Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.”
“You are a king, then!” said Pilate.
Jesus answered, “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”
“What is truth?” Pilate asked … (verses 36-38)
“What is truth?”
What do you think? Is Pilate asking a genuine question, eager to embrace the answer? Or is he simply giving Jesus a cynical brush-off? For my money, it’s more likely the latter, but I think John, the Gospel-writer, seizes on it in order to spotlight a theme he’s recorded for us time and again. Truth.
At the beginning of his Gospel, when he introduces us to Jesus as the Word, he tells us Jesus is full of grace and truth (1:14) – the lavish generosity of grace and the crystal clarity and focused vitality of truth combine in the Person of Jesus himself. Both then flow from him to us. As decisively as the Law was given through Moses (a momentous moment in Israel’s history), so grace and truth are decisively given through Jesus Christ (1:17).
We are invited into this truth as we abide in Jesus’ teaching. It’s as if he welcomes us to make our home in the very atmosphere of his own perspectives and thoughts and instructions and commands – as we do, he says, we ourselves will actually know the truth and that truth will set us free (John 8:32). More boldly, he claims to actually be truth. “I am the truth,” he says, without blush, without bluster. To know Jesus is to enter into truth.
He gives us his Spirit, the one who is called alongside to help, the one who makes Jesus’ very presence alive within us. It’s not a surprise, then, when he calls this one, again and again, the “Spirit of truth” (John 14:17, 15:26, 16:13). Of course – he embodies Jesus. He makes him known.
“What is truth?” Pilate asked. We, too, might well ask the same. Our world is filled with wildly competing voices, blaring out deeply contradictory perspectives. Each claims to be true. Each labels all others as “fake.” Social media, political spin, marketing promotions, et al make for a dizzyingly confusing mix. Without any sense of cynicism whatsoever, but with complete sincerity, indeed desperation, we might well cry out with Pilate: “What is truth?”
The answer, back then, was staring Pilate right in the face.
There is still mystery. There is so much that is simply beyond us, so many questions that continue to swirl. But when Jesus says “I am the truth” he provides the solid ground on which we stand, the fountainhead from which all else flows. Truth comes in relationship. It is by knowing him, holding fast to his teaching, that we enter into truth. It will take time (indeed eternity) to embrace it all. But Jesus is where we start.
Lord Jesus, I submit myself to you afresh. Your word is truth, your commands bring freedom – I choose to obey. Relationship with you is truth’s entry point and foundation – I choose to abide. You are the truth – I choose to follow.
Reflect: Do you find it easy or hard to take Jesus’ word as truth? At what points are you questioning his lead? What can you do to reaffirm his position as “Truth” in your own life?