Pontius Pilate, first century Roman prefect of Judea, once asked a penetrating question.
When confronted with the social, religious, and political implications of whether or not to release Jesus of Nazareth or to have him delivered over to be crucified, Pilate asked Jesus …
“What is truth?” (John 18:38)
Pilate, apparently experiencing some crises of the soul, was torn between the decision to stand alone in doing what he knew was right and the pressure to appease a blood-thirsty mob and maintain his position of power.
I am one who is convinced of the necessity of absolute truth and who affirms that such objective truth can be discovered. I can, in at least some sense, identify with Pilate. Our culture both champions moral relativism and despises moral absolutes (at least ideologically) at the same time.
To be a man who stands alone on the foundation of absolute truth is to be a target of the contemporary mob mentality – where healthy debate and reason are drowned out by the relentless shouts… “Crucify him.” How often logic and reason are lost in ad hominem attacks and strategic diversions that avoid the glaring reality staring us all in the face.
I contend that the motivation behind Pilate’s question is not of primary importance. I believe that Pilate was asking the wrong question altogether. Instead of asking, “What is truth,” we must first ask a more foundational question, “Who is truth?”
After all, we can only expect to get to the bottom of the truth when we ask the correct question.
If any of us is serious about discovering absolute truth, we must be able to find its source. To define beauty or morality or love, we must go to the source — the One who gives meaning to such virtues. In seeking the Source, we understand we are seeking for a person, not the virtues themselves.
If we can find the person – the Source – then we will find the virtue and its meaning.
So what is of more importance is the claim that Yeshua made just prior to Pilate’s question – a claim so serious it that must be considered and weighed.
“Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “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.”(John 18:37 ESV)
The exclusive claim of Yeshua leaves no room for neutrality. The sheer laws of logic force an examination and evaluation of His words. Either Jesus is the personification and originator of truth, or He is a liar. He does not allow for anything less. He draws the line and forces us to choose sides. There is no neutrality to the claims of Christ.
The claim of Yeshua is that everyone who is of the the truth – who is on the side of truth – listens to His voice. He is saying that everyone who wants to know the truth must be willing to listen to Him – implying that He is the source and true expression of THE TRUTH – not just a truth or some truth – but of Absolute Truth.
Some philosophers would say before one can begin to debate whether or not the truth claims of Yeshua are valid … one must first at least ask if truth can be known in a real sense. This crosses over into philosophical realm of epistemology and can be handled in turn at another time.
But for now, let us just consider the testimony of Yeshua.
I AM the TRUTH
Jesus of Nazareth never technically wrote down his own words for self-promotion or self-preservation. His contemporaries, on the other hand, had much to say about His life and teachings. The eye witnesses that carefully examined the life of Yeshua for years give us the most accurate and reliable historical record of any figure in antiquity.
For Yeshua to be the Source of all truth, absolute truth, then we would expect Him to meet certain criteria.
First, Yeshua would be the One and Only Supreme God by nature and necessity. So how did His contemporaries describe Him? For Jesus to be Truth Personified He would have to be God Personified — the Word become flesh.
“He (Jesus) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”(Colossians 1:15-17 ESV)
“Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.”(2 Peter 1:1)
Yeshua also would have to be perfect in word and in deed. What is the testimony?
“He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth.”(1 Peter 2:22)
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”(Hebrews 4:15)
Yeshua would have claimed to be truth personified because anything less would have disqualified him necessarily. What did He say?
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”(John 14:6)
So the irony is that when Pilate stared directly into the eyes of this seemingly weak, Jewish Rabbi, he wasn’t simply philosophically wrestling with the truth, he was in the presence of Truth Himself. Yeshua, God the Son, is The Truth and therefore defines all truth. If we want to know truth in its purest form, we must know Jesus Christ. To Know Christ — His word, His character, His nature, His heart, His will — is to Know Truth.
Next time someone asks, “What is truth,” you can confidently answer, “Truth is a Person, and that Person is Jesus Christ.”