Alternative– [noun] a choice betweeen two or more propositions, choices, or options.
Illustration: Early this morning I was reading through the Gospel of John again. I came to the place where Judas Iscariot betrays Christ and where Jesus is arrested in the garden across the brook Kidron and hauled before Ciaphas and Pontius Pilate. I saw again how familiar the story is of the ultimate alternative–truth or lies–and of how the pagan world system chooses to go (cancel/kill/aim to destro–the truth).
One could picture it this way:
Truth vs. Lies
Christ vs. Chaos
God at the Center vs. Man at the Center
Objective Morality vs. Subjective Preferences
God vs. Gulag
The Context: In John 17 Jesus prayed his High-Priestly Prayer in front of his disciples and for all believers. He began by saying aloud “the hour ha[d] come” (John 17:1 ESV). The time of the Passion of the Christ was about to unfold in its ultimate purposes of redemption. All of the following and more were being played out in accordance with the plan of God: the works of betrayal by Judas Iscariot, the false brother; rejection of the Messiah by the Jews; the mocking of Jesus by the crowds; the denial of truth by Pontius Pilate (John 18:38); Jesus’ torture; crucifixion; burial; and bodily resurrection.
And as I read the story of the Passion yet again I saw how nothing has changed, in at least this sense: the world system hates the truth. The world system loves itself. The world system demands that the truth be cancelled/killed/destroyed.
What do I mean? Judas was a thief. Remember when Jesus was in Bethany and Judas pretended he was concerned for the poor? He was not concerned for the poor. He was a thief:
But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the money bag he used to help himself to what was put into it. (John 12:4-6 ESV)
Sound familiar? One who pretended to be good was actually a thief, Satan’s soldier, Christ’s enemy, an enemy of the truth.
When Judas sells out Jesus, he (Judas) comes to the garden with soldiers, chief priests, and Pharisees and kisses the Lord Jesus. What should have been a gesture of friendship and loyalty was actually a sign to Judas’ conspirators who they were to arrest, the Lord Jesus (Matthews 26:48-49). Even the most hard-hearted atheist might be moved by such treachery.
Jesus, the only innocent one, was being betrayed by a false brother and the secular world system of which he was a disciple.
Alternative: The alternatives for Judas were money or the Messiah, the crowd or Christ, lies or the truth.
So the soldiers arrest Jesus, haul him before Ciaphas and then to Pontius Pilate. The accusation by the Jews is that Jesus had claimed to be God, the King of kings.
And Pilate interrogates Jesus:
“So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world–to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” (John 18:37 ESV)
Then Pilate utters one of the most crucial questions possible:
Pilate said to him, “What is truth?” (John 18:38 ESV)
That’s always the question, of course. Who’s telling the truth? Was Judas? Was the crowd? Were the soldiers? The sanctimonious Pharisees? Pilate? What was the truth? Who was bearing witness to it?
The answer, of course, is the One who was being sold, betrayed, spat upon, flogged, whipped, rejected, and nailed to the tree.
Connection: When I survey our day and see the unfolding events, it’s as if it’s all been played out before. As Leonard Cohen penned in his song “Everybody Knows,”
Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
Everybody knows the war is over
Everybody knows the good guys lost
Everybody knows the fight was fixed
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
That’s how it goes
Everybody knows that the boat is leaking
Everybody knows that the captain lied
Everybody got this broken feeling
Like their father or their dog just died
Everybody talking to their pockets
Everybody wants a box of chocolates
And a long-stem rose
And everybody knows that you’re in trouble
Everybody knows what you’ve been through
From the bloody cross on top of Calvary
To the beach of Malibu
Everybody knows it’s coming apart
Take one last look at this Sacred Heart
Before it blows
The alternative remains: Christ or chaos. Truth or the lie. Jesus or the Judases of the world.
Pilate asked the question, “What is truth?” but I think he knew the truth; he just didn’t like it. He preferred the glory of man more than the glory that comes from God (John 12:43).
I wonder what it will take, I really do.
It could be argued that the world preferred apathy and lies to courage and truth. But it does not have to be so.