Faithlife Sermons

What is truth?

Lent 2018  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  14:37
0 ratings
Notes & Transcripts | Handout

Do we know that truth is?

This is Google’s response to the search for “What is truth?” that I got earlier this week. It seems pretty simple doesn’t it? Truth is based in reality. We know what is true. The grass is green, the sky is blue, 1+1=2, I’m 49 years old: these are all considered “true” statements. It would be pretty hard to argue any of them.
Well, there’s a little wrinkle in the certainty that we often assign to “truth”. “A fact or belief that is accepted as true.” What happens when someone doesn’t accept that the belief is true? We know (or at least believe) that each person sees colour differently. So we may not see the grass or the sky as the same colour. I’ve been in university classes where we would write 1+1 = 10, not 1+1 = 2, and after a while no one objected, we just accepted it as fact. I remember an argument once between my mother and the mother of a team mate on my hockey team as to how old I was — that somehow my age wasn’t my true age.
No wonder Pilate had a problem with Jesus:
John 18:38a NRSV
Pilate asked him, “What is truth?” After he had said this, he went out to the Jews again and told them, “I find no case against him.
Some people have argued that we’re in a “post-truth” era. Which I’m sure for many is a troubling term. How can we move past truth? Truth is the ultimate measurement. It is right or wrong.
The Oxford Dictionary lists this for “post-truth”: objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.
Well, how are we to operate in an environment like that? How can we make decisions based on emotion and personal belief? How can we as a society ever come to consensus?
In particular, how will our courts ever come to a decision if this is how our society is evolving?
Emotion and personal belief is more important than objective facts?
Actually that whole problem of who judges whom is played out in today’s reading.

Who gets to judge?

Today’s story is part of a larger reading actually. We’ll finish it next week.
The police from the High Priest hand Jesus over to Pilate for trial. There’s two problems with this:
As far as Pilate is concerned, Jesus hasn’t done anything that is worthy of trying him over
Pilate doesn’t feel he’s able to judge Jesus because he isn’t Jewish
John 18:29 NRSV
So Pilate went out to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this man?”
John 18:35 NRSV
Pilate replied, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?”
Our court system is based on two tenets:
The accused is innocent until proven guilty (that might not be the case in the court of public opinion)
The accused is able to be tried by a jury of their peers
But how do we know if someone is guilty if we don’t all agree on what is a fact? Or how do we know what becomes more important, when facts and emotions conflict? What do we do when personal beliefs become more important than facts? How do we decide on who a person’s peers are when belief systems conflict, when there’s no agreement on what is fact and what isn’t?
No wonder we have cases today like this:
Colten Boushie and Tina Fontaine are just two recent examples where scores of people have thought justice hasn’t been served — where maybe we’ve gotten it wrong in who was judging whom — where maybe we’ve gotten it wrong as to what truth really is.
The most difficult thing for me is that the ultimate truth that I hold onto — that Jesus is God — is the big thing that has caused the situation with our Indigenous sisters and brothers. We used the kingship of Jesus as a weapon against a people who didn’t know him.
And yet, even in the case of Jesus’ own trial, he preached a non-violent response:
John 18:36 NRSV
Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.”
Maybe we need to struggle with this reading some more. Maybe truth isn’t as simple as a definition would make it seem to be.
Maybe the situation is even more complex than judging truth and not-truth.

Who to release?

In the case of Jesus, Pilate wants to release him, yet the crowd wants something else:
John 18:38–40 NRSV
Pilate asked him, “What is truth?” After he had said this, he went out to the Jews again and told them, “I find no case against him. But you have a custom that I release someone for you at the Passover. Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” They shouted in reply, “Not this man, but Barabbas!” Now Barabbas was a bandit.
It almost seems like we’re willing to take the devil we know, as opposed to the angel we don’t. And if you think that’s only true then, and wouldn’t be our case now, I’m not so sure. If it were that clear now, would we still be struggling with cases like Colten’s and Tina’s?
Would we be struggling with who to release and who to keep? Would we be so certain that we would be the ones calling out for Jesus’ release, or might we shout “Barabbas”?

We come back to Jesus

According to John:
Jesus is the:
++ true light
++ true bread
++ true drink
++ true vine
Jesus is our truth, the one who shows us the way, the one who feeds us, the one who sustains us, and the one who helps us grow. For that we give thanks. Amen.
Related Media
Related Sermons