What Question are You Asking?
“WHAT IS TRUTH?” or “WHO IS TRUTH?”
SOME THOUGHTS ON THE DIALOGUE BETWEEN JESUS AND PILATE.
In John 18, we discover a lot of talk around the topic of truth. First, we encounter Jesus answering the high priest, “Why question me? Ask those who have heard me.”
Jesus is then struck in the face by an official saying, “Why are talking back to the high priest like that? “
“If I said something wrong,” Jesus replied, “testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?”
The high priest had no answer and sent Jesus to Caiaphas.
Next, we get to listen on Peter’s denial of knowing Jesus… not once, not twice, but three times. Here, we see Peter does not testify to the truth. He lies about what he knows to be true.
Then the rooster crows, signaling that what Jesus had predicted had occurred. He had predicted that one of his closest disciples’, Peter, would deny even knowing him. Jesus had spoken the truth.
And after Caiaphas, Jesus is taken to Pilate. The Jewish authorities were probably scheming in their minds, thinking something like, “Ok, this guy is so “slippery.” Maybe we ought to just take him to Pilate. Surely, he will agree with us. Surely, he will find something seriously wrong with this guy. And we’re pretty sure he’ll have no problem sending him to his execution.”
But that does not happen… at first. In fact, Pilate pitches this “dilemma” right back into their laps. “Hey guys, why are you bringing me this guy to deal with?” he says. We can even hear Pilate’s likely thoughts: “I mean, come on, guys, this is your department. And I’m trusting you to do the right thing.”
So how do the Jews respond? “Yeah, we know, but we really don’t have the “right” to execute anyone?”
Now the “ball” is back in Pilate’s court. He might have been thinking, “Execution? Who said anything about execution”?
Still, Pilate sensed that this was a potentially “deadly” situation, and so he says, “Alright, let me check this man out myself. Let me see if I can get to the bottom of what all this hostility is all about.”
So he brings Jesus back into his palace, away from the crowds. And he probably said something to the effect: “So I’m told that these folks, these accusers, are your people. And I’m also hearing that you’re claiming to be a king. And it seems that these people have become so offended by your claims that they want to have you crucified!”
And then Pilate seems to take a different approach. “So what do you say about yourself?” he inquiries. “Do you really believe that you are the king of the Jews”?
Jesus must have been taken a back for a moment, but he then simply does some inquiry of his own. “Are you asking this question–because you really want to know what I really believe about myself and my mission? Or did you just hear a few reports about me, and so you thought that since you are a sane, rational person that you might as well do some investigating of your own?”
And so, Pilate is questioned by Jesus. And how does he respond?
He responds rather defensively and seems to say, “What? Can’t you see that I’m on your side? It was your own people who handed you over to me? Can’t you see that I’m trying to help you? Can’t you see that I’m trying to get your own people to change their minds about you? I mean, can’t you please tell me, “What is it that you have done?”
Then Jesus seems to understand where Pilate is coming from. He seems to say, “Alright…just listen, I’ll let you in on a “little” secret. Yeah, I am a king, but my kingdom is not of this world. I’ve got my eyes on a lot better kingdom.”
And then Jesus did say something like, “Hey, can’t you see that if my concerns were for here and now, well then, those who follow me would have stood up for me. They would have fought for me.”
And this is where a rather “far-out,” but possible conversation that Jesus could have had with Pilate. He could have said, “Well, to be honest, there was a little “slip up” in the garden. My right-hand man Peter–even he had the wrong idea. He got excited and started to defend me with a sword. (John 18:10) But I put a stop to that real quick. I even healed up the man’s ear that Peter had cut off. (Luke 22:49-51)
“I just wanted everyone to know –my disciples and my accusers–that I did not want to physically fight this battle. Indeed, I had my own view of what was taking place at my arrest. I knew that I would have to go through some rather “tough stuff” if I was to be even considered “worthy” of taking my place as king… at another time and place.”
And how does Pilate respond? “Ok, then, now I think I kind of understand you a bit better than I did before. I see now that you really believe that you are a king, but it just doesn’t look like it right now. And furthermore, you honestly believe that your time will come… sometime in the future? Right?“
Jesus: “Hey, you know, I see that you “get me” fairly well. But let me tell you a little more about what I believe about myself. I sincerely believe that this is why I was born into this world. I was born into this world to testify to the truth.”
And what was the over-riding “truth” that Jesus himself proclaimed? He was revealing to everyone just how far “off base” everyone is. And he meant everyone–all the religious folks and all the not so religious folks. His message made it clear that everyone needs help, everyone needs forgiveness , and the way to receive that forgiveness was to trust in him.
And then Jesus lowers the bombshell. He says, “Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”
Whoa?!! What? You mean, this Jesus is saying is that everyone who wants to get on the right path, who truly wants to understand what this life is all about, well then, they need to “listen” to him.
At this point we sense that Pilate has become increasingly frustrated and befuddled. He simply can not bring himself to consider even the “remote” possibility that these “truths” that Jesus espouses could possibly be true. Indeed, he must have felt, this “Jesus” is just “too much.”
Next, Pilate lets his frustration out by saying something like, “Oh, come on, now Jesus, “What is truth? I mean, who really knows what life is all about? I mean, who really knows all the answers? Don’t you know that questions like that are way beyond all of our pay-grades?!”
And so we see Pilate at his wits end? He might have even been thinking, “Oh my, this guy really is convinced about who he thinks he is. I mean, I even kind of feel bad for him. I mean, he seems like a good guy… just seriously deluded.“
And so he goes out to the Jews and says, “Hey guys, I can’t find anything serious enough to charge this guy with. I mean, I just don’t see why you want this guy “gone” so badly”?
And then Pilate himself seems to figure a way out of this “mess.” And it comes from his own people (the powers that be). It was the practice that they, the ruling powers, would release one prisoner each year during Passover. This practice was looked upon as “a gift” from the Roman rulers to the Jewish rulers.
And so Pilate lays out his idea to them. He says, “Hey, I think I’ve an answer to this quandary that we all find ourselves in. How about releasing this guy, this Jesus, who really believes that he’s your king? I mean, why not, he seems harmless enough, doesn’t he? I mean, are you really that set on seeing him “eliminated” from your lives? “
Next we see that it didn’t take long for the crowd of Jews to give him an answer. “No, not him! Give us Barabbas!”
They had already had their minds made up. It’s like they were thinking, “What? Are you kidding? Even you Pilate? Even you have found a soft spot in your heart towards this troublemaker? Even you are making an appeal for him? “
And so we see that even the Jews –the religious folks of the day had given up on giving this “Jesus” another chance. They seemed to be thinking, “We gave this guy a chance. I mean, we gave him so many chances but he refused to fit into our understanding of so many “truths” that we’d been taught for so long.”
Furthermore, the Jews rationale (and everyone’s really) must have been that we’ll even align ourselves with guys like Barabbas–a guy who’s ways were violent—but at least he was fighting for us, for our rights, our freedoms.
And this is where ALL of us –and that means everyone–is shown to be against this Jesus. You see, it seems that ALL of us have shown ourselves to doubt this guys “truth” in some way or another.
And I think we can see that it’s because we’re asking the wrong question. It’s not ,“What is truth?” It’s, “Who is the truth?”
For if Jesus is the truth (John 14:6)—like he claims —-and if he really is “a king” like he says he says is (Luke 23:3), well then, we’d do well to listen to and obey him.
I mean, what other choice do we have?
Oh yeah, we can choose to not follow him, or accept him, or even give him a chance in our lives. I mean, it’s our lives, and we can make of it what we want, right?
But it just seems to me that when one stops for a moment and considers his or her options, well then, it would be “crazy” not to seriously consider this Jesus, who says he’s “the truth’, the very embodiment of truth.
You see, this is where we all get so mixed up, where we fall so far short in our understanding of the truth as a Person.
But this Person is so understanding, so forgiving , and so loving that his primary desire is to put our hearts and minds at rest. And he desires to walk right alongside each of us as we search for and listen for the truth of every little and every big question that we all seek answers to each and every day.
And this Jesus can do this….because he is the truth!
But this is where Jesus has become, and still is, a “stumbling block” to everyone who cannot (or will not) believe that he is who he said he is. (Romans 9:33)
You see, this Jesus’ assessment of our very “human race” is one that says, “Hey folks, your deeds and your hearts are in need of healing and forgiveness. And this is the very reason I’ve come, I’ve come to lay down my life for you… because I really do want to be with “whosoever” (John 3:16) desires to know and live with ‘the truth” for all time!”
Of course, there is another option. One can choose to grab onto a bit of truth wherever one can find it. This is so, simply “because all truth is God’s truth.” And so, one can try to hold life’s enigmas the best we can, but it seems we cannot (or will not) “permit” ourselves to come to the full knowledge of the truth.
And why is this? It’s because we aren’t holding on to his teaching. (John 8:31) We haven’t allowed ourselves to really get to know this Jesus. We haven’t allowed ourselves to really get to know this person who is “Truth.” For if we had, well then, we would know it (him) and this truth (this person), and he would set us free. (John 8:32)
And what would we be free from? We would be free from thinking that we “know it all.” We would be free from thinking that just because we are religious does not mean that we do not need to be “set free” from our sin.
And then Jesus makes his “truth” absolutely clear. “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:34-36)
You see, it’s the Person of Jesus who sets us free from our selfish, sinful ways. You see, since he is the very embodiment of “truth” he is the only one who can do this. And he says we will “know” we are free, and there will be no mistaking where that “freedom” came from!
And so, the question remains. Which question are we asking ourselves—“What is truth?” Or are we asking, “Could the truth-the full and complete, unadulterated truth—be a Person? The Person of Jesus Christ.
Thanks for stopping by. Chris.
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