By Dick Barrett, Conference Minister
This year we find ourselves on a Lenten journey different than any other year, especially with the coronavirus pandemic, our need to stay isolated, and our inability to worship together as churches.
“What is truth?” That is one of the questions that Pilate asked Jesus to help him decide whether to turn him over to be crucified or not (John 18:38). In John’s gospel we find no response from Jesus to Pilate. Previously in John’s gospel we find Jesus’ final words to his disciples on the night of the Last Supper, what many refer to as “Jesus’ Final Discourse,” in John 13-17. In Matthew’s gospel we find Jesus telling his disciples towards the end of his life here on earth to keep watch. He tells them about wars, rumors of wars, famines and earthquakes (Matt. 24). We can add plagues and pandemics. For those of us who believe in an all-powerful Sovereign God, we need to acknowledge that while God might not be the cause of such things, at the least He allows them to happen. All these things are the result of sin and the fallenness of the world. Throughout history as recorded in the Bible, God has allowed many things like this to happen to cause us humans to pause, to reflect on our lives, to repent and to (re)turn to Him.
The LORD told Solomon, “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:13-14).
Perhaps this is one of those times that we as one group of God’s people, the Mennonite Church in America, need to humble ourselves and pray and turn from the ways of the world and (re)turn to God. An idol is anything that we humans put before God. What are some of the idols that we have allowed to creep in among us? I would suggest some of those idols to be money, materialism, intellectualism, sports, sex, pride, “peace and justice” causes, the belief that Jesus might not be the only way to salvation and/or that there really was no need for the cross.
While Jesus did not respond to Pilate’s question, “what is truth?” — Pilate would not have been able to understand anyway, just as Jesus’ own disciples did not understand prior to his death and resurrection — Jesus had spoken about the truth. For John, Jesus’ beloved disciple, writing the gospel years later and looking back, truth is what God had revealed through His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus had said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Jesus himself is the truth. Jesus had also told the disciples that he needed to go to the cross to die to fulfill the truth. Jesus also said, “unless a kernel falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds” (John 12:24). While Jesus was here on earth, without the power of the Holy Spirit, his disciples could not accept most of the truth he had to offer. Can we accept his truth today?
While the cross and death go against our human nature — we do just about anything to avoid death — they are the only way to new life. We can’t get to Easter Sunday and the resurrection without Good Friday and the cross. That is the Lenten journey that we are all on during our life here on earth. The truth is that salvation comes only through Jesus Christ. Who do you say he is? Do you believe?