It was a cool morning outside the courthouse. The sun was beginning to make its daily appearance just off the eastern edge of the mountains, but it had not yet risen high enough to remove the chill from the air. Honestly, the governor thought, I doubt even the sun’s full heat could take the chill off this day.
Standing directly before the governor was the bound prisoner. The two stood very close, making quiet, almost whispered conversation. They were a strange study in contrasts: The governor, no doubt holding all the cards, seemed nervous and unsettled. The prisoner, knowing that the governor could not possibly rule in his favor and spare his life, seemed oddly at ease.
If their appearance was strange, their conversation was even more so. It bordered on the philosophical; they were discussing truth:
Governor: Look, I need to know the truth about you. You were brought before me because you keep talking about your own kingdom. You have made too many of the wrong people mad and pushed too many of the wrong buttons. Tell me who you really are so I can help you.
Prisoner: My kingdom has nothing to do with this world. It’s not really something you can understand right now. Perhaps later.
Governor: So you really think you are a king? Please tell me that you don’t really believe that.
Prisoner: I am a king. It’s why I came into the world. I came to set up my kingdom and to help people see the truth. In fact, you need to know this: whoever is on the side of truth will listen to me.
Governor: Give me a break. Don’t talk to me about truth. You know how many prisoners have stood before me begging for their lives, and doing so in the name of truth? You can’t possibly imagine how many versions of the so-called truth I hear in one day. And then you come along and have the audacity to tell me that you really do rule a kingdom and that it is based on truth. You…this rejected, pathetic prophet…dare to stand here and talk to me about truth? You really are nuts. Well, here is something that you need to know, Your Majesty: I learned the truth a long time ago. You know what it is? It is that truth, if it even exists, is slippery, evasive and very relative. All people have their own version of it; some even have two! For me, I have quit trying to figure it out. I have given up on truth. (For the more literal version of this conversion between Pilate and Jesus, see John 18:33–38.)
Maybe you can relate to Pilate’s cynicism. I certainly can. In a day and age where just about anything goes in spiritual discussions, where straight-faced adults pray to everything from trees to aliens to frogs, and in a world where everyone seems willing to opine about the frivolous and yet no one is willing to offer meaningful answers on the really hard questions — like why daddies abandon their daughters, why there is tribal genocide, why the rich won’t share with the poor, why mudslides take out entire villages or why children are born with severe birth defects — it is certainly easy to become skeptical about serious conversations on truth.
And yet there stood Jesus, a stark figure in history, making bold and comprehensive remarks about what is ultimately real. That is why I think we owe him a hearing. Think about it: the man stood bound and bleeding before the judge who could condemn him, and yet he talked about his kingdom.
Now one of two things is probably true about a man like that. One, he’s just plain crazy — well meaning, perhaps, but crazy. That is the case about 99.9 percent of the time. Or two, he’s not crazy, and he knows something we don’t know. That only happens about 0.1 percent of the time, or only once in history. Hmm…
What do you say?