Connections 05.13.2018: True News

John 17:6-19

We live in a strange time, truth-wise. A lot of people seem to live according to the principle of “It’s true if I want it to be true.” And their desire for it to be true depends on their preconceived notions. This seems especially applicable to politics, but it’s not confined to any one area.

We hear a lot about “fake news.” The best I can tell, when people call something “fake news,” they usually mean it doesn’t fit the narrative they would prefer to be true and/or would like other people to believe. So “fake news” as they use the term doesn’t mean “non-factual” or “false” news; it means “undesirable” or “non-preferred” news. (At the risk of coining an oxymoron, “real fake news” is “news” that is fabricated for propaganda purposes.)

I suppose some people would contend that Christians decide what is true according to their preconceived notions too, but we’d have to ask which Christians and what preconceived notions they’re talking about. I’ve noticed that many people who also profess to be Christians have very different preconceived notions than I do, and vice-versa.

But most, if not all, of us do share this preconceived notion: Jesus is our Lord and Savior. Since we believe that, we also agree that Jesus is the truth. After all, he said he is (Jn 14:6). And we’ve bet our lives that he is who the Gospels say he is.

I think we have an obstacle to overcome in understanding what it means for Jesus to be the truth, which is that we tend to think about truth in terms of statements. So for Jesus to be the truth is for Jesus to say true things. Now, no doubt Jesus did tell the truth in everything he said. But here’s the problem with majoring on truth statements: we end up thinking that what matters the most is that we say the right things about Jesus or about anything related to God. And before you know it, we’re judging other people according to what they say about God, Jesus, and Christianity: unless you say it right (meaning: like I do), we can’t be in this thing together.

Jesus told the truth. The truth he told grew out of the life he lived on the earth and the life he had before he came here. But Jesus’ truth is primarily relational. He came to the world out of his close relationship with the Father, and he continued to live out that relationship while he was here. As he developed a relationship with his followers, he brought them into relationship with the Father too.

Earlier in John 17, Jesus says, “And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (v. 3). Eternal life is to know God in Jesus Christ. The life is in the relationship. That’s the greatest truth.

As we live in relationship with God as Jesus reveals God to be, our lives will show it. And since “God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them” (1 Jn 4:16b), we’ll bear witness to the truth by the ways we love people.

Love enables us to know the truth without being arrogant about it.

Discussion

1. This week’s lesson text comes from the prayer Jesus prayed on the last night of his life. What does it mean to us that Jesus prayed for us?
2. Why is important that the Father sent Jesus?
3. What do these verses teach us about the relationship between the Father, the Son, and us?
4. What do we need protection from while we are in the world?
5. How can we have complete joy? What is this joy?

Reference Shelf

I am asking or “I pray” (v. 9) begins a new emphasis on the situation of the disciples in a hostile world. The strong invocation Holy Father (v. 11) together with the repeated request for protection (vv. 11-15) in the name of God appears to be an allusion to the OT idea of power in the name of God and to the idea that God’s name must never be spoken irreverently (e.g., Exod 20:7). The perceived hostility in these verses echoes the repeated hostility to Jesus in the festival cycle with the paralytic (5:18), the bread of life (6:41 and 70), the statement on truth (8:41-48), the blind man (9:24), the good shepherd (10:31-33), and Lazarus (11:45-50). Evil or the evil one is real (v. 15) and the disciples need the protection of God to survive.

Gerald L. Borchert, “John,” Mercer Commentary on the Bible (Macon GA: Mercer University Press, 1995) 1074.

Michael Ruffin is husband to Debra, father to Joshua (Michelle) and Sara (Benjamin), grandfather to Sullivan. A graduate of Mercer University and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, he has previously served as a pastor and as a university professor. He lives on the Ruffin Family Farm in Yatesville, Georgia. He is the Connections Series Curriculum Editor.

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