So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?” Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “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 said to him, “What is truth?” John 18:33-38 (ESV)
Pilate was not a Jew and had little to no understanding of Jewish laws and customs. He would not have known all the references in the Old Testament that speak of Jesus and of His kingdom. Pilate would not have been able to comprehend that as he was condemning the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 55 he was also condemning the Lord of Life, the I AM God.
Pilate did understand the power of Caesar- of tangible, absolute, military authority. However, Roman society was very tolerant of just about every type of religious belief or observance as long as it was understood that in practical and temporal applications, Caesar was “lord of all.” As far as religious belief went, the attitude was, “I have my truth, you have yours.” Pantheism (the worship of many gods) was the norm in Roman society. There were gods for everything from fertility, to the oceans, to the harvest. People were thought to be strange if they didn’t indulge in worshiping a pantheon of gods.
We can identify to some degree with Roman society in that there is a smorgasbord of philosophical, religious and spiritual beliefs out there. As Americans we hold the freedom of religious exercise in high esteem if for no other reason than we don’t want to face persecution for our own beliefs. Political correctness blurs the line even further when we are shamed or made to feel uneducated because we speak up for the truth even when it offends some people. Truth is never made false simply because it is unpopular.
Christianity is not compatible with the postmodern concept of relativism or with the pantheistic, hedonistic, anything goes idiom of ancient Rome. The message of Christianity has never been the nebulous “find your own truth” philosophy that is so prevalent and pervasive today. Pilate had a philosophical conundrum with “the truthiness of truth,” but reality is that truth is objective.
Truth is not based on feelings. Truth is not based on expediency. Sometimes truth is painful. The way of the Cross is the way of the truth even though it seems silly to the rest of the world. The apostle Paul teaches us: “For the word of the Cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:18 (ESV)
Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” Matthew 10:34 (ESV)
As the church year ends, we certainly are aware of the things are wrong with this world, and we groan right along with the rest of creation as it endures the weight of the curse of the Fall. We are bogged down in the world of now, and the promise of not-yet seems far away.
Truth is concrete. It is not flexible or subjective. The truth is there is a Lord of All. The truth is that the way to life is found only in the Way, the Truth and the Life- Jesus- the One Who went to the Cross to die to save us from sin, death and the power of evil.