What is Truth?

We all have to decide how to respond to the gospel, how to respond to Jesus Christ.
We all have to decide how to respond to the gospel, how to respond to Jesus Christ.

Rejection because of Pride and Self-Righteousness

John 18:28 says, "Then they led Jesus from the house of Caiaphas to the governor's headquarters. It was early morning. They themselves did not enter the governor's headquarters, so that they would not be defiled, but could eat the Passover."

Jesus's accusers handed Him over to Pilate but refused to enter his house. Passover lasted seven days and they didn't want to defile themselves by entering a pagan's home.

What does this tell us about the religious leaders? They were very careful to avoid anything that would make them ceremonially unclean while, at the same time, carrying out the vilest act of human history. As they delivered an innocent man, the Lamb of God, to be slaughtered, they made sure their hands were "clean."

These were people who paid great attention to the smallest detail. Yet, their hearts were far from God. The religious leaders were good at going through the motions. They knew the right things to say, the right places to go, what to touch, and what not to touch. But Jesus threatened their religious pride.

We struggle with the same tendency and must keep in mind Luke 18:11-12. Can we recognize ourselves in the words of this Pharisee's prayer? "God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get."

Instead, we should be like the despised tax collector. "But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven."

It's easy to take pride in how long we've been a member of the church, how often we attend, how many good things we do and look down on others. We must ask ourselves if we honor Him with our lips while our hearts are far from Him.

Having a biblical understanding of our sinfulness and God's holiness and grace as displayed on the cross leads us to recognize and hate our sin, our pride and self-righteousness. It changes our view of people who have not trusted in Christ as Lord and Savior. We have compassion on them, realizing we were no different before we came to saving faith.

Rejection because of the Cost

Pilate was a violent man who, history teaches, hated the Jews. He had committed many offences and crimes against them and had been chastised for doing so. The Jews were free, under Roman law, to practice their religion undisturbed.

The Jews sought to force Pilate's hand. He was to take their word for it that Jesus should be put to death. Otherwise, their unspoken threat was that they would, once again, send word of his treachery to the emperor—something he couldn't afford.

Pilate wasn't willing to set Jesus free, but he thought the Jews would do so if he offered to release either Jesus or the notorious criminal Barabbas. He underestimated the Jews' hatred for the One who had done no wrong.

The Jews called for Barabbas to be released, and Pilate had no choice but to do so. Still, he didn't want to execute an innocent man. If he had Him tortured, perhaps, he thought, the Jews would be satisfied.

Still, the crowds cried, "Crucify him!"

Pilate wanted the Jews to do so, but their laws didn't permit it. And when they told Pilate that Jesus had claimed to be the Son of God, he was even more reluctant to put Him to death. Traditionally, the Roman people were superstitious and believed the gods did walk the earth from time to time.

Could he risk executing a god? Plus, his wife came to him and warned, "Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I have suffered much because of him today in a dream" (Matthew 27:19).

Pilate went to Jesus and asked, "Where are you from?" (John 18:9)

Jesus did not respond.

Frustrated, Pilate asked, "You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?" (John 18:10)

At this point, Jesus spoke up. In verse 11, we read His response. "You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin."

This made an impact. Verse 12 says, "From then on Pilate sought to release him, but the Jews cried out, 'If you release this man, you are not Caesar's friend. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.'"

Pilate couldn't risk another complaint about his leadership. It could cost him his life. And yet, could he risk putting Jesus to death. Was He more than just an ordinary man?

We know Pilate succumbed to pressure and had Jesus crucified. Still, he hung a sign on the cross that read "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews."

It's easy to condemn Pilate, but consider his choices: 1) defend an innocent man, which would cost him his position, his possessions, and possibly, his life or 2) keep his job, money, and life, but send an innocent man to the cross. Would we have chosen differently?

Rejection because of Indifference

In John 19:1-3, we read, "Then Pilate took Jesus and flogged him. And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe. They came up to him, saying, 'Hail, King of the Jews!' and struck him with their hands."

What an awful way to treat anyone—not only the King of kings!

While it's easy to judge these men, we, too, have the same tendencies before we come to saving faith. Romans 8:7 says, "For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot."

The soldiers were simply "doing their job." They were indifferent to the plight of those they tortured.

Acceptance because of the Price Paid

Pilate found no guilt in Jesus and tried to release Him, but the Jews refused. Instead, they demanded Pilate release Barabbas, thief, murderer, insurrection leader.

Jesus did not deserve to be crucified, but this man did. Is this contrast the only reason he is included in the story? No. We are like him in at least three ways.

We are thieves. At some point, we've all robbed God of His rightful honor, glory, and lordship over our lives.

"But I'm not a murderer," we protest.

However, 1 John 3:16 says, "Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him."

Insurrection? We've all sinned against the Lord and caused others to do the same—either directly or indirectly.

Yet, another way we are like Barabbas is the manner in which we are freed. He did nothing to deserve—or secure—his release. We didn't do anything to secure our release from sin and death either.

Jesus was sinless. He didn't deserve to die. But He died in our place, setting all believers down through the ages free from the prison of sin and death.

Acceptance because of Trust in Him

In J. C. Ryle's commentary, he points out that "Jesus, the innocent, wore the crown of thorns so that we, the guilty, might wear a crown of glory. He was clothed with a robe of shame and contempt so that we might be clothed with His spotless righteousness and stand before God's throne in robes of white. He bore contempt so that we might receive praise and glory at the last day." [1]

As John recalls the events of Jesus's trial and crucifixion, we're shown that, even though Jesus was mocked for being the King of the Jews, He truly is our King. Pilate presented Jesus, bloody and beaten, mocked and spat upon, wearing a crown of thorns and a purple robe.

At one point, Pilate asked, "What is truth?" (John 18:38)

That's exactly what Christ came to bear witness about. The Jews accused Jesus of making Himself out to be the Son of God. But, He was—and is!

Pilate tried to clear Jesus's name and set Him free three times (John 18:38; 19:4: 19:6), but the crowd insisted He be crucified.

Jesus truly is the Lamb without spot or blemish, sacrificed for our sins. What will you do with Jesus, who is called the Christ?

Will you be like the crowd that shouted, "Crucify Him"? Will you be like the soldiers who couldn't care less? Or will you consider His sinless life, life-changing teaching, miracles, claims, death, burial, and resurrection and accept His free gift of forgiveness?

What will you do with Jesus? Will you reject Him or accept Him and declare Him to be the only rightful Lord and King?

[1] Expository Thoughts on the Gospels [Baker], pp. 271-272