Dear friends. All of us can remember values that were drilled in to us when we were growing up in our families. In our house, one of the most important values was telling the truth and never to tell lies. As time went on and we all grew up, the reason for our commitment to the truth was less about the fear of being caught out in lies and a fear of punishment but a commitment to the truth for its own sake. As we got older we discovered for ourselves just how true the saying goes: ‘the truth will set you free’ – free most of all from fear. Instead, for someone who tells lies or lives a lie, they live in the constant fear of being found out. For us, loving the truth and seeking the truth becomes the rock on which our peace of mind is built.
One person for whom truth didn’t matter was Pontius Pilate. He features in today’s Gospel which is one of the most dramatic in the whole of Scripture. The contrast between the two men in the scene could not be greater. Pilate was a man of great power over Jesus at that moment, to release him or crucify him. He had a whole army and Empire behind him. Jesus on the other hand stood before him as a pitiful figure, a semi-naked man with his flesh torn to shreds after a vicious flogging and wearing a crown of thorns in mockery. Jesus had done nothing to deserve this terrible punishment. His only crime was to tell the truth. Unlike Pilate, Jesus had no one to defend him, no soldiers and no authority except the truth of what he spoke and what he stood for. Yet even now, in the face of great suffering, he was not prepared to compromise on the truth, even if it meant his death. For this he had come into the world ‘to bear witness to the truth’ for ‘all who are on the side of truth listen to my voice’ (Jn. 18:37). For Jesus, truth meant inner freedom with the strength to endure all he did. Pilate on the other hand was not interested in the truth of whether Jesus was innocent or guilty. He wants to appease the mob and therefore he is controlled by them. He is not free.
And so despite the fact that Pilate condemned Jesus to death, this Gospel remains an inspiration to everyone who loves the truth, seeks the truth and lives by the truth. When the Lord rose from the tomb on that first Easter Sunday, the truth rose with him: the truth of everything he stood for and everything he taught. Pilate thought he was killing the truth when he killed Jesus. He failed. To be a Christian then is to love the truth and seek it. To love the truth is to love Christ himself for he said ‘I am the way, the TRUTH and the life’. Ultimately, Jesus came to reveal the truth of who God is and the truth about ourselves. Even if this truth is uncomfortable or challenges us we must be faithful to it for it will be our strength.
This is all the more important at a time when the very existence of truth itself is often denied. There is my truth and your truth but no truth in itself. Everything then can be justified if this is the case.
What matters most for us is not my truth but the truth. We can’t change the truth but the truth can change us. Like Jesus, we might have to suffer for the truth but in the end we will be free for the truth will be our strength. Truth might hurt for a little but a lie can hurt forever. The truth does not cost us anything but a lie could cost us everything. So from the smallest example to the greatest, let us love the truth, speak the truth and live by the truth. For in Jesus’ words, ‘all who are on the side of truth listen to my voice’.