Summary: When Jesus declares that He is the truth, what does that mean for us as believers? Explore the topic with me as we weigh the words of the Master.
“Jesus said…, ‘I am … the truth… No one comes to the Father except through me.’”
Seldom do we separate the triad of affirmations recorded in our text. The more usual approach is to consider them as a unit. The Master testified, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” We intuitively understand that the three attestations are so intertwined that they really cannot be divided. However, in an effort to fully understand the richness of the Master’s testimony, I have endeavoured to weigh each statement. Certainly, each assertion is capable of standing on its own, and in this study we will think of Jesus, the Truth.
TRUTH EXPLAINED — Jesus of Nazareth was haled by the Sanhedrin to stand trial before Pilate, the Roman legate appointed to administer Palestine. While interviewing the prisoner, Pilate asked, “What is truth.” His subsequent actions demonstrated that he wasn’t seeking an answer; he wanted only to register his cynical view of life in general and of religion in particular.
Jesus stood before the governor, testifying to the purpose of His coming into the world. Perhaps you will recall the exchange between these two men—one sitting as judge, and one bound as a malefactor. Had you and I been present for that interview, we would have undoubtedly concluded that the man seated on the throne possessed authority, power and majesty. Observing His bondage and His position below the dais, we would no doubt that concluded that the one standing before governor had neither form or majesty, no beauty that would make us desire Him [see ISAIAH 53:2, 3].
The account in JOHN 18:33-38 informs us that “Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, ‘Are you the King of the Jews?’” This was the charge brought by the chief priest and the members of the Sanhedrin assembled with him. The divine text informs us that when He was questioned, “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?’”
The charge could not be more serious to be brought before an Imperial Legate, for the prisoner stood charged with lèse majesté, treason. It is all the more surprising, then, that Jesus chose to ignore the taunt that had been flung out by the governor. Focusing instead on the central theme of Pilate’s questioning, “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.’” Pilate seized on this response and said to Jesus, “So you are a king?” At this, “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.”
This response elicited the dismissive query from Pilate, “What is truth?” He didn’t want an answer—he sought only to express his cynicism. Perhaps he wished to stress the meaningless nature of life. Perhaps he wanted to simply be rid of this nuisance that had been brought before him. Whatever his motive, the governor cut off any further discussion with the prisoner by striding back outside to where the Jewish leaders were awaiting his pronouncement.
Jesus, the Son of God, came into the world to “bear witness to the truth.” Of course, each follower of Christ seeks the truth. We want to speak truthfully. We long to live truthfully. We long to be truthful in our very being. In the text before us, Jesus testified that He is the truth. From this testimony, we learn that if we want to know the truth, we must know Him.
How shall we define truth, then? Theologically, truth is Jesus—He embodies truth and He defines truth. In a more general sense, we can state that truth is the opposite of falsehood; truth is the converse of error. In Greek thought, truth implied that one was able to get at the heart of a matter—truth was to grasp the essence of an object, it was to understand the nature of the being of a matter or of a person.
The opposite of this could be described by appearance. Appearance is what seems to be, but truth is what is. As an example, we note that the Wise Man has written:
“There is a way that seems right to a man,
but its end is the way to death.”
This is an ancient statement that Jesus embraces with His affirmation that now lies before us. There is the appearance of wisdom; and there is wisdom. There is the appearance of one following the right way; and there is the right way. The one way leads to death; the other leads to life. Thus, truth is reality versus perception. Truth is substance versus mirage.