Church of England Diocese of Carlisle Brampton

What is Truth?


What is truth? The question raised by Pilate, when Jesus stood on trial before him, exposed his own worldview. In Pilate’s world absolute truth didn’t exist. He was caught up in the politics and power struggles of his day. Truth gave way to expediency, … to what suited Pontius Pilate, … and what suited Rome, ... in this provincial backwater of the Roman Empire.

What is truth? Maybe Pilate was asking an honest question? But, more likely, Pilate’s voice was dismissive and filled with disdain, … sneering with mockery, … as Jesus spoke to him about truth.

The ironic thing is that, at that very moment, Pilate was looking at the one person who could answer his question. He stood in front of Truth incarnate. He was looking Truth in the face. John 1:17:

For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

Jesus says, “For this I came into the world, to testify to the truth.” Pilate could not accept this claim to absolute truth. He was like so many of our own day and age, a postmodernist. Pilate was a post-modernist living in pre-modern times.

We live in an age of relativism; an age in which the idea of absolute truth is unfashionable. Fashions come and go, … like flares and platform soles. Remember them?

But, in Christianity, absolute Truth is constant. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8, NIV)

What is truth? Truth is defined as that which conforms with fact or reality. Thomas Aquinas defines it thus: “A judgement is said to be true when it conforms to the external reality.”

Not my idea of reality; not your idea of reality; not the BBC’s idea of reality; … not our government’s view of reality. But reality as it actually is! Reality as seen through the eyes of God. John 1:10:

He was in the world, … and though the world was made through him, … the world did not recognise him.”

The world did not recognise him. The world did not perceive reality! The world did not recognise or perceive the truth.

Pontius Pilate could see a man standing in front of him. He could see flesh and blood. He had heard rumours that this Jesus purported to be a king; … was alleged to be some kind of king! Pilate could see glimpses of reality. But Pilate did not recognise him. John continues in verse 11:

He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.

Jesus came, fulfilling Old Testament prophecy, healing the sick, driving out demons, … teaching with authority, … upholding the law, … and heralding the kingdom of God. But the Jewish authorities did not receive him! This Christ, … this Messiah, … did not correspond to their view of reality.

What is truth? Pontius Pilate did not accept Jesus as Lord and King. The scribes and Pharisees did not accept Jesus as their Messiah. He did not fit with their view of reality.

Their reality was the Old Testament law. The law given through Moses. The law they failed to keep. They were not true to the law. Yet the Messiah they failed to recognise upheld the law, fulfilled the law, and by doing so proved that he was the Truth.

It was Pontius Pilate who declared to the Jews, “… I find no fault in him; … no guilt in him; … I find no basis for a charge against him.” It was Pilate who declared, “Ecco homo; behold the man!” because here was the true man, … the only One who could fulfil God’s law!

For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

All of us have a distorted view of the truth. We all see reality through our own distorted lens. None of us can see Truth as God see it.

But we can see Jesus, … who is Truth incarnate. And the more we are rooted and grounded in Him, the more eyes will be opened, … and we can perceive Truth, … and live in the light of that Truth.

To the Jews who had believed him, 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, NIV)

At the beginning of this New Year, may we commit ourselves afresh to following the One who is THE Truth; … Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour. He is the One who claims …

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

Revd Stephen Robertson

January 2021