1998-04-02 - Answering the to Truth
The Cross Series, Part 33
John 18:33-38 Pilate therefore entered again into the Praetorium, and summoned Jesus, and said to Him, "Are You the King of the Jews?" 34 Jesus answered, "Are you saying this on your own initiative, or did others tell you about Me?" 35 Pilate answered, "I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests delivered You up to me; what have You done?" 36 Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting, that I might not be delivered up to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm." 37 Pilate therefore said to Him, "So You are a king?" Jesus answered, "You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice." 38 Pilate said to Him, "What is truth?" And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews, and said to them, "I find no guilt in Him
Pilate is frustrated. He tries to push Jesus off on Herod and Herod sends Jesus back to Pilate. His duty to Rome is to defend the Roman Empire and see that Roman law is upheld. Pilate is no fool. He did not get to his current position by luck or chance. Pilate is an intelligent man. He knows that there is something afoot in this matter that neither Jesus nor the Council are saying. It is interesting that Jesus never, during any of the trials, answered to anything but a true statement. Finally he directly questions Jesus, "Are You the King of the Jews?". The Lord turns the tables on the Procurator and asks him - what do you think?
Pilate does not want to go down that path, very much like the world which avoids the question. His single minded focus is to get to the bottom of this matter the Jewish leadership has presented him. Jesus' focus is Pilate's heart. For a moment, Jesus reaches out to Pilate. He teases his intellect with a question that can not only be answered with the mind but also requires the heart.
Jesus finally answers the original question directly. This fallen world is not the place of Jesus' kingdom. Pilate has his answer and he grabs it. "So, you are a king?", and Jesus confirms the Governor's suspicions. He now has Pilate's complete attention and explains His purpose in coming to this world - to bear witness to the truth. Pilate is just as happy to know that Jesus' intentions are not directed against Rome. He sees from his position as Governor that Jesus is no threat to the Empire and is ready to dismiss the charges and end the encounter. In frustration, he scoffs, "What is truth?", and leaves Jesus.
John 14:6-7 Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me. 7 "If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him."
Like the world, Pilate scoffs in the face of questions that demand an answer. In this case, the answer is literally standing in front of him. What is truth? There are things that are true: 2+2=4 is a truth. Jesus claimed to be the truth. This is a difference between something that is a truth and central, or source truth. Just as there are underlying principles to the mathematics that define what two is and the function of addition, there are deeper truths in life. Even these defining principles that specify numerical values and functions are building blocks that Jesus used to create the Universe and set it in motion. The principles are things that Jesus created. Even in this, He is the source of truth.
Pilate and the world are willing to deal with the surrounding truths. I have never had a dispute with anyone over the concept of 2+2=4. But bring up the concept of sin and the defenses fly up. Suddenly the truth of sin raises issues of accountability to a higher authority. The source of truth, Jesus as Messiah/Savior, comes into view threatening their safe bubble they have constructed around themselves. Like Pilate, it raises issues that most are not ready to deal with - our faults and our inability to correct them without help. And yet, one day we must all deal directly with this issue. We will all stand before God the Father either in the rags of our own righteousness, or clothed in Jesus' righteousness. No amount of delay or denial will alter this truth.
Lord Jesus, the hour grows late and still men love the darkness and safety of denial of the light of truth. Fill us with your mercy and grace to pierce this darkness with the truth of Your gracious love. Amen
Grace & Peace,
All verses are from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) unless otherwise noted.