Good Friday: What is Truth?
What is truth? This is the question that Pilate asked Jesus. Many of us are asking the same question today, but for different reasons. Today we are dealing with issues related to fake news. Many of us struggle to tell the difference between a genuine article from a reputable news source and a fake article designed to manipulate us. The ways in which information is communicated have changed so much in the last ten years and right now are constantly changing. Do we get our news from Facebook? The actual printed newspaper? Do we just search Google news? Or do we read traditional news sources online? After the recent presidential election in the United States and the subsequent allegations of elections meddling by other countries and companies, many of us are asking how can we find the truth? Now that the most powerful leader in the world accuses news outlets of spreading fake news, and himself claims things that turn out to be untrue, many of us are asking Pilate’s question: what is truth? But we are asking that because want to know where the truth is and how to find it. Pilate did not have the same motivation when he asked his question.
Pilate’s question, “What is truth?” is really a rhetorical question. He does not seek an answer from someone else. He asks it and then walks away. He asks the question to say that Jesus’ claim to testify to the truth is meaningless. In Pilate’s view, Jesus has one perspective, the Jews have another, and Pilate has his own. ... Pilate was not a nice ruler. According to Josephus, a historian who lived during the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry, Pilate was “a mean-spirited and hard ruler who scorned his Jewish subjects” (Gail O’Day, NIB, John, pg. 815). According to Gail O’Day, if we look closely at John’s portrayal of Pilate, he is not trying to release Jesus, but instead, “he involves himself in Jesus’ trial [in order to] ‘humiliate “the Jews” and to ridicule their national hopes” (NIB, John, pg. 815). Pilate is not seeking truth the way that we are.
In this conversation with Pilate, Jesus says that he himself testifies to the truth and that everyone who belongs to the truth listens to his voice (John 18:37). But, what is truth? First of all, truth is NOT-LIES. Let me repeat: TRUTH IS NOT-LIES. When we seek the truth, it is important to remember first and foremost that truth is not lies. Truth is not a belief system. Truth is not a particular way of looking at things. At its core, truth is not-lies.
Secondly, in John 14:6, Jesus says that He is the way, THE TRUTH, and the life. So, Jesus is the truth. This is helpful to remember when we are wading through all of the information coming at us these days. Jesus is the truth. And we can find our way through the confusion of the information by remembering who Jesus is, and what Jesus has done for us. If Jesus is the truth, then the truth should reflect Jesus’ ultimate act on the cross. Let’s look theologically at Jesus’ death on the cross.
The ultimate purpose of Jesus’ death on the cross is the reconciliation of the world to God. The entire world is plagued with brokenness, death, pain, tragedy, sin. God wants to redeem all of the world. In 2 Peter 3:13, it says that we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth where righteousness and justice are at home. When Jesus died on the cross, He took all the power of brokenness, death, pain, tragedy, and sin with him. The power of all of those things died with Jesus on Good Friday. When Jesus was resurrected, He brought victory over brokenness, death, pain, tragedy, and sin. Because those things no longer have power over us, because we are no longer slaves to them, we are reconciled to God through Christ. So, Jesus, the truth, brings reconciliation, healing, wholeness, new life and forgiveness. But remember, that this reconciliation was bought with a price, a painful price. First there was death before there was new life. First there was suffering before there was reconciliation. This is what the truth is like.
I was reading an article about lying in National Geographic, one of the ones that you guys brought in for our cross project, actually. The top two reasons that we lie are to benefit ourselves (so selfishness) or to cover up a mistake (National Geographic, June 2017, pg. 39). We think that we will benefit from avoiding the truth, that’s part of human nature. But we fail to realize that lies create more brokenness, death, pain, tragedy, and sin. Most times, the truth is painful to face, but ultimately it brings more long-lasting reconciliation, healing, wholeness, new life and forgiveness. Just think about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. Many times with those two efforts, we are afraid to face the truth about the past and the present. But Jesus is the truth. The only way to bring reconciliation, healing, wholeness, new life, and forgiveness is to have the courage to go to the cross regarding the past and how indigenous people were treated, and continue to be treated. When we as a society are courageous enough to go to the cross on this issue, then we will start to see real improvements in the lives of indigenous people. And the blessing of following the truth, going to the cross, and staying the course until real reconciliation takes place is that the blessings are for all involved. And this is true of all the issues facing society today.
So, when we are faced with the confusing mess of information and we don’t know which stories to believe, remember Jesus. Remember that he laid down his life for reconciliation between humanity and God. The truth is painful to face, just like going to the cross. But the courage to face it, and to follow Jesus through it, leads to new life on the other side. Amen.