Do you know what I think is one of the biggest problems in our culture today? We have forgotten the meaning of the word Amen. Think about it. Do you really know what that word means? So far in our worship for just this morning you have together proclaimed Amen seven times and you will say it three more times before we conclude our service today, but do you even know what you’re saying? When I was a child, I just figured that it meant here endeth the prayer. Why? Because that’s how we use it. You pray. Sometimes it’s short and sweet – like at dinner when we pray, Come Lord Jesus be our guest and let these gifts to us be blessed, Amen. And sometimes the prayer feels like it goes on and on. When I was a child, at worship on Sundays there were times that the prayer of the church would go on and on interminably and after a while I would begin to squirm, feeling like the prayer would never end, but I knew to listen for one word and that word would tell me that the prayer was finally over. I would stand there fidgeting just waiting for the pastor and the congregation to finally say Amen. And that was the sign that the prayer was over and I could sit down. So, I reasonably concluded that amen meant here endeth the prayer. What about you? What do you think Amen means?
In our Gospel text for this morning Jesus says this word six time, two at a time, saying Amen, Amen. I bet some of you are getting it now. Even if you did not know before, now I bet your saying to yourself, well of course. Jesus said Truly Truly, so Amen must mean truly. Well that is how we translate it here, but you know what? That’s not what it means. Remember, I said that I thought one of the biggest problems our culture faces today is that we have forgotten the meaning of the word Amen. Not just you, but our whole culture. Do we translate Amen as truly? Yes, but do we even understand what truth truly means this morning? This morning, I would like you truly ask yourselves what Pilate mockingly asked Jesus in His trial. “What is truth?” You see, I don’t think we even understand what the word means anymore. In our culture, truth can mean simply not lying; it can mean what you believe; it can mean what you value, but it no longer seems to mean what is. Truth has become subjective truth. In fact the question “What is truth?” has today become meaningless. Today, the question has become, What is true for me? Truly, we have a different word today that we use for what is and that word is Fact. In our culture we have abandoned the very notion of objective truth. What is, is fact. What is truth is what we believe or value completely disconnected from any consideration of what is. We no longer even consider these two notions of what is and what is true for me in relation to each other. To explore what is, you must engage in the discipline of science, while the exploration of what is true for me is relegated to philosophy, religion and spirituality. We no longer even talk about that is true, but what is my truth. But have you ever considered just how ludicrous this notion is?
Subjective truth cannot exist apart from an objective truth. Without the objective, the subjective does not exist. Think about it for a moment. I’m sure most of you studied grammar in school, so tell me, what is necessary for a complete sentence, a complete thought. You must have three things present: object, subject, and verb. Now it is possible for the subject and object to be the same thing (like when Jesus says “I am!”), but both object and subject are present, they are simply synonymous. To be a subject is to be in relation to an object. In the same way, subjective truth can only exist in relation to an objective truth. With out the objective truth, the subjective truth is no truth at all, but only fantasy. And this is what we must understand about Amen. It does in truth mean truth; not subjective truth, not objective truth, but truth. The Amen is a proclamation that what one declare and holds to be truth is in fact objectively true. Now that objective truth is true whether we acknowledge it or not, but the Amen is the subjective acknowledgment of what is objectively true. I like how Luther expressed this concept in his Small Catechism – I’m sure most of you remember this. What did Luther say? “This is most certainly true.” Now that’s a loaded phrase. It means that yes I am certain in my heart regarding this commandment or article or petition, but more than that. It means that what I am certain of is true, objectively true. Amen means this is most certainly true. So what’s the point? What does it matter? Well it matters very much for our Gospel text for today. Jesus said six times that this is most certainly true. In fact He says it three times twice. Amen, Amen.
Jesus says, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” Jesus says, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” And Jesus says, “Amen, amen, I say to you, we speak of what we know and bear witness to what we have seen…” Jesus says it right there. What does Amen mean? “we speak of what we know and bear witness to what we have seen…” But notice that Jesus says Amen, amen before He speaks, not after like we do. Why does Jesus say Amen before? Why? Because, when we say Amen we are acknowledging to be true for us what is in fact true. When we say Amen, we with Luther are saying this is most certainly true. But Jesus is doing something more. Jesus is placing the truth of His statement before the statement itself. How can He acknowledge what is most certainly true, if He has not first declared what He has witness as most certainly true. One way and one way only. Jesus is not only the proclaimer of that truth, He must likewise be the worker of that truth. Jesus not only testifies to the truth, He is the way through which that truth is made true. Jesus Himself is the Amen.
When Jesus says, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot enter the kingdom of God”; He is not just stating the fact that you must be born again; He is not just declaring His personal certainty in His heart that He will be be born again (in the resurrection); Jesus is declaring that He is the way through which you are born again. Jesus Himself is the Amen. Jesus is the one who is ascended with the Father and descended to us. Jesus Himself became for us the serpent lifted by Moses in the wilderness, that whoever looks upon Him and trusts in Him will be saved from the death caused by their sin and given eternal life. Jesus Himself is the Amen. This cannot just be true for us. If it is only true for us, then it is not true at all; it is only a fantasy. Our salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ can only be true for us if it is most certainly true and our faith in Jesus Christ can only be certainly true if Jesus Himself is the way through which that faith is made true. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever trusts in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.” Jesus Himself is the Amen. This is most certainly true!