The Sermon, part 10: Fourth Antithesis

Read Matthew 5:33-37

“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’” (John 14:6 NRSV)

truth-008“What is truth?” Those are the infamous words of the Roman Prefect of Judea, Pontius Pilate. During Jesus’ Roman trial, he was being questioned on who he was, because the word got around that he was claiming to be the Messiah, or king, and that would have been very disturbing to Pilate.

The Prefect questioned Jesus, “Are you a king? Are you the king of the Jews?”

Jesus answered back, Jesus replied, “Is this your own question, or did others tell you about Me?

Pilate was enraged! “Am I a Jew? Your own leaders and priests brought you to me for trial! Now tell me, what have you done.”

Jesus looked a Pilate and ansered back, “My Kingdom is not of this world, otherwise my followers would not have allowed me to be handed over to the Jewish leaders. My Kingdom is not of this world.

Pilate was growing impatient. “So, you are a king then?”

Jesus responded, “You say I am a king. Actually, I was born and came into the world to testify to the truth. All who love the truth recognize that what I say is true.

“What is truth,” Pilate retorted the philosophical question in disgust with this man, as well as disgust with the whole region.

Though these events were recorded in John 18:33-38, the question, “What is truth,” is one that is relevant to us here today. Anyone who has watched politicians at work, know that the truth is not always what it seems. Things are said, “facts” are thrown out there, and stats are flaunted like evidence! Promises are made, assurances given and, at the end of the day, nothing changes. Our trust hangs in the balance, while the truth gets buried a pile of “untruths”.

The Jewish Law, just like our American justice system, had provisions written in it to make sure that people told the truth in crucial moments. If one had taken a vow, and were under oath, one’s words were weighted and any sign of lying would result in a severe penalty. While lying outside of an oath or vow is immoral, it does not bear any legal ramifications, even if it does bear social ones.

To paraphrase, Jesus says, “You have heard it said that ‘You must not break your vows’. But I say to you, do not make any vows! Don’t swear by heaven, or the earth, or Jerusalem, for those are not yours to swear by. They are God’s! And do not even swear by your own head for you can’t even control turning one hair black or white. Rather, just say a simple ‘yes,’ or ‘no,’. Anything beyond this is from the evil one!

Here again, Jesus took what seemed to be a common sense law and gave us an absolute antithesis in return. Rather than our words mattering sometimes, yet not others, Jesus proclaimed that our words matter ALL THE TIME. Truth is truth, lies are lies, and to say otherwise is to be, well, not truthful! God is not a liar, and God will not be represented by liars.

This, again, is not meant to establish a new law, but to point us to the one who is the fulfillment of the law. The one who embodied the TRUTH at all costs! This is not about being kind to a friend you think doesn’t look so great in those plaid pants, or anything like that. Jesus is NOT against tact! Nor is Jesus against those who lie to do what is morally just, such as lying to the gustapo that one isn’t hiding away Jews when they really are in the house hiding.

What Jesus is doing is speaking truth to power, and to those who choose to follow the power of the world, rather than the Truth of the Word. Jesus, the Word of God, is faithful and true and calls all followers to be likewise. We are to be truthful, we are to not make oaths for there should be no need to swear by this or that; rather, we should mean what we say and say what we mean. While we cannot force the world to be truthful, we can choose to not be beguiled by the world. Let us, instead, follow the one who IS TRUTH and let TRUTH lead and guide us in all that we do.

“Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth.” – Buddha

Lord, reveal your TRUTH in me, and speak it through me in all I say and do. Amen.

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