|C. Kevin Thompson|
What is Truth?
Over the last year or so, as we watch our nation literally burn, both physically and figuratively, I’ve been wrestling with an ideal. The ideal of “truth.”
My personal dialogue comes from the conversation between Jesus and Pontius Pilate in John 18. By this time in the narrative, Jesus has been:
- taken before Annas
- sent to Caiaphas
- presented to the Sanhedrin
- accused of blasphemy
- sentenced to death
- sent to Pontius Pilate for execution
- found not guilty by Pilate
- sent to Herod Antipas for adjudication
- sent back to Pilate for execution
Pilate still disagrees with the sentence, and decides to question Jesus privately in his palace, thus creating a very intricate conversation in John 18.
Pilate asks Jesus if He is the “King of the Jews.” Jesus responds, “Is that your own idea, or did others talk to you about me (v. 34)?” In other words, Jesus was saying, “What do you think, Pilate? And don’t listen to the crowds. Decide for yourself.”
Pilate’s response was one of confusion in verse 35. “Am I a Jew? It was your people and your chief priests who handed you over to me.” Translation: “I’m not Jewish, so I don’t really care whether you are what they say you are or not. Besides, it was your fellow Jews who arrested you. Not me. Not Rome. Not even Herod Antipas. So, if you are not the king of these people, then I understand why they might be upset. However, if you are the king of the Jews, then none of this makes sense. For why would they want their king dead? By my hand, no less?”
So, in an attempt to gain understanding, Pilate asks a very interesting question. “What is it you have done?” Why does Pilate ask this? By this time in the narrative, the chief priests and ranking officials have stated twice what the indictment is. Apparently, Pilate doesn’t understand the nuances and meanings of Jewish Law. He knows the procedures, as evidenced in verse 39 when he references a Jewish custom. But he doesn’t seem to understand the concept of blasphemy, a theological term.
Jesus answers in verse 36, “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.” Did you catch all that? Jesus was saying, “If I was the kind of king you all are thinking of, my servants would wage a war, because that’s how earthly kingdoms operate. But my kingdom is different. It’s not like all the others you have known throughout the centuries. Hence, my kingship is also different.”
Pilate, still not understanding, asks, “You are a king then?” Well, yes and no, Pilate. Yes, Jesus is a king. He’s “The King, the One and Only” (John 1:1; 3:16; 14:6). Yet, the answer is also no. He’s not like Herod. Nor Rome’s Emperor. Nor the king of Persia. Or any other earthly king.
So, Jesus qualifies things for Pilate: “You are right in saying I’m a king. In fact, for this reason, I was born, and for this reason, I came into the world to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”
Pilate’s answer is more than telling in verse 38: “What is truth?”
You see, because of sin, the world has a hard time with the truth. We all do, if we’re completely honest. It was so bad in the eyes of Pilate, he was questioning if such an ideal even existed. I don’t believe he was making some metaphysical statement here, advocating an ancient form of situational ethics. He was confused. A group of people who claimed to be God’s People were trying to kill a man named Jesus. Pilate was wrestling with their decision. He felt an innocent man was being accused of wrongdoing. At this moment in time, in his mind, to crucify Jesus was to make wrong right and right wrong. He really needed more time to investigate these claims, but the crowds were not affording him that opportunity.
However, instead of taking a stand against wrong, investigating for himself the claims of both the crowds and Jesus, and arriving at a proper decision, Pilate figuratively throws up his hands in disgust with his response in verse 38. Unwittingly, Pilate answers Jesus inquiry in verse 34 by sheepishly washing his hands of what he is now deeming a crime against an innocent man. And to add more grief to Pilate’s plate, he must now release a known murderer by the name of Barabbas.
An innocent man is to be sentenced to death. A guilty man is to be set free. Right is wrong. Wrong is right. In this kind of world, truth only exists when it benefits the deceitful and their agendas.
I believe Pilate understood this, but he took the easy road out instead of seeking a truly truthful decision. Why? Because he believes truth doesn’t exist. Otherwise, I don’t believe he would have made the decisions he did.
Ironically, The Truth was standing right in front of him, but all Pilate saw was the physical world around him, with all its troubles. And all the troubles to come, if he didn’t give in to the crowds demands.
As a writer, poignant dialogue, transfixed within a scene which captures the human condition juxtaposed against the truth is (or should be) our goal. This path may, and probably will, take us down roads we may not wish to go because they are too troubling to write. Why? One reason is because it forces us to slide our most secretive parts under the microscope of God’s Word. Then, the Word, doing its work, magnifies what we’ve rationalized in our minds to be miniscule and unpretentious into something so detailed and contradictory to our gracious facade that we want to simply write it a different way, or just wash our hands of it altogether.
Another reason is that we’re afraid the crowds will “shout us down” and threaten our livelihood. Easier to write entertaining fluff than sin-challenging stuff in a world without truth.
But I’m reminded of the simple fact that the Bible is one of a few, if not the only, historical record of kings and rulers wherein battles depict both wins and losses. The stories tell us of the good characteristics of the kings and rulers and the not-so-pleasant sides of their personalities. The accounts are even-handed. Why? Because Truth exposes the warts of sin. And truth also exposes the mercy of God. Both of which are exposed in John 18, as they are in all of scripture.
How do you show truth in your writing? How deep does it go? Does the dialogue challenge and inspire right living? Do the questions engage our spiritual side as well as our intellectual side? Do you do it justice when creating a scene in your work of fiction? Do you give the reader “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God” when you write those non-fiction books?
How do you answer Pilate’s question with your writing?
A Clandestine Mission.
A Cryptic Message.
A Chaste Promise.
Blake Meyer dreamed of a peaceful end to a dutiful career with the FBI. Married now, his life was taking him in a new direction—a desk job. He would be an analyst. Ride it out until retirement. Be safe so he could enjoy his grandchildren some day.
But when a notable member of the IRA is murdered in a London flat, Blake’s secretive past propels him into the middle of a vindictive, international scheme so hellish and horrific, it will take everything Blake possesses—all of it—to save the United States from the most diabolical terrorist attack to date.
C. KEVIN THOMPSON is an ordained minister with a B.A. In Bible (Houghton College, Houghton, NY), an M.A. in Christian Studies (Wesley Biblical Seminary, Jackson, MS), and an M.Ed. in Educational Leadership (National-Louis University, Wheeling, IL). He presently works as an assistant principal in a middle school. He also has several years of experience as an administrator at the high school level.
A former Language Arts teacher, Kevin decided to put his money where his mouth was and write, fiction mostly. Now, years later, Kevin is a member of the Christian Authors Network (CAN), American Christian Fictions Writers (ACFW), and Word Weavers International. He is the Chapter President of Word Weavers-Lake County (FL), and his published works include two award-winning novels, The Serpent’s Grasp (Winner of the 2013 Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference Selah Award for First Fiction) is scheduled for reprint with Hallway Publishing, Spring 2017. Kevin’s second book, 30 Days Hath Revenge - A Blake Meyer Thriller: Book 1, is also scheduled for reprint this fall, with Book 2 due out later in the year. Kevin also has had articles appear in The Wesleyan Advocate, The Preacher, Vista, The Des Moines Register and The Ocala Star-Banner.
Kevin is a huge fan of the TV series 24, The Blacklist, Blue Bloods, and Criminal Minds, loves anything to do with Star Trek, and is a Sherlock Holmes fanatic, too.
Kevin’s Writer’s Blog: www.ckevinthompson.blogspot.com
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