Read John 18:12-24
In our last post from the book of John we saw how Jesus navigated the enormous pressure that came with his knowing he would soon have to bear the weight of the sins of the whole world–and false accusations, and torture, and betrayal, and his execution on the cross. (see The Best Possible Gift You Can Give During the Pandemic)
In today’s post we’ll look at what I’ve come to see as the passage of truth. But first, the truth about whether or not you should wear a mask during the pandemic.
The Truth About Masks
By now you may have heard the “change” in thinking about whether or not you should wear a mask when you’re out in public. Up until just a few days ago, in the United States, our leaders were telling us there was no real benefit in wearing a mask. These were our marching orders, even though the countries having the best success against COVID-19 were encouraging their citizens to wear masks in public. (To be fair, testing early and often has also been a key tactic in these countries, and maybe even the most important part of their strategy.) (What we can learn from South Korea and Singapore)
But recently the mayor of Los Angeles urged the people of L.A. to wear masks when it’s necessary to be out in public for grocery shopping, picking up prescriptions, or other essential tasks. And now, in Laredo, Texas, people face a $1,000 fine for not wearing some type of covering over their nose and mouth when entering public buildings, using public transportation, and when pumping gas. (Garcetti urges L.A. to wear face coverings, Residents in Texas City can face $1,000 fine)
And the CDC has changed their tune too. So, bottom line, for the last few months, we received bad information from our leadership. Personally, I think their intentions were good. No doubt they were concerned about a run on masks in the same way we’ve seen a run on toilet paper. And with medical personnel on the front lines desperate for masks and other personal protective equipment, they felt justified in their decision to tell the public masks aren’t helpful.
But the truth is, they are.
Jesus Before Annas
In the garden of Gethsemane, the band of soldiers and their captain and the officers of the Sanhedrin arrested Jesus and bound him. Then they led him to the father-in-law of the high priest Caiaphas. The high priest Caiaphas was the one who told his underlings that it would be best if Jesus died for the people of Israel. He didn’t realize it at the time, but as the high priest, he was prophesying about how Jesus would die for his people, and not only for the people of Israel but for the whole world.
Anyway, they took Jesus’ to the high priest Caiaphas’s father-in-law. His name was Annas and before Caiaphas held the position, Annas was the high priest. But the Romans deposed him. At this time it’s likely the Jews didn’t respect the Romans deposing Annas from the position of high priest so they continued to call him by his former title. Annas also engendered their respect because he was wealthy and powerful.
Peter followed Jesus and so did another unnamed disciple. Some scholars say it was John, others say it was Nicodemus. Whoever it was they were known to Annas and they were permitted to enter with Jesus into the courtyard of Annas. But Peter stood outside the door until the unnamed disciple spoke to the servant girl watching the door and told her to let Peter in.
It was then that the servant girl asked Peter, “Aren’t you one of his disciples?”
Peter said, “I am not.”
Then Peter wandered over to where Annas’s servants and some of the officers were standing around a fire warming themselves because it was cold.
Annas, the former high priest and father-in-law of the current high priest, starts asking Jesus questions about his disciples and about Jesus’ teachings.
Jesus says, “I have spoken openly to the world. I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret. Why do you ask me? Ask those who have heard me what I said to them; they know what I said.”
Then one of the officers hits Jesus with his hand and says, “Is that how you talk to the high priest?”
Jesus says, “If what I said is wrong, bear witness about the wrong; but if what I said is right, why do you strike me?”
Lies and Truth
I’ve read this passage many times but for some reason, this time what struck me is the way truth and lies are woven into the text.
1) Peter is lying.
2) Annas and the officers of the Sanhedrin are not true to what we know about the Jewish laws of the day.
- Physically striking someone in custody was against the law.
- Capital cases were to be tried by multiple judges.
- Interrogators weren’t supposed to coerce the accused into convicting himself.
The rich and powerful Annas ignores all these laws and conducts his own private interrogation of Jesus. (Keener)
3) One person in this passage is telling the truth. And that person is Jesus. And evil is returned for his good.
Telling the Truth
We’ve looked at some lies today. Government leaders and health officials lying about masks. You can almost hear their justification: “Yes but if we tell them the truth, they’ll buy up all the masks and there won’t be any left for medical staff!”
Peter lying about belonging to Jesus. You can almost hear his justification: “Of course I lied! It was either that or suffer at the hands of the Jewish and Roman authorities!”
Annas and the officers ignoring the truth about what he was doing to Jesus. You can almost hear Annas’s justification: “What does it matter whether we follow the law while we prosecute this Rabbi? Israel is better off following me and my son-in-law and the established Jewish leadership. If we don’t find a way to kill him, the people will all follow after Jesus. We’re not going to let a technicality get in the way of stopping that.”
And then there’s Jesus. The truth teller. Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. (John 1:17)
Truth and the Human Condition
This passage is so instructive for us. Because we need to be intentional about telling the truth like Jesus, rather than telling a lie, or twisting the truth, or exaggerating in order to support our own opinion, or to ensure our own survival, or to maintain our own position of power in a given situation.
An area where I struggle with this, and where I think many of us who are trying to follow Jesus closely struggle, is the idea of gentleness. I like to think about the places in the Bible that tell us to be bold. And then I like to spit out the truth unfiltered. “There. There it is. Deal with it. The truth is what it is and I can’t be held responsible for your reaction to it,”
But the truth is, the Bible doesn’t tell us to deliver truth that way. I recently discovered we’re instructed over and over again to be gentle.
“To speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people,” (Titus 3:2)
“. . . make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,” (1 Peter 3:15)
“But wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere,” God informs us in James 3:17.
Why didn’t I see this before? God’s instruction for us to be gentle is found all over the place in His scriptures.
Right now, while most of us are living in close quarters with our families, these truths given to us by God, these admonishments to be gentle, are especially relevant. How we treat the people we’re quarantined with will be how we’re remembered after this time of quarantine is over.
So, take heed of God’s instruction.
And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient,
2 Timothy 2:24-26
Elisabeth Buchwald, What we can learn from South Korea and Singapore’s efforts to stop coronavirus, Market Watch, April 1, 2020
Luke Money, Kailyn Brown, Garcetti urges L.A. to wear face coverings when doing essential tasks in public, L.A. Times, April 1, 2020
Aris Folley, Residents in Texas city can face $1,000 fine for not wearing ‘some form of covering over their nose and mouth’ after new motion, The Hill, April 2, 2020
Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament,
InterVarsity Press, 1993, p. 306-307
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