What is Truth?
If you have your Bibles, please turn to John 18:33-38. Now reading.
Therefore Pilate entered again into the Praetorium, and summoned Jesus and said to Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Are you saying this on your own initiative, or did others tell you about me?” Pilate answered, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests delivered you to me; what have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, then my servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, my kingdom is not of this realm.” Therefore Pilate said to Him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice.” And Pilate said to him, “What is truth?” And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews and said to them, “I find no guilt in Him.”
Good morning again. Thank you for joining us for church in the park. John chapter 18. You’re probably familiar with it and familiar with the story, but I want to kind of set the stage for what’s going on. Jesus has been brought before Pontius Pilate because the Jews had already decided what they wanted to happen with him. They already had a plan, only their law, the things that they want to do and the way they want to go about it, it’s against the law. And so we’re going to understand how Pontius Pilate gets involved and how he becomes a part of it. But let’s set the stage a little bit for what’s gone on to this point.
Remember that Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane with his followers, with his disciples, and Judas comes and betrays him in the garden and he’s arrested in the garden. He’s taken first to Annas and then he’s taken to Caiaphas, and it’s at that time that the leadership of the Jews, the chief priests, get together and they decide this is what’s going to happen to Jesus. We want him to die.
Caiaphas before that had said, “It’s expedient for one man to die instead of for the whole nation to.” Meaning that if Jesus took over, there was a pretty good chance then it was going to mess up all that they had going on with Rome and in their eyes that was good. And so they said, “It’s expedient for one man to die.” So their decision was one man’s going to die and Jesus is going to die.
And so they come to Pontius Pilate because their law doesn’t allow them to put him to death like they’d like to, and they come to Pontius Pilate, who is the governor of Judea under Tiberius Caesar. I mean, he, Pontius Pilate, he’s an important man. He’s the governor of all Judea. Everything that goes on in Judea from a Roman perspective is under his rule. He’s over the military, he’s over all the financial stuff, he’s over collecting the taxes. Pontius Pilate is over everything in Judea.
And so what he says goes. He reports directly to Caesar and what he says goes. And so they come to Pontius Pilate, and they bring him to the Praetorium, that’s the judgment hall of Pontius, of Pilate. And they say, “We can’t go in there, so we’re just going to send Jesus in. We can’t come into the judgment hall because then we’ll be defiled. And it just happens to be that this coming evening is the start of our Passover, and if we’re defiled, we can celebrate the Passover. And so we’re just going to send him in here to the judgment hall to you.
Pontius Pilate, he says, “Well, I’m going to go out and talk to them.” So he goes out and he talks to the Jewish leaders and he says, “What’s Jesus done? What’s he done to deserve you bringing him to me?” And instead of answering the question, they come up with all kinds of stuff. They can’t come up with an answer for him. And so he says, “Well fine, you guys take him and judge him by your own law.” And as we said, they knew they couldn’t do that. They knew they couldn’t take him and judge him by their own law.
Pontius Pilate goes back inside to the Praetorium, where Jesus is waiting for him, and he and Jesus have this pretty amazing conversation. I think it’s good enough to go through it a little bit again, just real quick, and just remind you of what was said. Lincoln just read it, but it’s good. And so Pilate comes in and he says, “Are you the King of the Jews?” And Jesus asks a funny question. He said, “Well, did you decide that on your own, or did somebody else tell you that?”
Then Pilate gets kind of crazy. He says, “Well, wait a minute. I’m not even a Jew. Your own nation, your own chief priests have turned you over to me. What did you do?” And instead of answering, Jesus goes right back to the kingship idea, and he says, “Listen, my kingdom’s not of this world. My kingdom’s not a part of this world. If it was, my guys would have fought, my guys would have tried to save me. They would have tried to keep me from getting taken by the Jews. But they didn’t because my kingdom is not of this realm.” And Pilate says, “Well, so you are a king, then.” And Jesus says, “Yeah, you’ve spoken correctly.” He says, “I am a king.” He says, “And for this reason I was born and for this reason I came into the world,” he says, “So that I can testify to the truth.”
And then I think it’s pretty amazing. And he says, “Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice.” And then I think it’s pretty amazing that a guy like Pontius Pilate says, “What is truth?” You think about Pontius Pilate, and you think about the power that he had and the understanding that he should have had about a lot of different things. And you think, “How can a guy like that ask a question like, what is truth? How can he really do that?” And you think he’s that he reports to Tiberius Caesar. He reports to the head guy at Rome. How can he be asking a question like this?
And if we take a minute and look at a little bit of his background, we begin to understand that some. For instance, this is something that a Phylo, the Jewish philosopher, these are some things that he wrote about Pontius Pilate. He was talking about his violence, his theft, his assaults, his abusive behavior, his frequent executions of untried prisoners and his endless savage ferocity. His endless savage ferocity.
That’s crazy. How would you like that to be said of you? Not very pleasant. Luke, even chimes in later on about something that a Pilate had done in chapter 13 and verse one. It says, “Now, and on the same occasion, there were some present who reported to him,” talking about reporting to Jesus, “About the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices.” Wow. Pilate had totally disregarded the sacrificial system and the sacrifices.
Being cruel and doing these kinds of things wasn’t even everything that was Pilate’s problem. Pilate was totally afraid of Caesar and totally afraid of Rome. He was constantly running, constantly looking behind him, constantly worried about whether he was going to lose his position. And ultimately he did, by the way. He did lose it.
The reason Pilate even agreed to release Jesus was because they talked about his friendship with Caesar. They said in chapter 19, verse 12, the Jews did, “If you release this man, you were no friend of Caesar’s.” And that’s the final straw that caused Pilate to say, “Okay, take him and crucify him.” Otherwise, he wouldn’t have because he found no fault in him, remember?
It’s obvious the Pilate didn’t really like the Jews at all, and it’s just as obvious that the Jews didn’t like Pilate at all. They just needed each other to get the things accomplished that they wanted to get accomplished. Pilate did much, though, that was an affront to the Jews. Many things. As a matter of fact, that’s the reason that he had written on Jesus’ cross, “This is Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” You know, the whole reason that he had that written is that it was intended to be an insult to the Jews. It really meant, “This is Jesus. Behold your crucified or your criminal king. If you’re going to call this guy your king, behold him. He’s your crucified criminal king,” they said. Pretty amazing. Pilate was brutal. Pilate was running scared. Pilate hated the people he was supposed to be ruling.
No wonder, when you think of that kind of background, no wonder a guy like Pilate would say, “What is truth?” How do we figure out truth? What is truth? And when you think about it today, I think that that statement is really common throughout our world today. Don’t you feel like people are all the time asking lately, what is truth? When you think about the modern times that we’re in and all of the information that’s available, and anybody can put anything out there and say it’s truth. Anybody can put anything out there in the waves, out in the media world, and they can say, “This is truth. I proclaim this to be truth.”
What do we do? How do we discern truth? How do we sift through everything that’s out there, everything that’s coming at us 100 miles an hour? We certainly can’t depend on social media and we can’t depend on the media itself, on the news media. We can’t depend on the internet, that’s for sure. Anybody can put anything in the internet. I mean, we just really have nothing we can depend on unless we’re willing to look at truth itself, at God’s word. That’s the truth that we have. That’s the only truth that we can stand on. That’s the only way that we’re going to be able to discern what is truth and what isn’t truth as it’s coming at us 100 miles an hour is with the truth of God’s word.
Pastor Nathaniel often points out, especially recently, he talks about the book of Psalms being a book of worship. And I love Psalm 119 because it’s 176 verses of worship of God’s word, of God’s truth. Verse 160 says this. It says, “The sum of your word is truth and every one of your righteous ordinances is everlasting.” What a great verse. The sum of your word is truth. I like that he uses sum because the entirety, the sum total, everything about your word is true, God. And not only is God’s word true, but the summary message of God’s word is truth. The definition of truth is found in God’s word. All you’ve got to do is look in God’s word to find truth. The entire Bible defines truth, and that’s good for us. As a matter of fact, if we could pick one word to describe the Bible, I’d say it ought to be truth.
There’s many other verses in the book of Psalms that you can go to and you can find verses that are testifying of God’s truth. But the good news is too, is that not just in the psalms do we find all these verses relating to truth. we find it throughout the Bible. All through the Bible we can find testament of God saying, “My word is truth.”
One of my favorite is John 17:17. Short verse, easy to memorize if you want an easy one. It says this. “Sanctify them in the truth. Your word is truth.” Sanctify in this verse is really a unique word, and I think it’s helpful to us that it means to consecrate, devote, or set apart from a common to a sacred use. Isn’t that good? To set apart from a common to a sacred use. That’s what that word sanctify means.
Jesus’ prayer for his disciples and for us by extension is that we would be consecrated, set apart from our old common life to a sacred purpose in our lives. That’s pretty impressive. How does he say that’s going to happen? It’s going to happen by the truths of God’s word, because your word is truth.
To help us understand and to catch kind of how serious Jesus is about this and being able to set someone apart from a common to a sacred use, he mentions a similar thing about himself in verse 19. He says this. “For their sakes I sanctify myself that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth.” Isn’t that unique to think about Jesus came to this common Earth, and he died on the cross for your sins and for my sins and then he returned alive to heaven. That’s a pretty sacred purpose, isn’t it?
And also that we would have the opportunity to be able to turn from this common life and have a sacred life, as well, a sacred purpose. And by believing in him, by believing in what he’s done, and by believing in his truth, having an eternal relationship with him.
Listen to several verses that reiterate this point, because I think it’s just good and helpful to us. This is Ephesians chapter 1, verses 13 and 14. It says, “In him, you also, after listening to the message of truth or the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, having also believed you were sealed in him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of his glory.” What a great verse. By listening to the message of truth we understand this, this eternal relationship that we can have with Jesus.
1 Thessalonians chapter 2 and verse 13 says this. “For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, or as it is in truth, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.” It’s really wonderful to think about the fact that God’s word, God’s truth works in us, works in us to accomplish what he wants to accomplish, what he wants done.
James chapter 1 and verse 18 says, “In the exercise of his will,” this is really good. “In the exercise of his will, he brought us forth by the word of truth so that we would be a kind of first fruits among his creatures.” God exercised will to bring each one of us forth in the word of his truth to save us. It’s pretty exciting.
You know, Paul explains in 1 Corinthians 15 how this whole relationship works and how it was made possible, and I always love this verse. So it’s just good as a reminder to us, but 1 Corinthians 15, I’ll start in verse 1. He says, “Now I make known unto you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved if you hold fast the word of truth which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures and that he was buried and that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures.” And it’s just good to know that Paul mentions twice, according to the scriptures. That’s an important part of what Paul is explaining to us, according to the word of truth, according to the word of God, Jesus died.
He was buried and he Rose again on the third day, just as God had planned it in his word all along. That’s the way God intended it to work. That’s the way he planned all along. So Jesus set himself apart so that we could be set apart by faith into that relationship with him. Both now and forever, by the way. Both now and through all eternity.
We mentioned a minute ago that if we could pick a word that describes the whole Bible, we could pick truth, and there’s probably some of you sitting here this morning thinking, “Well, gee, if I had a chance to pick a word to describe the Bible, it’d be Jesus.” And the good news is that we’re both saying the same thing. Jesus is truth. Jesus, he’s not only the word, he is truth. You remember John 1:1. “In the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God.” And then you’ll remember verse 14 where it says, “And the word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we saw his glory. The glory as of the only begotten of the father full of grace and truth.”
Jesus is full of truth. He’s full of grace and truth. He’s abundant in grace and truth. And not only is he full of grace and truth, not only is he the word, not only is he truth, but truth is the very essence of his being, of who he is. You remember John chapter 14 and verse six, another common verse for most of us. But it says, “Jesus said to him, I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the father but through me.” No one can get to the father but through Jesus. Jesus is the only way, Jesus is the only truth, Jesus is the only life. There’s not a whole bunch of them out there that can be had. He’s the only one. Jesus is the only way to the father. Belief in him as he only way to get into the presence of God and heaven because Jesus is those things, because he is truth.
So Jesus is truth. He could have just as easy said that, “Truth is who I am.” That’s the way he could have stated that because that’s the truth of the matter. And if you really want to define truth, you could just tell someone, “Look to Jesus.” And that’s basically what he said to Pilate as he was finishing his last statement to Pilate in verse 37 there again. He says, “For this reason, for this I have been born. For this I have come into the world to testify of truth. I am truth and I come to testify of truth.”
God doesn’t give us anything, any information about whether Jesus got a chance to answer Pilate when he said, “What is truth?” But we know he could have easily said something along the lines of the same thing that he said to the woman at the well, right? The woman at the well in John chapter 4 and verse 26, he says, “I who speak to you, am he.” And he could have just as easily looked at Pilate in the face and said, “Pilate, I’m truth. If you want to know something about truth, look at me. If you want to know how to understand truth and how to deal the truth, believe in me. That’s how you’re going to understand truth. That’s how you’re going to get it.”
I think that we’re all kind of painfully aware that the world around us is more than willing to define truth for us. The problem with the truth that the world defines, though, is that it’s pretty fluid. It’s up and down. It’s all over the place. It’s constantly changing and it’s constantly changing based on how loud the person that’s trying to pass on that truth is speaking, or how much authority they seem to think they have. The world’s truth is a mess, the world’s truth isn’t helpful.
As a matter of fact, the good thing for us is that while the world is spinning their wheels trying to figure out and trying to define truth and trying to change truth and trying to redefine truth and messing around with all of that, the good news to us is that we have truth. We have truth with us. We have truth indwelling us, we have truth with us, and we don’t need the world’s help at all with the definition. And that’s really good.
Listen, we have the word of truth that’s inspired by God and profitable for every part of our lives. There’s not a part of our life that God’s truth doesn’t help us with. We have the word of truth that’s written by men who were moved by the spirit of God. It wasn’t just somebody deciding, “I want to write some cool things down.” These guys were moved by the spirit of God to write what God wanted them to write, that became our word, our Bible, the truth. We have the word of God that will never pass away and is settled forever in heaven. Never going to pass away. These truths will hold true for all eternity.
We have the word of God that’s a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. You want to see where you’re going? Look to truth. We have the word of God that’s given us the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith in Jesus. Not much else we could ask for or want. We have the word of truth that’s set us free, and we have the word of truth in the person of Jesus Christ indwelling us.
We have truth. We don’t need any help with truth. We don’t need the world helping us to define it. We don’t need the world telling us what it is because we have it. We have the answer to Pilate’s question. We have the answer to any person that you run into. Now, Lord willing, if somebody runs into you now, if you come in contact with someone and they say, “What is truth,” Lord willing, you’ve got a few answers. There’s a whole bunch more out there, but we covered a few and we tried to help with a few things. We have the person of truth, Jesus, in us. We have the word of truth, the Bible, that we can go to any time and help us out in any way.
So my challenge to us today, the challenge this morning, is this. If you haven’t already, please believe in the person of truth. I think most people have here, but if you haven’t, believe in the person of truth. Look at your sin the same way he does, which is pretty ugly. Look at your sin the same way he does, and then thank him for paying the price that you should have paid for it and I should have paid for it. We don’t have to pay that anymore because Jesus has taken care of it. Believe in him and listen, he’s going to save you and he’s going to set you apart to a sacred purpose in life. He wants to do that. He desires to do that. So if you haven’t done it, please do it.
The second challenge is this. Then take that same person of truth and let him be your guide. Let him be your example. Let him be your power to live the life that glorifies and honors him. He can give you the power to do that. As a matter of fact, his power is indwelling you to do it right now. He wants us to live lives that glorify and honor him.
And finally, the third thing is this, is allow the word of God, the word of truth, to define truth in your life. Don’t look anywhere else for truth. Let God’s word define it. You can find other places, but let God’s word be your standard of truth. And not just on Sundays or at church. I mean, some of us are real good about bringing it along, and yeah, this is my thing on Sunday mornings. But the rest of the week, it matters not. It needs to be our standard of truth all the time. All the time.
Trust the word of truth to define truth in all aspects of your life. Let it do that. Let God’s word give you truth for everything that comes up in your life. Listen, there’s never been a time in any of our lives, right now there’s never been a time when we’ve seen truth questioned like it’s questioned. When we’ve seen truth challenged like it’s being challenged. When we’ve seen truth redefined the way it’s being redefined, and when we’ve seen truth even violently opposed the way it’s been. Never been a time in any of our lives where we’ve seen it like this.
So it’s kind of critical to think of things this way. There’s also never been a time in our lives, then, when it hasn’t been so important that we stand on truth, that we stand on the word of God, we stand on the person of truth, Jesus Christ, and we stand on truth as the word of God. Stand on the truths that we know are going to transcend all time. These truths don’t change as things change in our world. Praise the Lord. Everything else changes. Everything else is up and down and fluid. This doesn’t change and it never will change.
Listen, let this truth be the very definition of who you are, as well. We know it’s a definition of Jesus, but let this be the definition of who you are, too. Truth. Listen, in these goofy times that we live in, there’s really only one truth that we can truly depend on. That’s Jesus and his word. My encouragement to all of us this morning is depend on that truth. Let all this other stuff slide off. Let all these other things that you’re hearing and all this stuff that comes at you from different angles, and just let that stuff slide off and let’s hold onto this truth. Let’s let this be our standard. Let’s let this be what we stand on.