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”.
Pilate had a choice to make. For Jesus had said, when Pilate asked him if he was a worldly king – a question incidentally that would carry the death penalty for Jesus if he answered in the affirmative:
“You are right in saying I am a king. In fact for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world – to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of Truth listens to me” (Jn 18: 37)
Yet Pilate failed to recognise the Truth.
Jesus – who personified the Truth (Jn. 14:6) was standing in front of him and he could not see the Truth.
As Christians we are called as Jesus said “to be on the side of Truth”. We are called to listen to Jesus. His teaching needs to become part of the fabric of our lives.
If we are serious in seeking the Truth, then we need to take St. Paul’s exhortation in Romans seriously
Therefore I urge you brothers, in view of God’s mercy to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Rom 12:12)
For the Christian - truth is not an abstract concept. Truth is a way of life. If we choose the truth, we choose to know Jesus and to follow Him all the days of our life.