Summary: There is a very serious lie rampant in our culture: there is no moral truth, no right or wrong that universally applies. Truth is a person.
What Is Truth? In But Not Of
John 18:28-40 May 22, 2005
When Pilate met God, he ended up articulating a timeless question. Listen to the story from John 18:28-40 (NLT)
“Jesus’ trial before Caiaphas ended in the early hours of the morning. Then he was taken to the headquarters of the Roman governor. His accusers didn’t go in themselves because it would defile them, and they wouldn’t be allowed to celebrate the Passover feast. So Pilate, the governor, went out to them and asked, "What is your charge against this man?"
"We wouldn’t have handed him over to you if he weren’t a criminal!" they retorted.
"Then take him away and judge him by your own laws," Pilate told them.
"Only the Romans are permitted to execute someone," the Jewish leaders replied. This fulfilled Jesus’ prediction about the way he would die.
Then Pilate went back inside and called for Jesus to be brought to him. "Are you the King of the Jews?" he asked him.
Jesus replied, "Is this your own question, or did others tell you about me?"
"Am I a Jew?" Pilate asked. "Your own people and their leading priests brought you here. Why? What have you done?"
Then Jesus answered, "I am not an earthly king. If I were, my followers would have fought when I was arrested by the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of this world."
Pilate replied, "You are a king then?"
"You say that I am a king, and you are right," Jesus said. "I was born for that purpose. And I came to bring truth to the world. All who love the truth recognize that what I say is true."
“ What is truth?" Pilate asked. Then he went out again to the people and told them, "He is not guilty of any crime. But you have a custom of asking me to release someone from prison each year at Passover. So if you want me to, I’ll release the King of the Jews."
But they shouted back, "No! Not this man, but Barabbas!" (Barabbas was a criminal.)”
The timeless question, which I would like to pursue this morning, is the “what is truth” question.
It used to be, back in “the good old days”, pretty obvious. Truth is, well… truth. We see that in the well known language of the American declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident.” Today, however, we live in a different climate. Truth is no longer “self-evident,” as in clearly seen and acknowledged by all those around. Truth is now, apparently, only evident-to-the-self, as in it is relative: what is “true” for one person can apparently be “not true” to another. Our culture has largely rejected the idea of absolute truth, and has ridiculed and marginalized those of us who might still cling to such a notion.
A Junior High Example:
I first experienced this reality a number of years ago while working with junior high students downstairs here in our basement. I was in our YAC (Youth Activity Center) when suddenly, about two feet in front of me and in my direct line of sight, one young boy gave another a swat. Of course I intervened, and called this boy to account. Now, recognize that this happened right in front of me, this boy knew I was standing there watching him, and knew exactly what I had just witnessed. He looked me straight in the eye and said, and I quote, “I didn’t do it.” And he was completely serious. “I didn’t do it – it wasn’t me – and you can’t prove anything.” The truth is that he had done it, and I had seen it, and I didn’t need to prove it to anyone else, I just kicked him out. But this boy directly challenged that truth and denied the reality that I had just watched.
There is a very serious lie rampant in our culture, which to be honest is really quite scary. The lie is that there is no moral truth, no right or wrong that universally applies. The scary part of that is that our entire system of order and justice is based on a common conception of right and wrong, of actions and punishments. And if we embrace a world-view that believes that there is no external standard of right and wrong to which we all must conform, we lose our societal basis for justice and protection. In many ways, we have already moved to a place where it is not so much that the action is “wrong” in the moral sense of the word, but that if you get caught you will get in trouble.
Those who buy into this idea that there is no moral truths that are absolute believe that they can create their own reality. “Right” is defined as anything that makes them happy. “Wrong” is anything that makes them unhappy. So if it will feel good, they do it without regard for how it might hurt others. Don’t you find that a little disconcerting?