John 18:36-37 – Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.”  “You are a king, then!” said Pilate. Jesus answered, “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”
An Audacious Claim
Truth is a very big deal in the Gospel of John. Jesus, in a good number of verses, begins his teachings with phrases like, “I tell you the truth.” In John 14:6, Jesus claims not only to speak the truth, but to actually be truth itself. In our text above Jesus says he came into the world to testify to the truth. Furthermore, he says, if you are on the side of truth you will listen to him.
It’s an incredibly bold move to say you are truth itself and your purpose for coming into the world is to testify to the truth. In fact, it’s downright arrogant, unless your claim is true. And that’s where the rub is. If it is true that Jesus is the truth, (and that he came to testify to the truth), then it would be prudent to listen to what he has to say. In fact, it would be an imperative.
Just A Good Teacher?
The thrust of our text reminds us, rather loudly, Jesus was not simply an interesting teacher. He claimed to be much more. People who say Jesus was just a good teacher are actually revealing at least two things about themselves.
The first thing is there is a high probability they have never read the gospels for themselves. If they had, they could say they do not believe the things Jesus taught, but it would be intellectually dishonest to say his self-referential claims were not audacious. The “good teacher” response is evidence a person has not likely read what this “good teacher” taught.
The second revelation is they do not want to submit to Jesus’ Lordship nor trust in him as their Savior. Autonomous man still wants to be God. Even postmodern man, with his many “relative truths” – however contradictory they may all be – does not desire the One who claims to be the Truth (capital “T”). The sinful inclination of their hearts suppresses the truth they know (Romans 1:18).
Who Are You Listening To?
The words of verse 37 are powerful: Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.
You don’t have to be an expert in logic to understand the implications here. If you don’t listen to Jesus, then you are not on the side of truth. And if Jesus is the truth and his purpose in coming was to bear witness to the truth, then what Jesus says about every sphere of life matters. It matters a lot.
Of course, “listens to me” means much more than simply hearing what Jesus has to say. It implies “responding in obedience” to him as well. Submission is key here. Jesus is not suggesting he would be happy if you went to Starbucks, sat down with your favorite cup of coffee, and merely listened to someone tell you about Jesus. The person, work, and words of Jesus Christ demand a response. For centuries people recognized this and chose to either submit to him or reject him. But today some folk opt for patting him on the head and then moving on, ignoring him. But as the wise philosopher-theologian Geddy Lee, from the rock group Rush, sang, “If you choose not to decide you still have made a choice.”
Jesus will not be ignored, at least not with impunity. He will not be placed on the backburner of your life, only to be thought about at funerals and on Christmas mornings. He is the truth. He testifies to the truth. In fact, as Jesus put it in verse 37, he is a King.
Does all of that really describe a person you can blow off if you want to, without consequence?
The Right Side of Jesus
It’s popular today to talk about being on the right side of history. Jesus wants us to be on the right side of truth. And to be on the right side of truth is to be on the right side of Jesus.
Therefore, let me encourage you to pick up your Bible today and begin listening to Jesus. Start with the Gospel of John. Then move to Matthew, Mark and Luke… then read John again. After that, you should start listening to Jesus as he speaks through his appointed apostles and prophets. God’s ordinary and significant means by which he has ordained his Son to be encountered and heard is through his Word – the Bible. So pick it up and side with him today.
- Reading and studying the Bible on your own is profitable. However, when you talk about it with others who are also reading Scripture, it can be a real blessing. Ask a couple of friends if they’ll start reading the Gospel of John with you so your group can discuss it together.
- Move through John’s Gospel one chapter at a time, recording in a journal the significant teachings of Jesus. Ask yourself why each teaching you highlighted stands out to you. What implication would that teaching have in your life if you started believing it was true and obeying it? What are the implications for not believing and obeying it?
- Give special attention to the claims Jesus makes about himself and the implications those claims have on your life.
- Lastly, what miraculous works in John’s Gospel capture your attention? Why? What do they tell you about Jesus?
God of truth, I give you praise that you have not left me to grope in the dark, seeking your path on my own. I am grateful that you have provided me with the Way and Truth, indeed, Life itself. And so forgive me Father when I seek to go my own way or when your truth scares me. I confess that I have sometimes been so fearful of obeying the truth you have so clearly given me that I have chosen to ignore it at best and rebel against it at worst. Both are sin and I ask you to please forgive me. Instead, gracious Lord, fill me with your Spirit, the Spirit of truth, and enable me to not only want to follow your truth, wherever it leads me, but to also be able to do so. I pray my faithfulness to your truth will lead others to give you praise in heaven and make a difference for the sake of your Kingdom here and now. In the name of the one who was and is the Truth, I pray. Amen.