Good Friday 2021 Homily
“Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice. Pilate saith unto him, What is truth?” (Jn. 18:37-38)
“And you shall know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (Jn. 8:32).
Freedom and truth go together, hand in hand. Freedom is not merely lack of constraint or the power of choice. Because it if were, truth would have no bearing on freedom. You wouldn’t need truth to be free. But Jesus says that you cannot be free apart from the truth. The truth is what makes a man free. And therefore, lies are what enslave. Lies are captivity. “Therefore my people are gone into captivity, because they have no knowledge…” (Is. 5:13).
The truth is what makes people free because then they may act and live in a way that corresponds to reality – the world as God actually made it. Truth is solid ground. Truth is true all the time, everywhere. Truth is granite. It holds fast. Truth reaches all the way to heaven. If something is really true, it is even true to God. Francis Schaeffer called this “true truth.” It’s true all the way the down, all the way up, all the time, everywhere, absolutely. So we may build on it. We may live in light of it. In this way, we may say that freedom is simply living honestly before God.
But a lie wants the world to be different than it actually is. If you lie about what happened yesterday, you are lying about history. If you lie about who you are, what she said, what he did, what you have done, what belongs to you, you’re attempting to twist the world into your control. A lie lays claim to rule the world. It may be a very small lie, a very small part of the world. But in that one place, a lie declares war on God and His world. And you cannot start only a very small war with the Ruler of the Universe because to declare war, any war against God is fundamentally to declare war on all of it.
A lie is also a false claim to absolute truth. It’s false, but it necessarily collides with God and His truth. Therefore, lies divide. And lies divide in the same way that truth divides. Either you believe or you do not. A lie makes an objective claim that people will either live according to it or not, just like the truth. But a lie hobbles you, hampers you, and ultimately enslaves you. In this way, a lie is always necessarily violent and coercive and full of malice.
“A lying tongue hateth those that are afflicted by it; and a flattering mouth worketh ruin” (Prov. 26:28). While God often restrains the impact of many lies, they all fundamentally are at war with God and His world and therefore are always ultimately attempts to ruin everything.
You may have seen the story on CNN this last week reporting on Gov. Kristi Noem’s executive orders in South Dakota prohibiting biological males from playing in women’s athletics. Quite apart from whatever is going on in South Dakota, in the article, the CNN reporter wrote: “It’s not possible to know a person’s gender identity at birth, and there is no consensus criteria for assigning sex at birth.” And as far as I know the writer still has his job at CNN, as do his bosses.
There are of course the surface lies about whether it’s possible to know someone’s gender identity at birth and whether there has been any consensus on assigning sex. But there are other lies underneath those lies: the assumption that a gender “identity” is even a thing to be discerned or that sex is something that is “assigned.” But underneath those lies are additional lies about the glory of male and female, the glory of the image of God. And beneath it all is a seething hatred of God, His image, and His world. But what is ironic is that all of these lies are begging for submission, begging for consensus. There is not consensus about whether someone is a boy or a girl, he claims, beckoning everyone to agree with him.
Lies always invite belief. The truth invites belief and freedom; every lie invites belief and slavery. But of course lies do not advertise the slavery part. Lies are almost always full of flattery. If you eat this fruit, you will become like god, knowing good and evil.
“For there is no faithfulness in their mouth; their inward part is very wickedness; their throat is an open sepulchre; they flatter with their tongue” (Ps. 5:9). Speaking of Israel, Psalm 78 says, “Nevertheless they did flatter him with their mouth, and they lied unto him with their tongues.” Flattery and lies go together. But the flattery and the lies are always a set up: “A man that flattereth his neighbour spreadeth a net for his feet” (Prov. 29:5).
The set up is this: if you don’t go along with my lie, there will be consequences, maybe initially just awkwardness, no friendliness, no compliments, no flattery. And if it’s just one person, that can be odd or challenging, but what we are witnessing in our day is the multiplication of lies on such a massive scale and widespread belief in them, such that now, to not believe the lies is to be considered a threat to the peace and unity of society. If you don’t believe that a man can put on a dress and become a woman, if you don’t believe that two men can be married, you are now a threat. You are a threat to the attempt to remake the world with lies. You are a threat to the consensus.
And many Christians say, why won’t they just leave us alone? You can do your thing over there, and we will do ours. But this is to radically misunderstand and underestimate the claims of truth and lies. And as the lies multiply, the liars frequently understand far better than the truth-tellers, that lies are absolute claims. Lies are necessarily absolute claims because they contradict God’s absolute truth.
This is why Christians must hate all lies. All lies, all deception, all falsehood is an attack on the living God, His world, and His people. Liars may not be consciously aware of the full extent of their rebellion, but it is there, all the same. Lies aim at the destruction of everything. To put up with a little bit deception is like putting up with a little bit of poison, a little be of nuclear fallout, a little bit of murder.
So tonight, we gather with Christians throughout the world to celebrate and proclaim the truth. We gather to sing and pray and hear once more the Truth of the crucifixion of the Son of God. But this is not just a small truth. It is the Truth, the truest Truth of them all. That God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son. And that Son, who is the Truth of God, willingly laid His life down for the sins of the world. The Truth became a Man so that the lies of men might condemn Him, slander Him, mock Him, beat Him, and kill Him. And that True Man let them do it because He intended to take all their lies, all our lies and crush them.
If you are a descendent of Adam and Eve, you have been born into a world full of lies. And you have trafficked in them from time to time, whether in the world around you, whether in your own heart, or in your words, or in what you have been willing to think or do or believe. And that world of lies is not freedom. It is only chains, and snares, and threats, and ruin.
But Jesus came to set you free. He came to set this world free. He did not come to flatter you. He did not come to tell you lies. He came to tell you the honest truth, which is that you are the problem, your sin and rebellion are the problem, and you have committed treason against God and you deserve to die. But the truth is also that God is love. He is not the love of Hallmark movies or Disney. He is not the fake love that is only sentiment and feeling and emotion. He is not the fake love of mask mandates only wanting everyone to feel good or look like He was doing good. No, He is true love, truthful love, honest love, and He came to actually do good. He came to do what needed to be done, not what anyone thought He should have done. He came to take to the penalty for your sin. He came to bear God’s wrath against your rebellion. He came to tell the truth about your lies. He came to suffer what you deserved.
And so He did. And it is finished. If you look to the Truth on the Tree, the Lamb of God, you can see your sins there. You can see all of your lies there. You can see your guilt and shame there, dead on the cross. And you should also notice that Jesus is no longer there. He is alive. All of this is true. It is true all the way down, and all the way up, and all the way into the throne room of God, now, and every day, and forever. And all the lies in the world cannot change it. Nothing can take it away. Nothing can separate you from that love.
And so, all of this is why Christians must not put up with lies: whether pronouns, or history, or creation, or sex, or marriage, or money, or Christ. Christians may not go along with any lies. Lies are at war with God. Lies are at war with His Cross, with His Christ, with His church. And so we are at war with all lies because we have been made free by the truth.