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What is Truth?

Book lying open on a desk, we can see just the right hand half pf the pages splayed open

Sermon for St Edward’s / Sun 5 Feb / Series on John

Readings: Psalm 25: 1 – 10 and John 18.28–40

So – Question – who is the most talked about military leader in history?

Pontius Pilate 


Because every week across the world people in churches name him as they say the creed – our prayer/ declaration of who we believe in. Millions of times each week.

So here in John 18 we see Jesus arrested, been brought by the chief Priests to see the Roman ruler  – Pontius Pilate.

Pontius Pilate was a leader put in place by Romans further up the authority chain. He had worked his way up to be a provincial governor. Perhaps he hoped that his time here would then earn him something more senior. His role is to keep things quiet and stable, and to keep the grain supply going back to Rome.

Tom Wright – theologian suggests -that he also seems to find it amusing to snub the Jewish leaders whenever he could. Partly he needed to show it was him in charge. But perhaps there was also a sense of perverse enjoyment.

However we read this, there is not much to guide us on what actually happened, we don’t have all the details, the body language that gives us clues, the looks, other words perhaps, was there anyone else there?

So as I share this I do so with the note that there is some conjecture in here – I’ve read what others said, I’ve drawn my own conclusions, I simply offer it to you.

We read it was early – perhaps the Jewish leaders had got Pilate out of bed? they come to him on a festival day – which may have put him on edge anyway.

Then having done that they refused to come in to his budling, thinking it unclean. 

You can imagine he might have been a little annoyed, not quite awake even?!

And then they bring this man before him, despite having their own law.

You can imagine him being like – you got me up for this? ‘Go and judge him yourselves this is nothing to do with me’.

But then they get his attention by asking for the death penalty – which only he can give.

But Pilate was not uniformed, he had spies everywhere and it was highly likely he knew who Jesus was before he was brought to him. So perhaps finally, waking up a bit, he realises an opportunity.

When he asks are you a king, he had probably already heard talk of this. And for Pilate that is a concern – someone claiming to be a king meant trouble. Big trouble.

And so he asks:

Are you the King of the Jews?

And the conversation unfolds. We get the basics written down but I imagine there was much more to it, Pilate concerned, perhaps even a little interested, also wondering: 

is this guy crazy – is he actually a worry or just an idiot. 

And ultimately does he really deserve the death penalty?

And then Jesus speaks the truth:

>> You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.’

And then most philosophical line, a question we may well all ask:

Pilate asked him, ‘What is truth?’

There is no indication in the Greek as to how this is asked? How it was said, any inflection other than the words ‘he retorted’

Is he still weary/ grumpy – what is truth?

Relating to the situation he finds himself in – what is the truth here?, they say one thing the chief priests, I think another, what’s the truth Jesus…? Is he questioning?

Or dismissive ‘what’s truth anyway?’

The concept of truth was debated by the Greeks a lot – asking philosophically. Perhaps he just thought oh no I’m not getting to a debate about this!

Or perhaps it was a joke – knowing some would find this a key question and he was throwing it away?

Or actually interested – what is truth? 

You know because Pilate is shown in the gospels as reluctant to execute Jesus the Coptic and Ethiopian church and others believe that he became a Christian and they venerate him as both a martyr and saint.

It’s such a short section in the bible, a few lines, we don’t hear of Pilate again and yet we remember him every week as we say the lines of the creed, as we declare the truth of who we believe in.

He was a key person in the narrative, and this is a key question

So, What is truth?

what do we need to ask here? How are we asking this?

The Greek word translated “truth” is aletheia,

Closest translation of which in English is reality – the manifested, unconcealed essence of a matter

Jesus says here 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.”

We read earlier in John 14 when Thomas asks about this place Jesus says he is preparing for them:

‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Jesus is describing himself as the very essence of this matter. He is truth, all truth is found in him. And if you want to know it for yourself, you need to follow him.

His actions are truth – him going to the cross and taking on death and sin for us, for all – is truth. Truth that says one man dies and everyone else goes free. 

We’ve been thinking about how we go deeper in our faith – how do we know Jesus more? So how do understand his message, his actions in a better way? What does it all mean for us? We might be asking ourselves what is truth?

These days people talk about ‘my truth’. A sense that we can define for ourselves what truth means perhaps based on our experiences or what we’ve seen or read. Picking and choosing the bits that appeal to us to build a picture of a world that we like. That we want to be part of.

But it’s all false, it’s just a construct we have made.

We see so many different voices in this world influencing us, fake news, youtube conspiracies and more. How do we know what is the truth? If we know The truth then those don’t matter because we find all we need in Jesus,

Let me ask you – what are the influences in your life? TV shows? Presenters? Other people? Sports stars, celebs? 

Where is Jesus’ voice in that?

If you were to work out how many hours a week you spend listening to other voices or influences in your life, and then balanced it up with how much you listen to God, what would that look like?

For example:

10 hours of TV

5 on social media

5 listening to friends


How many are spent with Jesus’ truth?

1 at church. possibly 2. Bible study – another hour.

That’s 3

Reading your bible? 10 minutes? 1 hour? More? 

 time in prayer? Across the week? Maybe an hour if you’re lucky?

Let’s say we’re up to 6 over the week? I’ve found this question a challenge for myself this week as I have written this!

20 versus 6 in our example. What would yours actually be?

What I’m saying is how do we receive and know the truth of Jesus in amidst the other voices?

If we’ve made that decision to follow the Lord then of course we have the truth within us but we have to listen, to take time to explore it, to know it – to know him. So there’s the challenge this week – weigh up the voices of influence in your life and as yourself how they balance up against Jesus voice?

What is truth? It is simply Jesus. Nothing else. The heart of the gospel – him for us.



John for Everyone Part 2: Chapters 11-21 Pt. 2 – Tom Wright

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