Matthew 27:2, 11-14; Mark 15:1-5; Luke 23:1-5; John 18:28-38
What Is Truth?
Matters are moving very quickly now. The chief priests want this done and over by Passover. So they are at Pilate’s headquarters early in the morning. Pilate is governor over Judea, a place that Rome had designated a hotspot for riots and so installed one of their own to govern the city directly with lots of soldiers. And the city is already astir, a matter that weighs heavily on Pilate. Whatever happens, he can’t lose control over the people. The chief priests know this and will use it to their advantage. They approach Pilate, not with accusations of blasphemy for which Pilate could care less, but indicting Jesus with misleading the nation, stirring up the people, forbidding the people to pay taxes to Caesar, and calling himself, “Christ, a king.”
Which, of course, are all lies. But intriguingly enough, in the midst of these falsehoods, Pilate takes Jesus aside to discuss…well, truth. Pilate first asks Jesus if he is the king of the Jews, no doubt a ridiculous claim in Pilate’s eyes as he beholds this beaten-up, ordinary man. Jesus answers that his kingdom is not of this world. Now Jesus could still call twelve legions of angels to his rescue, but why would he? Our Lord is not interested in inheriting the kingdoms of this world as they are, but in redeeming them and thereby making them fit for the world to come. Pilate then answers, “So you are a king.” Jesus’ response is filled with more mystery than Pilate can endure: “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 then says, “What is truth?”
Was Pilate being snarky, sincere, waxing philosophical? We don’t know. It seems he just walked away. No doubt, he views Jesus as a religious fanatic, and a person who is no threat to Rome. But Pilate has real-time political realities to deal with and no time for philosophical discussions. Pilate was not “of the truth,” and so could not hear what Jesus would say. He didn’t care. Only those who are of the truth can hear Jesus’ voice. And when they do hear it, it’s not philosophy they hear, nor deep religious doctrine that will make their head explode. When people hear Jesus, it’s a still small voice working on the inside as the Holy Spirit applies his words to their hearts. The word from Jesus that the Spirit applies brings its own proof, its own testimony, its own assurance, for which the believer (or the one whom the Spirit is bringing to saving faith) needs no confirmation from the world. The one enlightened by the Spirit hears Jesus say, “Here is the good way; walk in it” (Jeremiah 6:16). Pilate had no time for that; neither does the world.