Welcome tribe! I asked our resident theologian John Perrine to share a reflection on Good Friday. John explores the weight of Good Friday and invites us to ponder Pilate’s often forgotten question, “What is truth?”
So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?” Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” 37 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?”
Today is the day that the world stopped, where things went bad before they could become good. The skies darkened, the veil was torn, his body was pierced, the divide between heaven and earth collided in the death of the king who was the Son of God, who was in fact God himself, come to offer up himself, in forgiveness, mercy and love for even us who knew not what we did as we scorned and mocked him. This is that dark and mysterious day that we call good, and that we both mourn and celebrate as our Lord Jesus, the savior of the world, was put into the ground.
A few mere hours before the great euchatastrophe of the world was to take place, the man who represented the kingdom of the world had an exchange with the man who represented the kingdom of heaven concerning the question we long to answer; “What is truth?” Now in order to understand the significance of this exchange, let’s talk for a moment about kings and kingdoms. In the days of Jesus, the great powers ruled the world; Rome and Caesar, the senate and the coin, the Pilate’s and the priests. We really aren’t much different in this day and age. Be it Washington or Hollywood, the corporate office or the political party, the latest diet or the newest phone, the powers that be have a way of sticking around, consuming and controlling the swells and tides of our lives. And the powers that be, both today and in Pilate’s time leave us wondering, along with Pilate, “What is truth?”
So when Pilate enters the room, he brings with him all of those powers and politics to confront a small, seemingly insignificant man, a mere countryside teacher who has been causing the slightest of stirs. His first question wants to know if this Jesus is in fact a threat, a challenge to his rulers by claiming to be a “king of the Jews”.
Of course, as most learned who asked a question of Jesus, he received a question in reply, “Where did you learn this? Who told you who I was?”
Pilate waves this away, “Don’t expect me to understand you particular Jews, you must have done something wrong or you wouldn’t be here.”
Jesus’ answer in reply is both revealing and deeply incriminating. His kingdom doesn’t come from this world. In the book of John, the “world” is associated with evil and rebellion against God. The kingdom of Jesus however does not originate in this world, it has a different quality, a different source. In fact, Jesus points out his kingdom has been one of truth, a truth which he has brought, a truth which his followers have heard.
Pilate, of course, can only see things from a this-worldly perspective. As far as he knows, the only place you get truth is out of the sheath of a sword (or, as we would say, out of the barrel of a gun). Political ‘truth’ can so often be my truth against your truth, my sword against your sword, with those two meaning much the same thing. And ultimately, for a Roman governor, my truth against your truth, my power against your weakness, my cross to hang your naked body on. Ah, but that’s the truth. The truth that belongs with Passover. The truth that says one man dies and the others go free. Barabbas, the brigand, perhaps himself either a would-be king or a supporter of someone else’s failed messianic movement, faces the gallows as well. Somehow, through the cynicism, the casual local custom, the misunderstandings, the distortions, the plots and schemes and betrayals and denials, the Truth stands there in person, taking the death that would otherwise have fallen on the brigand.
Pilate didn’t see it at the time, the irony that his kingdom left him still unable to discern truth when it stood before him. But John wants us to see it today, in the midst of the clamoring powers of day that demand our attention and offer us no reply. This is what the cross will mean. This is what truth is and does. Truth is what Jesus is; and Jesus is dying for Barabbas, and for Israel, and for the world.
And for you and me.
Grace and Peace to you on this Good Friday,
John and the Practice team