Good Friday – Fr. Devin Rodgers
What is Truth?
Pilates words hover in the space between him and Jesus. Jesus utters no response.
The two men, both kings, in utterly different senses of the word, stare at one another.
No truth is spoken.
There are two truths present in this exchange – but in reality there is only One Truth.
The first is the Truth about God and God’s nature.
The second Truth, which can only be held and examined in relation to the first, is the truth about the human condition.
We have to start with this “truth” if we are to make any good sense of the “Goodness” of Good Friday.
So using Pilate’s own words, let’s pose this question ourselves. “What is truth?”
The answer is a hard truth.
We are incapable of claiming or obtaining any goodness apart from the goodness that extends from God. For that matter, we are unable to obtain anything aside from what God extends.
Any attempt to do so is is in actually “not good”
This is a theme that runs throughout John’s Passion narrative, and in fact throughout the entirety of scripture.
Perhaps this is why we struggle with “Good” Friday.
Good Friday is not about our goodness at all it’s entirely about God’s. This reality does not make us “bad” however. It makes us broken. It means that humanity does not have the potential within itself to achieve Good. It is a gift that helps counteract our natural posture and innate tendency to wander from God and what God desires for us.
With this in mind, John begins the Passion story in the same place our human story began. A Garden.
Jesus was in a garden in the Kidron Valley with his disciples praying, when a band of soldiers approaches him. Jesus asks.
“Whom are you looking for?” They answered, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus replied, “I AM” Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. When Jesus said to them, “I AM,” they stepped back and fell to the ground.
The way Jesus responds here is more than verifying that he is in fact Jesus of Nazareth. The Greek used in his response is the same response God gives Moses in the revealing of the name of God. ἐγώ εἰμι. A more nuanced English expression would be to say, “I exist”
The soldiers upon hearing this respond fall to the ground. This is Truth.
Jesus Christ is God.
The soldiers and Judas’ response is not to stay standing back in awe, or worship, or to remain and acknowledge the Lordship of Jesus, which judging by their response is something they knew was True.
They arrest him, betray him and turn their back on the very one who has been hurt by this very act of betrayal since the first fall of humanity.
It’ also interesting to point out here what Judas is doing. There have been multiple theories about what Judas’s intent was here. He had notions about what Jesus’ lordship should look like. He knew scripture, followed Jesus, saw the miracles that were being performed, yet still assumed he knew better and even though he “loved” Jesus thought he knew better and betrayed him in probably the worst way possible – an embrace.
Claiming Truth for ourselves, claiming Lordship over the Lord, as if we know better, or could do better, is at the root of all sin.
But from here the mess just escalates.
Once claiming Lordship for ourselves, we continue to seize a power that is not ours for the taking. Peter takes a sword and strikes Malchus, the perceived enemy, and wounds him.
More truth about humanity. Power over others. Violence. Separation. “Put your sword away.”
John continues to point out more and more human brokenness in the rest of the Passion Narrative. We are not exempt from these ourselves.
Caiaphas the High Priest – Religious judgment and condemnation based on a law given to us to mirror back to us our sheer and utter reliance on God.
Peter – We deny and betray loved ones in an attempt to save ourselves even at the expense of absolutely losing ourselves in the process.
Crowd – with shouts of crucify they and also we seek to destroy what stands in our way of power and control
Even Pilate’s own question What is Truth?- We fall into a notion that there is no one set truth. We might look at Pilate’s response as justifying moral relativism. We also might put truth into a binary.
We falsely claim the right to judge right from wrong when this from the very beginning of Creation is the role of God.
What is Truth?
The question doesn’t need to be answered, which is why Christ doesn’t answer it.
Truth is observed.
This perhaps is the biggest stumbling block for us. We tend to view truth as a blunt object. A binary as this or that.
In Koine Greek the word truth is λήθεια. It means to reveal things as they really are. Truth in the context of the gospel might better be interpreted as “shining light in the darkness to see as one “out to see.” We might consider alethia to mean Divine Enlightenment about true nature, both our nature and the nature of God. It’s no mistake that the virtues of Truth and Love are often paired together.
So here is the truth about humanity. Aside from Jesus Christ, I AM, there is not a single person in the gospel who responds in a manner that is Godly.
This is the reality for us as well and perhaps why we struggle to see the Goodness in Good Friday. Our original goodness is marred by brokenness that we, try as we might, cannot and will not overcome.
We all betray and walk away from God.
We claim power over others that is not ours to claim. We participate in systems, governments, and economies that destroy the goodness in one another and in
Creation itself. We set ourselves as judges of one another. We claim judgement over God.
Our truth is nothing but a false reality and inability to see as we ought. Pilate asks, What is Truth?
Truth doesn’t respond with words. Truth responds with deed. Truth responds with embodiment the full spectrum of human embodiment – Including painful embodiment so that it might be annihilated.
Truth is beaten. Spat upon. Mocked. Tortured. Condemned And
He enters into the absolute worst of hell on earth caused by our false notions of our “truth”
He willingly enters into suffering and draws the totally of Godly love into it so that the places of absolute, ungodly hell, which we create and place ourselves and others in, might be redeemed.
What we perceive as true, just the way things are, and inevitable is not true, it’s the result of brokenness.
Theologian Jürgen Moltmann summarizes this succinctly.
“Jesus’ healings are not supernatural miracles in a natural world. They are the only truly ‘natural’ things in a world that is unnatural, demonized and wounded.
“God heals sicknesses and griefs by making those sicknesses and griefs his own suering and grief. In the image of the Crucified God the sick and the dying can see themselves because in them the crucified God can see himself.”
― Jurgen Moltmann
This is why Good Friday is Good.
On this Good Friday, we see that the result of sin ends is the cross, we also see a God who is willing to take that result upon Godself and eternally identify with it and make that pain his own.
We should ask the question that Pilate asks.
“What is Truth?”
Don’t listen for an answer. Don’t provide an answer.
Watch for an answer.
Where do you see human suffering?
Where do you see hell placed on others?
Where you see the sick, the suffering, the condemned, the abused…you are sure to find God.
And then you yourself, even in your imperfect and broken state have the capacity to do what Christ did.
Find love in that suffering. Bring love into that suffering.
“Who are you Looking for?”
“I AM” responds by guiding you into all Truth so that you might have Life.