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After all these years, I may have finally discovered some of what was going on in Pilate’s heart and head when he asked Jesus, “What is truth?” Not that that was ever some kind of goal for me. Not at all. After all, Pilate gave the final charge to crucify Jesus. Who cares what he was thinking? But part of the understanding of Pilate’s question is that he was waist-deep in the politics of his day. And I can’t help but wonder if his response to Jesus’ statement about truth was in some way related to the political maelstrom that was always present in the Roman governmental hierarchy.

It is very possible that the reader is aware of the history of political intrigues, where various forces have plotted to overthrow kings, dictators, and leaders. The Caesars of Rome were ever-diligent about such threats and did their best of surround themselves with reliable sources of information. Even the kings of Israel and Judah dealt with this. One son or another, some pretender to the throne or another, was striving to gather support so he or she could seize the throne. David’s own son, Absalom, made such an effort. Herod the Great, the king who expanded King Solomon’s temple, murdered his own sons to secure his reign. In more modern times, Stalin and Hitler, to name two notable dictators, were paranoid about these dangers. And on and on it goes and has gone, since, well, since potentates have held power.

Power. Prestige. Money. They always seemed up for grabs. A king’s very life, in fact, was precarious.

I have little doubt that Pilate was subject to such threats; rumors swirling around about whether he would be promoted or demoted by the reigning Caesar. Palestine, after all, was not a coveted prize. But it was a position, and one must pay his dues, mustn’t one?

So, cognizant of Rome’s history and with the palace intrigue that surely accompanied Pilate’s gubernatorial leadership, whom should he believe about the rumors and whisperings concerning his place in the Roman hierarchical system? What did the Caesar or other superiors think about the job he was doing? If he failed, what would be his fate and who might take his place? If he succeeded, would he obtain favor? Be offered a pearl of a province in a peaceful place?

So, before Pilate asked Jesus this question, what follows is the conversation that preceded it. Please note that this line of questioning had to do with power and kingship.

“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.’ Pilate said to him, ‘What is truth?’” (John 18:37–38a).1

Of course, Pilate was referring to one kind of truth and Jesus another. Pilate was concerned that Jesus might be the leader of an uprising, although He denied it: “Jesus answered, ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world’” (John 18:36). However, this claim that Jesus desired to reign in Israel was exactly the point Jesus’ opponents made in their demand that Jesus should be executed. When Pilate brought Jesus before them after He had been whipped almost to death, he gave the Jewish leaders one last chance to change their minds. “They cried out, ‘Away with him, away with him, crucify him!’ Pilate said to them, ‘Shall I crucify your King?’ The chief priests answered, ‘We have no king but Caesar’ (John 19:15).

That was the coup de grace.

So, back to the original point about understanding what Pilate meant when he asked, “What is truth?”

Like many of us, I grew up in a media environment where one could listen or watch the news and get—the news. At least we thought so. Perhaps it was manipulated then. I don’t know. However, it is more than just what is now called “fake news” that causes one to wonder, “What is truth? Are the reports, the posts that I’m seeing true or not? And how would I ever know?” For example, video exists of various people in the abortion industry discussing the sale of baby parts. Some say these videos were deceptively edited. Where they? I have no clue. Did Russia successfully hack and perhaps influence the last U.S. election? No clue. Was someone in the Trump camp involved? No clue. Was someone from the Obama administration involved? No clue. Is there a shadow government?

Palace intrigue.

Media intrigue.

On and on it goes, including what should be scientifically verifiable facts. Is the earth’s climate changed by human behavior? If it is not provable scientifically, why do some try so diligently to promote vast green energy projects? What is their true goal?

No clue.

However, thankfully, Christians know what the “true truth” is, and it has nothing to do with any of the above issues. Jesus is the Truth. The Word of God is the Truth. Men and women will do what men and women will do. Governments will do what governments will do. My hope is not in them. My hope is in the One who tells the truth about the realities of life and does not lie—cannot lie. I know I will live forever. He said so. That’s the truth. I know He will return. He said so. I am a co-heir with Jesus Christ, the King of all kings. I will reign, somehow, with Him, forever. I look for a better country. A city made without hands, whose builder and maker is God, eternal in the heavens.

Political intrigues? Fake news? Real news? Do they really matter? Somewhat. But I must keep my eyes on the goal. I want to finish. I want to hear those words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Pilate, I hear you. I don’t know if you ever came to know the truth. I hope you did.

1All scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016).). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

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