This past Wednesday, in our church’s Lenten worshipservice, we heard John 18:28-19:16, which is John’s account of Jesus’ trial before Pilate.
If you are unfamiliar with this part of the Bible here is the setting: Jesus has been arrested by the Jewish leaders, who want to have him put to death. The Roman rulers of the Jews are the only ones who can authorize and carry out execution, so Jesus has been brought to Pilate for what we would call today a bench trial. Evidence is presented before a judge, who decides guilt or innocence on his own authority. The charges are weak and the evidence is scant but the Jewish leaders are persistent. In exploring the possibility that Jesus may consider himself a king, which would be a punishable offense, Jesus and Pilate have this exchange in verses 36 through 38:
Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” Then Pilate said to him, “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.” Pilate said to him, “What is truth?”
It was my privilege to read these verses to the congregation during our worship service. I have heard this passage aloud, and read it silently, many times and I often wonder how Pilate spoke the final phrase, “What is truth?” Did he just say it plainly? Did he place special emphasis on one of the three words? Was there an element of sarcasm in his voice? Superiority? Despair? Weariness?
Being a Roman governor, ruling a far-off and fairly insignificant province of the empire, all of these options seem equally possible to me. The Bible doesn’t give us any other clues about Pilate and his particular worldview.
From our place in history, looking back over the full revelation of God’s redemptive plan for his people and the world, we see something that Pilate does not. We see that truth is not a “thing,” not something to be sought by asking “what?”
Truth is a person. The question for Pilate, and for us, is really “Who is truth?”
John has already answered our question earlier in his Gospel, in chapter 14, writing in verse 6,
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
Jesus is the Truth in the sense that he, and he alone, provides reconciliation between sinful humans and a holy God. Without the work of God done in Jesus there is no redemption.
Pilate may have viewed this life as all there is. There are certainly many people living today who hold the same view.
Through the testimony of the Bible we who have faith in God through Jesus believe that there is more, much more, than the circumstances we live in day-to-day. And it is in Jesus that every word and action of God is made true.
Writing to the church at
, Paul said, Colossae
For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
If you know God’s peace through Jesus, thank him.
If you don’t know Jesus then these may be the words through which God is drawing you to himself.
Truth is not a thing, but a person, a Person with a Name. Truth is Jesus.
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.