Pilate’s age-old question still rings true today. But God’s answer also remains the same.
Glenn L. Schwanke
“What is truth?”
The words rip us back in time to very early on Good Friday morning at the residence of Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor, where Jesus had been led like a lamb to the slaughter by the Jewish leaders and their temple guards. They needed Pilate’s permission for the death sentence against Jesus.
You might expect their request would come after a thorough, legal review of the case against Christ. But none came. Rather there were only feeble attempts to avoid handling the case and two brief exchanges between Pilate and Jesus.
The first of those exchanges led to three of the most infamous words ever spoken.
‘You are a king then?’ Pilate asked.
‘You say that I’m a king,’ Jesus replied. ‘I was born for this, and I have come into the world for this: to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.’
‘What is truth?’ said Pilate (John 18:37,38 HCSB used throughout).
We shudder at those three words, because in our hearts, we hear the mockery in Pilate’s voice. And we weep at what follows. Jesus—mocked. Jesus—scourged. Jesus—sentenced. Jesus—crucified. And Pilate? He does nothing but wash his hands of the affair (Matthew 27:24).
“What is truth?” When I hear those words, I think of Pontius Pilate. But I also think of millennials, a generation whose worldview has been dramatically shaped by television, movies, computers, tablets, and smartphones; Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Twitter; Siri, Cortana, and “OK Google.” A generation always connected with an overwhelming flood of information that is just a voice command or a few keystrokes away.
Unfortunately, far too much of that information stream is little more than snake oil, a slick but poisonous repackaging of Pilate’s snide comment, “What is truth?” This is particularly true when it comes to issues of morality or matters spiritual and questions about life, death, and eternity.
Is there absolute truth? The skepticism of our modern age boldly shouts, “Absolutely not!”
Is Jesus the only Savior, the only way to eternal life? How are millennials expected to believe that when a 2015 Barna Group study found that only 48% of millennials believe that Jesus was God! On the other hand, 56% of millennials believe Jesus committed sins while he was on earth. Hardly the makings of a Messiah. So it’s not at all surprising when that same Barna study concludes, “Millennials are less likely to believe that Jesus is the path to heaven than are other generations.” As Barna Group President David Kinnamen comments, “Jesus is a friend of sinners, but many millennials are ‘unfriending’ him at a time when their lives are being shaped and their trajectories set toward the future.”
“What is truth?” I think of the college students I serve in Campus Ministry. I see no sneer on their face. I detect no mockery in their tone. What I do see are young Christians who are constantly being inundated by the worldview around us. I do hear doubt, and I do see confusion written on their faces. I think, “So much has changed since I was their age!”
But, thank God, the answer remains ever the same. “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).
“This saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance: ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’—and I am the worst of them” (1 Timothy 1:15).
Glenn Schwanke, pastor at Peace, Houghton, Michigan, serves as campus pastor at Michigan Technological University.
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Author: Glenn L. Schwanke
Volume 103, Number 3
Issue: March 2016
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