Sunday, November 22, 2012, Christ the King
At our school Mass on Thursday mornings, after I’ve preached awhile, and start to notice vacant stares on the children’s faces, I stop and say, “Okay, does anybody have any questions for me?” What follows is sometimes an Art Linkletter moment. Kids can say the darndest things, sometimes wise in their simplicity, and sometimes very thought provoking. Like when one child asked me “What’s the Bible about?”
How do you summarize the Bible in a sentence or two? It covers time from the creation to about 100 AD, seventy three separate books by about that many human authors, who were all inspired by the same Holy Spirit but who also employed their own particular human ways of expressing what the Holy Spirit prompted; a variety of literary methods and styles. There’s straight history and there’s mythology, there’s prophecy and poetry, there’s apocalyptic and parable.
As I was looking at today’s readings one way of summarizing the whole Bible occurred to me: ”Kids, we’ve been lied to.” I don’t mean that the Bible lies. The Bible tells the story about how the human race has been lied to, and what God is doing about it.
In the first book of the Bible, Genesis, within the first couple chapters the first great deception takes place. The Father of Lies and Prince of Darkness, Satan, slithers into the garden and sets to work on Eve. What is his lie? That God is not good and cannot be trusted. God has ulterior motives, suggests the deceiver, eat the fruit and you will see. Now skip ahead 73 books to the end of the last book of the Bible, Revelation, and you see Satan back at his old tricks. He is released from the abyss where he’s been chained up for a thousand years and he goes out to deceive the nations.
What is the effect of these deceptions? What is so serious about the lie that God is not good? Well, distrust of God leads to rejection of God, which leads to all the evils that have wracked the human race, all of the selfishness and greed, the dishonesty and violence. But the truth about God, that He is good and merciful, not out to get us but trying to help us, gives us confidence to repent and return to Him Who is life and sanity. The lie sucks us into a death spiral of despair. The truth pulls us free and saves us.
The Bible is about the truth overcoming the lie, and the truth was told most perfectly and completely by Jesus Christ. Considering how the Bible is bracketed front and back by the lies of Satan, what Jesus said to Pilate in today’s gospel, John chapter 18, sticks out as the climax of the whole story: ”For this I was born, for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth.” Jesus Christ, the Word of God, became incarnate in order to tell us the truth about God, not just with words but with His whole life, the way he trusted the heavenly Father. Even when the Father’s will seemed to verify Satan’s lie that God is not good, in the Gethsemane before He died, Jesus, in His human nature, still trusted that God is good. He prayed, “Not my will but thine be done.” He suffered and died, but then was raised from death to eternal life. What greater proof that God can be trusted? So in His words and in His death and resurrection, Christ is indeed the faithful witness, telling us the life-saving truth about God.
The truth sets us free. The lie had bound us up as slaves, the fear of death like chains on our hearts and minds. But the faithful witness liberates us, frees us from fear, and makes us faithful witnesses as well, telling the world, by our words and deeds, that God is good and can be trusted. And sometimes the price of our witness is steep. It has a way of provoking hostility and ridicule from the world that is still in chains. Pilate’s rejoinder, when his prisoner said he had come to testify to the truth, remains the classic expression of the world in chains, the world held captive by cynicism and brute force: “Truth, what is that?” Pilate made his prisoner pay a price for his witness. Sometimes we must pay it too. In times like that keep Christ before you, He Who died but rose again.
At any rate, that is how I might explain what the Bible is about. It’s about us. It’s our story. We’ve been lied to, but the Truth has come out, come out of heaven into our world, and He wins in the end.
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