Dr. Ed Young - What is Truth?
There's something about large public trials that have always attracted people. When there's an issue on the line, or a life on the line, and decisions must be made, and it is taken into the public arena, there's something magnetic about that, and so many times the decisions that come out of these proceedings affect the flow of the entire history of the world. Socrates on trial before the citizens of Athens. Charles I on trial before the Parliament of England, and then we look at all the trials that some of us have studied about and some of us have viewed: the Nuremberg Trials, Patty Hearst, O.J. Simpson, the trials that took place in one shape, form, or another with Richard Nixon and Clinton over impeachment, and then we look at so many procedures today, and we view it right in the comfort of our homes on television, and we are drawn to it to determine the outcome: what is right, what is wrong, who is speaking the truth, and who is off base and purporting a lie?
But there's one trial, ladies and gentlemen, one trial in all of history that is the most significant trial that has ever taken place, and that was the trial of Jesus of Nazareth: evil versus good, righteousness versus immortality, and all the issues that you can name in the world were there on the docket when Jesus Christ was placed on trial. A little footnote here: as you study the gospels carefully, all four report part or all of this trial. All four, you see an unusual turn of events. Him who is on the docket, who's being tried, is Jesus, but in the process, those who are prosecuting him end up on the docket, and the truth is they were the ones who were being tried.
Two trials, in the case of Jesus of Nazareth: The first was a Jewish trial, the second was a Roman trial. The Jewish trial, most of us are familiar with the story. Out of the upper room, Jesus was taken and he was held captive, and all the king's army, all the king's men, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the Romans, the chief priests, they came out, and they captured him, and they bound him up. He was identified by the kiss of Judas, you'll remember. And he was taken in the middle of the night, and a trial was convinced. First of all, there's a trial before somebody named Annas. Annas was the high priest who was recognized by the Jews, and he tried Jesus, and his success at questioning him is almost laughable. He asked Jesus, "Well, tell us what you're teaching," and Jesus said in short, "I've been around for 3 1/2 years, and I have taught all over these grounds, all over Galilee, Judea, Decapolis, and everybody knows exactly what I've been teaching, and you know exactly what I've been teaching".
So the high priest Annas's examination of Jesus, I don't think lasted very long, and he took and lateraled him to Caiaphas. Caiaphas was the high priest, a Sadducees, who ruled over the Sanhedrin, and he not only had a part of the Jewish support but also he was approved by the Roman Empire who control Israel at this time. And Caiaphas questioned him, and then he questioned him before the Sanhedrin. Now, what was the charge that the Jews made against Jesus? The charge was blasphemy. Well, what is that? It's a religious term that meant he placed himself in the position of God. "Thou shalt have no other gods before me".
And therefore, the charge was he is claiming to be God. What was the punishment for blasphemy in a Jewish court? It was being stoned to death. And therefore, we see in the questioning of Annas, then the question of Caiaphas, then Caiaphas in the night took him before the supreme court, the Sanhedrin, and then early in the morning, to legitimize at least a little bit of the trial, they took him before the Sanhedrin, and Jesus admitted that he was indeed the Christ, the Son of God, and they said, "Blasphemy by his own lips, blasphemy". And certainly by Jewish standards it was, but they had a problem.
Now, understand in John chapter number 11 that Caiaphas had already dealt with the leadership of Israel, and they had determined that Jesus must be killed. They'd already decided that. The decision had already been rendered before they ever started the trial, and his rationale was... this is after he brought Lazarus back to life, "Man, everybody's gonna follow him. We're gonna lose our position of power, and for the sake of the people". Isn't that something? "He must be killed. For the sake of the people, he must be killed," so the verdict was already rendered by the high priest, and now they're going through the motion of trying to have some kind of phony trial to legitimize the decision that had already been made, but they had a problem.
The Jews at this time could not exercise capital punishment. That power had been taken away from them by the Romans, so they had to bring Pilate in, and then we have the Roman trial of Jesus. We read about it in John, the latter part of John 18 and the first part of John 19, look at it. This is the Roman trial, and by the way, the charge of the Romans was that he is an insurrectionist, he is a rebel, he is inciting a revolution. That's what the Jews said about Jesus. Now, what was the punishment by Roman law? If someone was guilty of being a revolutionary, trying to overthrow the Roman government, the punishment was death by crucifixion.
So he goes before Pilate, verse 28, chapter number 18 of John, "Then they led Jesus from Caiaphas into the Praetorium, and it was early; and they themselves did not enter into the Praetorium so that they would not be defiled, but might eat the Passover. Therefore Pilate went out to them", out of his palace there, and met the Jews, and he asks them, "'What accusation do you bring against this Man?'" "What are your charges"? And "They answered and said to him, 'If this Man were not an evildoer, we would not have delivered Him to you.'" See, what is, they're saying, "Pilate, we wouldn't have brought this guy here. You just stamp our charge and execute him as you do. That's all we want you to do. Don't get into the legal procedure".
But Pilate did not play the Jewish game, so Pilate said, "Take Him yourselves, and judge Him according to your law". And they said, "No, but we can't exercise capital punishment. The Romans, you've taken from us. You're the only one who will do that, and we want you simply to kill him". But Pilate took Jesus in and begins a trial. Verse 33, "Therefore Pilate entered into the Praetorium," his palace there in Jerusalem, "and summoned Jesus and said to Him, 'Are You the King of the Jews?'" You see the charge? The Jews said he's trying to make himself king, and Pilate said, "Are You the King of the Jews"?
Look how Jesus answered, he said, "'Are you saying this of your own initiative, or did others tell you about Me?' Pilate answered, 'I am not a Jew am I? Your own nation and the chief priests delivered You to me; what have You done?' Jesus answered, 'My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of the world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.' Therefore Pilate said to Him, 'So You are a king?' Jesus answered, 'You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world'", listen to this, "'to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.'"
What is Jesus saying? He's saying, "If you are interested in truth, you'll hear my voice, and you will be an advocate of truth in your life". And look at Pilate, verse 38, "What is truth"? The interesting thing is Pilate was looking at truth with flesh on right in front of him. Jesus says, "I am the way," the path, "and I am the truth, and I'm the life". His life embodied, fleshed-out, lived-out, true truth, eternal truth. Pilate says, "What is truth"? And Jesus had said earlier, "You're looking at it. I am truth". Well, how do we know that what Jesus said was true? If you study the life of Jesus, you see something that to me is absolutely amazing. Everywhere he went, every situation which he found himself in, nobody could find anything that was untrue about him.
Have you noticed that? When he was baptized, the Father in Heaven said, "This is my beloved son in whom I'm well pleased". When he was on the Mount of Transfiguration, the Father said, "He is superior to these other two prophets. He is my Son. I'm proud of him". God affirmed Jesus and his purity, and in that he was indeed fleshed-out truth. Well, you turn around, and what about those who knew him best, his disciples, his buddies, his followers? Over and over, they gave title to him about the Lamb, the spotless Lamb. They called him the Righteous One, they called him the Holy One, they call him the Pure One. All of those who knew him best, they affirmed his life. Well, what about his enemies?
When he was crucified, one of the soldiers who was crucifying him looked at him and said, "Surely this is the Son of God". Even those who were looking for everything they could about what he taught, how he lived, and what he did, his enemies here in our scripture, all they could accuse him of was being that he claimed to be the Son of God, which we know that was actually factual in and of itself. And so you see his enemies come at him, his friends come at him, the Heavenly Father come at him in every area, and even Pilate, as we'll study. Three times in this 19th chapter of John, Pilate examined him, and every time, he said, "I find no fault in him".
So we see that Pilate said, "What is truth"? not recognizing that he was seeing truth lived out and embodied right in front of him, this Jesus of Nazareth. Then look how Pilate handles this. You're gonna see Pilate is the guy who I call spend a lot of time washing his hands. When I was a boy, my mother would say, "Edwin, did you wash your hands? Did you wash your hands"? Wherever I would do, I would come in, I would go out. Certainly before I would eat, I was always asked, "Did you wash your hands? Did you wash your hands"? Pilate is phi beta kappa on hand-washing. His whole agenda here as he decided what to do with Jesus, he washed his hands in every single occasion. Look at it in verse 33, "Therefore Pilate entered again into the Praetorium, and summoned Jesus", then we have all of this questioning.
Look at verse 38, Pilate said, "'What is truth?' And when he had said this, he went out", Pilate, before all the Jews and the people. He said, "I find no guilt in Him", verse 39, "but you have a custom," he said. Now, what is he doing here? First of all, when they brought him to him, he said, "I wash my hands of Jesus. You know, this is not my concern. You Jews decide. You have charge against him, you handle it". He said, "I wash my hands. He's not a part of my problem". And then he comes in second place, and he tries to lateral off this. He said, "I'm gonna be neutral. As far as what to do with Jesus, I find no guilt in him, but I'm gonna be a neutral".
And so, though it's not recorded in John, they mentioned that Jesus from Galilee, and Pilate said, "Ah-ha, ho-ho, I've got a way out". Herod, King Herod, is in charge of Galilee, and he happens to be in town. He's in Jerusalem. So they sent Jesus before Herod, and Herod said, "I've been looking forward to meeting you. I've looked forward. I've heard about the signs or miracles you perform. Come, Jesus, do a little trick here. Let's have a little magic. We need some entertainment in our court". And Jesus didn't say a word to Herod. This is the same Herod Antipas who beheaded John the Baptist. Jesus didn't say a word, so Herod said, "You know, he's not any fun. He's not going to perform. Put a purple robe on him and send him back, back to Pilate".
Can you imagine Pilate sitting there eating breakfast? It's still mid-morning. He said, "Phew, boy, I was sure shrewd. You know, I just take a position of neutrality here," and here they come bringing Jesus back, bringing Jesus back, and then he has the idea, he said, "You know there's a tradition that someone can be released in Passover, and we have over there in the tower of Antonio, right about 1500 feet from me, the most infamous prisoner we've got in a long time, a guy named Barabbas". And Barabbas is a robber, he's a murderer, he's a revolutionary.
You know, the choice is at Passover the people can release one person, so Pilate went out with this brilliant idea proving his neutrality about Jesus and said, "Look, I release to you Barabbas, I release to you Jesus: You choose". And they said, "Who do you want: Barabbas or Jesus"? That he was confident they would take Jesus, but they said, "Barabbas"! Pilate was stunned. Now he had to release Barabbas to them, and he said, "Well, what do you want me to do with Jesus"? And they said, "Crucify him, crucify him". Now, a little subset here, can you imagine Barabbas there in the prison hearing all of this about 1500 feet away, and what did he hear? His name, "Barabbas"! all the crowd. Then what did he hear? "Crucify him". Then what did he hear? "Crucify him". Then what did he hear? "May his blood be on our hands," said the people.
So Barabbas said, "It's bad enough I'm gonna be crucified, but look at all the people," but the guard came in and said to Barabbas, "You've been set free". The cross of Barabbas had already been constructed, and I think Jesus died on that cross. No better example in the Bible than how Jesus died on a cross for you and for me, substitutionary atonement. We deserve hell. Jesus took hell on him, so what is left for you and me but for go to heaven? So, this is Barabbas, and now we see he keeps on washing his hands. He decided, "Well, you know", he had nothing to do with him. He tried to run in Herod, he tried to run in Barabbas, and all of a sudden he's got Jesus on his hands, and then he compromises by having Jesus scourged. Look at chapter 19, "Pilate then took Jesus and scourged Him", and by the way, scourging many times, most of the time, in fact, historians tell us, led to death. They would whip them with whips with bone and with pieces of iron in it, and they would lacerate their back and their body.
He was beaten, he was slapped, perhaps beyond even recognition. His face, his body was totally obliterated. And then look what Pilate did, Pilate came out again and said to them, "Behold, I am bringing him out to you so that you may know", he says he's guilty, he doesn't have any guilt, he's guiltless. Verse 5, "Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe". Pilate said ecce homo. Behold, the Man! What was he doing? He was saying, "Look, I find no guilt in him. There's no reason to crucify him, and I want you to look what we've done to him. He'd been beaten, he's been slapped, he's been whipped to the inch of his life. Look at him, behold the man". What do you wanna do with him? And they said, "Crucify him". He tried compromise. "Just a little bit, beat him up. He's guiltless, but beat him up. Maybe we'll have some compassion". "Crucify him," they said.
And look, finally, in verse 10, "So Pilate said to Him 'You do not speak to me? Do You not know'", referring to Jesus, "'I have authority to release You, and I have authority to crucify You?' Jesus answered, 'You would have no authority over Me unless it had been given to you from above.'" Remember, he'd already said, "My kingdom is from above. My kingdom is not of this Earth. My kingdom is based on truth. For this reason, he who delivered me to you has the greater sin," and another gospel tell us that Pilate's wife, Claudius, who evidently was some kind of religious person, told him she had a dream, and he has to have nothing to do with Jesus. By the way, how did Pilate get his position of authority in Judea? I'll tell you, it's because he married Claudius. Claudius was a great-great granddaughter of one of the Roman emperors, probably Augustus. Pilate was Italian.
You see, the best decision you ever made was when he said, "I do," and that's how he got this position, so his wife certainly had great influence on it and warned him about Jesus. In verse 12, "As a result of this Pilate made efforts to release Him". He'd already said not guilty, not guilty, no guilt in him, now he made even further evidence to release Jesus. "But the Jews cried out saying, 'If you release this Man, you are no friend of Caesar; everyone who makes him out to be a king opposes Caesar,' Therefore when Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out, and sat down the judgment seat at a place called The Pavement".
Verse 14, "Now it was a day of preparation for the Passover; it was about the sixth hour. And he said to the Jews, 'Behold, your King!'" Verse 15, "So they cried out, 'Away with Him, away with Him, crucify Him!' Pilate said to them, 'Shall I crucify your King?' The chief priests answered, 'We have no king but Caesar.' So he then handed Him over to them to be crucified". You see the final choice: Christ or Caesar. Christ or Caesar? Ladies and gentlemen, we make that choice ourselves every single day in which we live, and so many of us, we spend all of our time washing our hands. "You know, that's not in my court, have no problem there". Oh, we go and say, "You know, I'm gonna be neutral on this. It's too controversial. I'm just gonna be neutral about it".
That's what Pilate did, "I'm gonna be neutral about Jesus". Or we could say, "I'm gonna compromise a little bit. I'm gonna go along". And that gullible part of our brain speaks to that irrational part of our brain, speaks to that perdition part of our brain, and then speaks to the reason part of our brain. We say, "Well, I'm gonna take the philosophy that..." Sam Rayburn, Speaker of the House, from Texas was asked by young John Kennedy when he first was elected to Congress. "How do you make it up in Washington"? Mr. Sam said, "The way you get along is to go along. Way you get along is to go along". A lot of us who go by the name of Christian have adopted the same philosophy that Mr. Sam advocated to young John Kennedy and the same philosophy that Pilate had as he dealt with Jesus. The choice is always Christ or Caesar, Christ or Caesar.
You say, "Well, if I stand up and I do this, and I do that, man, I'll be in trouble". In my office, let us say for example, here's a man who decides he's gonna marry another man, and we're gonna give office party for him, and I need to go to the wedding and reception. Now, I don't agree with it, but I don't wanna cause any controversy here. Let me tell you something, folks. We as Christians have to learn how to speak the truth and live the truth in love. It's gonna be expensive to do it. People come and say, "Well, as Christians, we supposed to be lovers. How is it that God can send somebody to hell"?
God, ladies and gentlemen, never sends anybody to hell. In heaven, there can be no garbage. No garbage can ever get into heaven, and long as there's garbage in your life or in my life, we cannot get into heaven, because garbage in your life and my life will be burned up. That's what you do with garbage, but thank the Lord that Jesus is a garbage collector.
Now, I say that reverently, and he comes and takes the garbage out of your life and out of my life, and then the results is heaven. May we learn how not to be Pilate but how to stand with family and friends on these moral issues that are as clear as they can be. We don't say, "I don't have anything to do with that". We're just like, "I'm just gonna be neutral on this. I'm just neutral. I'm neutral on this". Or we go and say, "Well, I'm gonna compromise a little bit on this". Because the choice keeps coming back to you and to me, ladies and gentlemen. Everywhere we turn, everywhere you go, will it be Christ or Caesar? And when we as Christians begin to reverently and humbly choose Christ, we'll change America, and we'll change the world.