Thursday, April 20, 2006

What is truth?

These words are a constant refrain in my thinking. This is most ‘true’ when I’m reminded in discussion or in reading of our apparently confused, post-post modern culture.

Today I was forced to consider them again in their most famous context, in Pilate’s reply to Jesus in John 18. Jesus is on trial for his life before Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea. The questioning of Jesus turns upon his identity. Pilate wants Jesus to announce himself King of the Jews. But Jesus doesn’t. Rather, we read these words from Jesus:

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. (NRSV Jhn18:37)

Jesus doesn’t announce his kingship. He describes his life and ministry as a truth teller. He is the king of the Jews. But his kingdom is greater than anything Pilate can understand. As such it is not a political threat to Roman power. As such Pilate can find no case against Jesus.

Pilate’s question about the nature of truth is therefore genuine, even if it is also dismissive. Pilate turned his back on Jesus, and so illustrated that he did not belong to the truth.

How can you belong to the truth? The simple fact of the Christian gospel is that Jesus Christ is truth. His life, his death, his resurrection and his continuing life constitute truth. He is the key to understanding what is true about the world. He is the key to understanding what is true about your own existence. If you belong to Jesus you belong to the truth. The truth of Christianity rests on the truth of the person of Jesus Christ. No Jesus, no Christianity. No Christianity, no truth.

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