What is truth? John 18, verses 36 – 38
36Jesus answered, ‘My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.’ 37Pilate asked him, ‘So you are a king?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.’ 38Pilate asked him, ‘What is truth?’
This is a painting by an artist called Duccio, of whom I have never previously heard, and was painted over 700 years ago. It is entitled ‘Christ before Pilate’
In the rather beautiful picture above we capture the moment in the trial of Jesus when h and Pilate are discussing truth. Pilate, of course, is worldly wise, cynical and cruel. For him the ultimate truths were power and strength to get what you want, and he was not afraid to use them. You can see the soldiers in the middle of the picture, ready to keep the peace by force and violence. On the left you can see the priests and the crowd. For the priests, politics was clearly an ultimate truth here as they manipulated the crowd to bay for Jesus’ blood. And the focal point, to which our eyes are drawn, is Jesus just to the right of centre, who has given up all his power so that the truth of God’s justice and love can be discovered. Not all these truths proved to be reliable although Pilate and the Jewish priests probably never discovered that.
There are various different truths which sit comfortably beside one another. ‘Society wants to rid the world of Covid-19’, is a generally accepted truth. ‘Lots of people are frightened and anxious’, is another. ‘Human beings have not yet managed to get to grips with controlling the virus’, would be a third. ‘The world is not just going back to normal’, is a fourth.
There are other truths that don’t seem to sit very comfortably together at all. Christians would say that one of the ultimate truths is, ‘God is in control’. Many people would dispute that and why he isn’t doing something about Corona virus if he really is in control. for them, the truth would be, ‘We’ve got to sort it out ourselves because nobody else is going to do it for us.’ Are these two views in conflict?
If we, as Christians, belong to the truth, as Jesus says in the short passage above, then we listen to his voice. What is he saying? What is the truth? If we hold fast to the Christian truths that God really is in control, however unlikely it seems, and that God is delighted with his creation, which is perhaps easier to accept, then he is going to do whatever it takes to save it from the danger of climate change we are putting it under. After all, sending us his Son Jesus, was a pretty extreme way of proving his commitment to us. But as is only too clear from the picture above and the bible verse, God’s plan for the salvation of the world, uses Jesus, the focal point, but also involves all sorts of sinful people like Pilate, the soldiers, the priests, the crowd and you and me. So I believe God will save the world from climate change anyway because he is n control, but our actions now are crucial depending whether we want to play the part of the arrogant bystander, the manipulative fool, the violent law enforcer or the person preparing for the salvation of God’s Kingdom. And in hindsight, which of those came out best at the trial of Jesus? That’s the truth. And that may help us to see how to get our head around with the continuing threat of the Corona virus.
Surely as a Church, this is the message we should be shouting from the rooftops!
Enable this church to do your will
Make it vulnerable that it may speak with calm humility;
Make it outward looking that it may care deeply
Make it a community of peacemakers and bridge builders
In the midst of turbulence let the church make space
for the hearing of your still small voice.