And so says Pilate to Jesus on Good Friday just a few hours before Jesus is nailed to the cross and crucified. Jesus has just told Pilate that he came to testify to the truth and everyone who is “of the truth” hears his voice. To this bold and powerful statement, Pilate wonders about the nature and, I suspect, the existence, probability and even possibility of truth.
Pilate was a politician, someone who was good at quickly discerning and pivoting to position himself to be on the right and “winning” side of issues. For Pilate, the truth was never a fixed and permanent position. The truth was always subservient to power, politics, prestige and wealth. Truth was always wrapped up in what was best for Pilate.
Pilate’s question to Jesus is especially important in the current situation we face in our culture and country. We are divided along so many lines. We have lost faith and trust in many of our leaders and institutions. I suspect many of us have asked this same question recently as we threw down the newspaper, changed the channel or turned off the TV set. What, indeed, is Truth? And how do we know and claim it?
In this time of pandemic and Covid-19 our lives and schedules have been altered and greatly disrupted. Our means of communicating and interacting have changed. For many of us, how and where we receive information is different. All of these changes have left many of us feeling untethered, disconnected and uprooted.
For me, I am able to find, discern and follow “truth” when I am connected to the Truth, which, I believe, is Jesus. When I say that Jesus is Truth (I call it “big T” truth), I am not necessarily talking about readily discernible “facts.” Facts are what I call “little t” truth. There is a difference between “big T” and “little t” truth.
Many years ago, in seminary, I was introduced to icons as an aid for prayer and meditation. My favorite icon is of Jesus as The Christ Pantocrator (Almighty) from St. Catherine’s Monastery at Sinai. This is thought to be the oldest known icon of Jesus. I have a copy of this icon at home, in my office, as well as a laminated bookmark I use in books I am reading. I have spent countless hours meditating and praying while gazing at this powerful and mysterious image of Jesus.
I must admit when I first began to “look” at this icon, it made me uncomfortable. His eyes challenged, humbled and, at times, shamed me. Even though this was “just” an artistic representation of Jesus, I did not feel worthy to gaze into his eyes. After a few seconds, I had to turn away. But when I turned back to look into his eyes while allowing those same eyes to look into my own and then into my heart, I began to sense his love, his love for me. Along with his love, I experienced his forgiveness, his patience, his mercy and his grace. Of course, when I first began this journey with Jesus, I couldn’t articulate all that he was “sharing” with me. I just knew that he cared, that I mattered, and that he believed in me, even more than I might believe in myself.
As I looked into the eyes of love that Jesus shared with me, I was invited to live into the Truth of that love. He invited me to become in my own eyes what I already was in his eyes—a child of God, made in the image of God. I am still in process of becoming who Jesus has told me I am. I often forget, doubt, mess up and find myself in a ditch. And yet, he still looks me in the eye and lovingly reminds me of the Truth he continually whispers into my heart. I am his, marked as his own forever.
When Pilate asked Jesus, “What is truth?” Jesus said no words, he simply looked at him. I believe that Pilate never forgot that look. For a time, I suspect he was haunted by that look, by those eyes. But I believe the more he remembered and thought about that last look, the more the light of love began to shine through into his heart. In that light, Pilate began to see the glory and wonder of Jesus’ Truth as well as the illusive and deceitful nature of his own “truth.”
In the weeks and months ahead, we will surely find ourselves, like Pilate, asking “what is truth?” countless times. We might easily become fearful, anxious, disillusioned, cynical, hard-hearted or enraged. Or we can turn our gaze to Jesus. We can ask him to share his Truth with us. We can listen as he whispers into our heart—“my Truth is your Truth.” You are loved. You are made in my image. You are my child. And this Truth—we must always remember—is shared by all of us, all of humanity. And so, we love our neighbor, strive for justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity of every human being. (“Baptismal Covenant,” Book of Common Prayer, p.305)
Whenever we read or hear or see anything that conflicts or contradicts or otherwise diminishes this Truth, we must name it and call it out for the lie that it is. Please, let us know our Truth, the Truth given to us at Baptism—we are children of God, marked as Christ’s own forever. Believe it, live it, proclaim it. Our world is hungry to know this Truth.
Grace, peace and love,