Truth is out of style. We have no idea which media outlet to believe. We do not trust our politicians, our corporations, our courts, our teachers, and our spiritual leaders. We do not even have friends anymore; we have frenemies. Even among Christians, we have a hard time trusting Jesus. Are his words really relevant for today? Can we trust a guy who lived 2000 years ago really knows what I am going through? If Jesus were alive today wouldn’t he think more like I do? Can I trust that he actually did miracles? What about the resurrection, did that happen?
All these questions about our faith are driven by our rapidly growing cynicism. Recently I read an article about the number of college professors involved in child exploitation (article here). This horrible story exposes a sad reality: we know all people are prone to sin, so we clearly cannot trust anyone. Our pessimism grows. We wake up to a sad reality that the world is deeply broken. We look around and no one brings hope, true hope. Hope that things can be better; hope that things can change. We despair and grow cold.
So can we trust Jesus? Can we trust what he said? Can we trust what he did? There is a rich irony about Jesus’ life as it is observed from the modern/post-modern perspective. We struggle to believe that Jesus performed miracles. We wonder if he died on the cross for the sins of the world. We dare not believe he was resurrected. Our cynicism tells us these might be the fabrications of desperate followers clinging to a dead hope.
In Jesus’ time no one doubted that he performed miracles. They saw the dead brought back from life, they saw the lame walking, and they saw the blind seeing. There was no argument, even among his critics. Today, we wonder if Jesus was not some sham miracle worker inducing group hypnosis or planting people in the audience. We want empirical evidence of healings. However, if healings came with empirical evidence they would not be miraculous. So either way, we struggle to believe Jesus healed, and we certainly would struggle to believe Jesus was resurrected.
Jesus was crucified for his teachings and his messianic claims, not his miracles. It was these words and teachings that upset the religious elite and political rulers. Jesus’ miracles were no threat to their power, but his words were dangerous. They challenged the cultural power structures of the day. Properly understood, his words do that same thing today.
In a world saturated with sex, Jesus tells us not to even lust. In a world littered with loose speech, Jesus tells us to watch our tongue. In world brimming with material excess, Jesus tells us to be generous. In a world burning from gossip, Jesus tells us to love our enemies. In a world perverted with lies, Jesus tells us he is the truth. These ideas and others threaten our current world thinking. They create a sort of cognitive dissonance. This discomfort usually causes many to summarily disqualify Jesus in their minds. He just cannot be true. He is too good to be true. Or he is too difficult to follow.
There is one claim with which we all must contend. Jesus claimed to be the Son of God, the Savior of the World, the Way. Many dismiss this claim without giving it much thought or study. However, I challenge everyone to really take some time to consider his claim. To truly consider these claims, we must set aside our cynical, pessimistic worldview. We must study the life of Jesus because there is something different about him. Instead of reading articles and opinion pieces on Jesus’ life, read about his life.
Many have claimed to be the messiah, but they are easily discredited by their actions. Jesus is not so easily set aside. If Jesus claimed to be the truth, then he will stand up to the study, to the surveying. We must seek him with honesty, not lazy indifference.
A problem with our cynicism is we conflate truth with fact. We tend to believe facts are the deepest truths. We even use these terms interchangeably. To seek after truth, we first must be honest with ourselves. Deep in each of our hearts we desire truth, but we are fearful of the truth we might find or what the truth might mean for our life. Additionally, we must confess that truth cannot ultimately be found exclusively within ourselves. We cannot look inward and find objective truth.
As we study through John at Grace we see that Jesus found himself at odds with most of the religious. They did not like his teachings. They dismissed him as a power hungry hack; they betrayed him to the political world as an insurgent. I wonder if they ever stopped to consider if his outrageous claims were actually true. Where they honest about their motives? Where they fearful of change? If they had, what would have changed? If you did, what would change? Will you take the time to consider Jesus? His words change everything.