Good Friday Reflection 2016: What is Truth?

Each day this week, we’ll offer a short reflection on a reading, or a portion of a reading, for Holy Week. We hope that you find this to be helpful as you observe this week of the proclamation of the death and resurrection of Jesus for us sinners. The Gospel reading for Good Friday is John chapters 18-19. We will be looking at just a portion of that text.

–By Elizabeth Ahlman

Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate said to him, “What is truth” (John 18:37-38, ESV)?

St. Petri und St. Pauli Kirche, Eisleben, Germany. (St. Peter and St. Paul Church). Photo by Elizabeth Ahlman

St. Petri und St. Pauli Kirche, Eisleben, Germany. (St. Peter and St. Paul Church). Photo by Elizabeth Ahlman

We are all, in some ways, searching for the truth. Pilate wanted to know the truth of who Jesus was and the accusations leveled against Him. His neck was on the line in the dealings with Jesus. He knew that Jesus was wrongly accused and could find no fault in Him. But the Jews were insisting that Jesus was not telling the truth about Who He was. They insist that Pilate must crucify Him because He made Himself to be the Son of God, in other words, to be a king. He who makes himself to be king is putting himself above Caesar. And Caesar is Pilate’s king. So that’s a problem for Pilate. Yet he can’t seem to get a straight answer out of Jesus. So when Jesus speaks to him seemingly in riddles — “I have come into the world — to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice” — Pilate’s reasonable question is: “What is truth?”

We are all searching for the truth, but sometimes we look in all the wrong places. We look to ourselves or our parents. We look to our spouse or our friends. We look to the government or the internet. We look for truth everywhere but where it is to be found. In so doing, we break God’s first commandment to have no other gods before Him. We look for a truth to fear, love and trust in, but we find the wrong ones. And perhaps it’s because we’re looking for an “it” when Truth is a Who.

A better question is, “Who is Truth?” Pilate wasn’t of the truth, and though he heard Jesus speaking, He didn’t listen to His voice, or he would have known that the answer was standing in front of him, bloodied and beaten, having been carted from farce trial to farce trial. Jesus, the Truth, is the true King. And that is a very real problem for Pilate, for Caesar — and for us. Faced with the true King, we still stop our ears and close our eyes to His truth. We refuse to believe in Him. We refuse to see our sinful selves. We refuse to admit that we are in need of a Savior.

Yet, Jesus the King, the Truth Himself, calls us by name. He brings us into His kingdom through the waters of Holy Baptism and there we learn and we do listen to His voice. We hear Him speak words of truth to us: “You are sinful and unclean, but I have given my righteousness to you and you are forgiven for looking for truth in all the wrong places. You are children of the Heavenly Father, holy and beloved in His sight. You are invited to my feast, where you will live in joy for all eternity. I will raise you up on the Last Day.” All this and more Jesus the true King, Truth Incarnate, speaks to us and we who are of the truth listen to His voice.

Let us pray. Merciful and everlasting God, You did not spare Your only Son but delivered Him up for us all to bear our sins on the cross. Grant that our hearts may be so fixed with steadfast faith in Him that we fear not the power of sin, death, and the devil; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen (Collect from the Good Friday Chief Service in The Lutheran Service Book: Altar Book, p. 513).

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