“Truth” is a big word in the Scripture (and life), so it’s no surprise that we find John employing the word a number of times in his gospel (23). Fittingly, he initially uses it to tell us that Jesus is “full of grace and truth” (1:14). There was veracity in the covenant that God brought through Moses, but the ultimate expression of truth and grace came in the person of Jesus (v. 17).This theme of Jesus as truth reaches a crescendo in 14:6, where Christ states that He is “the way and the truth and the life.” Note that John didn’t say Jesus knew the truth—he tells us Christ said He was the truth.
That’s an important distinction because we don’t usually think of truth in those terms. We have a tendency to compartmentalize it. We speak of learning, believing, or knowing the truth. We talk of educating people in the truth or raising their awareness relative to it. Why? Because we confine truth to the intellectual dimension. John would have us to see from that truth is more than an answer to be known, it’s a relationship to be developed. Consequently, knowing the truth is more than receiving certain information—it’s ultimately involves experiencing transformation into His image.
This is brought out in Jesus’ statement that, “Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own” (7:17). According to Him, learning the truth is as much about submitting our will as it is educating our intellect. Or, to say it another way, if we’ve embraced a certain understanding but haven’t adopted the behavior that goes with it—we haven’t really learned. That’s why when Jesus commissions His apostles He instructs them to teach others “to obey everything I commanded you,” (Matthew 28:19). His standard wasn’t limited to knowing but doing because truth is transformative, not just merely informative. Truth only sets us free because it’s assumed that knowing it will lead to practicing it (see 13:17).
In the movie Groundhog Day, Phil Connor is a Pittsburgh weatherman who is trapped in a 24 hour loop in Punxatawney, Pennsylvania on Groundhog Day. He’s enamored with his producer Rita and takes advantage of his situation to learn as much as he can about her and use his knowledge the “next” day since he’s the only one trapped in the loop. He learns she like small towns, French literature, the mountains, Rocky Road ice cream, and rhinestones. She doesn’t like white chocolate or fudge. He applies all of this in trying to win Rita.
And it almost works.
But in the end, Rita doesn’t buy it. She senses what we know—Phil isn’t acting authentically toward her because truth isn’t measured by the quantity of information you have about someone. When Phil later surrenders to the truth by using his special circumstances for the good of others (he saves a man who is choking, catches a boy falling out of a tree, takes care of a homeless man, etc.), Rita is drawn to him because they share an intimacy with goodness. In the same way, discipleship is not measured by the quantity of information we have about Jesus—it’s measured by the intimacy that comes through our surrender to Him who is Truth.
That’s what sets us free!