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What is Truth?

The Question of Truth

In the Gospel of John, a fascinating dialogue takes place between Jesus and Pilate.  It is a dialogue that cuts to the heart of our sinful nature, revealing just how blind and puffed up we are.  In this dialogue, Jesus takes Pilate to the core issue and fundamental question of mankind:  “What is truth?”  This is not a question that we ask very often today.  It is assumed that we know.  Whatever truth has been discovered is already out there, but it does not become true for me until I experience it.  More importantly, what is true for me differs from what is true for you and so knowing THE truth is really not knowable.  Instead, we pay attention to context.  If your truth is not my truth, then all truth is really relative.  There is no one truth that binds all things together.  We must, therefore, conform to the context in which we are placed as Paul did — be all things to all people — adapt to the culture.  Speak truth to people, in their context, that is, speak to the people their particular contextualized truth in their particular context.  What may work for you in your church community, may not work in mine — this just may not be the place for you.  Find the place where truth feels right to you in your context.    And yet if we do so — assume we all know the truth or contextualize — we miss the fundamental question for fallen humanity and fail to see the answer right in front of us, just as Pilate did.

Pilate Questions Jesus

In John 18, Jesus is brought before Pilate.  Pilate takes Him aside for questioning in an effort, he thinks, to save His life.  Yet Pilate does not know what and who is before him.  Pilate wants to know if Jesus is indeed a king, not understanding that the Jews brought Jesus to him because He claimed to be THE King.  Jesus’ reply pushes back at Pilate in the probing fashion that we are accustomed to see from Jesus throughout His ministry:  “Do you say this of your own accord, or did some others say it to you about me?”  This is no rhetorical question, but a question of faith and revelation.  Put another way, Jesus asks Pilate, “Do you know who I am?  Did flesh and blood reveal this to you or did my Father reveal it to you?  Who do you say that I am?”  It is the question posed to Jesus’ disciples, a question only Peter answered correctly, in faith.  And yet, as we are so wont to do when confronted with the Christ, Pilate avoids the question.  He deflects, turning instead to his own power and ability, responding in a fashion that echoes Adam’s reply to God when confronted with the reality of his own sin in the garden of Eden:  “Am I a Jew?  Your own nation and people have handed you over to me?  What have you done?”  “Look, sir,” says Pilate, “Your people want you dead.  I did not bring you here, although they come according to our law.  I can help you out.  What did you do that was so bad?  Confess it to me, and I can make it go away.”  Adam’s response to God was, “It is your fault God.  You gave me the woman, she gave me the fruit, and I ate it.”  Sounds eerily similar does it not?  And yet Jesus is not done.  He reminds Pilate that His Kingdom is not an earthly Kingdom, handing him the rope to which he needs grasp and cling.  Yet Pilate can see only the things of this world.  He hears that Jesus has a Kingdom, and if a Kingdom He has, Jesus must be a King. If a King then a threat to Rome and Pilate’s rule in Judea.  Pilate does not hear Jesus telling Him, “They have brought me to you because of my Word, because My Kingdom does away with all kingdoms of this world.  It is My Word, My Message that undermines their authority, and will tear down their laws, their way of life, and their beliefs in order to give them life.  This they cannot tolerate, and they, therefore, hate me and reject me.”  Jesus, even though He is being led to His death, continues patiently preaching to Pilate the very Gospel of life.  “You say that I am a King.  For this purpose I was born, for this purpose I have come into this world — to bear witness to the truth.  Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate responds to Jesus’ statement with the question of the ages for mankind:

“What is truth?”  In the Greek it is ““τί ἐστιν ἀλήθεια?”” the Latin, “Quid est Veritas?” Read the rest of this entry

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