the company of heaven in order to feed you and nourish you with His Truth—His Word, His absolution; His Body and His Blood. Rejoice in this Truth. Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the Truth, who abides with us!
May this Truth—the Way, the Truth, and the Life—guard and keep your hearts and minds in Him, and may this same Truth of Christ be and remain with you now and into all eternity. In His holy name…AMEN.
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