Summary: You can read "What is truth?" as cynical skepticism, as playful intellectualism, as the plaintive cry of a battered soul, or as the hopeful sound of a hungry heart.
It was our first Thanksgiving on our own; always before we had traveled to our parents, but now, with a baby in the house and with other responsibilities, we had elected to do it our own, complete with a full-fledged roasted turkey. Margaret had done a magnificent job. Brother turkey presented his sixteen pounds of drumsticks and breasts, done to a golden perfection, smelling like heaven itself, to our dining table. Only one thing remained to be done before we could enjoy. We needed to carve up that fowl.
Now Margaret said, “In my home, carving the turkey was always my dad’s job. So here is a knife and here are some instructions. Go to it. Carve that big brown bird.”
Well, I looked at the knife and I looked at the bird. I looked at the instructions, which were lavishly illustrated with gorgeous pictures of a smiling father, his white shirt and tie perfectly arrayed, standing triumphantly over a platter of precisely sliced white meat, his elegantly coifed wife and his 2.3 well-behaved children standing eagerly by, waiting for their plates to be filled. It looked so easy.
But again I looked at the knife and I looked at the bird. How was I going to get from the reality on the table to the fantasy in the picture? Instructions, that’s how! Detailed how-to-do-it instructions. There was a drawing, complete with dotted lines, showing where and how to cut! I was enchanted. I read it all. I assimilated every hint, took notice of every nuance. Of course our turkey was getting cold while I did that, but I thought it was important to study and know all that needed to be known. Margaret said she was ready to serve the meal; I said I didn’t know enough yet. She said the vegetables were already on the table; I said I needed to read it one more time. She said the rolls were at mouth-watering perfection; I said that the trouble was our turkey didn’t have any dotted lines on it. She said I needed to hurry; I said I’m studying!
Well, in a flash she took that knife from my faltering hand, she lifted it, and plunged it in – the other turkey, not me – and carved out something we could eat!
You can keep on asking questions. You can keep on searching for truth. You can stay on the tentative side. You can continue to shop around. You can live out on the edge. But you will never, never get the full experience of life and truth until you just plunge in. You will never know all the truth until you commit to the truth you have. You will never get beyond skepticism to truth until you commit to the truth that is right in front of you.
When they brought Jesus to trial before Pontius Pilate, two men faced each other to make a decision. One of the two was confident, assured, serene, certain. The other was hesitant, dubious, exasperated, struggling to find a way out. I think you know which was which. It all turned on the Pilate’s question, “What is truth?” Born in skepticism, nourished in doubt, fostered by political intrigue, but uttered out of a mind that had entertained many claims to truth, Pilate’s question really makes us sit up and take notice. “What is truth?” If you know what it is, you are set for life. If you don’t know what it is, you can wander for a very long time. You can keep on searching for truth. You can stay on the tentative side. You can continue to shop around. But I say you will never get the full experience of truth and life until you just plunge in. You will never know the truth until you commit to Him who is Truth.
“What is truth?” Isn’t Pilate’s question interesting? How do you read it? It could mean any one of a number of things. I want this morning to suggest several different ways we can read Pilate’s question. There are at least four interpretations you can put on Pilate’s nervous query. But, remember, in every case, I want you to see that the only way it can finally be answered is to plunge in. Dotted lines or no dotted lines, plunge in. For you will only know truth fully as you commit to the truth you have, the truth that is right in front of you.
“What is truth?” One way to read the question is as the cynical snarl of a determined skeptic. The cynical, hard-boiled snarl of a determined skeptic. That’s what most people have heard in Pilate. The usual interpretation is that here is a man for whom truth was a cheap commodity. A person for whom there was no truth except what power would bring you. “What is truth?” One answer is that there is no truth other than what the powerful say it is. You know the old saying, “He who pays the piper calls the tune.” For some people, truth is nothing more than whatever the folks you are trying to please say it is.