For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate said to him, “What is truth?” (John 18)
As a college freshmen at UW-Milwaukee I remember debating another classmate on a certain moral subject – the specifics of which I can’t remember. At a certain point, I thought I had shown her the weakness of her argument, in such a way that she might be persuaded to rethink her position.
It was at this moment that she showed some frustration with me, and said, with an air of sophistication, “Well, your truth is your truth and my truth is my truth.” I guess we’ll have to just agree to disagree.
I suspect many of you have been there too. We live in an age where truth is determined by subjective feelings and moral relativity. But for me, at least personally, this was the first time the concept had been presented to me so unapologetically and casually at the same time.
But of course, ambivalence about the truth is nothing new. Tonight, Pilate stands before Jesus as a true post-modern, premodern man. He sneers. “What is truth?” Pilate cynically asks Jesus.
Now, to be sure, Pontius Pilate is no slouch. He would have received a truly world class education. Grammer, logic, the sciences, rhetoric, law and philosophy. He was no fool. He would have had access to some of the greatest thinkers and teachers of his day. Yet, even after all this so-called knowledge, he didn’t have the smarts – the wisdom to recognize who was standing in front of him.
But the dirty little secret is that there is a little relativist in you too. A cynic in you too. Because if you really did know who stands before you - if you really did believe the truth, why do you live like you do? Why do you then do the things you do? If you recognize the Lord before you, and confess him to be king, why do you refuse to act like his royal and obedient subject?
Why do you live the way you live, say what you say, and think the way you think? Why do you stockpile treasures that rust and obsess about new stuff. Why do you live and think and act as if life is just one big party, and tomorrow, you die and that’s that?!
Before you pronounce judgement on a long dead Roman governor, have a good look at yourself! You too have been clumsy about the one truth that matters. You’ve compartmentalized it in your own life. You’ve confined the truth to Sunday mornings, and even though the truth should spill over and permeate into every little aspect of your life, you’ve resisted. Like Pilate you’ve so often preferred to keep the Lord at arm’s length. You too have been more than a little suspicious of God.
Your mind, your heart, your priorities, your checkbook – all have a tendency to express the same cynical attitude as Pontius Pilate himself: “What is truth?”
But don’t sneer. Don’t be cynical. Repent. And listen to a real straight shooter. One who tells it like it is. One who stands before Pilate and says the unvarnished truth - “For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world – to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.”
I am the way, and the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father but through me. You will know the truth and the truth will set you free. Jesus prayed for you, “Sanctify them in the truth; Your Word is truth.”
You can’t agree to disagree with him to who laid the foundation of the earth. You can’t agree to disagree with him whose right hand spread out the heavens. God is not waiting for any polls, or consensus, or any other false arbitrator for truth. He IS the truth. He set the sun, the moon, and the stars in place. He governs the wind and the waves and keeps the sparrow in flight. When he comes again in judgment every knee will bow before Him. Everyone one will hit the deck…every tongue will acknowledge that He is Lord.”
Dear friends, your truth and my truth are of no account. The truth, with a capital T is the self-disclosure of God himself. Our lives, everything we are - everything we’ve got is to be brought in submission to this one reality: that the eternal Word became flesh and dwells among us. That Jesus, God’s Son, is full of grace and truth.
Truth, such as confessed by children, that God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. A truth like this - that there is salvation in no one else, no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.
He is a straight shooter, after all, who tells it like it is - “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.” That’s straight talk. “Behold,” he says, “I am making all things new…Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
Jesus stands before Pilate and us. He teaches us, saying, “My kingdom is not of this world.” A new heaven and a new earth where there are rivers whose streams make glad the city of God.
Like a beautiful city, twelve gates as twelve pearls, and each of the gates made of a single pearl. A place where the streets of the city are actually paved with pure gold. Imagine that. Paved with gold! A city that does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, because the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. And then we’ll bow down before his throne, lay down our crowns, and behold him face to face.
You certainly won’t want to agree to disagree on this! It is the truth upon which everything hangs!
What’s truth? It’s Jesus sweating blood in the garden to save you. What’s truth? It’s Christ and Him crucified for your sins. What’s truth? It’s an empty tomb and a Risen Lord – eating and drinking with his disciples. It’s a kingdom of uninterrupted forgiveness of sins, grace, and mercy. It’s a real kingdom, with a real king, and real royal subjects, such as yourselves, who gladly do his will.
So don’t be discouraged when the world sneers at the truth! You may smile and cheerfully confess Christ – who is the way, and the truth, and the life. Let us all live as if nothing else really mattered and say those words that our pastors taught us so well, “this is most certainly true!” In the name of Jesus. Amen.