Does anyone speak the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth any more? Pilate asked Jesus, “What is truth?” (John 18:38); the motive behind the question is not readily apparent and it comes at the end of their conversation.
Before his arrest, in his prayers, Jesus had expressed some remarkable thoughts which John has recorded for us. Under great pressure, knowing what was about to happen to him, Jesus is thinking and praying for his disciples! What a remarkable example for us to follow if we are ever in a difficult and dangerous situation; we should focus our minds and pray for others.
Jesus prays, “Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me that they may be one, even as we are one” (17:11). Strength comes through unity and Jesus knew they faced three heart-wrenching days: it seems they were together in their distress. Jesus continues, “I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction that the Scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them your word …” (17:12-14). What kind of joy was fulfilled?
Glance back to chapter 16:22-24, “you have sorrow now, but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you … Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full”. Joy beyond imagining awaits Christ’s followers in the time soon to come.
For now, the words of Jesus mean a great deal. “They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth” (17:16,17). This brings us back to the question, “What is truth?” Surely it means that the foundation of all that is true is in what God has spoken through Jesus and other godly people. In modern parlance another saying for ‘truth’ is ‘get real!’ meaning something like ‘Face reality’.
So, when Pilate said to Jesus, “What is truth?” we rather think he was saying it in exasperation. He was surrounded by those who distort truth or speak half-truths. In today’s world it is more than ever the case. But we can say, as we pray to God, “Your word is truth” and make it the foundation of our thinking and doing.