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John 18:37-38

"Pilate said, “So you are a king?”
Jesus responded, “You say I am a king. Actually, I was born and came into the world to testify to the truth. 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."

Paper with the word truth laying in the dirt.

When Jesus was initially brought before Pilate, the Roman governor in Jerusalem, he asked Jesus if he was the King of the Jews. Jesus answered that he was born to testify to the truth. To this Pilate responded, "What is truth?" and then he walked away.

When I was a student in seminary, one of my professors explained how the concept of truth has changed over time. He suggested that at one time intellectuals had a serious respect for truth. Truth came with an exclamation point. Truth! Then after some time, we were not so sure what was true anymore. Hence, truth had a question mark appended to it. Truth? Then after some additional time and the growth of cynicism, truth became much more of a joke. Now truth had a smiley face attached to it. Truth :-) How ridiculous, there is no such thing.

Now reading this dialogue between Pilate and Jesus in John chapter 18, I wonder what perspective Pilate held regarding truth. Was his question about truth stemming from genuine curiosity, or was he a jaded politician offering up only sarcasm?

In one sense, it really doesn't matter what perspective Pilate had. At the end of the day, Pilate allowed an innocent man to be executed. Although he declared Jesus to be innocent and knew it to be true, it really didn't matter in regard to the outcome. Pilate cared more about his own career than for justice. Thus seeing that the charges against Jesus were trumped up due to the jealousy of the religious leaders (Matthew 27:18), Pilate nevertheless did the wrong thing.

Interestingly, Pilate didn't actually see the truth of the situation. Because when Pilate asked the question, "what is truth?" he had the answer to his question standing right in front of him. Literally right there. For Jesus declared in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me."

(New Living Translation; photo credit: Michael Carruth via Unsplash)

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