Unpopular Truth

The creed is either true or false. Either God the Father is the creator of all things visible and invisible, or He isn’t. Either Jesus is the only-begotten Son of God crucified under Pontius Pilate yet sitting at the right hand of the Father waiting to come again in glory, or He isn’t.  Either the Holy Spirit does work through means like one Baptism for the remission of sins, are it is just simple water.

The truth or falsehood of something has little direct effect on its popularity or unpopularity. In fact, some things that are true can be repugnant.  Some things that are false can be very sweet. For example, it is true, even if unpopular, that the typical woman would not stand a chance in a fight against a typical man. Now if she had a gun that changes things, but that is not what Hollywood shows.  Hollywood shows us a 100 lbs starlet throwing around a 250 lbs man without messing up her hair.  Sorry, not happening. I don’t care how much Kung-Fu she knows. An example of a falsehood that can be sweet would be the idea that one can be a Christian without a church. There are lots of people who really like that idea.  You might see them at Christmas, but they will tell those who ask they believe in Jesus.  Which is how you get 20% of people in church on any given Sunday, but 70% proclaiming belief.  The problem is that Jesus said he was going to build his church. Me and my personal Jesus are nice, but not sufficient, because we are being built together into one body. The Holy Spirit works through means, the first of which is “The Holy Christian Church, the communion of saints.”

When Jesus asks the disciples “who do people say that I am?”  They answer him, “The Baptist, Isaiah, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” Jeremiah is the real interesting one on that list.  The Baptist is the most recent prophetic voice.  Isaiah is the sweetest.  Saying one of the other prophets is just saying “he’s speaking truths in a powerful way.” Calling Jesus Jeremiah is calling Jesus “the man of sorrows.” There is a long history of the iconography of this Son of Man.  The two stained glass pictures nearby are a couple of examples.  One has the crown of thorns.  Many of the pictures will pick up either the reed that he was beaten with, or the crown, or some other element of the passion.  Another popular picture is the Garden of Gethsemane. But, it doesn’t require any of those elements.  Sometimes The Man of Sorrows is just portrayed with the melancholy downward look.  Jesus is not fully stoic.  His guts can be churned.

The Man of Sorrows sits in the unpopular truth square. We’d all like to be in the popular truth square.  The devil is pretty effective at herding us into the popular falsehood one.  I’m always surprised at the number of people who will stand in the unpopular falsehood square.  If you doubt me in that why are there so many people who insist that “real communism has never been tried.” But we have an instinctive horror at unpopular truth. Jeremiah prophesied for 40 years that Jerusalem was going to fall. This was the truth, but nobody wanted to hear the message.  We have little interest in being Jeremiah.

What God tells Jeremiah in our Old Testament Lesson (Jeremiah 15:15-21) is instructive.  “If you utter what is precious, and not what is worthless, you shall be as my mouth.  They shall turn to you, but you shall not turn to them.  And I will make you to this people a fortified wall of bronze…for I am with you to save you and deliver you, declares the LORD.” The Truth is precious.  Jesus calls himself the Way, The Truth and the Life.  Nothing that is not true comes from the mouth of God.  And I think we know that in the long run, truth outs. Of course we ourselves might not be there to see it.  At Keynes quipped, “in the long run, we are all dead.” But standing in the truth is standing where God is, and where he will save, and from where he will deliver.  The LORD has declared this.

The man of sorrows stood in that unpopular truthful corner. His own did not receive him. But the light still shines. Don’t mistake popularity or unpopularity for the truth.  Tomorrow will rearrange all of our categories, but the truth stands like a fortified wall of bronze.

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