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How old is today’s post-truth era?

One day [c. AD 30, Jerusalem], as Jesus was teaching the people in the temple and preaching the good news, the chief priests and the scribes with the elders came up and said to him, “Tell us by what authority you do these things, or who it is that gave you this authority.” He answered them, “I also will ask you a question. Now tell me, was the baptism of John from heaven or from man?” And they discussed it with one another, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From man,’ all the people will stone us to death, for they are convinced that John was a prophet.” So they answered that they did not know where it came from. And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.” Luke 20: 1-8
It’s the last few days before Jesus is crucified on the first Good Friday. He is under pressure because of his enormous popularity. He is a great healer and a wonderful teacher. He is bringing the good news to all people that, no matter how sinful, if they turn they will be welcomed back by His Father, forgiven by Him and brought into close friendship with Him forever. 

Three groups in Jerusalem strongly object. They are the chief priests (with religious and political power), the scribes (with legal power) and the elders (with the power of the great and the good). What is their problem? It’s the simple matter of authority, of who is above whom. “Tell us by what authority you do these things, or who it is that gave you this authority.”

Last Wednesday a national journalist (Dan McCrum in the FT) commented on the Euro and on what Mario Draghi, the head of the European Central Bank, can do to ensure that inflation gets under way in the eurozone. He wrote, “An official forecast for headline inflation in 2019 to hit 2 per cent might help to remind investors that inflation will one day return.”

‘Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.' (Lord Acton, historian, 1834-1902)
What’s wrong with that? Only the fact that the journalist is recommending that an official forecast of inflation be decided upon without reference to anything other than that such a forecast would help to bring about the wishes of the powerful. And what’s wrong with that? Simply that such an “official” forecast will not be based on truth or on facts – it will be a fiction, a lie.

Back-pedal now to AD 30 and look at the incident in bold above. Three power groups - all burdened with authority - are asked, “Was the baptism of John from heaven or from man?” Should we expect a truthful answer? 

But first, what’s all this about John’s baptism? A year or two earlier, John had captivated the minds and hearts of the people by warning them to turn from their sinful lives and sinful conduct. Tens of thousands flocked to hear him preach. Those who truly heard openly confessed their change of heart and direction by being baptized in the Jordan River. Why this amazing response?

Thus the Jerusalem authorities were being asked a simple question. Was the baptism of John from heaven or from man?” The religio-political powers discussed this with the legal and judicial powers and with those whose powers came because they were respected celebrities. But they didn’t discuss whether it was true or false that John’s baptism was from above. Instead they discussed the effect that alternative answers would have. The outcome of their response was more important to them than the truth of their response. 

These men didn’t like the outcome of a “from heaven” answer. Moreover, they didn’t like the outcome of a “from man” answer either. So they answered that they did not know where it came from. Like so many of us.

These men of authority had a deeper problem than being “don’t-knows”. For them truth had become a matter of pragmatism. But was their problem worse than that?

By asking Jesus, “Tell us by what authority you do these things, or who it is that gave you this authority” they hoped to nail him for blasphemy. If he said that his authority came from being the Lord God – or that the Lord God had given him authority – they would not, under any circumstances believe it.


Above all powers/ Above all kings/ Above all nature and all created things/ Above all wisdom and all the ways of man/ You were here before the world began........ Above all kingdoms/ Above all thrones/ Above all wonders the world has ever known/ Above all wealth and treasures of the earth/ There's no way to measure what you're worth.......... Crucified/ Laid behind the stone/ You lived to die/ Rejected and alone..........  Like a rose trampled on the ground/ You took the fall/ And thought of me/ Above all...... (Song, Michael W Smith)
These men of power were implacably opposed to truth. Because of that…..

Sinner Syvret

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