133: What is truth?
It was still early in the morning when Jesus was led out of the high priest's palace. His face was covered with bruises and scratches. The high priest's servants dragged Him down the quiet streets to Pilate's hall of justice.
The rabbis followed unhappily. They would gladly have killed Jesus themselves, but they were under Roman rule. Any death sentence had to be approved by the Roman governor and carried out by the Roman soldiers.
The procession hurried along. It was important that Jesus be in the hands of the Romans before people started to appear on the streets. Even if the people created an uproar, it would be too late then to save the troublemaker from Nazareth.
The rabbis and their servants entered the square in front of the Roman headquarters. They stopped by the steps. It was the time of the Passover, and that meant they must not enter a Gentile's home. If they did, they would defile themselves, for there would surely be yeast in that house. They were not afraid to defile themselves with the blood of an innocent man, but they stayed away from a tiny bit of yeast.
Jesus was led up the steps by some Roman soldiers. Pilate came outside to listen to what the Jews had to say.
They stood facing each other: the leaders of the Jews, and Pontius Pilate, the most important Roman in the country. They had always hated each other. Pilate let his power be felt whenever he had the chance. He also secretly lined his pockets with the Jews' money. The Jews baited Pilate whenever they got a chance and had defied him more than once.
On this particular morning the Jews were very polite and friendly to Pilate. They needed his help to get rid of Jesus, whom they hated more than Pilate.
When Pilate asked what crime Jesus was guilty of, the Jews acted righteous. "If He weren't an evildoer," they said, "we would not bring Him to you."
They thought that the governor would be satisfied with this answer, but they had a bitter disappointment. Pilate took a look at Jesus and could not believe that this silent, calm man had done anything for which He deserved to die. "You take Him," he said, "and judge Him in accordance with your law."
That was not what the Jews had in mind. "He must die!" they cried out.
"Why?" asked the governor.
Indeed, why? Because He had blasphemed God and said that He was the Christ, the Son of God? That was really what the Jews had condemned Him for. Would Pilate care if Jesus claimed to be God's Son? He would most likely laugh, for he was a pagan. Pilate probably didn't believe in God at all.
"He is a dangerous man," they said. "He misleads the people by telling them not to pay taxes to the emperor. He says that He is the Christ, the King!"
Jesus stood and listened to all of this without saying a word. He was not going to defend Himself against such accusations. Pilate sensed that the accusation could not possibly be true. If Jesus really had tried to cause an uproar among the people, the Jews would have honored Him for it!
Pilate was curious. He looked at Jesus. "Don't You hear all these things that they are saying against You?" he asked.
Jesus did not answer, and that made Pilate even more curious. He went into the hall of justice and had Jesus brought inside. He wanted to know more about this strange, gentle man who stood so calmly that He really did seem to be a king.
Pilate asked Him, "Are you the king of the Jews?"
Jesus looked at him and said, "My Kingdom is not of this world. If My Kingdom were of this world, My servants would have fought to keep Me from falling into the hands of the Jews."
When he heard that answer, Pilate was certain that Jesus was not a rebel. He knew that the Romans had nothing to fear from Jesus. "So You are a king?" he said to Jesus.
"Yes," answered Jesus, "I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into this world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who loves the truth listens to My voice."
Pilate did not know what Jesus was talking about. The truth? What did Jesus mean by that? The wise men in Rome said that no one was able to know the truth. Perhaps there was no truth at all in this world. Pilate was not a believer; he doubted everything.
He shrugged his shoulders. With a look of hopelessness, he said to Jesus, "What is truth?"
Pilate went outside again where the Jews were eagerly waiting to hear something. "I find no crime in this man," he told them.