March 17, 2004: What Is Truth?

Dear Jesus, You are the Way of joy and gladness whereby we are led to heaven. You are the Truth of the universe, revealing Yourself to us with selfless sacrifice. You are the Life—in that You make life worth living here in time and hereafter in eternity. Dear Lord, may we never take You for granted! Amen

TEXT: John 18: 38: “What is truth?’ Pilate asked.”

Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
“Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?” From “Perry Mason” to “LA Law” to “The Practice” we’ve all heard those words coming from our TV’s. If you’ve ever had jury duty, you’ve heard them personally. Our whole legal system is based on uncovering the truth. It is based on witnesses confessing the truth and being cross-examined to make sure their confession isn’t false. And at the end of a trial, when the jury must decide, if they cannot ascertain the truth, if it is unknowable to them, then they must acquit.

Truth is important in every aspect of our lives—but especially when it comes to religion. A faith based on a lie is really no faith at all. Indeed, unless we base our faith on reality, on the truth, of faith is no bigger or stronger than we are—which is quite pitiful. Tonight, Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea, asks Jesus that famous question:

And the answer will determine whether our faith is real, or fake.

It is Good Friday. Dawn has just broken over the city of Jerusalem. Jesus has just undergone a shame trial before the high priest, Caiaphas, and the ruling Jewish council, the Sanhedrin. They found Jesus guilty of death because “He claimed to be the Son of God.” But, since they were under Rome’s thumb, they could not mete out the death penalty. They had to ask Pilate, the Roman governor to do that. He would have to formally try Christ. And now, at dawn’s early light, that’s exactly what was occurring.

I don’t know if Pilate had morning coffee in those days, but it’s obvious he’s grumpy over this turn of events. When the angry mob brings Christ to him, he first tells them to go back and take care of it themselves. But his interest is aroused when they charge Christ with claiming to be a king. If true, that would have been treason. And so, grumpy Pilate is forced to explore the matter to get to the truth. Thus, his question of Jesus: “Are you the king of the Jews?”

Our Lord’s response indicates that indeed He is a king, but not the type Pilate might envision. He is not a king who fights with an army, or with swords. Listen to His answer: “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listen to me.” So, Christ really is a King. A King of hearts. A King of souls. A King Who rules with Words of power, grace, and might. This answer is an invitation to the superstitious, pagan governor to examine Christ’s claims of divinity. But, Pilate rejects the invitation with his skeptical question: “What is truth?” Note well, he doesn’t ask: “What is the truth?” Or, “What truth do you speak of?” No, Pilate totally discounts all truth and knowing all truth when it comes to the spiritual realm.

Isn’t that the same state of affairs in the world today? We have the atheists who deny the truth of God totally. We have the agnostics who deny that anyone can ever know the truth of God. And we have the superficial who deny absolute truth, who say everything is relative depending on the situation.—We call them the postmodernists. So, Pilate’s question and attitude is alive and well today, isn’t it?

You can take just about any topic and see how this same thinking pervades modern society. You can discuss the origin of the world, human sexuality and marriage, business ethics, or the afterlife and how to get there. In every case, the truth is a muddled mess in most people’s minds. They accept the “Big Bang” or their ancestry from worms. They accept live-in sex. They accept homosexual marriage. They accept greed and dishonesty as the norm. And they accept the reality of a “good place” (heaven) when they die basing getting there on their own dishonest scheming. Yes, what is truth?

For most people there are no absolute answers to any of these questions. They’ll respond to you by saying: “What’s right for me is different than what’s right for you.” They’ll say: “It’s all a matter of personal opinion.” If that is so, then “god” is no bigger than we are. In fact, then “god” is merely human chaos. Obviously, Satan has done his work quite well.

It is an alarming fact that Pilate’s attitude has also crept into the visible church. Ask people why there are so many different churches and they will tell you that it results from differing interpretations of the Bible. Probe further and they will say that all those interpretations are equally valid. If that is so, then, again, God is a God of confusion, isn’t He? Indeed, if the bible actually takes many differing viewpoints on salvation, marriage, morality, heaven and hell—than we have a confused and rather pathetic God, don’t we?


Mark well Christ’s answer to Pilate: “Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” And then a few verses later, Jesus goes on to explain Godly truth—both what it is and where to find it when He says: “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” To Pilate’s question: “What is truth?” Jesus says: “My Word is truth; listen to Me.”

Throughout the ages we have seen many who claim that besides Christ, they have received a special corner on the truth market, too. Islam’s Mohammed, Joseph Smith of the Mormons, and more recently men like Oral Roberts make such claims. So, why is Jesus’ claim any different? I’ll tell you why. Jesus proved His claim! He fulfilled all those ancient prophecies about God’s coming Messiah. He performed countless miracles to back up His claims. And ultimately, He arose from the dead to prove that He really is the Son of God! Jesus is God in human flesh. Jesus is the “Word Who was made flesh and lived for a while among us.” And Jesus alone taught that salvation is a free gift from God purchased with His life instead of something that is earned by people through hard work. Thus, Jesus alone teaches us that salvation for our souls is not man-made but totally God-made.

So, what should we, who are challenged about Godly truth do? How should we respond to those many “Pilates” that we run across every day? Christ tells us. “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth; tonight God has given it to you! Amen