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Monday, May 28, 2018

"What Is Truth?" or Does it Really Matter?

Perhaps you might not recognize that the title above is a quotation from a famous man. He is famous for the compromise that he made. He is famous because he sacrifices the life of an innocent man. He is famous because he yields to influential political, financial and religious powers for fear of his position, for fear of not being found loyal to his party, for fear of unpopular public opinion. 

Here we see his famous words, words that are so often repeated today by those claiming to be politically correct, neutral or open minded. “What is truth?” Or as often put today, “There are many truths.” Or, “You can’t be so dogmatic.” Or, “You need to be more open-minded.” Or, “Truth is relative.” Let us put these words in context so we can try to understand what was meant by them. 

John 18:28-38 

Then led they (the Jewish religious leaders) Jesus from Caiaphas unto the hall of judgment: and it was early; and they themselves went not into the judgment hall, lest they should be defiled; but that they might eat the Passover. (What hypocrisy. Here the religious rulers stay outside of the judgment hall, a Roman building, because if they entered it, they would not be unable to eat the Passover meal as they would be considered unclean.) 

Pilate then went out unto them, and said, “What accusation do you bring against this man?” 

They answered and said unto him, “If he were not a criminal, we would not have delivered him up unto you.” 

Then said Pilate unto them, “Take him, and judge him according to your law.” 

The Jews therefore said unto him, “It is not lawful for us to put any man to death:” that the words of Jesus might be fulfilled, which he spoke signifying what death he should die. 

Then Pilate entered into the judgment hall again, and called Jesus, and said unto him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” 

Jesus answered him, “Are you asking this of yourself, or did others tell it of me?” 

Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you unto me: what have you done?” (It sounds here that Pilate is a little annoyed at Jesus’ reply.) 

Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.” 

Pilate therefore said unto him, “Are you a King then?” 

Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth hears my voice.” 

Pilate said unto him, “WHAT IS TRUTH?” And when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews, and said unto them, “I find in him no fault at all.” [End of Bible quotation]

“What is truth?” The response of Pilate rings of today’s “open-minded” generation, a politically correct generation that denies that there is “a truth,” because there are many “truths” and one cannot be so narrow-minded to think his view is “the truth.” 

Some will tell us that as there are many colors in the rainbow, but all are part of what makes up “white” light, so the truth can have many colors. And I agree with that. Of course, there are often many different aspects of a question. Different sides may have different ways of looking at things. They see things differently and bring different “truths” to the equation and situation. That is all well and good. 

But ultimately, we come to the question of Jesus. Was he the King of the Jews? Was he the expected Messiah for whom the Jewish people waited patiently for his coming in hope that he would free them from their servitude to the Romans and bring in a righteous government and world peace? Is he the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords? 

What was Pilate saying when he says, “What is truth?” I propose that he was saying, like many do today, that the truth is relative, that there are many aspects of truth. “You cannot be so dogmatic, Jesus, or narrow minded. We, Romans, have our truths, also,” may have been the tone of Pilate’s response. Or maybe his tone was sarcastic and he was saying, “You want to get philosophical with me? Well, I know philosophy, also. I studied the Greek philosophers. What is truth? It’s all relative.”
  
C.S. Lewis made a famous statement about Jesus of Nazareth in his book Mere Christianity. He said, “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.” 

Jesus has not given us the option to be neutral, politically correct, or “open-minded.” He is either the Son of God, or he is not. He either rose from the dead or he did not. It’s just that simple and it’s a question we all need to resolve because it could have eternal consequences.
  
Pilate missed his chance. Here he was in front of the very man who had performed amazing miracles which as Paul said later to one of the Jewish political leaders, “This thing was not done in a corner.”[1] In other words, everyone knew about it or had heard about it. Pilate even sends Jesus to Herod the Jewish ruler of Galilee who is visiting Jerusalem at the time of the Passover an important Jewish holiday. In Luke we find the data. 

Luke 23:1-12 New International Version (NIV) 

23 Then the whole assembly rose and led him (Jesus) off to Pilate. 2 And they began to accuse him, saying, “We have found this man subverting our nation. He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar and claims to be Messiah, a king.” 

3 So Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?” 

“You have said so,” Jesus replied. 

4 Then Pilate announced to the chief priests and the crowd, “I find no basis for a charge against this man.” 

5 But they insisted, “He stirs up the people all over Judea by his teaching. He started in Galilee and has come all the way here.” 

6 On hearing this, Pilate asked if the man was a Galilean. 7 When he learned that Jesus was under Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod, who was also in Jerusalem at that time. 

8 When Herod saw Jesus, he was greatly pleased, because for a long time he had been wanting to see him. From what he had heard about him, he hoped to see him perform a miracle or sign of some sort. 9 He plied him with many questions, but Jesus gave him no answer. 10 The chief priests and the teachers of the law were standing there, vehemently accusing him. 11 Then Herod and his soldiers ridiculed and mocked him. Dressing him in an elegant robe, they sent him back to Pilate. 
That day Herod and Pilate became friends—before this they had been enemies. [End of Bible Quotation]

So we see that Pilate blew it. He was more interested in pleasing the local political and financial leaders who helped him in controlling and ruling the local people than he was in instituting just and righteous judgment. He was more interested in keeping their favor than in doing what was right. Perhaps he was afraid that word might get back to Tiberius Caesar that he had been too soft on a local criminal who had exalted himself to the rank of “King of the Jews.” 

The Jewish leaders used this tactic when they saw that Pilate was set on releasing Jesus. They said, “If you let this man go, you are not Caesar’s friend: whosoever makes himself a king speaks against Caesar.”[2] Pilate also dismissed the warning message sent to him from his own wife, which said, “Have nothing with that just man: for I have suffered many things this day a dream because of him.”[3] Even though he knew that it was for envy that the Jewish leaders had delivered Jesus to him, he allowed an innocent man be condemned to death contrary to Roman law.[4]

Let us read from Matthew 27:12-25 

New International Version (NIV) 

12 When he (Jesus) was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he gave no answer. 13 Then Pilate asked him, “Don’t you hear the testimony they are bringing against you?” 14 But Jesus made no reply, not even to a single charge—to the great amazement of the governor. 

15 Now it was the governor’s custom at the festival to release a prisoner chosen by the crowd. 16 At that time they had a well-known prisoner whose name was Barabbas. 17 So when the crowd had gathered, Pilate asked them, “Which one do you want me to release to you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called the Messiah?” 18 For he knew it was out of self-interest that they had handed Jesus over to him. 

19 While Pilate was sitting on the judge’s seat, his wife sent him this message: “Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him.” 

20 But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed. 

21 “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” asked the governor. 

“Barabbas,” they answered. 

22 “What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” Pilate asked. 

They all answered, “Crucify him!” 

23 “Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate. 

But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!” 

24 When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!” 

25 All the people answered, “His blood is on us and on our children!” 

In Mark we find “And so Pilate, willing to content the people, released Barabbas unto them and delivered Jesus, when he had scourged him, to be crucified.”[5] [End of Bible quotation]

Let’s read the rest of the information in Luke. 

Luke 23:13-25 

New International Version (NIV) 

13 Pilate called together the chief priests, the rulers and the people, 14 and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was inciting the people to rebellion. I have examined him in your presence and have found no basis for your charges against him. 15 Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us; as you can see, he has done nothing to deserve death. 16 Therefore, I will punish him and then release him.” 

18 But the whole crowd shouted, “Away with this man! Release Barabbas to us!” 19 (Barabbas had been thrown into prison for an insurrection in the city, and for murder.) 

20 Wanting to release Jesus, Pilate appealed to them again. 21 But they kept shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” 

22 For the third time he spoke to them: “Why? What crime has this man committed? I have found in him no grounds for the death penalty. Therefore I will have him punished and then release him.” 

23 But with loud shouts they insistently demanded that he be crucified, and their shouts prevailed.24 So Pilate decided to grant their demand. 25 He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, the one they asked for, and surrendered Jesus to their will. [End of Bible quotation]

How did Pilate’s decision affect his life? Let’s look at the different historical accounts of the life of Pilate after the death of Jesus. Catholic tradition has it that Emperor Tiberius Caesar became serious ill. Having heard that in Jerusalem there was a physician named Jesus who could miraculously heal all infirmities, he sends a trusted friend Volusianus to Jerusalem to fetch him. On arriving in Jerusalem, Volusianus finds out the sad news that Jesus has been crucified. As he returns to the inn where he is staying, he meets Veronica a disciple of Jesus who has a cloth on which Jesus’ face has been miraculously imprinted. She travels with him to Rome with the cloth and Tiberius gets miraculously healed from gazing on the cloth. However, he learns how Pilate had incorrectly condemned Jesus to death and orders for Pilate to return to Rome. 

On hearing that Pilate is in Rome Tiberius becomes increasingly angry, but when Pilate appears before him, he loses his anger and treats him kindly. When Pilate leaves his presence, Tiberius is again overcome with extreme anger against Pilate and cannot understand why he could not manifest the anger in Pilate’s presence. Pilate, knowing that his life was in Caesar’s hands, had come to Rome with Jesus’ seamless tunic which had already manifested miraculous powers. He wore it when he went in to see Caesar. Caesar does not understand what happened and calls Pilate back once again and again the same thing happens. Somehow he realizes that the tunic may have something to do with it and has it removed from Pilate. Pilate is condemned to a horrible death which he avoids by committing suicide.[6]

Some other accounts suggest that Caligula ordered Pontius Pilate to death by execution or suicide. Others say he was sent into exile and committed suicide of his own accord. In the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, they believe Pontus Pilate was converted to Christianity and he is considered a saint. Eusebius reported that Pontius Pilate committed suicide during the reign of Caius or Emperor Caligula. Eusebius records the following for us, 

It is worthy of note that Pilate himself, who was governor in the time of our Savior, is reported to have fallen into such misfortunes under Caius, whose times we are recording, that he was forced to become his own murderer and executioner; and thus divine vengeance, as it seems, was not long in overtaking him. This is stated by those Greek historians who have recorded the Olympiads, together with the respective events which have taken place in each period.[7]

One thing we know for sure is that Pontus Pilate existed. In 1961 an archaeological dig led by Dr. Antonio Frova in Caesrea Maritiama found a piece of limestone with Pilate’s name inscribed in Latin, linking Pilate to Tiberius’s reign.[8]

Whichever account is the truth, we do not know. However, more accounts seem to indicate that Pilate committed suicide; a sad ending for a man of authority who because of the pressure of others misconstrued the importance of the judgment he was making against Christ. 

Instead of having Godly convictions and following Roman law, Pilate compromised to please the local powers for fear of being reproved from the higher powers. Truth was relative and not that important, or so he thought. He let himself be influenced by others whom he knew to have alternative motives. In the end, even with a warning from his wife, he thought Jesus was not such an important issue and condemned him to death. 

And what about you? Have you gone the way of modern man and decided that it’s all relative and Jesus is not that important? Yes, you used to believe in Jesus when you were young, but now you have decided He’s not that relative to your life. As long as I live a good life and do not harm others, isn’t that enough? 

Jesus said, “He that is not for me is against me and he that gathers not with me scatters abroad.”[9] If we have accepted Jesus as our savior by asking Him into our hearts, we have our sins forgiven and have the hope of eternal life. In thanksgiving for the free gift we have received, we should be willing to confess Christ. Paul says, “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe with your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you shall be saved. For with the heart man believes unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”[10] 

 Jesus said, “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” [11]

There is something about declaring our faith in Christ that God blesses. No matter if we are working in fulltime service for God or in some other type of work, God expects us as Christians to let our light shine amongst men by sharing our faith with words and example whenever we have the chance. Don’t be ashamed to share your faith in whatever way you can and share it as much as you can with your speech, good conversation and loving sample to others. Stand up for your convictions. Know what you believe and study to “be ready to give an answer to everyman that asks you of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.”[12]

I’ll end here with a quote from Keirh Ward professor of Philosophy at Biola University in California. He has made the following statement about modern relativism's truth claims. He says, “It is a central heresy of our culture to say that all truth is relative; that one thing may be true for me and quite another may be true for you. This absurdity destroys the very notion of truth … and is the result of muddled thinking. No one can seriously believe that a belief which contradicts his or her own is just as true. The expression “It is true for me” is self-confuting. Either a thing is true or it is not. … Can we imagine saying, “Well, the earth is round to me; but it may be flat to you”? The earth is either round or flat; it cannot be both; and what you or I think about it is irrelevant. You may claim that religion and ethics is not a matter of truth at all. Very well, do not use the word “true”; but if you use it, do not render it unintelligible by adding that empty phrase, “for me.””[13]

So don’t tell me that “Jesus is true for you, Dennis, but not for me.” The question is whether Jesus is really who he said he was or not. Is he the Christ, the Son of the living God? Is Jesus the Trueh, or is he false? That’s the question we all need to answer through open and honest enquirey 

Notes

[1] Acts 26:26
[2] John 19:12b
[3] Matthew 27:19
[4] Matthew 27:18
[5] Mark 15:15
[6] http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0812.htm
[7] http://www.neverthirsty.org/pp/corner/read2/r00886.html
[8] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pontius_Pilate
[9] Matthew 12:30
[10] Romans 10:9,10
[11] Mark 8:36-38
[12] 1Peter3:15
[13] Ward, Keith; The Turn of the Tide, pg. 144. http://existenceofgod.org/relativism-the-redefining-of-tolerance/

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