Sermon- Sunday, Nov. 25, 2012
Zion Lutheran Church, Hoople, ND
The tension in the courtroom is at its peak. As you watch the scene unfold you hold your breath. You’re on the edge of your seat. Everyone is. What will the response be? Will the truth come out? The scene I am referring to is the courtroom drama in the movie A Few Good Men. Col. Jessup, played by Jack Nicholson, is on trial for ordering the murder of a marine. Up until now the inexperienced military lawyer, Lt. Kaffee , played by Tom Cruise, hasn’t been able to come up with enough evidence to convict Col. Jessup. So he decided to ask him directly – or should I say hammer the question – as to whether he ordered the marine killed. After a few tense minutes of badgering Col. Jessup finally yells out the famous line, “you can’t handle the truth!” It’s the most famous line in the whole movie. Perhaps one of the most famous lines in Hollywood. It’s pretty fitting for today’s gospel text.
In John’s gospel today we’re listening in on a courtroom drama too, only it’s not a fictional one. It’s real. Pilate is going back and forth between the “courtroom” if you will with Jesus and outside with the crowd. Pilate wants answers. He asks, “Are you the King of the Jews?” “What have you done?” “So you are a king?” Pilate wants answers, but is it really Jesus who is on trial here or is it Pilate? It’s Pilate who can’t handle the truth.
Pilate is standing face to face with the truth and he can’t even see it. He can’t even hear it. But deep down, deep in the recesses of his soul, Pilate knows the truth. Why else would he be asking Jesus so many questions? Why would Pilate be so torn between letting Jesus go and giving the crowd what they wanted? Somewhere deep inside Pilate knows what the truth is and who the truth is, but he doesn’t want to admit it. To admit the truth would be to condemn himself – to admit that he had sold out for power and control – and so he gives in to the will of the crowd. If he gives them what they want then Pilate’s job is secure.
That’s what is at stake for Pilate. If Jesus is a king, Pilate sees it as an earthly kingdom. He doesn’t want to lose his power, his authority. Jesus threatened Pilate’s security and Pilate wasn’t willing to relinquish his power to anyone. So Pilate maintains his control by giving the crowd what they want. At least that’s what he convinces himself. He mockingly says to Jesus, “What is truth?” Pilate can’t handle the truth –even when it is staring him in the face.
And what about us? Can we handle the truth? Do we truly believe that Jesus is our King? Do we believe that Jesus is in control of our lives and that everything we are and everything we have belongs to Jesus? We say in the Lord’s Prayer – Thy will be done – but do we really mean that? Are we ready to accept the consequences of uttering that prayer?
If we truly mean the words of that prayer, we are relinquishing control of our lives to God. We are asking for the kingdom of God to take place here on earth as it is in heaven. The kingdom of God is very different than the ones we humans want to be in control of.
Jesus said, “My kingdom is not from this world.” Even as Christians, it’s so easy to get sucked into the kingdom of this world. We just enjoyed Thanksgiving, a holiday set aside to give thanks to God for all we have been blessed with and yet stores like Walmart opened up at 8:00pm Thursday night to rush in the holiday shopping season. So employees couldn’t spend a quiet evening at home on a holiday with their families. That is not the kingdom of God.
And the news reported more fights and riots as people worked their way into a frenzy of consumerism. People are searching for truth in all the wrong places. That is not the kingdom of God.
People are killing one another in wars over land. Companies are treating employees as disposable items rather than valuing their worth and dignity. And Christians are fighting with one another over the right traditions. That is not the kingdom of God.
The kingdom of God is where truth is revealed, where human worth is treasured more than material gain, where peace is valued more than power, where forgiveness is offered over anger, where compassion is shown rather than revenge, where love is given without exception.
That’s what we’re praying for when we say Thy will be done. We’re asking for the kingdom of God to take place here on earth, in, among and through each one of us. That’s no small prayer. They are words of power and truth.
What is truth? Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. The truth is that He died so that we may have eternal life. The truth is that we are children of God and that God loves each and every one of us unconditionally – just the way we are – no exceptions. God knows the secrets we hide from others and ourselves, yet loves us anyway. The truth is that Jesus promised to be with us always and because of that truth we can face whatever circumstances come our way. We can face the truth by looking into the face of truth in Jesus. Amen.