As Pilate and Jesus end their interaction, we come to the fourth and final question between them. Jesus has established that he is a king and that he came to preach the truth about God and his will. Now Pilate, in all his frustration, essentially throws his hands up and makes a rash decision.
Jesus has established that he is a king and that he has come to bring people to a knowledge of the truth. Pilate now asks what seems like a logical question:
“What is truth?”
Philosophy has asked this question as long as there have been philosophers. So is Pilate being serious? Is he joking? Being sarcastic? It could be that since Jesus has just said everyone who listens to his voice is of the truth, that Pilate now really wants to know what that truth is. But his actions betray him.
Jesus seemingly gives no response—but he has actually already answered Pilate’s question. If Jesus answered Pilate’s questions affirming his kingship, then he has also answered Pilate’s questions affirming that he is the truth. So what is truth? What does Jesus say it is?
Truth doesn’t start with a proposition. Truth starts with a person.
This really isn’t a genuine question from Pilate. We know that because after going back out to to the people one more time, he finally decides to have Jesus killed. As governor, he has to make an impossible decision: free the innocent man or feed the mob.
It was customary to free one prisoner this time of the year. Barabbas has genuinely been charged with insurrection and found guilty. Jesus has been charged with blasphemy, but the governor can’t give a sentence for that. Besides that, even the priests can’t clarify the blasphemy charges.
Ultimately Pilate rejects the truth placed before him. He can’t deal with the tension of what people expect of him and the truth that he’s just been confronted with.
If you want to find truth, where do you go? Do you even believe in truth? Our post-modern age rejects the notion of objective truth. If truth even exists at all, it’s subjective, relative, open for debate, individual choice. For example, standpoint theory says truth and knowledge is dependent on you social position.
Christianity outright rejects this claim. The very definition of truth is altered in such a way that it’s unrecognizable.
The end of the search for truth is Christ and him crucified. There’s always more to learn, more truth to find, but the only starting point is Christ himself.
We all want to know the point—of living, of working, of raising kids, of being married—we want to know the point of why we exist. So the most important question we can ask is “What is truth?”
What Pilate got wrong was that he was face to face with the truth, but because the truth interfered with his life, because he would have to answer to people who hated Jesus, he backed down and couldn’t stand the idea of being mocked and harassed by the right people.
The same choice is yours, and you’ll be faced with the same problem as Pilate. As you answer the question, “What is truth,” there will be people and groups who do all they can to force you to answer a certain way.
The answer to all of life’s questions are found not in a proposition but in a person. No other philosophy or theory of why something exists instead of nothing can account for our search for meaning. The Christian embraces all the hard questions because the search for truth is over. We have found the truth, or rather, the truth has found us. And the truth is a person—the Son of God, Jesus Christ.
Until we know Christ, that God is holy, we are not, but he can make us so, we will fill in the gaps in the truth we know and believe just about anything. We see that going on all over.
Christ says everyone who is in the truth listens to his voice. The fact that there is truth means that error is possible. We can believe wrong things and we can believe right things. Yes, Jesus is exclusive in his claims, but he offers the narrow path to all who will come and listen.
The subjectivity of our culture is a lie. Christ calls on you to decide whether or not you really want the answer to the question, “What is truth?”
The accusation of bigotry and closed-mindedness is nearly meaningless is today’s culture. Don’t fear being mocked or rejected like Pilate. Stand firm in the truth and embrace it.
Christians especially can embrace the truth, because truth is a person.