by Rev. E.B. Holschuh
What is truth?
On Good Friday morning, Jewish chief priests delivered Jesus of Nazareth over to Roman governor Pontius Pilate as an “evildoer” with a death sentence. That word, “evildoer,” likely had only one meaning for Pilate in the context of Roman law, under which this Jesus had been charged. That’s how his accusers intended Pilate to understand it; however, Jesus had not broken any Roman law but rather had called himself the Son of God in the presence of the Jewish religious elite. In other words, Jesus was guilty of blasphemy.
The conversation between Jesus and Pilate contained this exchange (John 18:37-38):
“So you are a king?”
“You say that I am a king. 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.”
“What is truth?”
“What is truth?” is a rhetorical question posed by a pagan skeptic, an educated Roman in an immoral world with little or no faith in his own gods, of which there were many in Jesus’ day. As I look around, I see more than a few 21st-century Pilates in my day.
A 2016 nationwide poll conducted by the research organization Barna Group “reveals growing concern about the moral condition of the nation, even as many American adults admit they are uncertain about how to determine right from wrong. So what do Americans believe? Is truth relative or absolute?” Results show that two-thirds say truth is relative and about a third say absolute.
I doubt Pilate meant “What is absolute truth?” by his question to Jesus; I actually think Pilate had the same concept of truth as he did for the number zero (for which there is no Roman numeral). For the Roman governor and Jesus’ Jewish accusers, the truth is held hostage by the zeitgeist—the spirit of the age—in which it’s sought after. Absolute truth never changes. A circle is never a square. A banana is never a cherry. A man is never a woman. The created can never become the Creator.
We think times have changed considerably since Pilate questioned Jesus, but have they? Not so much. The truth is much harder to establish in today’s world. We modern-day Pilates are still asking our gods and goddesses the same question, yet the answer existed long before the question was ever asked!
In such a dysfunctional and disordered world, where trigger-happy news outlets and social-media zealots are so quick to spread the truth as they see it, is it any wonder that the average American has less and less faith in government, newsm and social media sources, not to mention God? On the day I’m writing this, one purportedly objective news source is reporting the following. (You decide, true or false?) A married celebrity is calling for women to go on a “sex strike”…In one state, teachers can carry guns…A million plant and animal species are nearing extinction…Helium (the second most abundant element in our galaxy) supplies on Earth are dwindling…The name Donald has dropped in popularity since 2016 and is now at the lowest since Social Security Administration records began in the 1880s (not a typo)…
Jesus—God Himself—said, “Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” And that voice is Absolute Truth—unchanging, timeless, and dependable, a refuge from the churning sea of moral, ethical, and spiritual promiscuity in which so many are foundering without hope. God’s Word can right the ship and repair the sails (not to mention calm the seas).
Jesus says, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.” (John 11:25)
What is truth?
Well, Pilate was looking Jesus Christ right in the eyes and never saw it. Could the same be happening to you?
Pastor E.B. Holschuh serves at Zion Lutheran Church (LCMS) in Alamo. He is a retired Navy Senior Chief and former English and Russian teacher.