Dishonesty seems to be a major part of politics and election campaigns. This is nothing new.
The German statesman Otto von Bismarck famously said, “People never lie so much as after a hunt, during a war or before an election.”
It has often been said that the first casualty in a war is the truth.
Jesus loved the truth. He often used the phrase, “I tell you the truth.” This phrase is in all four Gospels, and by some counts it appears 78 times. Here are just four examples.
Matthew 21:21 – “I tell you the truth, if you have faith and don’t doubt, you can do things like this and much more.”
Mark 10:15 – “I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.”
Luke 4:24 – “I tell you the truth, no prophet is accepted in his own hometown.”
John 6:47 – “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes has eternal life.”
And in our Scripture reading this morning, John 14:12 – “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works.”
Jesus speaks the truth and we can trust him. Also, in many of the places where he uses this phrase it is a signal that Jesus is not telling us a parable. When Jesus says you will do the same works as he did if you believe in him, he is not using a metaphor. He means it literally.
The word translated here as truth is a Hebrew word that is also translated as ‘truly’, ‘verily’ and ‘I assure’. The word is directly related – in fact, almost identical – to the Hebrew word for ‘believe’ (amam) or ‘faithful’. Thus, it came to mean ‘sure’ or ‘truly’, an expression of absolute trust and confidence. It means ‘firm’, which is to say trustworthy.
So important was this Hebrew word that it is not translated in the Greek Bible and is often not translated in the English Bible. We still use exactly the same word as Jesus used.
For example, this word appears 152 times in the King James Bible. In 101 cases it is translated ‘verily’, and 51 times is it not translated at all. The word is ‘amen’.
It has remained unchanged through all these translations partly because it is so hard to translate the meaning accurately.
The other use that has been passed down from Jewish tradition is to use the word ‘amen’ at the end of a prayer to mean ‘so be it’ or ‘may it be fulfilled’. This is used to show we are in agreement and it makes the prayer our own.
When Jesus speaks the truth he is accurately describing reality.
Jesus says in verse one that his disciples needn’t worry, “Trust in God, and trust also in me.” He means of course that it is not a vain hope, but that if we trust him it is truly worthwhile.
Jesus is telling his disciples that they need have no doubt that what he is telling them will become reality. In fact, in the spiritual realms it is already a reality.
He would not tell us if it were untrue. There really is a place for us. Jesus really is preparing it for us. Jesus really is coming back to get us.
When he takes us to that place, we really will live there for ever more with Jesus.
Jesus tells his disciples that they know the way to that place. Thomas complains that he has no idea of the way. Jesus had told them, but Thomas seems to have either forgotten or he didn’t understand what Jesus meant.
To answer their doubts and help them believe, Jesus then says a little more about the way.
Look with me at verse 6 – “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”
Jesus is the way. He is also the truth. He is also the life.
This time it is a different word that is translated as truth. The Greek word is al-ay’-thi-a. It is used to mean reality. Truth as opposed to deceit or falsehood.
This same word, al-ay’-thi-a, is translated as truth in John 4:24 – “God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.”
And in John 8:32 – “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
Not only does Jesus speak the truth, but he is the truth. What exactly does Jesus mean by that?
How do we worship in truth? How does the truth set us free?
Jesus was the truth, and we have to be like Jesus. This means we must also be the truth.
Now that we know there are two different kinds of truth – amen and al-ay’-thi-a – it should help us to understand this and similar verses.
Of course it is important to tell the truth, and politicians ought to tell the truth. We all ought to tell the truth. What is really important, however, is to be the truth.
Telling the truth is an intellectual matter of correctly and accurately conveying facts. In a spiritual sense it is shining a light. This is not the same as being the light.
Being the truth is completely different. Like being the light.
Being the truth is being reality. Reality is another word for truth.
Jesus said he was reality.
You probably look at the world around you and think it is real. You look at the person next to you or in the person in the mirror, and you think they are real.
Jesus says he is real. The only real person is Jesus. What we mean by this is that only Jesus is exactly how God made people to be. Jesus is perfect. The rest of us are poor copies of people. We are fake people, if you like. Insubstantial.
God says he made humans in his own image. If you want to know what a human in God’s image looks like, you have to look at a real human being. You have to look at a true human being. Jesus is a true human being. He is the truth. He is in every way God’s image.
For us to become true people, we have to get rid of all that is false in our lives.
We have to worship in truth (John 4:24). That means to truly worship God the way he wants to be worshipped. Read Hosea 6:6 for some thoughts about true worship. “I want you to show love, not offer sacrifices. I want you to know me more than I want burnt offerings.”
The truth will set us free (John 8:32). We are not set free by accurate knowledge. It is not intellectual truth that sets us free from sin. We are set free by being filled with the light of truth and becoming true people. As all falsehood and lies are driven out by the light and love of God, we become people of truth. We become people filled with light.
There will be no more sin in us. We will have become the truth, and we will be truly free.
It is good to have accurate and correct knowledge of God and Jesus. What sets us free though is the truth. Jesus sets us free. Jesus makes us like him, and will shall forever be free.
What does this look like? Jesus says it looks like him. “I am in the Father and the Father is in me.” God is truth. Jesus is truth. You are becoming truth every time there is more of God and less of self in you.
Our relationship with Christ (and not just moral truths) is what sets us free from the sins that enslave us.