"It Is Finished!" – Lent 2015
The Truth, the Whole Truth, and Nothing But the Truth
A sermon based on Zechariah 8:16-17
Sunday, March 8, 2015 – Lent 3B
The witness took the stand. Beads of sweat formed on his head. He didn't know what to do. If he told the truth, he would surely be in trouble. He knew what he did was illegal and he did it anyway. But if he lied, and got caught in that lie, he knew he would be in even more trouble. What should he do?
Then the bailiff asked him to raise his right and place his left on the Bible. He asked the witness, "Do you solemnly swear or affirm that you will tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth… so help you God?"
God loves the truth and hates lies. Satan hates the truth and is the father of lies. Lies destroy reputations, lose property, take lives, and damn to hell. So God hates lies and loves the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. But that's not always what he gets. Our Holy Week prophecy for this morning is taken from Zechariah 8:16-17…
16 These are the things you are to do: Speak the truth to each other, and render true and sound judgment in your courts; 17 do not plot evil against your neighbor, and do not love to swear falsely. I hate all this," declares the Lord.
Hundreds of years before the events took place, Zechariah described the events of Jesus' suffering and death with such clarity. Now, today's prophecy isn't a direct prophecy fulfilled in something Jesus did, but nevertheless, as we read God's expectations of his people given through Zechariah, we can't help but think of the miscarriage of justice carried out in Jesus' trials. We just read Matthew 26:27-60:
57 Those who had arrested Jesus took him to Caiaphas, the high priest, where the teachers of the law and the elders had assembled. 58 But Peter followed him at a distance, right up to the courtyard of the high priest. He entered and sat down with the guards to see the outcome.
59 The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for false evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death. 60 But they did not find any, though many false witnesses came forward…
What a horrible miscarriage of justice! Slanderous lies were told about the sinless Son of God in order to incriminate him and sentence him to death by torture, when he not only did nothing to deserve the death penalty, but was always perfectly loving to everyone!
Ah, but it wasn't just at Jesus' trial that God has had to put up with lies…
I. Tell the Truth
You know the story of the boy who cried wolf. He lied and he lied again. But his lies caught up with him when finally no one would believe him when he really did need help. Well, how about us, don't we too lie and lie so that God should never believe what we say.
You may object, "Not me. I'm an honest person. I tell the truth to my family and my co-workers. I don't lie to customers and I don't make a promise to my kids when I don't know if I can keep it." Ah, but don't we lie to God?
We perjure ourselves before God when we cry, "God I'm sorry. I'm so sorry for my sin. I promise I'll never do that again," but then run back to do the same sin again. We swear to God, "Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will." (Matthew 26:33) But then we break our promise and fall away.
You know that the word, "amen," means "truth." That's what you and I declare at the end of our prayers. We say, "I believe this to be true and claim it for myself."
That's what you say when you pray, "Hallowed be thy name," that you will do all that you can to keep God's name holy in your life. That you will do all you can to share his name with other.
That's what you say when you pray, "Thy Kingdom come," that you want God to have more control in your life and for you to have less.
That's what you say when you pray, "Thy will be done," that your will be frustrated every time it's contrary to God's and that you don't get your way.
That's what you say when you pray, "Give us this day our daily bread," that you will be content with the blessings that God gives us even if it were to only be the bare necessities that I need to live for just today.
"Amen. It is true." We all declare. But is it? Do you swear to tell the truth? … The whole truth? … Nothing but the truth? … So help you God?
We didn't lie about Jesus when he was on trial to try to condemn him to death, but nevertheless, he was condemned to death for our lies and for our sins. It was our lies that he went to the cross. Do you swear to tell the truth, so help you God? Then we deserve no help from God for all of our lies.
For, "There is no one righteous, not even one… there is no one who does good, not even one." "Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit." "The poison of vipers is on their lips." (Romans 3:10-13)
So if we were to stand on trial before God, we know what the verdict would be. "Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God." (Romans 3:19)
But thank God that even though we don't speak the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, Go helps us so! He has revealed to us the truth about our Savior…
II. Believe the Truth
From Annas to Caiphas to Pilate to Herod and back to Pilate again, Jesus was passed from one trial to the next with four separate Judges. And not a one of them sought the truth. No defense lawyer came to his aid. The prosecution spewed lies, which were so obvious that Jesus' innocence was well established in every case. The only one who spoke the truth at Jesus' trials was Jesus.
And so he was condemned. Even though at any time he could have knocked the entire courtroom to floor with a single word! Even though he could snapped his bonds with such ease that it would have made Samson look like a wimp! Even though he could have walked right out of the room parting his captors like Moses parted the sea. But Jesus allowed the slander, the injustice, the lies, and the mistrials that all led to his execution… to save us from our sins. This truth sets us free.
Jesus never told a lie. He always spoke the truth. He always spoke the truth in love—even when he knew that truth would not be well received. Jesus always spoke according to God's Word. And he gives his perfect truth-telling record to us liars. And he took every one of our lies on himself and was sentenced to the death penalty for our crimes. But he did it all willingly—gladly even!—to rescue us from our sin.
You know the Hebrew of Zechariah 8:16 where the NIV translates,"Render true and sound judgment," it literally says, "Make true judgments and a judgment for peace." That's what God has done. He has made a judgment against his own Son for peace—a unjust judgment, as Jesus took the fall for all the evil we've done, and we get the credit for all the good he's done—a judgment that brings us peace with God.
So we are redeemed. We are forgiven. Because he who was innocent took the fall, we who are guilty are set free, just like Barabbas was. This is the truth. This is most certainly true.
So don't believe satan's lies. Don't believe satan's lie that sin is no big deal. Your sin—your little white lie—was enough to cause Jesus' death and damnation on the cross. But don't believe satan's lie that your sin is too big to forgive. Jesus has paid it all. As John so succinctly put it, "If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:8-9) This is the truth! Jesus is the truth!
And Jesus is your life! So live for him! Live for him by telling the truth. Speak the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth—in thanks to God for so helping you! Speak the truth in love.
Speak the truth of your sin, to God and to those you've wronged, accepting the consequences, but rejoicing in the truth of absolution. Speak the truth of forgiveness to the one who's wronged you, in response to the truth that Jesus has forgiven you. Speak the truth to your friend about the situation he's in. Gently point out the sin. Speak the truth of Jesus' love to your neighbor. Tell her what Jesus has done.
Yes, speak the truth. Speak the whole truth. Speak nothing but the truth. So help you God. May God help you do this and give you the courage to always speak the truth in love in thanks to him for the lies he allowed to rescue us. In his name, dear friends, this is most certainly true. Amen.