What Is Truth?
Don’t be sidetracked. The truth is a person... Jesus.
Pilate therefore entered again into the Praetorium, and summoned Jesus, and said to Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?”... 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.” 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.” 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. But you have a custom, that I should release someone for you at the Passover; do you wish then that I release for you the King of the Jews?” Therefore they cried out again, saying, “Not this Man, but Barabbas.” Now Barabbas was a robber. Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged Him.
– John 18:33–19:1
Now Jesus had spoken often of the Kingdom of God. So the governor asked Him, “Are you a King?” Jesus said that His Kingdom “is not of this world.” The governor said to the religious leaders, “This man has done nothing deserving of death.” But the religious leaders continued to seek the death of Jesus, claiming He was a threat to the people and the governor. Jesus did not defend Himself. The governor was amazed.
– The HOPE, Chapter 10
Observe & Consider
Entire books have been written on the events that took place during the last week of Jesus’ earthly ministry. Because The HOPE is a summary overview of the Bible, it cannot deal with all of the events of the Bible, and certainly not with each one in detail. This lesson will focus primarily on just one detail in one of these events.
After celebrating the Passover meal, Jesus and His disciples went to a garden. There Jesus was seized and taken before the Hebrew religious leaders. They questioned Jesus and found Him guilty of claiming to be the Son of God. He was then sent to the foreign governor (Pilate) who ruled over the land of the Hebrews. The Hebrew religious leaders reasoned that if Jesus asserted before Pilate His claim to be a king (or any other kind of “ruler”), then the governor would be forced to deal harshly with Jesus, perhaps even putting Him to death. This is where our present lesson begins.
Pilate asks Jesus if He is a king. Jesus answers that His Kingdom is not of this realm. Jesus then says that He has “come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” At this point, we can only speculate what the governor is thinking. Both Matthew 27:14 and Mark 15:5 tell us that the governor is “amazed” at Jesus. Even though Pilate may not understand exactly who Jesus is, he knows that Jesus is someone of a very exceptional nature. The governor then asks Jesus, “What is truth?”
Was the question sincere, or merely rhetorical? Again, we can only speculate, but considering that the governor didn’t seem to wait for a response before turning away from Jesus, we might well conclude that his question was only a smoke screen, a diversionary statement. Perhaps Jesus was getting through to the governor. And being a polished tactician, Pilate decided to respond without actually engaging Jesus; to ask a question he thought could not be answered.
Many who stand face to face with Jesus’ claims do exactly the same! They may sense there is something remarkable about Jesus, but they won’t really come to grips with who He is and with their responsibility to honestly engage Him. Instead, they respond with a question such as, “Well if God is good then how...?” or “Does that mean everyone who doesn’t believe like this is going to hell...?” And so on and so on. Perhaps we can’t really know whether someone is asking a sincere question or just putting up a smoke screen. But more often than not, the real question at hand is the same one that the governor was dealing with: What do you do with Jesus and His claims?
We often think of truth as something that is factual and accurate. In today’s relativistic world, some would say that truth is whatever is true to you (see Lesson 40). In John 14:6 we read that Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me.” In this verse Jesus is saying that truth is not wrapped up in a principle, an idea or a fact; truth is embodied in a person, and He is that person. What an irony! The governor is asking “What is truth?” and all the while truth is standing right in front of him.
Ultimately Pilate gives in to the demands of the Hebrew religious leaders to decide the fate of Jesus, or so they think. Jesus is really in complete control of His own fate. (See John 10:17-18). Once he delivers Jesus to His death, the governor symbolically washes his hands of the matter (Matthew 27:24). But once you encounter Jesus, can you really ever wash your hands of Him?
Ask & Reflect
- Can you think of a situation in which someone avoided the issue at hand by attempting to engage you in a diversionary discussion? Do you think that the governor’s question (“What is truth?”) was sincere? Why or why not?
- This lesson makes the point that truth is not embodied in an idea or a fact, but rather in the person of Jesus. Does this affect your view of Jesus? If so, then how?
Decide & Do
In the end, there is only one question that every person must answer: “What will you do with Jesus?” (Acts 4:12). If you have already answered that question and you have placed your faith in Him, then be mindful of smokescreens when you are talking with others about Him. If Jesus really is who He says He is, then the answers to those “smokescreen” questions, as important as they may be, shouldn’t change one’s response to Jesus.
If you’ve never decided what you will do with Jesus, then be aware that you can’t sidestep the question forever like the governor tried to do. Every person must answer. If you’re ready now, then go immediately to the Knowing God section at the end of this study.
For Further Study
- Matthew J. Slick, What Is the Truth? (© Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry, 2003). (http://carm.org/christianity/christian-doctrine/what-truth). Retrieved November 2, 2006.
- Daniel W. Jarvis, Proof for Absolute Truth. (© Absolute Truth Ministries, 2003). (http://www.absolutetruth.net/2008/02/proof-for-absol.html). Retrieved November 2, 2006.