90 Days with Jesus, Day 82: John 18:28-37: Jesus the Truth

John 18:28-37 (90 Days with Jesus, Day 82

Then the Jews led Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness the Jews did not enter the palace; they wanted to be able to eat the Passover. 29So Pilate came out to them and asked, “What charges are you bringing against this man?” 30″If he were not a criminal,” they replied, “we would not have handed him over to you.” 31Pilate said, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.” “But we have no right to execute anyone,” the Jews objected. 32This happened so that the words Jesus had spoken indicating the kind of death he was going to die would be fulfilled. 33Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” 34″Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?” 35″Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “It was your people and your chief priests who handed you over to me. What is it you have done?” 36Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.” 37″You are a king, then!” said Pilate. Jesus answered, “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” 38″What is truth?” Pilate asked. With this he went out again to the Jews and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him. 39But it is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover. Do you want me to release ‘the king of the Jews’?” 40They shouted back, “No, not him! Give us Barabbas!” Now Barabbas had taken part in a rebellion.

Crucifixion was a Roman form of capital punishment. Had Jesus remained under the auspices of the Jewish delegation he would likely have been stoned to death. Under Rome Jesus would be crucified. “This happened so that the words Jesus had spoken indicating the kind of death he was going to die would be fulfilled.” He had indicated that he would be ‘lifted up’ (John 3, 12). The type of death had been indicated as far back as Genesis 3, Genesis 22, Psalm 22, Isaiah 53 and others. It would be a bloody affair. It would be unpleasant to say the least. Nothing was going to prevent that from happening.

Obviously, there is a lot going on in this rather lengthy passage I have chosen for this meditation. I’m not going to comment on the entire passage except for a couple of very short notes. First, there is something to be said about Jesus’ conversation with Pilate and his point about truth. Truth is a hot commodity in today’s world. Everyone, and I mean everyone, claims to have or be on the side of truth. But this is necessarily impossible; not everything can be the truth. This is especially so when it comes to religion. It is not even close to the truth to say: Christianity is right for those who believe it and atheism is right for those who ‘believe’ it. We can also say something like, Christianity and Islam cannot both be true. There may be elements of truth in Islam, but in had fact, the claims of Jesus must be dealt with. It seems difficult to think in such black and white terms, but Jesus was either telling the truth or he wasn’t. Ajith Fernando wrote:

We have seen how the pluralistic mood makes people today skeptical about the idea of knowing absolute truth. Into this environment of uncertainty about truth, the biblical Christian comes with the claim that we can know Absolute Truth. We say that we have found it in Jesus; that Jesus is the truth as He Himself claimed in John 14:6. This means that He is the personification, the embodiment of truth. Jesus did not only say, “What I say is true;” which means, “I am True.” He said, “I am the truth,” the ultimate reality. (The Supremacy of Christ, 27)

So Jesus said, “Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” This means that we are on His side. It doesn’t mean that he defends us or that we can suppose that we are right. It means that Jesus is right. It means that to the best of our understanding we align ourselves with Jesus: Not religion, not a denomination, not a teacher. Only Jesus. I suppose this is more difficult than assumed, but ultimately, Jesus Christ will judge our hearts and our intentions. And only our faith in Him by the grace of God will we be saved. DA Carson notes, “Similarly, only those who are rightly related to God, to the truth itself, can grasp Jesus’ witness to the truth” (The Gospel According to John, 595).

Second, Jesus speaks of a Kingdom. Originally it was brought up by Pilate. He ‘accused’ Jesus of being a king and Jesus agrees: “For this reason I was born.” Then he ties his Kingship to the Truth. He thus ties his Kingdom to the truth and, consequently, all of his subjects are bound to the truth. But this is not merely a matter of cosmic avoidance of ‘little white lies.’ This is a matter of “nothing less than the self-disclosure of God in his Son, who is the truth” Carson, 595).

In Christ are all the mysteries of the universe explained and understood. His Kingdom is based on this fact of history. This is a Kingdom that is incompatible with lies. This is a Kingdom that cannot be severed from the truth. And this means that any other kingdom set up is necessarily set up in opposition to Christ’s. It also means that all other kingdoms, even if containing an element of truth, are built substantially on lies. There is not room in the universe for more than one kingdom.

Andreas Kostenberger notes, “Even so, the only thing Jesus says about his Kingdom is what it is not: it is not of this world” (JETS, 48/1, March 2005). Carson notes, however, that this “should not be misconstrued as meaning that his kingdom is not active in this world, or has nothing to do with this world” (Carson, quoting Beasley-Murray, 594). It means that Jesus’ Kingdom does not have its origins in this world. So Carson brilliantly writes that this world is

“…locked in persistent rebellion against its creator (1:10, 11). It is the sphere of darkness, of rebellion, of blindness, of sin. The kingships of this world preserve themselves by force and violence; if Jesus’ kingship finds its origin elsewhere, it will not be defended by this world’s means. And if it resorts to no force and no fighting, it is hard to see how Rome’s interests are in jeopardy.” (The Gospel According to John, 594).

But this doesn’t stop the world. We are talking about two kingdoms that are diametrically opposed to one another. And the world knows it. Pilate mutters, “What is truth?” and walks away. Why? Because he doesn’t care. His concern is not for truth any more than the people of this world are concerned about truth. This is why I constantly point out here at this blog that Christianity and Darwinism cannot both be true. They are opposites because one is the Kingdom of God and the other is the Kingdom of man. One Kingdom grows red in tooth and claw. The other grows in secret like seeds spread in a field. One grows according to the ideas of men. The other grows according to the will of God. One grows for the sake of man. The other for the sake of God. They both grow, simultaneously, often times in the same field; however, one is doomed to utter failure, the other is bound to eternity.

Pilate walks away and all we are left with at the end of chapter 18 are the screams and cries of people shouting, ‘Barabbas! Give us Barabbas!’ This is the world’s way of saying, ‘We want the lie! Don’t give us the truth! Don’t give us Jesus! Give us the lie! Give us the devil!’ The world is content in its bliss. The world is satisfied to live in the emptiness of ambition, pride, and self-absorption. The world is satisfied to live in the depths of the ‘get all you can in this world’ lifestyle. The world desires to live in the unhappiness of self-direction. The world is at peace to live in the warzone of the flesh. And the world will persist in this way until the Day comes when people will no longer shout to Barabbas and the Devil but will bow before the Exalted Christ Jesus and Worship Him and Him alone.

What I see happening around the world is that many churches are buying into the lie. Too many churches nowadays are shouting out with a chorus of ‘Give us Barabbas!’ Too many churches are content to live on the plane of this world’s ambitious pride and melancholy. Too many churches are not on the side of truth, are not listening to Jesus, are not part of His Kingdom. “What is truth?” Pilate asked. Then the next thing Pilate heard was this: “Give us Barabbas!” This is the truth of the world we live in: People would rather choose recklessness, unrighteousness, and sin over Jesus. And Pilate never spoke to Jesus again. Pilate never again heard the truth. Let me ask: What are the last words you will hear from Jesus?

Truth has a power of its own, a power that in the long run proves stronger than the usurped authority of the institutional power. Jesus embodies this hope, the hope of the ultimate triumph of truth in the reign of his Kingdom. (Andreas Kostenberger, What is Truth? JETS 48/1, March 2005)

Soli Deo Gloria!


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