“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?’ ”- John 18:37–38a
Roman governor Pontius Pilate apparently saw through the attempts of the Jewish religious leaders to paint Jesus as a would-be earthly ruler who plotted rebellion against Caesar. Thus, he questioned Jesus about what He had actually done (John 18:33–35). But our Lord did not deny His kingship; rather, He declared that He did rule over a kingdom, albeit a kingdom very different from the kingdoms of this world (v. 36).
No doubt, Pilate found Christ’s answer surprising. Having been convinced that there were holes in the accusations levied by the Jewish authorities, Pilate now had to deal with Jesus’ testimony to having a kingdom and, therefore, to being a king of some kind. He then pressed Jesus further, asking our Lord again if He was a king. This time Jesus answered more obliquely, stating that He came into the world in order to bear witness to the truth (v. 37). Given the parallel with Pilate’s question and Jesus’ answer in John 18:33–36, one commentator notes that Jesus was essentially saying that Christ’s rule over His kingdom and His bearing witness to the truth are indistinguishable. Indeed, this must be so, for if salvation comes through bowing the knee to Jesus, the King of kings, one must first accept that He is the truth and the only way to God (14:6). And since one of the chief duties of any king is to judge according to the truth, Jesus bears witness to the truth every time He judges (Rev. 19:11).
However, not everyone will submit to the truth to which Jesus bears witness. Only those who are “of the truth” listen—that is, follow Him (John 18:37). Here we see the necessity of regeneration and that it comes before faith. Before people will follow Jesus, they must be re-created to be “of the truth.” They must be given new hearts to believe the gospel and obey Jesus as Lord (3:3, 21).
Clearly, Pilate was not “of the truth,” for he then asked, “What is truth?” (18:38a). Pilate really was not concerned about the objective facts of Jesus’ case. He did not care about whether Jesus’ testimony conformed to reality, but he desired only to deal with the situation expediently and move on from the Jews’ in-house “problem.” Thus he joined the ranks of those who seek pragmatism, not principle—what seems to be best for them, not what actually reflects what is true and right. These people exist in every age, and we dare not act like them. If we are “of the truth,” we must be concerned for the truth.
Dr. R.C. Sproul writes in his commentary John that “the issue in our day in regard to truth is whether there is an objective reality that is true for everyone, no matter who we are, where we live, or what we do. The same issue was on the front burner in Jesus’ day.” As servants of Christ, who is the Truth (John 14:6), we cannot afford to be indifferent to the truth or to believe that truth is relative. Our calling is to stand for the truth in matters great and small.
Passages for Further Study
2 Thessalonians 2:1–12
3 John 4