Connections 11.21.2021: The Truth

John 18:28-38

Try to see things from Pilate’s perspective.

The local religious authorities have brought a man before you. They accuse the man of being a criminal. They regard him as dangerous enough to warrant the death penalty.

You look at the man. He strikes you as being harmless. He sure doesn’t seem like someone who could inspire a military rebellion. You have trouble seeing the man as a threat to the empire, and if he isn’t, you wonder if he should be of any concern to you. You figure you should at least ask a question. So you do.

“Are you the King of the Jews?”

That’ll put him on the spot, you think. You’d heard some people say that he’d said that. Might as well cut to the chase.

It seems to you that the man won’t give you a straight answer. He finally says something about his kingdom not being from this world, which makes you wonder even more how much of a threat to the empire he can be.

But then he says something that gets your attention: “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.”

And before you can stop yourself, you’ve blurted out, “What is truth?”

You asked the question because you’d really like to know the answer. You’ve sworn allegiance to the truth that the empire deserves your loyalty. You’ve sworn allegiance to the empire’s truth that might makes right. You’ve even sworn allegiance to the empire’s truth that the emperor is divine.

Your question reveals your doubts that the truths you’ve sworn allegiance to are really true. It confesses the truth that you don’t know what the truth is. It tells the truth that you’d really love to know the truth.

Or would you? After all, you don’t wait for an answer. Instead you go back out to continue dealing with the religious leaders who brought the man to you.

But as you walked outside, you couldn’t stop thinking about the look in the man’s eyes that seemed to be saying, “The truth standing right in front of you.” You wondered if you should have asked, “Who is truth?”

As we know, things go downhill from there, and Pilate ends up ordering that Jesus be crucified. Pilate was sure he hadn’t killed a king. Maybe he wasn’t so sure that he hadn’t killed the truth.

But there was more testimony to come. There would be the testimony of crucifixion—testimony to the truth that God’s way is the way of self-sacrificing service. There would be the testimony of resurrection—testimony to the truth that Jesus opens the way to eternal life. There would be the testimony of ascension, exaltation, and glorification—testimony to the truth that Jesus is indeed the King of everyone and everything.

As far as we know, Pilate never knew the truth. He never found the way. He never experienced the life.

But we can. We can because of the truth that, because of his crucifixion, resurrection, and exaltation, Christ reigns.

Discussion

  • What is significant about John’s parenthetical comment in verse 32: “This was to fulfill what Jesus had said when he indicated the kind of death he was to die”?
  • What does it mean for Jesus’ kingdom not to be from this world (v. 36)?
  • What is the truth to which Jesus came to testify (v. 37)?
  • How would you answer Pilate’s question, “What is truth?”?

Michael Ruffin is husband to Debra, father to Joshua (Michelle) and Sara (Benjamin), grandfather to Sullivan and Isabella. A graduate of Mercer University and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, he has previously served as a pastor and as a university professor. He lives on the Ruffin Family Farm in Yatesville, Georgia. He is the Connections Series Curriculum Editor.

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