Point of Reference
by Fred Price
Last week we looked at the Apostle John’s singular use of the phrase, “Verily, verily, I say unto you...” A declarative statement rendered, “Truly, truly, I say unto you...” in the NASB; “I tell you the truth...” in the NIV; that Jesus used to get everyone’s attention. Whether during a private meeting of the inner core of disciples or on a hillside speaking to thousands, He encouraged them to pay special attention to what’s coming. ‘Really guys, this is important. Listen up now, this is crucial to understanding what will come later. Honestly fella’s, this is the truth!’
Some listened – and believed. Some didn’t. In a lengthy discussion concerning Jesus’ association with his Father and his right to speak for him, he said “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” His listeners’ surprised response was to declare themselves free already, referring to their illustrious ancestry and by inference their exploits to gain and maintain their freedom through the centuries. “We... have never been slaves to anyone!” (Which was patently untrue, as they had been subjugated by a number of pagan nations over the years and were even then under the rule of Rome and her Legions.) Jesus corrective reply being, “Truly, truly, I say unto you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.” and “...has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:31-36
All of which degenerated into name-calling and a rehashing of their heritage, upon which they depended for their sense of self-worth and salvation. Jesus insistently claiming, “I tell you the truth, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” (See John 11:25); which specifically countered their claim of special virtue by reason of their association with past heroes of the faith – and further infuriated them by announcing, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, before Abraham was born, I AM!” – claiming the title of God himself. (I AM who I AM . Exodus 3:14 –First revealed to Moses at the burning bush) John 8:51 & 58.
This attitude of smug self-reliance was expressed throughout large segments of Jewish life and theology, forcing Jesus to deal with it repeatedly. At one point claiming the right to pass judgment while exercising discernment and clarification. “...so that the blind will see and those who see (Or think they do by virtue of their own “goodness”) will become blind.” John 9:39 Differentiating the true kingdom he had come to proclaim from that which had become “institutionalized” and tradition-bound, he said “Truly, truly, I say unto you, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the (appropriate) gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber.” Jesus then identifying himself as the only “gate” and true “shepherd” of God’s sheep – then and now. John 10:6 & 11
Then, in speaking of his coming death, he uttered what at first appeared to be a contradictory statement, saying “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” (His death meeting the legal requirements of the Law, resulting in his resurrection, allowing for his ascension – providing for our salvation. Thus the glory!) “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies (To our eyes, buried and wasting away, but in reality morphing into what it was truly meant to be.), it produces many seeds.” John 12:23,24
And yet, he was not insensitive to his followers’ confusion and grief at the mention of his death, recognizing their questions and insecurity by responding, “Are you asking one another what I meant when I said, ‘In a little while you will see me no more and then after a little while you will see me?’ Verily, verily, I say unto you, you will weep and mourn, while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy.” Comparing their “travail” to that of a woman giving birth, experiencing what is thought at the moment to be an all-consuming “labor” in bringing forth new life; which is quickly blocked from memory when the process is completed. “So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.” And as a result of that joy-filled reunion, “Truly, truly, I say unto you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.” John 16:17-32
Shortly before his arrest he spoke to his disciples in very practical ways, demonstrating their role in the Kingdom to come by performing a menial task usually reserved for the lowliest of servants; the washing of their feet. This was an essential courtesy offered guests to a dinner party, as travel in Jesus’ day was usually done by walking, either barefoot or in sandals; the feet becoming dusty, bruised, tired and in need of “refreshing.” This Jesus did for his disciples before the Last Supper, asserting that, “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Truly, truly, I say unto you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” John 13:12-17
Finally, reiterating his claim to having been in the Father’s presence, knowing his will and sent by him to model and proclaim it, he now sends them/us out to do the same. “I tell you the truth, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me, and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me.” John 13:19-20 In fact, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing.”, and more. John 14:12
Due to the wealth of information, check back next week for more on the Truly, truly’s of New Testament scripture.
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Fred Price - married (49 years), father of two grown children, grandfather of six.
Fred retired earlier this year after 42 years as a factory worker. He has always had a heart for young people and the challenges they face today. Over the years Fred has taught Discipleship Groups for High School and college students.
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