Truth Will Out

From Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, 1596:

LAUNCELOT: Nay, indeed, if you had your eyes, you might fail of
the knowing me: it is a wise father that knows his
own child. Well, old man, I will tell you news of
your son: give me your blessing: truth will come
to light; murder cannot be hid long; a man’s son
may, but at the length truth will out.

Merchant of Venice, Act II, Scene 2.

“Truth Will Out . . .” is something that I remember hearing my grandfather and grandmother say when I was a boy.  Perhaps they were talking about the latest political scandal, perhaps some piece of gossip flapping about their social circle, or perhaps catching me in one of my childhood fabrications, or approximations, of the truth. 

“Truth will out,” speaks to some force, some catalyst, in life which causes our attempts to maintain a falsehood futile; as though there is some ingredient, catalyst, in the universe that makes it impossible for mendacity to exist uninterrupted.

Shakespeare is reminding his audiences that eventually there is no place to hide; Truth Will Out, Truth will always be pressing against whatever compromises we are making with falsehood.

The writer of Mark’s Gospel is setting a stage for truth telling.  Jesus is becoming the main character of a new Truth, with a capital T.  Having received the baptismal imprimatur from the hands of John the Baptist, having earned his stripes in the Wilderness at the hands of the Tempter, having formed a team, a cohort, an ecclesia, a church on the shores of Galilee, Jesus the truth-talker is now preparing a public “reveal.”

And so Jesus and his new cohort turn toward the bustling village of Capernaum:

Jesus and his disciples went to Capernaum; and when the Sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.

When Jesus turns into the local synagogue, the local house of prayer and study, he is a phenomenon to those gathered.  It is in what Jesus says and how he says it; his demeanor, his aspect, his comportment.  Jesus is a phenomenon in how he preaches, and how he practices what he preaches.  It is clear that Jesus internalizes the message that he delivers; and Jesus communicates it in such a way that others are curious to internalize it as well.  Jesus speaks as a “source” in and of himself.  There is no posturing.  There is no conjecture; no empty rhetoric.  Jesus is unlike what they have become used to in this line; he is not like “me,” not like the “clergy.”  Jesus is something otherworldly. 

Hiding within that house of study and prayer is someone else; an interloper.  A man possessed.  Perhaps long overlooked by the good people come to hear lessons on the Torah and the words of Moses.  Hiding in the very place we might think a demoniac might most fear being caught; the place where the words of God are read and heard.  Mark is sending a message and a warning.

“For where God built a Church, there the devil would also build a chapel . . . thus is the devil ever God’s ape.” – Martin Luther. 

One of the great mysteries and conundrums of the religious life is that sometimes, as we move deeper into holiness and the desire to be near to God, its opposite moves even closer. 

And when Jesus steps into the place as the power of God, that is the moment “Truth Will Out.”

Marks is merely describing the world into which the revealed Jesus will walk, live, teach, and preach; it is a world not at one with itself.  The cosmos is divided, human consciousness is divided, the religious impulse of God’s children is divided.  There is an interloper; there is a saboteur.  The Apostle Paul calls them the Principalities and Powers.

Mark is painting with a large brush that Jesus is the one who both preaches and practices; when near – all Truth Will Out.  Authority.  Power.  Presence.  In no way is Mark dressing Jesus in some silly costume as a soothsayer, a magician, a trickster, or shaman.  This is a plain spoken revelation of facts; and plain spoken revelation of how Jesus is exactly who He says He is. 

Jesus does not fall into a trance and mumble an incantation to deliver this man from evil; Jesus simply walks into the room and issues a command; “Be silent and come out of him!”

No posture of authority – simply authority itself.  The power over this kind of darkness is immediate and exact.  The Master is returning and cleaning his house.  God is coming home to dwell.

This kind of present and personal power was revealed to me on a trip to Jerusalem, within the precincts of Christ’s burial tomb – the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. 

The Church of The Holy Sepulcher sits within the Old City of Jerusalem.  The site is congruent with the place that many, for two millennia, have believed is the place where Christ’s body was laid following his crucifixion.  Some would say that it is THE holiest site in the Church.  As both the city of Jerusalem and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher have grown over the centuries; the various parts of this holiest of holies are shared by various Christian denominations within the Old City.

The Greek, Armenian, Egyptian, Roman Catholic, and Ethiopian Churches all lay claim to different sections of the Holy Sepulcher.  The history of this site in some ways reflects the history of our faith – its desire for unity, yet reality of our humanity within our divisions.  There have even been lines painted on columns in the church demarking each group’s claim upon this holiest of sites.  We might say that it is representative of the lines that have marked Christ’s Body from the beginning – who will sit on your right and your left O Lord? 

There have been unclean spirits about the Master’s house from the beginning.

We stood in line for a long time to enter a shrine administered by a certain group of Orthodox Christians overseeing the shrine of the tomb of Christ.  Incense burning in golden bowls, huge candles, jeweled icons, and all of the treasure on display as expressions of the Orthodox Church.  We waited mostly in prayerful silence for our turn within the tomb; some growing tired, some growing impatient.  The somber weight of our journey lay about the place.

Suddenly there was the sound of rusting robes in the silence.  A disturbance.  And a large man with a great large beard pushed himself through our lines with some officiousness and small grunts.  A long string of prayer beads rattling at his side.  He pushed to the front of the line, and dramatically knelt before us all whispering his prayers, and kissing the stone marking the spot where the holy body had lain.  It was something of a display.  And then again with officiousness, a bit imperious, the monk left the shrine, barged through our lines, with the rest of us a bit speechless that our patience and long journey’s had been so tread upon.  I remember being angry.

Once our group had paid its respects at the tomb, we were lead out into the sunlight, and invited to climb a series of stairs leading to the rooftop of the famous church.  The day was glorious and the sky was blue.

There is a lesser known area of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher on the rooftop.  It belongs to a group of Ethiopian Christians who have always lived in a kind of spiritual and physical apartheid within the city.  The Ethiopians have no property in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, only access rights; but they do have a little monastery nearby, known as Deir es-Sultan.

In the mid-1800’s, Anglican bishop in Jerusalem then, Bishop Samuel Gobat witnessed the unholy attitude and behavior of the Armenians and the Copts towards their fellow Christian Ethiopians who were trying to reclaim their rights to the holy places in Jerusalem. He wrote that the Ethiopian monks, nuns and pilgrims “were both intelligent and respectable, yet they were treated like slaves, or rather like beasts by the Copts and the Armenians combined…(the Ethiopians) could never enter their own chapel but when it pleased the Armenians to open it. …On one occasion, they could not get their chapel opened to perform funeral service for one of their members. The key to their convent being in the hands of their oppressors, they were locked up in their convent in the evening until it pleased their Coptic jailer to open it in the morning, so that in any severe attacks of illness, which are frequent there, they had no means of going out to call a physician.’’ 

There is a long and tangled history of Christian in-fighting at the holiest site in Christendom; and the Ethiopians have largely been the victims in this struggle for power.

Cotemporary Writer:   By Negussay Ayele

For more than 1500 years, the Church of Ethiopia survived in Jerusalem. Its survival has not, in the last resort, been dependent on politics, but on the faith of individual monks that we should look for the vindication of the Church’s presence in Jerusalem….They are attracted to Jerusalem not by a hope for material gain or comfort, but by faith.”

We went into a small room on the rooftop, sat on bare wooden benches, and waited.  The room was spare, exceedingly spare – brick and stone – lacking all of the incense, the gold, the ornamentation of the altars just a few hundred yards away, beneath the roof, within the Chapels where we had just been waiting in lines.

No – this was a study in contrasts; the beautiful sky, the sound of birds, no crowds, no lines; poverty, simplicity, purity . . . these were on display in the Ethiopian monastery on the rooftop of the Holiest Site in all Christendom. 

From a little doorway on the side of the Chapel came an Ethiopian priest, dressed in a long, black cassock; it was worn, frayed, it did not rustle and bustle when he walked.  In fact he could not walk fast, because he was limping, propped up by crutch under one arm – shuffling along, rather than bustling along. 

We all simply sat.  We sat on the roof of the holiest of the holy sites; the breeze coming through open windows, sounds of the city all around; birds about, singing.  And we sat in the silence.

When the moment was right, I guess; the monk with a limp went to a lectern – lifted a golden book in the shape of a Cross – and read with a dignity, a gravity, a power, authority, and presence . . . that reminded me, actually reminded us all, why we had taken the trouble to come all the way to Jerusalem in the first place.  To this day, if I sit quietly and return to that moment, I can find the imprint in my soul that this person left on the day that he read before us.

Again – no golden lampstands, no magnificent paintings and hangings, no tapestries and ornate chapels; no, something deeper, something more mysterious, simply the authority and presence and power of the living God . . .

We had come to the Holy Land seeking the master, and it seemed the Master was in our midst in the form of a servant . . .

“Truth will out.”

When I imagine Jesus walking into the synagogue at Capernaum, I recall this visit to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.  When the Master, the living God, is near, “Truth will out.”  The light dispels what is hiding in the darkness.

I believe these lessons are true in our own lives of faith.

When everything is rote, and the routine and ritual are firmly in place, perhaps there is an opportunity for the demons, the Tempter, to hide in the folds of our faith.  When everything is rote and routine, perhaps our religious project begins to resemble a museum rather than a living faith.

But when we least expect it; in the place that we assume God has overlooked, then comes the sudden glimpse, the reminder; the places where our self-importance are not on display may be the very places where it is more difficult for the demons to play hide and seek.  The forgotten place is where the voice of heaven is clear, the Master arrives, and authority is made real.

When Jesus is present, the demons cannot hide because all is light.

Jesus is alive and walking through our world.  Perhaps never more-so than when many believe that God is dead, and the house of prayer left empty.  There remains a light coming into the world.

The command remains the same; the voice in the presence of the Principalities and Powers remains the same.  We recite them in the midst of our own Baptisms.  Each of us is a witness to such authority.

QuestionDo you renounce Satan and all the spiritual forces
of wickedness that rebel against God?
AnswerI renounce them.
QuestionDo you renounce the evil powers of this world
which corrupt and destroy the creatures of God?
AnswerI renounce them.
QuestionDo you renounce all sinful desires that draw you
from the love of God?
AnswerI renounce them.

Be silent you doubts and fears.  Be silent you glamorous and chattering entertainments of the mind.  Be silent you murmuring hordes declaring war on heaven.  Be silent you clamoring complaints and grudges that would raise a fist against God’s throne.  Be silent all who hide in the folds of a gilded and comfortable corners of this house of prayer, the soul, and come out of him, come out of her, because The Master is now in the world. 

“What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him.

2 thoughts on “Truth Will Out”

    1. Hey Brotherman – Apologies for the late reply. I appreciate your reading and hope that you and Trudy are doing well. We are socked in with ice and snow at the moment. Let’s visit on the phone soon if you have a chance. Blessings and Godspeed, A.


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