John 2 vs 18 - 22
The Jews then responded to him, “What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” 20 They replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” 21 But the temple he had spoken of was his body. 22 After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.
I’m sure you’ve had the experience of hearing something that didn’t mean a lot at the time but something later brings back the words with a clear memory. Thinking about the encounter described above for some reason the phrase “The first casualty when war comes is truth” came to mind. I didn’t know the first thing about it, who had said it, when or in what circumstances or even where I heard it before but I discovered it is attributed to US Senator Hiram Warren Johnson who was an isolationist politician speaking in 1918. Johnston did not want any American involvement in the European war.
Even if the war in question is no more than a war of words it seems to be true that truth is the first thing to bite the dust. When the Jews demanded of Jesus a sign to prove himself and he spoke about raising “this temple” he was speaking about his body but, true to form, truth was the first casualty and the words, either misunderstood or most probably deliberately misrepresented, continued to be controversial. They were used to accuse Jesus at his trial (Matthew 26:60-61), there is a hint of them again in Acts 6:14 when Stephen was accused by the religious elite in proceedings that would cost him his life.
That though is one side of the story. Quite apart from the background at the time the words themselves lodged in the recesses of the disciples minds and were brought to mind by the Spirit to affirm the truth of the resurrection; and no wonder for he is also the Spirit of truth, and his work is to glorify Jesus. As they ate and talked together on the night of his betrayal Jesus told his disciples, “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you.” John 16:12-14.
The most deceptive forgery is that which is closest to genuine, the most dangerous lie is that which contains the largest element of truth without being the whole truth; and the words that are most destructive are those actually spoken but later given a twist. Even today Jesus words are at times misunderstood, at other times misrepresented and misapplied, it will always be so, but still, when the Holy Spirit is at work and when he applies the truth of Jesus words to individuals seeking truth, even to our hearts, he brings forth faith and life from sin and death.