Jesus answered, ‘…the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.’ ‘What is truth?’ said Pilate. With this he went out again to the Jews gathered there and said, ‘I find no basis for a charge against him.’
Pilate’s question is tantalisingly ambiguous. We can imagine the tone of his voice in lots of different ways. Try saying those three words for yourself, either in your head or aloud, and you’ll see what I mean. What do you think Pilate sounded like? Was there sarcasm in his voice? Did he sound sceptical? Or was he being earnest, truly searching for answers?
What is truth? Every single one of us will ask ourselves this question at some point in our lives. Most of us already ask it regularly, as do the people we meet and interact with on a daily basis. It’s important to realise, however, that people ask – and answer – this question very differently. Some are sceptical, doubting there is any such thing as ultimate truth, whilst others are hopeful, searching for something objective, something real and dependable.
For Christianity the key question is not what but who truth is, for throughout his life Jesus consistently pointed to himself as the one in whom truth is found. Previously Jesus had said, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life’ (John 14:6), and earlier in his encounter with Pilate he says it again: he came and was born ‘to testify to the truth’.
When Jesus is questioned, he doesn’t say much. If I were on trial I would rush to defend myself, prove myself, say or do anything I could to demonstrate my innocence. But Jesus doesn’t do that. And though Jesus claims to be the truth, he doesn’t offer Pilate any lengthy teaching or instruction. He simply stands there and presents himself. Even though Pilate gives in to external pressures and grants Jesus’ execution, he is nevertheless sympathetic – might he even believe that Jesus is who he says he is?
As we go into the week ahead, we can remember two things. Firstly, Jesus is the one in whom the truth is found. We can look to him to learn about the way things really are; to make sense of God, the world, and ourselves. Secondly, as we seek to share our faith with others – with that workmate curious about God, or that relative who likes to indulge in abstract arguments about religion – we would do well to keep on introducing them to Jesus, the one who is truth himself, and show them the way he has transformed our lives.
Alex is a student at Durham University, and soon to begin graduate study in New Testament at Oxford. He blogs at The Coffeehouse Cleric.