“What is truth?” Pilate asked.
If we were to read beyond where our scripture reading ended this morning, we would hear Pilate ask this question after his discourse with Jesus. I do not think that Pilate was directing this question at Jesus as much as he was pondering the question himself. He had been approached by those accusing Jesus of treason and blasphemy . . . they claimed to be the truth in the situation. Pilate had questioned Jesus about these accusations . . . and, Jesus stated that his was the truth. And, into this quandary, Pilate was on his own to determine what truth was . . . was it the words he heard from the disgruntled Jews who were fearful of this upstart preacher usurping their power . . . or was it the words of this mystic who spoke of other worldly things based on love for God and others . . . or was it the things he had learned and experienced in his own life. Holding the life of a man in his hands, he pondered what truth really was.
In this age . . . don’t we all? Don’t we all wonder what truth is in this age of shouting heads on the television . . . screaming voices on the radio . . . and, pictures and words thrown at us on the computer screen? Each and every one claims to know the truth . . . few of them ever agree . . . and, we the people listening to and reading all of this are urged to embrace it all as being the truth. It is enough to make one’s head spin . . . ask Pilate, he would know.
On this last Sunday of the liturgical year we are approaching the climax of the Christ story. The end of Jesus’ earthly ministry is coming to a screeching halt . . . he has been arrested, beaten, tried, convicted, and now dragged before Pilate, the Roman consult, in hopes of being put to death. Pilate has been asked to pronounce the death penalty upon Jesus . . . but, he is not sure that this is an up-and-up deal. Pilate is not a stupid person, he knows that things are not adding up . . . and, he also knows that to understand any story, to gain any knowledge, one must always go back to the source . . . so, he summons Jesus. He will question Jesus for himself.
Pilate gets straight to the point . . . “Are you the king of the Jews?” That is the accusation from those in power . . . that Jesus is going around claiming to be the king of the Jews—which is obviously not the truth as Herod was the king of the Jews. Thus Jesus was revolutionary practicing treason and raising the people against not only King Herod, but also the Romans who were their captors. Pilate understood this, but he also understood the ploys of those who were afraid of losing power . . . they lied. Thus he goes straight to the source and asks Jesus point blank, “Are you the king of the Jews?”
Of course, Jesus asks Pilate whether this is his thoughts or the thoughts of others. Jesus, too, wants to know where Pilate stands. This makes Pilate mad and tells Jesus that these are the accusations from those who have had Jesus arrested . . . Pilate knows those who are in power and their play on words to twist and turn the truth to their advantage. That is why he asks Jesus, “What is it that you have done?”
Jesus responds that the only thing he has done is to come and establish a kingdom that is not like any kingdom in the world . . . it is God’s kingdom. With this explanation, Pilate is quick to point out to Jesus that he is then a king. Jesus does not deny it, but at the same time he explains that it is not a kingdom that anyone on this planet had ever witnessed before—it is God’s kingdom. And, to this he came to testify . . . to testify the truth.
By this time Pilate’s head is spinning . . . and, in the verse we did not hear in our reading, he lets slip out what he is thinking: “What is the truth?”
We have all been in the shoes of Pilate. We have all been where he is standing . . . standing in the midst of words and more words . . . all proclaiming to be the truth . . . all wanting our loyalty. And, standing there with our heads spinning, we suddenly realize that we really are not sure what the truth is.
If I only get my news from one source on television . . . Fox News or one of the mainline stations like CBS or ABC . . . all accused of being bias towards the left or the right, liberal or conservative . . . then I have only heard what one side claims to be the truth. If I only get my news from social media like Facebook or Twitter or any number of the Internet’s offerings . . . again, I only get one side of what is said to be the truth. Same with the talking heads . . . liberal or conservative, left or right . . . either way, it is only one claim at the truth. And, no matter what the case, whoever is presenting the truth is adamant about their truth. But, is it the truth?
That is what Pilate wants to know! Is it the Jews? Is it the Romans? Is it Jesus?
As the followers of Jesus . . . we know the answer.
Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” (John 14:6)
We know the answer and this is why Jesus said to Pilate: “Everyone on this side of truth listens to me.” In other words, if we believe in Jesus . . . believe in what he taught and preached . . . believed in the way that he lived his life . . . we know the truth. And, the truth is not of this world . . . the truth lies in Jesus and God’s Kingdom. The truth is based on a simple premise . . . that we are to love the Lord with our whole being, and we are to love one another as we love ourselves. In that premise those who we are to love are the others . . . our brother and sisters created in the image of God. We are to love everyone. Such a concept is not of this world . . . it is not of this world based on what we are being told is the truth in our age.
What we are being told is the truth only pits us against one another. What we are being told is the truth only brings divisiveness and division. What we are being told is the truth only creates animosity and violence. What we are being told is the truth separates and creates hierarchies that are not fair or just. The truth as Jesus knows it does none of this. The truth as Jesus knows it creates unity and oneness . . . it creates family. That is the truth.
So, what is truth?
Well, if we are the followers of Jesus, truth is life . . . life that brings us together as one, as the family of God . . . it brings us the Kingdom of God. And, Jesus showed us the way . . . thus, he is the way.
When Jesus wants to know from Pilate whether the accusations against him were Pilate’s or someone else’s ideas, Jesus really wants to know what Pilate thinks for himself. In the end, this is what it all comes down to . . . is this what you think and feel and believe, or is it something someone else has told you is the truth? In the end, it all comes down to you as an individual . . . not what someone else states is the truth, but what you—deep down in your own heart—believes is the truth. Isn’t that the way it is when it comes to faith? It is between us and God, with God desiring us to be open, honest, and truthful in our relationship with God.
So . . . what do you believe? Not what your parents told you. Not what your teachers told you. Not what some book told you. Not what some Sunday school teacher told you. Not what some preacher spouted off from the pulpit. Not what some talking head said on the television. Not what you read in the newspaper. Not what someone wrote on Facebook. God wants to know what you believe.
What is the truth?
The truth is what you carry within your heart that makes you live your life the way that you live it each day. As a follower of Jesus it should be a love and relationship with God that makes you want to love others . . . all others . . . that makes you want to be the family of God . . . that makes you embrace a kingdom not of this world. Jesus showed us the way . . . he was the embodiment of truth. He said so himself, “I am the way and the truth and the life.”
That is the truth. Amen.