What Is Truth?

I took a few days off from blogging and I haven’t posted something since the Easter holiday so I want to be sure to wish everyone a Happy Easter!

This is my favorite time of the year.  I love the Easter season and how it lingers on for weeks.  The symbolism and significance of being Easter people and having an Alleluia attitude (see my post from April 2011).  The week leading up to Easter we enjoy reading through the Lord’s Passion and my favorite readings come through the book of John.   I have always been intrigued by one particular exchange between Jesus and Pontius Pilate.

John 18:37-38

37 “You are a king, then!” said Pilate.

Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

38 “What is truth?” retorted Pilate. With this he went out again to the Jews gathered there and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him.”


I always thought, in my nerdy-wordy way, that it was interesting that Jesus said he came to the world to testify to THE truth and Pilate’s question lacks the word “the”.  He doesn’t ask what is THE truth, he simply asks “What is truth?”.


Definition:  truth (noun) trooth  1.  Something factual; the thing that corresponds to fact or reality.  2.  True quality; correspondence to face or reality.  3.  True statement;  a statement that corresponds to fact or reality.  4.  Obvious fact; something that is so clearly true that it hardly needs to be stated.  5.  Something generally believed; a statement that is generally believed to be true.  6. Honesty; honesty and sincerity.  7.  Conformity; adherence to a standard or law.  8.  Loyalty; faithfulness to a person or a cause.


I’m probably the only person in the world that feels badly for Pilate.  He has to be the most confused person in the Passion narrative.  Pilate can’t figure out why this individual standing before him negates a rote process that has always been business-as-usual.  He doesn’t want a riot, but he doesn’t understand what is so horrible that the Jewish leaders would want to put this man to death.  Pilate is questioning not just Jesus, but the entire process of Roman law that he has made a career out of upholding.  Pilate is the Easter poster child of being caught between mortal and immortal, secular and spiritual or earth and heaven.

How often have we been in Pilates shoes?  I can’t even begin to count the number of times I have struggled like Pilate!  I think this is why I feel so badly for him.  When I look at the dictionary definition of “truth” it’s clear why Pilate and the rest of us struggle with understanding the deep meaning of this word.  Loyalty, fact, reality, conformity and honesty can all be incredibly subjective based on your associations and your surroundings.   We question truth when passing a homeless person and struggle with the notion that our idea of helping this individual might not be the “right” thing to do.  When we are in the middle of a conversation and someone makes an off color or racist comment and we don’t pipe up and call it out as wrong, we struggle with the definition of truth.  When we see laws and procedures in place that marginalize and disregard an entire class of people but actively participate in those processes, we are in essence, Pontius Pilate.

Pilate perfectly illustrates our human nature by asking this question.  He remained loyal to his position and conformed to Roman law.  The fact of a likely riot at the freeing of Jesus and the reality of paying steep consequences for that probably solidified his decision.  We do not know how Pilate moves on after the crucifixion. We don’t know if he remains a governor and brushes off the entire exchange as a crazy day at work or if it transforms him.  We only know that he questioned what truth really is and then went ahead and did what he had always done.

I always pray that I will have clarity in the “Pilate moments” of life, but hindsight tells me I don’t always get that clarity.  I often go with the flow instead of pushing against the current with truth.  How often do you ask yourself “What is truth?”?

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3 Responses to What Is Truth?

  1. yan says:

    “Pilate was merciful till it became risky.”
    ― C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

  2. Great site! Glad I found it, which I had before. My current award-winning book series is “Faith to Live By” We are clearly like-minded. I’ll be back to visit more!

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