Summary: Jesus receives the title, “King of the Jews,” but he declares that his kingdom is not of this world and it is a kingdom of truth.. If it is not of this world, then where is it? And, where can we find the truth? Is God’s kingdom confined to heaven, or does
Pilate’s question, “What is Truth?” was a hotly debated question centuries before he took his first breath and for millennia after he took his last. With so many religious purveyors of truth, we have come to question the reality of absolute truth. Relative truth is currently popular—“What is true for you is not necessarily true for me, and what is true for me may not be true for you.” We have “half-truths,” which people who hold differing opinions call “boldface lies.” At the same time we have inconvenient truths, which have been labeled “fake news” by a few.
Discovering the truth in important for us as individuals. We have an innate desire to live authentic lives; not to live a lie, but to live truthfully. As followers of Jesus, it is important for us to determine what is true because Jesus, in his conversation with Pilate, stated that he had come to bear witness to the truth.
In Jesus’ brief conversation with Pilate and in other interactions with people over the course of his ministry, we begin to discern the truth and understand how it intersects with our lives today.
In the story today, Jesus has been handed over by the High Priest and other Jewish leaders to Pilate. Their intention is to have Pilate execute Jesus because Jesus has attacked the unjust temple system and is growing in popularity. They have found Jesus guilty of blasphemy—claiming to be God. This charge, however, means nothing to the Romans. In order to execute Jesus, Pilate must find Jesus guilty of a capital punishment offense, such as treason and insurrection.
In verse 33, Pilate asks Jesus, “Are you king of the Jews.” Jesus answers that his kingdom is not of this world. In other words, Jesus is calming any concerns that Pilate might have that he is interested in leading a rebellion against Rome. After stating that his purpose is not to be King of the Jews, Jesus states his true purpose in verse 37. He says, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” Jesus’ life, death and resurrection—the purpose of his incarnation—is to communicate the truth.
Pilate responds to Jesus’ revelation by asking the question, “What is truth?” This is the wrong question. The correct question should have been, “Who is truth?” To this question Jesus would have responded, “I am.”
The truth is that God’s kingdom is a relational kingdom. Being a God of love, God wants to have a loving relationship with God’s creation. In the beginning of John’s gospel the author writes, “And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth” (1:14). In his reply to Pilate Jesus talks relationally, telling how those who are of the truth HEAR Jesus’ voice. The truth is found in a relationship with a person who is himself the truth. The truth is not laws or religious doctrines. The truth is God.
The truth is that God is a God of love and that God loves you and me. In John 13:34 Jesus gives his disciples one (simple) command. He instructs them, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” At one time or another the Church has proclaimed that sinners, women, blacks and gays are unlovable. All of us have felt unlovable or have been told that we are unlovable. The truth is that God loves us with a steadfast love, forgives us unconditionally and acts with overwhelming grace in our lives.
The truth is that Jesus is the resurrection and the life (11:25). Loss and death are a part of life. During those times of pain, suffering and grief we have believed the lie that life has ended and can never be brought back. Jesus comes and proclaims to us the truth that he is the resurrection and the life. Death is not the end. In fact, death has already been swallowed up in the truth of the resurrection.
IS IT TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE?
It is difficult for us to live in the truth. We convince ourselves that Jesus is too good to be true. We think that God can’t forgive someone who has done what we have done. “God’s love must be earned, we have to be good people” we say to ourselves. Life hurts too much that we can’t believe loss and death are able to be overcome. Believing that the truth is too good to be true, we live in the lie.