Do you remember the movie Searching for Bobby Fischer? There’s a moment in the great chess match near the end of the film when Lawrence Fishburne’s character is watching his prodigy struggle in battle against his archrival. Finally, when Fishburne sees a look in the face of his student (played by Max Pomeranc—who?) that suggests he’s figured out the board and the right strategy for success, he yells out, “There it is!” It’s such a loud and forceful declaration in a moment of quiet tension that it still rings in my mind even though I haven’t seen the movie (or the scene) in 10 years.
Sometimes in the gospel I get bogged down in the dialogue—especially in John. I think I like the story of Jesus because it’s just that—a story…and one with lots of drama and action. For the last few days, we’ve been reading one of the several discourses of Jesus, and I’ve felt kind of stuck in the “he-bears-witness-to-me” conversation between Jesus and the Pharisees. As I made my way through today’s lesson (John 8:21-32), I was thinking that I would need to write on idols again (see the OT lesson—Jeremiah 10:11-24) as nothing in this gospel lesson grabbed me, until…
The truth will set you free. There it is! Well, sort of. It’s a powerful statement of Jesus that begs for attention. I think this verse is one of those snippets of literature whose author I am never quite sure of. Was it Jesus? (In this case, yes.) But I might have been Shakespeare or Franklin. Or maybe, given this particular quotation, it may have been King. But as we see, in fact, this time it’s Jesus. Well, sort of.
Jesus doesn’t only say, “The truth will set you free.” Actually, there’s more to it than that: “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth and the truth will make you free.” As the author of this morning’s Forward Day by Day reflection suggests, we might want to ask ourselves a la Pontius Pilate, “What is Truth?” When we throw the phrase around, wielding it as a rhetorical device to suit our needs, we assume that “Truth” means rightness, justice, exactness, correctness. And, as Jesus uses it, it does have some of that element, but there’s also more. Truth, as he intends it, has its roots in discipleship. “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth…”
Knowledge of the truth comes from following Jesus, from remaining in his word. We must live there and inhabit that place of his teaching that leads us into truth. I think truth is a process. It’s not some magic answer or solution that will free us from bondage. It’s a life lived in response to the gospel. The truth of the matter is that God loves us and wants to free us from our sin. But that’s not as easy as it sounds. Well, sort of. In one way, it is as easy as it sounds—grace is easy. But, in another very real way, living in that place of discipleship and allowing one’s life to be molded and shaped by the gospel so that what remains is truth—the kind of truth that sets us free not only in the next life but also in this one—is tough. At least it is for me. But that’s our calling.