Truly great leaders love the truth

By Msgr. John Wynand Katende

Living in denial of the truth, cumbersomely, happens to be fairly ordinary for many of us. The gospel of Matthew 28:11-15 records what may be the greatest denial of truth ever in human history, and it happened just after the resurrection of Jesus. The guards at the tomb rightly judged that the plain truth was their best defense. The Sanhedrin, however, willfully shut their eyes to the fact that Jesus had risen, and purchased a lie to subvert the truth. To date the Jews disbelieve Jesus to be the Messiah; hence, missing out on God’s redemptive mercy.

Such is the propaganda of selling lies. The lie overrules the truth and becomes the new reality. But it all ends up in absurdity. If the disciples had not taken Jesus’ body, as the chief priests concocted, why were they not arrested? How could the guards have seen the disciples stealing the body if they had been asleep? The chief priests wanted to deny the resurrection of Jesus because their starting point was that the miraculous had to be excluded. For them, Jesus could not have risen back to life.

If it was all true that Jesus really had risen from the dead, proving he was God’s Messiah, then the religious leaders in Israel, had handed God’s anointed Savior to the Romans to be crucified. That is exactly what Peter proclaimed on the day of Pentecost: “God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah” (Acts 2:36).

The chief priests tried to suppress the truth with a lie because to accept the resurrection had implications for them. They would lose their prominence. They would lose their authority. They would lose their reputation. When Pontius Pilate cynically asked Jesus: ‘What is truth?’, he was probably so used as a politician to lying and being lied to, that truth had become a meaningless commodity. All of us crave for leaders that will tell us the truth and stop lying to us. If no one can be trusted in our society, then religious, cultural, political institutions and values will always be elusive. Families cannot survive without it.

The problem with the truth is that it is most often deeply inconvenient, morally inconvenient, socially inconvenient, financially inconvenient and politically inconvenient. Dictators hate the truth. But the truly great leaders love truth, because they know that only the truth sets people free (John 8:32).

Happily the testimony of the disciples that they had seen Jesus after he was raised to life was believed. Their preaching carried the same authority as Jesus’ preaching; and they did miracles in the power of the Spirit like Jesus had; and the gospel spread through Jerusalem, out to Samaria, and gradually to the ends of the earth. The truth about Jesus, the Christ, could not and would not be contained by a hastily-concocted lie.

Any time we know what is true, but think, speak or act differently, we too have chosen a lie rather than the truth. Not self-interest nor any other unworthy motive can be allowed to control our faith in the great truth that Jesus is alive. We must choose this truth over all lies, and live it out day by day. Doing the truth wherever we are, in religion, in business, in politics, at work or at home, should be our ideal, our guiding value, the hallmark of our lives.

The truth will set us free, only if we are willing to pay the price, a very high price indeed. Jesus lived by the truth and he died for it, as have so many martyrs down the centuries! We need the inspiration which comes from Christ the source of truth.