Truth matters. We are examining the conversations between Jesus and Pilate recorded in John 18-19 to get an answer to the timeless question: “What is Truth?” It is clear today that the darkness of our times is so gross (Isa. 60:2) and deep and thick that people don’t even know what truth is or how to deal with it when it’s right in front of them.
Rewind to John 18:28. Here we see how many handle truth today—cosmetically. Cosmetic truth is for show and not for real. The Jews wanted to receive the Passover meal but not receive the One to whom the Passover meal pointed. Their religion was for show but not for real. Beware those who put on the form of godliness without the power.
Pilate knew that envy and expediency were the Jews’ motives in bring Jesus to trial. Out of the High Priest’s own mouth came the words: “It is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not” John 11:49-50. Where there is envy and expediency, truth gets sacrificed.
Rewind to John 18:35-36. Jesus didn’t come to take a throne; he came to take over. But not by force of arms. Pilate’s kingdoms ruled by conquest of force. The kingdom of God rules by conquest of love. Jesus was from “another place.” He was “Other.” This is why Jesus rebuked Peter in Gethsemane for drawing his weapon. (See John 18:11.)
Jesus cannot be squeezed into our racial/socio-political-economic boxes. (See Joshua 5:13-15.) Jesus was something else—a whole new type of man—and that’s how Christ followers are to be. Into this highly polarized and divided world of black/white, liberal/conservative, this or that, we are to be “other.” A new creation. Old identifiers and allegiances are passed away. All things have become new. (2 Cor. 5:17)
“ For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Gal. 3:27-28. Get it straight, Truth wears no one’s team jersey or flag. Truth is the independent standard of righteousness by which everything else is measured.
Then comes the pivotal moment in the conversation. “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.” John 18:37
Jesus came to tell the truth about God, the truth about themselves, and the truth about life. This is our mission too. If we can’t tell the truth about God by our actions, our “truth” becomes darkness, not light. “If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” Matt. 6:23.
Telling the truth about God is not limited to the church building on Sabbath. It extends to the break room, the bedroom, the internet, the grocery store, and the kitchen table. The truth is the kingdom you belong to and represent is not of this world. Christians need to stop acting like the world!
“What is truth?” Pilate asked. (John 18:38) Too bad he didn’t wait for the answer. It’s possible Pilate was distracted by the commotion of the crowd outside, because they knew how dangerous it was for Pilate to be alone with Jesus. So powerful were Jesus’s words that the temple guards sent to arrest Jesus at the Feast of Tabernacles came back to the chief priests and Pharisees changed.
“Why didn’t you bring him in?” They asked. “No one ever spoke the way this man does,” the guards declared. (John 7:46) Those outside who were the envious experts in their exclusive and corrupt brand of cosmetic truth, were terrified of the power of real truth as it was in Jesus. It is still true today that some would rather create a commotion to cover the truth than to make a confession and be changed by the truth.
What is truth?
- Jesus is the truth. (John 14:6)
- The Word is truth. (John 1:1, 14; 17:17)
- The Spirit is truth and leads into all truth. (John 14:16-17; 15:26; 16:13)
The answer to Pilate’s question was right in front of him and he missed it. He attempted to offer a substitute—Barabbas (see John 18:38-40). Certain ancient Greek manuscripts and certain Syrian and Armenian translations of the New Testament actually give the first name of Barabbas (“Son of the father”) as “Jesus.” If so, the crowd was shouting: “Not Jesus the Nazarene, but Jesus Barabbas.” Not the true Jesus but the false Jesus. Not Christ, but the anti-Christ! Whenever you accept a substitute for truth, sooner or later it becomes the spirit of antichrist.
Rewind to John 19:14-16. Be warned, cosmetic truth, expedient truth, and substitute truth eventually leads to complete hatred of, and rejection of Truth. Hatred does not hesitate to twist the truth. The Jews were prepared to abandon every principle they had in order to eliminate Jesus.
William Barclay writes: “The hatred of the Jews turned them into a maddened mob of shrieking, frenzied fanatics. In their hatred they forgot all mercy, all sense of proportion, all justice, all their principles, even God. Never in history was the insanity of hatred so vividly shown.” (Barclay, John, p. 236) We are seeing this level of insanity again in a variant form of Christianity called “Christian Nationalism.”
What we are calling Christian Nationalism today Adventists have called “Apostate Protestantism” for nearly 200 years. As Apostate Judaism joined hands with Rome to get rid of Christ, Apostate Protestantism will join hands with Rome to get rid of Christ’s bride (the remnant). (See Revelation 13:11-18.)
The Revelation warns of end-time déjà vu. The apostasy at Calvary will be, and is being, repeated. Know what you’re looking at. Truth matters. Don’t follow the crowd. Follow Jesus. “Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32)
Pastor Randy Maxwell