Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”
Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”
“You are a king, then!” said Pilate.
Jesus answered, “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.”
“What is truth?” retorted Pilate. (John 18:33,36-38)
Pontius Pilate was facing a dilemma. He knew Jesus was not guilty of the charges brought against him; he also knew the Jews would riot if he let Jesus go. He knew his wife wanted him to release Jesus and was anxious because of dreams she had been given about him the night before; he also knew that his position of power would be in danger with the Roman government if he didn’t quell this uprising. Pilate seemed to know the truth . . . that the man on trial before him had authority and power but also a gentleness and humility about him. And yet, Pilate chose to ignore the truth standing right in front of him. He chose not to be on the side of truth. He chose to save his own earthly life and prestige and position rather than believe the truth and submit to the King of kings who could save his very soul.
Aldous Huxley, author of a Brave New World, once said, “Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.” The fact remains that Jesus was the King, the Son of God. Pilate ignored that fact, but it was still a fact. The fact remains that Pilate sentenced Jesus to death. He made a big show of washing his hands of Jesus’ blood, but it was just that . . . a show. We don’t have much insight into Pilate’s later life or thoughts or feelings, but sometimes I picture him a little like Shakespeare’s Lady Macbeth, scrubbing and scrubbing raw hands, unable to rid himself of what he had just done.
Contrast Pilate’s actions with those of Jesus’ early followers. There were many witnesses to Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, and those were the founders of the early Christian church. They knew the truth, and many of them died for that truth. They knew that Jesus was “the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6), and they were willing to lay down their lives for him. Pilate chose a falsehood and his own hide; Jesus’ followers chose to live the truth, even if it meant losing their very lives. But they were playing the long game in sticking with the truth, and the consequence was that they received life with Jesus forever.
Before Jesus was arrested and put on trial, he spent some time in prayer with his Father in heaven. He prayed over his own human troubles and what was coming. He prayed over his disciples. He prayed over all God’s children. This was part of his prayer:
“I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world” (John 17:14-18)
We have been given the truth straight from God’s Word. We don’t get to create our own truth; that’s not how truth works. There is one Jesus and one way to eternal life. It does no good to ignore the fact of Jesus’ life, his death, and his resurrection. Jesus is standing in front of us. What will we do with him? Will we wash our hands of him? Or embrace the truth—embrace Jesus?
It might not be easy. In fact, Jesus promised just the opposite; it will be really hard sometimes, and the world will hate us because we are living his truths. We have been sent into this world, but this world is not our home. The power or money or influence or convenience of ignoring God’s truth here on earth is not worth it in the long run. But Jesus tells us, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31,32).
Hold on to the truth, and the consequences will be more than worth it.