For the past several months, Maureen’s brother, her cousin and I have been having online discussions around the issue of raising the minimum wage. My position is that we to need to bring the minimum wage up to a living wage. I hold to the Keynesian economic model which suggests placing more money in the hands of the populous will ultimately stimulate and maintain economic growth. My brother-in-law and Maureen’s cousin hold to a different economic model and more or less believe what has become known as trickle-down economics which suggests as money accumulates at the top, more is invested in business and industry and in the end every one prospers.
Now you can imagine the discussions we have been having on line, we hold to different foundational truths, we foresee different outcomes based on the models we adhere to, and ultimately find no real agreement beyond agreeing to disagree.
As we read the Passion Narrative, we see a similar story playing out. Before Pontius Pilate stands Jesus of Nazareth. The Pharisees and the Chief Priests claim Jesus is a blasphemer, one who claims to be the Son of God, the King and rightful heir of the Jews and therefore a threat to the emperor. Jesus and his followers make no such claim. When questioned, Jesus deflects Pilate’s questions, and while not exactly denying the accusations, Jesus does claim another worldly kingship that Pilate neither understands, nor sees as a threat to the peace of Rome.
Ultimately, Pilate, when confronted by two competing realities, is forced to ask, “What is truth?”
What is truth? I find I am constantly asking that question. No matter what the event, no matter what the news story, no matter what the issue of the day is, in less time than it takes to flip the channels with a remote, we find two competing realities.
What is truth? In a world of polar opposites vying for our support, it is hard to know what truth looks like, let alone know where to find it.
There is however, one truth and that is what today points towards.
According to St. John, it is summed up in the simple statement, “that God so loved the world that he gave his only son so that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” For many of us, it is hard to accept this truth. How can God, the creator of all things, have lived among us so modestly? How could God have allowed His child to sleep in an eating trough, in a barn, on a cold winter’s night? How could God, the king and ruler of the universe, allow Godself to be beaten. to be mocked, to be forced to stand before us in the most non regal of raiment, a purple cloth for a robe, a weave of thorns for a crown and a bent reed for a scepter, and finally how can God use an instrument of torture, the cross, as a throne? This John tells us is what the authority of God looks like and acts like. This, John tells us, is the one we bow down to in obedience every day. This is our God, our ruler, our truth. And, it is unlike any other model of power or authority we have ever known.
It is this ultimate scene of degradation which affirms John’s most famous statement. This scene tells us to what length God is willing to go on our behalf. It tells us how great God’s love is for us.
It also tells us that the event we commemorate today, did not happen accidentally, but deliberately, as the final words of Jesus, according to John, are not “My God, My God,” or “into your hands” but “it is finished!” The divine plan of salvation has been completed. The bonds of sin are broken.
All we have to do to reap the benefits of this great embrace, is to believe, to “Love God with our whole hearts and souls, and to love our neighbors and enemies as ourselves.” And, finally, by trusting that through this divine act, new life can and does spring forth from death and with God a new heaven and a new earth are possible.