By Usha Paulraj
“What is truth? said jesting Pilate, and would not stay for an answer.”
So begins the essay ‘Of Truth’ written by Francis Bacon, the 16-17th century English statesman, philosopher and writer. Bacon recalls the scene of the trial of Jesus before Pilate, the Roman governor in Jerusalem, as narrated by John in his gospel. The day was the Friday of the Passover week of the Jews. The year was about the mid-30s of the 1st century CE.
Pilate heard the charges against Jesus and studied his face. Seeing no sign of guilt, he asked him, “Are you a king?” Jesus would have known that in a short time, he would be nailed to the cross. But he did not show any fear or plead for life. He put forth the mission statement of his life in all earnestness. “It is as you say,” he said. “But my kingdom is not of this world. I came to bear witness to the truth. Whoever is on the side of truth hears my voice.”
Jesus had professed that he was born to preach the kingdom of God. God is spirit and truth and seeks people who worship Him in spirit and in truth. Such worshippers would see God and hear his voice in their spirit. They would be His servants and prophets, and channels of His grace to the people of this world.
What was Pilate’s response to this plea of Jesus? That was not a moment for him to ponder over the profound matters that Jesus had placed before him. The mob that had brought him was clamouring for the most horrible death sentence on him: “Crucify him.” He vaguely asked Jesus, “What is truth?” and moved on to talk to the crowd in an attempt to save his life.
Was Pilate jesting? Was he trashing the truth? Jesus’s words were irrelevant to Pilate at the moment and he had to set them aside. Bacon says Pilate’s reaction is typical of most of ours in the consideration of truth. We recognise and uphold truth as the noblest of all virtues. But lies have taken a vital place in our dealings. They are convenient and useful, provide fun and profit, and so are popular. Truth commands respect and is sought at great costs by governments, scientists, scholars and pioneers. Seekers after truth are known to have been led in their spirits by supernatural revelations. We may or may not recognise them as God’s voice. But it is certain that truths nurture and nourish life. They bring peace, health and prosperity to nations.
Standing charged before Pilate that Friday, Jesus spoke of a simple way to connect with God: Be committed to Truth. Truths set in motion the process of illumination of the spirit casting out ignorance and fear.
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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