The RevoLectionary is a lectionary blog written by Irish young adults.

Proper 29: What is Truth?

John 18:33-37 (NRSV)

33 Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” 34 Jesus answered, “Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?” 35 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?” 36 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.” 37 Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”


What is truth? 

This passage demonstrates the tricky, manifold ways we miss out on truth, the barriers we ourselves build to experiencing it - beautifully, fully, freely. 

Leaders like Pilate. Herod and the Jewish authorities (who are the ones deciding Jesus’ fate) choose the truth that best serves their social role, that doesn’t affect them on a personal level. They have made their peace with bringing an innocent man to die, but draw the line at ruling themselves out of the party that will happen that evening in the process. 

Both the Jewish leaders and Pilate get caught up in avoidance, passing Jesus back and forth in this short exchange. It creeps into our experience often. I thrive off it. It is one of the symptoms of anxiety, one of the ways we can step out of line with reality, and try and carve our own path. Pilate asks the leaders – “what charges are you bringing against this man?” They neglect to give a straight answer.  They make complicated circles out of the questions they are not brave enough to answer.  

Neither wants to be the person who kills Jesus, one group want him dead, the other is ambivalent. Always ensure you pass on your responsibilities, let your problem become someone else’s, make sure the buck finally stops with someone other than you, as fear grips you tighter. This is a good way to get entangled living somewhere just a few degrees north or south of truth, and stuck there. 

What is truth? 

Pilate asks the question, but he does not stick around long enough for answer. Face to face with Truth embodied, he walks away. 

Like Pilate, I want to ask clever questions, and distract myself soon enough after asking to feel good and clever, but not fulfilled. I am that guy in your English Lit tutorial, who spouts philosophical axioms to distract from the fact he hasn’t read the book. I wonder when was the last time we really focussed on anything long enough to reach a solid conclusion that lit up both our heart and our mind. 

What is truth? 

When given a choice, they choose another. Maybe we’d prefer Truth to look a little different please, to speak a little different, to act a little different, to be a little bit more right leaning, or a little more left in persuasion, a little less political, or a little more so. “We’ll have Barabbas, please. You are not the truth we hoped to find.”  I want to meet the truth, not as it was and is since time began, but found in the form that I expect it.

What is truth? 

Are we not fluent in these attempts to fool ourselves, and others, and God? 

All these things hold us in chains just out of reach of a truth we may have already tasted and seen. Most of all I want to be free. Jesus stepped into this captivity described in the chapters surrounding this passage in pursuit of this freedom for us, to lay out truth before us.

All these things hold us in chains just out of reach of a truth we may have already tasted and seen. Most of all I want to be free.

What is truth? 

John places a particular focus on times Jesus spoke about truth. It is a beautiful thread through the narrative of the book. What conclusions does it bring us to? 

Jesus is Truth, Way, Life. Truth comes through Jesus, he is full of it. It is the way to God. 

It brings us into the light. It shows us who we are. It is the key in which we are to worship, with the Holy Spirit as conductor. It legitimises us. It makes us holy. 

It is experienced in real time, in real feelings, like hearts set at rest, like the comfort of words like the way, the truth and the life, when they become to be more than words. Like being free, free indeed.  It is rational in that it is learned too. It is present in what he taught. His word is truth and we are asked to hold to it, tightly. We are witnesses to it – we get to see it, we get to tell it. 

What is truth? 

“My kingdom is not of this world”. Yet here he is, stuck in an earthly palace, trying to explain himself to a man who does not quite care. “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” We might guess then that truth could be something that has joined heaven and earth, worth heaven coming to earth to share, worth the humiliation; an essential connecting presence that we are invited to partake in.

 “Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free”. 

May you belong to it. May you be fluent in it. May you be on its side. May you be wild free in it. May your heart be set at rest by it. May you know life in it. May you live by it, walk in it. May you speak it with love. May you know its name. 

Emily Murtagh 2.jpg

Emily Murtagh

Emily is currently working part-time as a youth worker in Kilkenny, having just completed her Masters in Community and Youth Work. She is passionate about tag rugby, proper conversations, dancing, poetry, public transport as a lifestyle choice and seeing people and ideas come together.

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