Jesus said to Pontius Pilate, “I was born and came into the world for this reason: to testify to the truth. Whoever accepts the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate responded, “What is truth?” I wonder whether Pilate was looking up, down, or at Jesus when he said that; his facial expression could tell us what was going through his mind. Unfortunately, the Gospel writer John doesn’t tell us. I am going to assume Pilate was looking up, wondering, in general, what is truth. I was asked the same question on Sunday by several folks. And now, with my eyes looking upward and stroking my imaginary beard, I am wondering, too.
Facts and truth are not interchangeable. Jesus didn’t say, “I testify to the facts; whoever accepts the facts listens to my voice.” Here is a fact: the earth is made of substance. Here is some truth: God created all things, visible and invisible (stuff with and without substance). I don’t think many people are willing to die for facts; some will die for the truth.
Today’s society seems to believe that truth is subjective. One person’s truth may not be another’s. Is Jesus testifying to a perspective? Is it subjective? If so, we can listen to someone speaking “their” truth. I believe there is The Truth, not subjectively based on someone’s perspective but something that is undeniable. The Truth cannot be owned, held, locked down, hidden, or kept in secret. The Truth will shine, and, (say it with me) the truth will set you free.
Frederick Buechner wrote, “In the long run, our stories overlap and mingle like searchlights in the dark. All our stories are in the end one story, one vast story about being human, being together, being here. What is the truth of this never-ending, sprawling story we are?” I think truth is a distinctive combination of facts and experience. Jesus is the sum of all creation, experience, knowledge and wisdom. He is intertwined with our stories and with us being together and being here. Truth is both an external point on the horizon on which we fix our eyes and an internal point of experience and understanding. In my mind’s eye, Pilate is neither fixed on the horizon nor in touch with his own gut understanding and experience. His wife insisted that he, “Have nothing to do with that man,” because she had a vision that showed who Jesus is. Even then, Pilate failed to voice his inquiry about truth to the only human who could have answered.
I believe that God created everything. There are many who don’t. Does that give both our truths equal merit, footing, and weight? Because I can stack fact upon fact and add a little faith in for good measure, does that make my truth better than the dissenting truth? Is someone willing to die for their truth that God didn’t create everything? I don’t think there can be competing truths. Either it is one way or the other. My dad and I can read the same book and have different experiences but the truth remains there is a book that we shared.
Perhaps Jesus testifies to the sum of all experiences called The Truth. The Light of the World can see all the searchlights of our life. The great I Am knows our light, our experiences and our faith. Like individual strands of yarn, the Good Shepherd knits our stories together into one big tapestry of experience and life. And, the truth is he loves the whole and each individual strand.