John 18:28-38 | What is Truth?
John 18:28-38 | What is Truth?
February 11, 2024 |
Sunday Morning
John 18:28-38 | What is Truth?
John C. Majors |
John 18:28-38
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I believe we’re having some worship already this morning, Man, powerful morning. Baptisms. The name of Jesus. Staying focused on that king above all kings. Powerful morning To morning‚Äôs– this morning’s passage, leading up to it, I thought of a story I heard a while back. Where, and you may have had these moments in life where you wonder what’s really going on here? I’m trying to sort out the situation and I’m not sure what’s true and what’s not. And you dive into these situations and you’re trying to navigate them and there’s confusion. So I read this story recently about Sergeant Anthony Gibbs of the Guthrie Police Department, routine traffic stop pulls over Steven Jennings, Rachel Rivera, and just a routine stop. They had expired tags. That was it. Well, soon they learned there’s more to the story. Jennings was driving with an expired license. Rivera was a convicted felon in possession of a firearm, both placed under arrest. The vehicle was impounded because of lack of insurance. It was later discovered the vehicle had been stolen. So one thing after another piling up– it gets better or worse, depending on how you see it. When the impoundment of the vehicle begins and they start moving things around in the car, they find a rattlesnake in the backseat. Of course. Right. Who doesn’t travel with a live rattlesnake. It was surprising to say the least, said Officer Gibbs. As they continued to search the vehicle, they spotted an open bottle of Kentucky Deluxe whiskey near another firearm. Then they discovered a container of yellowish powder labeled uranium. Of course, what in the world is going on here? One thing after another. Come to find out, it did not appear that Jennings or Rivera were under the influence of alcohol. There’s one bright note in the whole situation, and they were not charged with possession of uranium because they had a legal amount. Who knew that there was illegal amount of uranium to possess? You encounter this situation. You hear that and you go, what is the back story behind this? How did this couple, these two people end up in this situation? And I bet the sergeant involved in this is going what is the true story? What is false? What is going on? How do I sort this out? Because we want to be moving towards truth. We want our police officers to move towards truth. We want as ourselves, as followers of Christ, to be pursuing truth. How do we move towards truth? Today’s passage, we’re going to see this conflict around truth. In fact, the key idea here is we’re going to see three kingdoms in conflict in the pursuit of truth, three different kingdoms in conflict here. And so we’ll be in John chapter 18, continuing in that chapter on page 850 in your church Bible, if you have a church Bible, if you don’t have a Bible, we have those in the connection corner. You can slip out at any time. We’ll be reading from it in the paper copy of the Bible, or if you have an electronic copy that’s fine as well. But we want to make it easy for you to find it. Grab one of those at any time. We’re in John Chapter 18. And again, the key idea we’re going to see here, Three Kingdoms in Conflict in their Quest for truth, combating one another in their quest for Truth. Three key kingdoms throughout this passage that we’ll unpack. So chapter 18. Let’s start in verse 28 and read this first group of verses here, John 18, verse 28. Then they led Jesus from the house of Caiaphas to the governor’s headquarters. It was early morning. They themselves, these are the Jewish leaders, did not enter the governor’s headquarters so that they would not be defiled and then could not eat the Passover. Pilate went outside to them and said, What accusations do you bring against this man? They answered him, If this man were not doing evil, we would not have delivered him over to you. Pilate said to them, Take him yourselves. judge him by your own law. The Jews said to him, It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death. This was to fulfill the word that Jesus had spoken, to show by what kind of death he was going to die. So the situation here coming off last week when Jesus had been interrogated by Annas, he was then delivered to Caiaphas, the other reigning high priest at the time. But now we jump right into where he’s being interrogated by Pilate, so we don’t really get the conversation that happened with Caiaphas, but we’ll get hints of what happened, the interrogation that happened in that moment. It shows up in the other gospels as well. But they bring Jesus to Pilate and Pilate begins to interrogate Jesus in particular. Now, just prior to this, though, the Jews who bring him make an interesting point. Pilate asked them, Hey, what’s the charge you bring? And they simply say, he’s evil and you should take our word for that because we said it. This starts to point at and we’re going to see this unpack the first kingdom in conflict here. The first one we see are with these Jewish leaders. And I would say these religious leaders, the kingdom that’s governing them is their religious self-righteousness. They’ve become so blinded to the presence of God by their own religion and rituals and rules. In fact, you see it here in one of these first phrases where it says in verse 28, they brought Jesus to the governor’s headquarters, but they themselves did not enter the governor’s headquarters. So, Pilate, we want you to deal with him, but we’re not willing to come in near you. You know, they were they were worried about being defiled so that couldn’t participate. There were certain Jewish laws around. If you entered a Gentiles home, some of those things, you’d be defiled. It may just be for a short time, depending on what it was. I mean, if it was just leaven from leavened bread, it’d just be that day. If it was a dead body, it might be a lot longer. But they didn’t. They didn’t want to risk it. Which the irony here is. Pilate, we want you to do our dirty work, but we want to keep our hands clean. It reminds me a little and you’ve seen this movie because it’s been done a hundred different versions by a variety of different actors. It’s those movies where you have this nefarious arms dealer. You know, they’re selling weapons of war all over the world and everybody hates them. And somebody from the government, the FBI, some agency arrests them, puts them in prison. They think they’ve landed the career case of their life. And all of a sudden, some shadowy figure shows up and says they’re free to go. And ever the guy’s just distraught. What do you mean? This guy so evil he can’t be let go! And of course, you hear the speech. We’ve heard about 100 different versions. Your government needs me if they want to keep their appearance, that their hands are clean, that they’re not involved in this dirty arms business in the background, you need somebody like me. And here in this moment, the Jews, they don’t want to get their own hands dirty, but they want the dirty work done. They need Pilate. We don’t want to get defiled, but we want to keep a hold of our religious rituals, even at forsaking the presence of God. In fact, I think a good phrase that sums this up their religious practices, ultimately what happened and you’ll see this on screen, their religious practices blinded them to the presence of God. Here was God in human flesh, right in front of him. But we’re committed to eating the Passover, whatever it takes. We’re committed to seeing this evil thing done no matter what. We’re committed to seeing it through and we’re blinded. And I think it’s important to pause here being that we are all in a church building and just take note of that. We are not above that tendency to put our religious practices, our traditions, our rituals above the presence of God. Those things can — now, hopefully they draw us closer to God, but they can also, if we let them, blind us to his presence. We can’t stand here in judgment on the Jews thinking we’re better than them. (Sigh.) Because my heart, man it can easily be led into thinking this practice, this thing I always do, is what makes me holy and miss the presence of God. There’s a great quote I read this week. Look, I hope that when we’re here, we always experience the presence of God. Bob Russell wrote about this in one of his books. I read this. Listen to what he said. In biblical worship, two ingredients always seem to be present. A sense of awe, wonder, overwhelmed with who he is, a sense of awe and a sense of joy. Those two things should mark biblical worship. And then the result of that, if we’re overwhelmed with who he is, a sense of awe of who he is, filled with the joy and delight of who he is, even in the midst of sorrow and circumstances and grief and challenges, there’s still an abiding joy. Those two things are true. The result of that is just an overwhelming sense of his presence, and I think that’s what we all want. I mean, when I come here, I want to experience his presence. Yes, there are tasks to do, conversations to have, things to accomplish, but none of that matters if we don’t experience his presence. That’s what I want. I want to know his presence here with me. I want to know that he’s around me. And regardless of what emotion you feel, I want to know that he is here. That’s what we’re striving for in all that we do. And one thing I’ve always loved about Valley View is that is maintained to be a high priority. We don’t get it perfect. We’re not perfect. We don‚Äôt always get it right. That’s what we’re striving for. And I’ve talked with person after person that says, You know what? If it were my– if it were only up to me, I’d do it this way. But so that so many more know God’s presence, we’re doing this. And I love that. Young and old, defer, give up my rights, give up my privileges so that together, collectively, we worship. We know his presence, and we’ve got to be mindful of that tendency to be blinded to his presence. We’re not somehow better than the people we read in the story without the presence of God. So that first Kingdom, that religious, self-righteous, we see a few other things come up here. Pilate says to them, what accusations do you bring? They want him to go along with their plan. Look, we’re right. We thought of this. Jesus must be evil. Take care of him for us. But Pilate asks them, what accusations do you bring? I need specifics. Now, some think this is him merely dismissing them. Look, I don’t want to mess with this religious argument between you. What accusation do you bring? Do you have anything of value? But I also think he’s playing a bit of the political card. We have background information on Pilate that he had his ups and downs in this region because it’s so long ago, you tend to think people were just these autonomous leaders who got appointed and everybody had to do everything they said. But no, in the Roman world especially, there was a lot of politics going on. You could get a– I mean, who wants to be stuck in Judea? He wants to move his way back up to Rome. There’s a lot of politics going on at this time. And some when he says this, What accusation do you bring? Thinks this is just a gentle reminder to the Jews, You need me. You already know it. But I’m reminding you, you need me. If you want to see this go through, you need me. And here’s the here’s the challenging part. The reality is they were both after the same thing. Both the religious leaders and Pilate. They’re both after the same thing. They both just mainly were concerned about power. Their kingdom was about power, about control, about making sure that we did whatever it takes to keep power, even at the sake of the presence of God. So Pilate says, what accusations do you bring? They know they get the hint that they need him, but look at their response. Look back at verse 31. Pilate said to them, Take him yourselves, judge him by your own law. The Jews said to him, it is not lawful for us to put anyone to death. So they acknowledge we don’t have the ability to put him to death. Now, we talked about this at length in the book of Ephesians, Ephesians chapter two, where it says Jesus had broken down the barriers, the dividing wall in the temple the one time they had the ability at this time the Romans had allowed them to retain was if someone crossed into the inner temple courtyard, they could carry out capital punishment. And so maybe they’re acknowledging that we don’t it’s not lawful for us. But here’s an interesting thing on the background of this phrase. It is not lawful when you look up all the other times that used is used when it’s used by Jewish leaders. They’re not talking about Roman law. They’re talking about their own religious law, about their own Jewish laws and rituals, which means, follow me here, keep with me, the point here with them is we recognize that we don’t have a right to do this. Now, that’s dangerous territory to be in because you may have been there at times. You may have seen people there. I want what I want I know it’s wrong, but I want it at all costs. I will have this thing no matter what. Maybe you’ve seen that husband who has said I want this other relationship at all costs. I know it’s wrong. I’m going to go toward it. Fact Julie relayed –my wife. Julie relayed a story with me this week. You’ve probably heard you’re familiar with Henry the eighth, who had multiple wives, and he wanted to divorce his first wife, and the Catholic Church wouldn’t let him. So he conveniently started another church. They’ll let me if I start it and I’m the head, I’ll go to any length it takes to get what I want. Side note– one of his wives he decided to divorce. Here was his basis for divorcing. She was ugly. He saw a profile picture online. Well, it was a painting before he met her. And what he saw in person didn’t match up with what he saw online. She’s ugly. I want what I want. And I will have it no matter what. You’ve seen that. You’ve seen that maybe as a student, you’ve seen a friend at school that you know what they’re doing is wrong. But they they keep doing it because because of the friends that attracts they’re lonely, they’re hurting. And so they keep going down that path. Or maybe it’s been at work. You’ve seen a coworker who just continues to do that thing that they know is wrong and they know that, you know, is wrong, but they they like the money or they like the praise. I like the benefits that come from that. I want what I want, even when I know, as it says here, it’s not lawful and we will have it even if we have to lean on people we despise, Pilate, to bring it about. Now, what happens in these moments when you see this happening, someone going towards what they know is wrong? I think we all rightly take a step back and go, Lord, where are you? What’s happening? How did this happen? Well, we get a ray of light to that question here in verse 32. Look at what’s happening in verse 32. It’s not lawful for us to put anyone to death. Look at verse 32. This was to fulfill the word that Jesus had spoken to show by what kind of death he was going to die. Now, that phrase this was to fulfill that often is describing a quote from the Old Testament. This was to fulfill scripture. But these words are quoting Jesus’s own words. In fact, I’ll throw the references on screen. I’m not going to turn to them. You can look them up later. We’ve already read them over the course of going through the study. Go ahead, throw those passages up in John, John, 3:14 – 15. That’s where Jesus talks about Moses in the wilderness as he lifted up the serpent. So I must be lifted up, Jesus said. And then in John 12, the son of man will also be lifted up. Jesus had predicted all along. Look, I’m going to die. I’m going to die in a very specific way, not by stoning, but by being hung on a cross. Now, here’s why that’s important. Here’s the comforting part of that for us. Here’s why that’s powerful for us. It’s really easy in the midst of this or in whatever the challenge you’re facing personally to go, where are you, Lord? What’s happening? Why is this whole thing spinning out of control? What is the truth in this moment? But Jesus says, No, no, no, no, this is crazy. But I’m still in control. I knew this would happen. I told you it would happen. I predicted it. I’m still here. You can still lean on me. You can still trust me. As confusing as it is, I’m still in control. So that’s the first kingdom we encounter. The kingdom of the religious, self-righteous. Kingdom of the religious self-righteous. What’s the second kingdom? Look here in this next group of verses. Verse 33. So Pilate entered the headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, Are you the king of the Jews? Jesus answered, Do you say this of your own accord? Or did others say it to you about me? Pilate answered, Am I a Jew? Your own nation, the chief priest delivered you over to me. What have you done? Jesus answered. My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting that I might not be delivered over to the Jews, but my kingdom is not of this world. Then Pilate said to him, So you are a king? Jesus answered. You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born; for this purpose I’ve come into the world to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice. And Pilate said to him, What is truth? What is truth? Pilate enters back in. He leaves the Jewish leaders behind. He goes back into his own courtyard where they didn’t want to come, and he begins to interrogate Jesus. And here we’re going to see the second Kingdom. The first was the religious self-righteous. The second one here is just the kingdom of the world, the realm of the world where power and control are at play at a high level. Pilate begins to interrogate Jesus. One thing that’s interesting about this is the way that they ask questions back and forth. You’ll see Pilate, most of his dialogue is just questions. Ask a question. I’m going to respond to a question with a question. It’s an interesting tactic. You see many use this. In fact, the first question he asks is, are you king of the Jews? That’s the first question he asks, are you king of the Jews? And that’s an interesting question because Jesus, look at how Jesus responds to him. Did you say this of your own accord or did others say it to you about me? Now, a friend of mine wrote a book years ago. His name’s Randy Newman, not the singer. If you know who that is, If you’re that old Randy Newman, the singer, he’s Randy Newman, the author. He wrote a book called Questioning Evangelism. He doesn’t mean I’m questioning whether evangelism is the right thing to do or not. He means I’m using questions in evangelism. He grew up in a Jewish home, and he said all our interactions were this way. I’d call up my grandma, Grandma, how’s the weather down there? How should the weather be in Florida in the middle of July? Uncle, Uncle Steve, how are you doing? Compared to who? But, you know, it was just always this. I ask a question, they ask a question in response. Can‚Äôt you just give me a straight answer? It was just kind of this cultural thing. And you see almost this maddening pattern here of asking a question and responding with the question. Kids don’t do this with your parents, by the way. That’s not how you do it. Give them a straight answer. Randy, though, this book’s a great book, questioning evangelism. He gives a lot of great tactics for how to engage in evangelism using questions. And I would say make sure as you‚Äôre doing that that you’re doing it sincerely. The questions you ask are sincere. Not I’m not just trying to corner you and say, I gotcha. Julie and I both were heavily influenced by writer Francis Schaeffer, and he talked about you want to press into people’s lives in a way that helps the weight of their worldview, press down upon them. Tell me what you believe in a sincere way. What’s that based on? How does that guide you in times of trouble? How do you make decisions when you encounter difficulties? Let the weight of that often broken, cobbled together system that won’t bear up often under the hard times, questions can be a powerful way to do that. Here we see almost this master conversation of subtleness occurring back and forth between Jesus and Pilate. Question, answer, question, question, question. Look at how they begin to get engaged. Because Jesus asked this question looking back at verse 34, Did you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me? And I think by asking that question, he’s asking a really important question that drives that whole point of this whole message. He’s asking him two different things. The first question he’s asking him is, do you really want to know if I’m king or not? Are you personally really interested in knowing who I am? Are you asking because you want to know me? The true king? Is that what you’re asking? And I think it’s important to remember that as hardened as you think someone may be, as far from Christ as they run, even if they are the ones in persecuting you, you never know how God might be stirring in their heart. You never know. Jesus is asking Pilate, I’m here. Don’t you want to know me? I’m here. Come to me. Don’t ever forget you never know how God is working in someone’s heart in the background. That’s the first half of that question. But the second half is a little sneakier. When he asks, Is this something you came up with on your own, or did someone else say this to you about me? In this moment, he’s basically saying to Pilate, are you being manipulated by the Jews? Are you, are you listening to them and what they have to say about me? Are you letting them lead you along? Can you imagine a bigger slap in the face to a Roman ruler than being manipulated by some backwater province? Side note: religion that I don’t care anything about. They’re somehow manipulating me. Did you come up with this on your own? Because Pilate‚Äôs got to be someone who goes. Who cares about your little religious arguments? Who cares? I mean, if today, if suddenly in the pulpit, I began to take up swearing. All right, maybe I choose just some really nasty word that would even just cause a hardened criminal to shudder. Something like stupid. You know what I’m talking about? Those Christian cuss words. We could pick some others. I drop that up here. You don’t immediately call 911. I mean, you call 911 and they hang up or they come arrest you for wasting their time. What are you doing? We’re out here trying to catch radioactive rattlesnakes. We don’t have time to mess with your pastor cussing. Who cares? Now you‚Äôll care. And you should. But you’ll go talk internally. You will talk to the elders. They’ll reprimand me. We’ll have this whole thing. We’ll get it straightened out. But the government doesn’t care. That’s not who cares. Unless. Unless something starts to threaten their authority, their rule, and ultimately the word we’ve already seen their power. And of course, by the way, we all know everything we say here threatens the power of any other ruler than Christ. He is our allegiance and Pilate is included into that, yet he doesn’t get that. He’s wondering what’s going on? I’ve got my kingdom, I’ve got my realm. This worldly realm. And you’re asking me this weird question. Look back at how Pilate responds here. Verse 35, Pilate answered him, Am I a Jew? Meaning, How am I supposed to know about your silly inside arguments? How am I supposed to engage on those? Who cares? Am I a Jew? And then he asks, What accusation have they brought against you or What have you done? Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world. You think you know what it means to be a king. But I operate in a completely different realm. Now, we’ve already read this, so we know that this confuses Pilate more. Look at how Pilate answers. So you say you’re a king. I thought I wasn’t sure if you were not. Are you saying you are? What do you mean? And how Jesus responds shed a lot of light on this issue. Wait. Situation. You say that I am a king. You think you understand what it means to be a king. But I’m not a king like any other king you’ve ever seen. My kingdom is a different kingdom. And this leads us to the Third Kingdom. Look at how he responds. This purpose. I was born, for this purpose. I’ve come into the world to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice. So the third kingdom we see here, the third realm in the battle for truth, is the Kingdom of truth. Christ’s kingdom, the Kingdom of truth. You have the kingdom of the religious, self-righteous. We have the kingdom of the world. But ultimately we have the kingdom of truth. And then we get Pilate‚Äôs famous response in that moment. What is truth? What is truth? Now, why would Pilate say that? Why would he ask that? I’ve pointed to this passage. I know others have as well as an example of where moral relativism was showing up. I think that’s one way to teach this. I don’t think that’s wrong. Surely moral relativism has occurred in every age where everybody determines their own truth. Whatever is true for you, that’s great. Unless it imposes on my truth, then we have a problem. Now, who do we side with? What’s right? How do we know who’s true? What is truth? That’s one way to take this. I think, though, in this passage, there’s three ways to look at this phrase, What is truth, about what Pilate may be asking in the context of everything that’s happening. So let’s look at the first one when he asks, What is truth, I think the first thing he may be asking is just simply who is right in this situation? What’s the truth here? Kind of like the opening story. What’s really going on? Are the Jews telling the truth or are you telling the truth? I don’t understand why did I get mixed up in this? I’d rather be back in my palace eating grapes. Who cares? Who’s right? I don’t know. Now, that’s one way to take it. The second is when he asks what is truth, why does it matter? And here’s why that’s important. He may be simply asking, Why does it matter? Meaning, why does truth matter? And you’ve seen this at play, by the way, in power situations in politics where truth does not matter at all. The only way it matters is if it supports the power I want to keep. And pick either side or a third side or anyone. And yeah, there are moments, you know, I’m painting a broad picture here. There are certainly people who are truthful, but you understand the biggest goal is power? What is, what is truth? What does truth matter in this moment? But listen closely, this is where we are to be set apart. This is where Christians are to be set apart. We are to be known as people of truth, people who pursue truth to its fullest. We don’t just believe something that’s true. We practice it. We live it out. We fight for it in our own hearts as well. We don’t dabble in lies, we fight for truth. I remember sitting down with these two ladies who were in the biggest conflict I’ve ever seen between two women before. I worked with them. Somehow it ended up on my plate to try to help them reconcile. It was messy. But let me tell you, when we sat down together, one thing I deeply appreciated is that neither one of them were spinning their own truth, but they were both careful to say, Yes, you’re right. This is what happened. I’m not going to go off that and try to make her sound worse than she is or me sound better than I am just to get what I want. They kept fighting for truth. If we do that, and as they did, we can navigate whatever messy thing we encounter. We are called to be people of truth, even in the midst of utter craziness around truth. I think the third response here is just simply at the end of the day, Pilate could be asking what is the true source of life? Who is the true king? Where do I find truth? Jesus is the king. Jesus is the true king, and Jesus has already called him to choose a kingdom. Do you say this or did someone else? Do you know what it means to be a true king? Do you know truth? And that’s a question we all have to wrestle with. It’s a question every one of us has to ask: Who is my king? Which kingdom do I serve? Who is my king? And there is no middle ground. There aren’t three options. There’s two. The first two, I’ve chosen not Christ. The Kingdom of Truth chooses Christ. What does it mean to know him as your king? There’s a video that’s gone around that sums this up powerfully. You may have seen it. I know it’s been shown here before in the past. It’s so powerful, though. I want to share it again of just one man talking over and over again about what it means to know my king. Let’s watch the screen. I love where he says, I wish I could describe him. That’s all he’s been doing for 5 minutes. But that’s my king. I wonder if you know him. Do you know him? If you don’t know him, I’d love to talk with you about what it means to follow him. To know him. Let me tell you, all of life changes when you know Christ. Sometimes that means new challenges. But all of life changes. I‚Äôd love to talk with you, with him about him today. But let’s pray. God, thank you for this morning. Thank you for your word that guides us. Thank you for the pictures of new life in you this morning. People who have said he is my king and Lord we pray if there are any here who don’t know you, they would come to say, that’s my king. They would come to know you fully. They would come to know you in your death and resurrection and new life. And they would come to find new life in you. God, We thank you for another morning together to worship. My prayer today, God, would we know your presence today all throughout the day. We know there’s madness coming with the start of a new week. May we know your presence today? Just a glimmer of your presence today. Jesus, we love you. Amen.