Truth Incarnate
Tuesday of Easter 2
10 April 2018
If there is right teaching in the church, it is the gift of a gracious God. No human can vouchsafe the divine truth, because it is God's to give and assure. So close are God and His truth, that the incarnate Christ names Himself "the truth" (Jn 14:6). He does not merely have the truth; He is it. Because He is the truth, Christ can also make the exclusive claim that the world has always found so offensive, "No one comes to the Father except through me" (Jn 14:6). Christ's exclusive claims must all come together in a bundle. His truth cannot be distinguished from His claim to be the only way to the Father. He cannot be only the truth and not also the way to heaven or vice versa. Both claims are indistinguishable. No wonder so many people have called into question the truthfulness of Jesus, for by questioning His truthfulness they have opened the possibility that there are many paths to heaven and salvation.
But our Lord Jesus wants us to have the truth. If He is the truth and He saves, to say that we are not interested in the truth, means we want neither Him nor His salvation. Yet, that is exactly the contention of so many Christian preachers today, who are not interested in the truth, as much as in what gains a hearing, draws a crowd, scratches itching ears, fills the stadium seating, or sells books. In a previous age, this was called pandering to the crowd. Now it is called smart marketing. The question is what would Jesus call it? Doctrinally, it is the wolf in sheep's clothing or Satan appearing as an angel of light (2Co 11:14). It looks good, like the wolf swathed in a fleece or the shining angelic brilliance that can sometimes cloak the father of lies.
Some years ago, while my family and I were white water rafting in Colorado, the guide chatted up the people on the raft to get their personal stories. In the other party on the raft was a woman who revealed that she had written a book about near death experiences. She said that she herself had seen a shining, angelic presence while she was "dead." She monologued quite a while about this experience and her, uh, less than orthodox theological views that she had extrapolated from her experience. Afterward, the guide asked me what I did and when she discovered I was a Lutheran pastor, she immediately solicited my views about what the author had seen while "dead." While trying to be as diplomatic as I could (we had to spend the next few hours on the same raft), I pointed out that not everything that looks beautiful and shining is really a presence sent from God and St. Paul had warned the Corinthians that "even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light" (2Co 11:14). Then I went on to say that we don't need evidence from the "other side," because Christ, the living truth, had come to dwell among us born of the virgin Mary and made known all things that come from the Father (Jn 1:18). We Christians don't need the wolf in sheep's clothing, or a lovely Satan, but we need the good Shepherd who lays down His life for the sheep, so that they would have the truth in Him.
The Satan of Mel Gibson's "Passion of the Christ," was just right, sometimes androgynously beautiful, sometimes repulsively ugly. Against our human expectation, God's truth is ugly, not lovely at all. Go to Golgotha. What is beautiful there? It is a blood-splattered execution ground. Yet there the salvation of the world was won. There truth defeated mere loveliness. There a side riven to pour forth blood and water cleansed the world of death's power (Jn 19:34). There a man bloodied and beaten rasped out of a parched throat a universal absolution for all wickedness (Lk 23:34). There God's Son assumed the ugliness of death into Himself only to cry its defeat in a word (Jn 19:30). There is the truth incarnate, who "leads me in the right path" (Ps 23:3)

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

   Martin Luther
"David says, 'The Lord does not stop with feeding me in a green pasture and leading me to the fresh water and thus restoring my soul. He also leads me in the right paths so that I may not go astray, get into the wilderness, and thus perish. That is, He keeps me in pure doctrine, that I may not be misled by false spirits nor fall away from it because of temptation or offense; that I may know how I am to walk and live outwardly and not take offense at the holiness and the strict lives of hypocrites; and that I may also know what is the right doctrine, faith, and worship.'
"Another fine fruit and power of the clear Word is this: those who cling to it firmly not only receive from it strength and comfort for their souls, but are also protected against false doctrine and false holiness. Many, it is true, receive this treasure but without being able to keep it. For when a man becomes smug and presumptuous and thinks he is safe, he will soon be lost; before he can look about, he has been led astray. The devil can also assume holiness and disguise himself, as St. Paul says (2Co 11:14), as 'an angel of light.' His servants, then, pretend to be preachers of righteousness and enter the flock of Christ in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves (Mt 7:15). Therefore we should watch and pray, as the prophet does in the last verse, that our Shepherd would keep us true to the treasure He has given us. Those who fail in this surely lose the treasure, and, as Christ says (Lk 11:26), their last state becomes worse than the first. For later they become the most venomous foes of Christianity and do much more harm with their false doctrine than the tyrants do with the sword. St. Paul indeed learned this from the false prophets who led his Corinthians and Galatians astray for a time and later carried off all of Asia (2Ti 1:15)." 
Martin Luther, Psalm 23, 23.3
1 Timothy 4:6-16

If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed. Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe. Command and teach these things. Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. Practice these things, devote yourself to them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.
Lord, do not stop with feeding me in a green pasture and leading me to the fresh water and thus restoring my soul. Lead me in the right paths so that I may not go astray, get into the wilderness, and perish. Keep me in the pure doctrine, that I may not be misled by false spirits nor fall away from it because of temptation or offense. Show me how to walk and live outwardly and not take offense at the false holiness of hypocrites. Send Your Spirit that I might also know what is the right doctrine, faith, and worship. Amen.
For all Christian pastors, that they might be upheld by the Lord their God
For all those who have been deluded by preachers who have led them astray, that the eternal truth of Christ would call them back to the arms of the good Shepherd
For Michael Koutsodontis, that the Lord Jesus would be with him granting him peace and strength
Art: GRÜNEWALD, Matthias,  Resurrection (c. 1515)
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2018
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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