Our world is defined by this one word. This one pursuit. This one unknown.
We chase it, we deny it, we hide from it. Many of us come to the conclusion that the only bit of it that truly exists, is the truth that it doesn’t exist. We are skeptics by nature.
As a Christian, I claim to have access to Truth. I claim to know and be known by, and in communication with, the One who is truth. Yet even His truth can only be found in the entire story.
“I am the way, the Truth, and the life.” – John 14:6
This was said by Jesus, who was soon after martyred for stating that He is truth. He was seen as simply a man with powerful words, who wandered around the middle east with a group of men for three years preaching, revealing His truth to the world.
Yet the world didn’t recognize it. His disciples, largely, didn’t recognize it. They recognized something different about him, yet didn’t recognize him as the lone truth in a world of lies until His story on earth as a man concluded.
This is a man who had been prophesied about thousands of years before He arrived, living among a people expected to be extremely disciplined and knowledgeable of Jewish tradition and writing, and He wasn’t recognized until His return. In fact, His fiercest opposition came from the men most educated about the prophesies about Him – the Pharisees. Because in this story, as in all stories, truth can only be seen in hindsight, from a distanced perspective of the entire timeline.
And now, we can look back. And because we can look back, truth can be recognized.
An example can be found in the life of a student. What have you learned? Long division, multiplication, and addition, certainly. These are wonderful examples. We can’t be sure of the truth of multiplication without first being sure of the truth of addition. We can’t be sure of division, or the credentials of exponents until seeing the truth found in multiplication. We can’t understand the truth of a current operation without first seeing the truth found in that which was learned in the past. If we could, one wouldn’t need to take basic math before algebra, or algebra before calculus, or calculus before differential equations. If we were able to inherently know mathematical truths without a prerequisite, we could all have degrees in mathematics. But we can’t. And the rest of the world, and life, is the same.
The word “truth” is used 44 times in the New Testament. Seventeen of these times, it is used in John, and in nearly all of these examples, Jesus is claiming He himself is truth – and nothing else is.
Yet no one believed him. Even the twelve men who followed Him everywhere were uncertain of His claim, as evidenced by their actions following His death, hiding in the upper room in a moment of doubt, seeing this man die who was expected to overthrow the Roman government. Seeing this man’s time cut short before He could achieve the goal they believe was the truth and reason for his visit. They were with Him nearly every day, yet they still didn’t recognize Truth in the moment when it was standing before them. It was only recognized after it had been fulfilled. And we are lucky enough to have the entire story sitting before us in one thousand pages, like a connect-the-dots puzzle from the Old Testament to the New, slowly drawing a portrait of Jesus, and the revelation that He is Truth.
The beauty of the Bible is found in the story it tells over its entire duration. The story it tells, which although seemingly disconnected when reading only sections, can be seen as fluent and entangling in its whole. The story which starts in Genesis, and points to the One single Truth in this world all the way through.
Yet until we reach the resolution of the Story, we cannot see its relevance. Until we hear of God’s Son rising from the dead and ascending to heaven, every prophesy and abstract story of Jesus and His ultimate plan can be seen as a different truth altogether – can be seen as the same truth the disciples and multitudes of people to which Jesus spoke had believed. Without a resolution in the story, Jesus was simply a man who made bold claims, taught many to love, and died as all men before him had – permanently. Yet only God knew actual truth at the point of His death. And it was only to be seen by the world until after its completion.
For the same reason as this, look at Revelation – the book speaking on the end times. While being a powerful book, it is also the most misunderstood. It is full of parables and symbolism which can be interpreted in so many different ways that it has been completely muddled, despite our theologian’s desperate pursuit of understanding it, when in reality, it cannot and will not be truly understood until it is completed. It cannot truly be understood as certain truth until it is past, and God’s glory is found in the story which all of our searching and attempts at understanding will be shattered or confirmed, and concluded by an oh-so-profound “Aha!” moment.
This is the beauty of our God – that He cannot be understood in process, but only in completion. It brings me great comfort to know I serve a god who is too profound to expose the big picture as the brush is put to canvas. It brings me great comfort to know that the God I serve only exposes the true extent of His work by placing the finished product on the wall, enabling us to step towards or away from it, inspecting the beauty found in detail while also stepping back to witness it’s elements work together, creating the beauty found in the art as a whole – stepping back to see the Truth found in the intertwining brushstrokes of individual stories which He has created merging into the greater story of His grace.
It brings me great pleasure to serve a God whose plan for me I cannot understand at the moment, and it brings me great joy that He has already exposed His greatest truth to us through His Word. It brings me great pleasure to be a single brushstroke in the plan of His unknown – knowing He hasn’t yet lifted the brush from the canvas to complete my story. And I can only go about life wondering what I’ll learn when I look back on this moment, because some truths are revealed in minutes, and some are not fully understood until the painting is hung on the wall and viewed from a different perspective.