When, Pilate, asked the question, 'what is truth?', what did he really mean? What is truth for everybody? What is truth in general?
Since Pilate turned away, I don’t think he expected an answer. His was a rhetorical question, assuming the answer was relative. In the book of John, the meaning is deeper. Jesus had just told his disciples that He was the truth and that the Spirit would lead them into all truth. So truth for Jesus is what God gives us that leads us to Himself.
So, what IS truth? Well, truth is what is real. It is affirming that what is in a person’s head is just in their head and reality is reality. Truth is what really happens, what really happened and what will really happen. Truth is not only an accurate present, but also an accurate history and an accurate prediction of what will occur. Truth is also affirming proper cause and effect. This kind of truth is objective, but it can be difficult to discover and it is small compared to the overall reality in which we live.
Truth does get muddled a bit because it is so hard to discover. What is “true” for one person is their ideology, that which they act on. And these ideological truths—these worldviews on which we base our lives and hopes and relationships—are as subjective as they are based on reality. They are the interpretation we use to see al things, without which we would never act, but with them we cause all disagreements and conflicts. Ideological truths are what are being talked about when some say that “all truth is relative” because there seem to be as many truths in this way as there are people. Even if people agree on ideology, they disagree on the details.
There is another kind of truth which is significant truth. Reality is so vast, the past so detailed, the future so obscure, ideologies so varied, that it is difficult for any human to understand it all, let alone act on it. So we must determine not only what is true—what is accurate—but also what is significant. Not all reality, all truth, is important to us, for how we live. Some is and some is not, and making the decision of what is significant is important.
Jesus focused on one aspect of significance—that of the house being set aflame. If you are living on a fault, and it is true that an earthquake was happening tomorrow, that is the most significant truth in your life. This becomes your most significant doctrine, your ideology, the basis of your action. This requires correct prediction, but Jesus was confident that he had that ability.
Jesus said that the current regime of priests and elders that ruled God’s people was just about over, and that the most important thing is to get in line with Jesus’ way of thinking, the up and coming ruler. Pilate didn’t want to understand this, and just ignored it by saying that ideology is impossible to determine. Jesus, however, knew what he was talking about. Pilate was to suffer for killing Jesus, and for his oppressive actions, for he would be sent back to Rome and then die in a shipwreck. The priests and elders were about to be destroyed by the Romans in less than 40 years, never to emerge as a power again. Their future was about to crash. If they had paid attention to Jesus and not killed this innocent man, perhaps God would have made a different decision. And so they killed Jesus. And Jesus’ truth came to haunt them—to destroy them, actually.
And this same choice of killing the innocent and being destroyed is a significant truth that catches up to every government, even this administration that is in office now. They torture gladly for their own “truth” but ignore Jesus’ truth that the ones who exalt themselves will be humbled and the ones who humble themselves will be exalted. Jesus’ truth inevitably catches up with everyone.