“What is truth?” (see bold above) said Pilate, AD 33 Roman Procurator of Judea. (Tacitus and Josephus, First Century historians, wrote about Pilate. His name and title was also inscribed on a commemorative stone (now in the Israel Museum, Jerusalem) at Caesarea Maritima, the official coastal town of residence of the Judean Procurators.)
In this case the question was rhetorical. Without waiting for an answer Pilate went outside his Jerusalem HQ where the Jews were waiting. They would not enter his HQ for fear of religious defilement. But they wanted Pilate to find Jesus guilty, condemn him to death and execute him.
Here in AD 2010 Jersey (and elsewhere in our post-modernist world) we too are highly sceptical about truth. We ask, thinking we know the answer –
· Are all of Jersey’s elected States members truly honourable – and truthful?
· Is the British government covertly intending that Britain inflate its way out of its massive debts?
· My neighbour has religious “faith” – it’s OK, it does her good – but is it true (other than to her alone)?
Whilst Pilate’s question, “What is truth?”, displayed his deep cynicism, he did believe – very firmly – in one particular truth and acted upon it. He was certain that he was truthful to himself. He told himself no lies. He could trust himself as true.
Whilst historians ponder over what might have been Pilate’s personal agendas, Pilate himself knew the truth. He knew whether or not he wished to release Jesus so as to spite the Jews whom he despised. And he was true to that truth. Arguments rage about whether or not he was indeed a weak man notwithstanding the ‘ceaseless and grievous brutality’ that one historian records about him. Pilate himself knew the truth (did he, really?) and acted upon it.
We know the truth that is within us – but is it the real truth? Are we like Pilate – convinced by our own truth and no other?
Jesus’ biographer faithfully records the immediately preceding words of Jesus himself: “I have come into the world to bear witness tothe truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice.”
Pilate proceeded on the basis that there was no such thing as truth (save his own truth within) in his AD 33 world. On going back outside his HQ, he mentions the customary release of one prisoner every year on Liberation Day (Passover Day – commemorating the BC 1350 liberation from Egypt).
There’s a man in prison whose name is Bar-abbas, Bar = son of; abbas = the Father”. Is he to be released? By his name Barabbas claims to be the Jewish Messiah. But he’s a murderer, an insurgent, a danger to Roman rule in Judea. What is the truth? Pilate knows only one truth – his own.
What about Jesus? He’s accused of being a fraudulent Messiah, of being a danger to Rome. He has spoken and acted in supernaturally. What is the truth? Pilate decides on the basis of his (Pilate’s) own truth. He orders the release of one Messiah and the execution of another. He has been loyal to the truth – his truth.
Are we in Jersey AD 2010, because of our devotion to our own truth and our cynicism about all other truth, engaged in a similar process, rejecting all truth except our own truth?
And are we taking action (or engaging in masterful inaction), based on our own truth, with regard to this good man who gave himself for others – and rose again?