Summary: Jesus is the Truth and if we are on the side of Truth, we follow Him absolutely
What is Truth - Jn 18:33-38
We live in a post-modern society that no longer believes in the absolutes of truth
Our modern philosophy has been summed up as follows:
“There are no absolute except the absolute that that there are no absolutes.”
Each person is entitled to “his or her truth” and one is deemed arrogant to contradict this position.
We see in politics that “content of policies” seems to be less important than “image”.
But this isn’t a new dilemma.
For we see in this morning’s Gospel passage, Pilate asking Jesus the question:
“What is truth?”
Pilate was a man with a dilemma. The Jews had him in a corner.
He knew Jesus was not guilty – he had said as much yet when push came to shove, what was going to win out – his career or justice.
Was Pilate prepared to put all that he had worked so hard for on the line for an obscure Jewish carpenter?
Truth seemed to be quite an alien concept to the Jewish Procurator.
What does history tell us about Pilate?
He was Roman Upper middle class and had been appointed Procurator of Judea – very much a poisoned chalice in the Roman Foreign Office. Judea was consider “uncivilized” by Roman standards.
As Procurator, he had
i) the power of life and death
ii) appointed High Priests
iii) controlled the Jewish Temple and funds
What do we know of Pilate from historical sources
1. Roman standards in Jerusalem
Pilate’s first recorded action can be found in Josephus’s Antiquities (Ant. 18 55).
Here Pilate set up Roman Standards (bearing the image of the emperor) in Jerusalem thereby breaking with the previous practice of Roman Procurators and inflaming Jewish sensitivities. Not only was Pilate displaying the humiliation of occupation but the Jews considered the Roman Standards were a sacrilege too - as the Emperor was by this stage deified.
This contravened the second of the Ten Commandments. (Ex 20:4)
Jewish feelings ran so high that he had to remove them six days later.
2. Purloining of the Temple Funds to build an aquaduct in Jerusalem
Pilate’s second recorded action is also found in Josephus’ Antiquities (Ant.18 60).
Here Pilate appropriated Temple funds to build an aqueduct into Jerusalem. When the Jews protested he sent in the troops and caused a massacre.
3. Trial and Crucifixion of Jesus
Pilate’s third (and most infamous) recorded action can be found in all four Gospels – for example in Jn 18-19. This was the trial and crucifixion of Jesus Christ .
4. Massacre at Mount Gezizin
Pilate’s last recorded action again comes from Josephus (Ant. 18 85 89).
This was the massacre of Samaritans at Mount Gerizin. This led to such a protest that Vitellus, Governor of Syria recalled him and sent him to the Emperor to explain his actions.
Philo (De Legatione ad Gaium 301) sums up Pilate as
by nature rigid and subbornly harsh
of spiteful disposition and an exceedingly wrathful – a man full of bribes, acts of pride acts of violence, outrages, cases of spiteful treatment, constant murders without trial and ceaseless and grievous brutality.
And it was this very man, when confronted with Jesus - asked the poignant question – “What is truth”.