In the Gospel of John, it looks like Jesus lied. He told His brothers that He was not going to Jerusalem for the feast - "I will not go up" - but then, He goes to Jerusalem for the feast. Not only does He go, but He goes right into the Temple courtyards. And this is one of those stories that we have to figure out because it holds tremendous theological implications for us as a people in love with the God of truth.
How can He be a God of truth if He lied?
Many of us, because we have become so accustomed to this kind of untruth in our culture, may not even be that concerned about this. After all, we always say this sort of thing to one another. "No, I'm not planning anything for your birthday." Because to say that we are would ruin the surprise. "No, I don't have any plans for tonight." Because it makes it all the more special when we show up unannounced and really surprise someone. We don't even consider these lies. But they are still untruths.
We might think that this really does make Jesus just like the rest of us, that it shows His human nature pretty well. We may not even realize the theological problem that it causes, but it's a pretty significant one. If at any moment in time, Jesus could be telling us an untruth in order to make the glory of the coming moment bigger, how are we ever supposed to know when those moments are? How are we supposed to trust in Him when His eyes might not even be on our situation, but on what's coming next? Something that we know nothing about?
It's hard to trust a God who might be planning something bigger, which you might or might not be part of. It's hard to trust a God who might have ulterior motives or who might be telling a "little fib" just to make the glory of the next moment bigger. Sure, if it's a birthday party, it's all fun and games, but what if it's not a birthday party? How are we ever supposed to know? Simply put, we cannot trust a God who is duping us, no matter what His motives are.
And that's not the kind of God He has ever claimed to be. He has always told us He is truth, and we ought to expect that from Him at all times.
Then there are some who say, well, Jesus had to tell a little fib because the people of Jerusalem were after Him. He had to protect Himself. He had to make sure that the people didn't get ahead of themselves, didn't act before the appointed time had come. Men are, after all, extremely sinful and sometimes, God has to do what God has to do to keep their sin from getting the best of them.
But this isn't really any better. We are still extremely sinful men. Are we then supposed to expect that our God thus sometimes has to lie to us in order to keep us from ourselves? How, then, are we supposed to know whether this is one of those times God has to lie to us or if He's telling us the truth? How can we know if what God is telling us is for our own good or if it's tor protect Himself?
And wouldn't the greatest protection God could give Himself be to just be the kind of God He proclaimed Himself to be in the first place - a God of truth?
It's troubling to the very core of our souls if we simply justify what Jesus said in this passage in John, if we decide that it's either not that big of a deal or was entirely necessary in order to keep His plan in motion. If we just accept that sometimes, the God of truth lies, then we have created for ourselves a trouble in our faith that we simply cannot overcome. We can't. We cannot worship, put our faith in, or live our lives by a God whose word is usually true, but sometimes deceptive, no matter how we justify it.
God knew that. That's why He tells us that in Him, there is no lie. Always truth. Every breath. Every moment.
Now, that still leaves us with this Jesus. It still leaves us with this difficult scene where He says one thing and does the exact opposite. So where do we stand on that?