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Sunday Night Live Sermons

HOLDING TO TRUTH IN A DECEITFUL SOCIETY

Who He Really Is

John 18:1-28
3rd October 2004

Nothing has dismayed us more in the past three days than the fact that 200 adults including police, school teachers, a clergyman and a church youth worker have been arrested and charged with 2000 accounts of child pornography and some with child-abuse. In the last forty-eight hours two people charged during the nationwide crackdown on child pornography, have taken their own lives. Dozens of those charged have appeared in courts around Australia. A Queensland policeman committed suicide after being charged. A man in Western Australia has also committed suicide. A Victorian man has also been found dead after being interviewed over child pornography allegations. A second Victorian, a prison officer, has also been found dead after being questioned by police. Above all else these men feared being in prison because they know of the violence against “rock-spiders” from other prisoners.

In Sydney, a church youth pastor who was a teacher at a Sydney Christian school was found to have also secretly videotaped female pupils undressing in a change room at the school with a miniature camera behind a two-way mirror in a change room. He is likely to be jailed if convicted. He was one of seven Sydney teachers among 29 NSW men arrested in the raids. Angry police have revealed that a quarter of those arrested over child pornography allegations last week had walked free for similar crimes before. In Melbourne the owner of three childcare centres was arrested on child pornography charges. Victoria Police also said a primary teacher and an Anglican minister had been stood down by their employers and would face pornography charges.

Many claim there is no harm in looking at child porn. Many voyeurs of internet child pornography rationalise their viewing on the ground it is a victimless crime. Some argue on civil liberties grounds that it is a private matter, not a crime. They see the children, not as someone’s child but as a object for their sexual gratification. Sexually abused children still suffer from the abuse, the loss of confidence and trust. Many such children shut down to survive and atttempt suicide. The harm to the children involved is incalculable. Behind every pornographic image of a child is an untold story of suffering. Those watching child pornography have irresponsible and immature behaviour. It is not known what proportion of voyeurs become child sex offenders. But a high proportion of offenders use child pornography regularly.

Behind every act is an adult who is intent on de-sensitizing children, sexualizing them, and tricking them into believing child sexual acts are normal. It is a deceitful society that lies to children constantly. It is part of a bigger problem of living in a deceitful society. This election has heard much spoken about trust. The Morgan Gallop Poll No 1706 reveals that only 14% of people trust Federal politicians for truthfulness and ethics. The most deceitful people are politicians, journalists, advertising people, trade union organizers and used car salesmen. We live in an increasingly deceitful society. The signs of hope are few compared with the decline in public morality in our deceitful society. In a deceitful society where is truth? It is hard to find an honest man who will face a deceitful society with absolute integrity.

Yet that is precisely the scene in the judgement area of the palace of the Roman Governor Pilate who was in power in Jerusalem when Jesus of Nazareth was brought before him. On the raised platform or bema stood the large judgement seat from which Roman justice was dispensed. The Governor had been fetched from his slumbers as the first roosters crowed at the dawn of what was to be forever known as “Good Friday”. Throughout the night, Jesus had been dragged through a series of illegal trials among the powerbrokers of the Jewish religious system. Old Annas had examined him in the High Priest’s House. He was the godfather of an ecclesiastical dynasty that had seen his five sons appointed High Priest. Jesus was then roughly dragged next door and before the current High Priest, the crafty Caiaphas, who was the son-in-law of Annas.

After being hit and abused, Jesus was roughly taken to the Council chamber of The Sanhedrin, where a hastily assembled group, met illegally in a pre-dawn assembly to hear the High Priest’s report of his examination of Jesus. Before the Sanhedrin, Caiaphas declared that it was essential for the sake of the nation that Jesus be put to death immediately and charged him with blasphemy, threatening to destroy the temple, threatening the peace, claiming to be king, and representing himself as the Son of God. They did not need a fair trial. What they needed was a verdict! The Sanhedrin had no power to crucify Jesus, so they sought the Roman Governor to grant execution quickly before the people were aware what was happening.

Jesus was quickly dragged, still bound, from the Sanhedrin around the Temple area to the Tower of Antonia in the first light before sunrise. The Jews handed Jesus over the Roman guards to take him into the Roman Governor, then stepped back lest they defile themselves by walking on Roman territory. Little matter they were already defiling themselves by walking all over human rights in this travesty of justice! Pontius Pilate examined Jesus and then sent Him back out to the Jews declaring he could find no fault in Jesus, nothing worthy of death. But the Jews sent him back, with a thinly veiled threat that if Pilate did not find Jesus guilty of destroying the peace and sentence Him to death, then the High Priests and Sanhedrin would themselves report Pilate to Rome as being indifferent to the threat of Roman security in the region. Pilate tried to avoid the issue of having the visiting King Herod make the decision, but while Herod would amuse himself with the well-known prisoner, Herod was not going to make an unpopular decision when Jesus was really in Pilate’s territory.

Pilate tried to release Jesus, as part of an amnesty granting a prisoner release each Passover, but the Jews would have no part of that. They would rather have a patriot, Jesus Barabbas, arrested for offences against the Romans, released instead of Jesus. They did not know Pilate had his own inner struggle, as Pilate’s wife urged him to release Jesus, as she dreamed of trouble if anything was done to Jesus. But faced with the blackmail of the scheming priests, he dismissed his wife’s fears and handed Jesus over to be crucified.

There on the Lithostratos, or Gabbatha, the viceregal Pilate, clothed in his leather, purple robe and brass faced his prisoner, whose hands were bound behind, his head and face bloodied, wearing only a seamless, homespun robe. Their eyes were steady for they each knew the reasons Pilate would deny justice rather than be questioned by his superiors from Rome. Truth, justice, integrity were being sacrificed for expediency. Pilate asked: “Are you the king of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Does this question come from you or have others told you about me?” Pilate replied: “Do you think I am a Jew? It was your own people and chief priests who handed you over to me. What have you done?”. Jesus said: “My Kingdom does not belong to this world; if My Kingdom belonged to this world, My followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish authorities. No, my Kingdom does not belong here!”. So Pilate asked him: “Are you a king then?”. Jesus answered, “You say that I am a King. I was born and came into the world for this one purpose, to speak about the truth. Whoever belongs to the truth listens to me.” “And what is truth?” Pilate asked.” Without waiting for an answer, he walked out to the Jews and washed his hands of the whole matter. (John 18:33-38)

Jesus response and Pilate’s question are as valid today as at anytime in human history. Truth was integral to the nature and purpose of Jesus “I was born and came into the world for this one purpose, to speak about the truth. Whoever belongs to the truth listens to me.” In a deceitful society why is truth essential?

Jesus claimed that His character and purpose in coming into the world was integral to the propagation of truth. “I was born and came into the world for this one purpose, to speak about the truth.” His character was truthful. He was a person of total integrity, and an advocate of living a life of truth. So His followers are committed to developing truthful characters. Further His task was to speak about the truth. “…this one purpose, to speak about the truth.” No one ever accused Jesus of speaking a lie. Like Jesus, we should witness to God whose very nature is truth and to Jesus who said: “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.” Further still, His followers were those who would listen to truth. “Whoever belongs to the truth listens to Me.”

Jesus claimed that those who belonged to truth would listen to His word, and those who sought after truth would ultimately find Him. Watch a person who does not listen to truth nor seeks the way of Jesus. People who ignore truth cannot be trusted. Those who live by the values of this world sneer at the necessity of truth: “And what is truth?” they ask with Pilate. Their characters are untouched by truth, their tasks do not take truth into account, and neither do they listen to truth. But those who follow the way of Jesus commit their lives to Him knowing that truth is essential to character, that truth is essential in the fulfilling of our purpose, and that those who listen to truth belong to Jesus Christ. When John first described the coming of Jesus, he described Jesus as “full of grace and truth”. People who knew Jesus knew Him as a Man of absolute integrity.

How we Christians should seek that same character and how our deceitful world desperately needs it.

“Jesus, whose lot with us was cast,
who saw it out from first to last:
Patient and fearless, tender, true,
Carpenter, vagabond, felon, Jew;
Who, as your hour neared, did not fail —
The world’s fate trembling in the scale —
With your half-hearted band to dine,
And chat across the bread and wine;
Then went out firm to face the end,
Alone, without a single friend:
Who felt, as your last words confessed,
Wrung from a proud, unflinching breast
By hours of dull, ignoble pain,
Your whole life’s fight was fought in vain:
Would I could win and keep and feel
That heart of love, that Spirit of steel.” (Anon.)

That is the character of Jesus Christ that we should emulate. In a deceitful society we should hold onto truth. For when we seek truth we find Jesus Christ, and when we hold onto truth in a world that is falling apart, we are holding onto Him. Families, children and adults are suffering all over Australia because of the deceit of some. Determine now to be a person of absolute integrity and trustworthiness by becoming of fully committed follower of Jesus, who is the way, the truth and the Life.

REFERENCES

  • The Sydney Morning Herald. 4/5.10.2004.

 

Wesley Mission, Sydney.