Pilate's Truth

By Timothy Timothy | Posted at 10:55

What is truth?

In three words Pilate asked the question of questions. What is truth? For a moment, the worldly Roman had moved off into something beyond this world. Truth.

Jesus had said He was here to proclaim the truth. What truth? We, of course, know that was the truth of His Kingdom: that God loved the world so much that He had entered into it as the ultimate revelation – God as a human – to let the world know His will was that none should perish. God was for all of humanity, He wants all of us to spend eternity with Him.

That was the truth confronting Pilate on that Friday nearly two thousand years ago. Not just a truth, but the ultimate in truth.

Truth is easier to deal with if it can be just pushed off aside; redefined into something more comforting: What is truth? There were many truths Pilate faced that day. He faced the truth that the leaders of Jesus’ own people were dead set to see blood, and that they would take whatever means necessary to get it. This was the truth that Pilate’s job was in danger from his constituents. All of Pilate’s goals and dreams were at risk; he was a man outside of his league who had been given a job of power through influential connections (Houston 76). Despite those connections, he was a bungling leader and truth was that it wouldn’t be hard for a few angry people to ruin it all for him. What if they tried to turn Caesar against him? A few years later just that would happen: a mob of people and an attempt to put down a feared uprising led to Pilate’s demise as a politician.

What is truth? Truth was that his wife had warned Pilate to avoid having anything to do with the death of Jesus. As a relative of Caesar’s, she clearly could weld some power over him if she wanted (Houston 81). But I think that’s only part of the story: it seems that her words rang true to Pilate. Jesus did seem innocent, strangely, peculiarly innocent – perhaps more so because he refused to do anything to defend himself. Pilate beheld the man, and saw a truth: he was innocent.

What is truth? Truth is that Pilate’s job was to uphold the laws of the land (Barth Outline 111). His job was to uphold the laws, but would he have a job if he upheld them? Situational truth arose, perhaps: it was truer that his job was at stake than that he was a defender of laws. Pilate had seen more than his fair share of bloodshed under his reign, why should one innocent man stand in the way of his continued power over Judea? Perhaps for a moment he puzzled at why he had to be stuck at this far flung outpost of the empire, but regardless of that, the truth was that this was his post and like it or not, Jesus stood before him and a mob awaited him outside. Maybe truth could be redefined just a bit.

Source: T. Butler/OFB File Photo

Pilate wouldn’t know this, but truth had much to do with his place in the scheme of things. Truth, the truth of Jesus’ innocent death, would be attested to for all time because of his act. As the Apostle’s creed says: He suffered under Pontius Pilate. Pilate served a very important role to truth: he cemented the fact that the Word of God Incarnate, the Savior was not an abstract philosopher’s idea or some kind of supersized metaphor, but a real life, flesh and blood reality: in his contact with Pilate, Jesus broke away from merely being a figment of Israelite history and into the history of the whole world, at least as it was known at the time: the Roman Empire (112). No longer was the “Jesus Question” one that needed to be dealt with only by Jews; years before Paul became the great Apostle to the Gentles, the Gentile Pilate was forced reluctantly to ponder this matter of what to do with Jesus. He had to ponder truth.

What is truth? Pilate had to rationalize: he had to make “his” truth out of what he surely knew was a lie: if he simply washed his hands of the matter, he could be done with it. Truth is that the very act of washing his hands is what would immortalize him as the indecisive one: the one who betrayed truth, betrayed Jesus by indecision. His one memorable action was actively choosing inaction. Pilate was confronted by Truth incarnate and he instead made his own truth: if he didn’t take sides, if he just let everyone else sort things out, he could just go on with life. Truth isn’t that simple.

What is Truth? Truth is that Jesus was for Pilate, and yet Pilate lived a lie of self-deception. He really had no choice to make: had he chosen to side with Christ, he would have received the election that Jesus was going to earn for him on the cross. Maybe he’d have lost his outpost, or maybe not, but in a much more significant way, all would have been well. But Pilate deceived himself into thinking there was another choice. He was torn: as a power hungry statesman, he opted to the route of the corrupt, but, nevertheless, the ideal of the statesman still could not be entirely covered by his corruption: a glimmer of truth was in him and it forced him to declare Jesus innocent (112). He wasn’t blind to the truth, he blinded himself to it. Confronted with truth, he rejected it actively. The cast would be set for Pilate: Jesus was for Pilate, but Pilate would be known as against Christ for all eternity.

He suffered under Pontius Pilate. Pilate was not a man chosen by God to do this evil inaction. Instead, he was chosen, like everyone else to receive God’s good news. Yet, failing to do just that, God still turned what Pilate meant for evil into good. As Joseph said in Genesis 50:22, “You planned evil against me; God planned it for good to bring about the present result—the survival of many people.” This thing was bigger than Pilate imagined, and though Pilate’s choice would condemn him to infamy, it was a meaningless choice (113). He was deceived from truth: God’s “superior will” was going to be done regardless of what Pilate chose to do, it was simply a matter of Pilate choosing on what side of that will he was to be known.

What is truth? That question still rings true today. Confronted with that question, beholding the man, what will you do with him?

Timothy R. Butler is Editor-in-Chief of Open for Business.


Originally presented on Good Friday, April 14, 2006 at St. Paul’s Evangelical Church, St. Louis, MO. Primary among sources consulted were Dogmatics in Outline (New York: Haper Torchbooks, 1959) and Church Dogmatics volume 2.2 (Edinburgh, Scotland, UK: T. & T. Clark, 1957), both by Karl Barth. Also referenced was Where You There? Seeing Yourself in the Drama of the Cross by Tom Houston (Ventura, CA: Regal, 1987).


Re: Pilate's Truth

“Jesus had said He was here to proclaim the truth. What truth? We, of course, know that was the truth of His Kingdom: that God loved the world so much that He had entered into it as the ultimate revelation – God as a human – to let the world know His will was that none should perish. God was for all of humanity, He wants all of us to spend eternity with Him”

The real truth is that there are X million different 'scriptures' out there. Umpteen different basic religions, each with umpteen variations and the”Jesus had said He was here to proclaim the truth. What truth? We, of course, know that was the truth of His Kingdom: that God loved the world so much that He had entered into it as the ultimate revelation – God as a human – to let the world know His will was that none should perish. God was for all of humanity, He wants all of us to spend eternity with Him”

The real truth is that there are X million different 'scriptures' out there. Umpteen different basic religions, each with umpteen variations and their own 'books of rules'.

All rely on immortal life and deadliness of failure to regularly bow in obeisance to the immortal wizard that created the entire universe. Of course, no one mentions who or what created the creator, no clue's ever offered about why this immortal magical magician didn't leave a sign on his work and show us the way. I mean, the wizard's omniscient, there's supposedly no way for anyone to turn out any way than how they were designed. He's the creator of all. We're the product of our experience, 'he' controls each of our starting points and every one of those, so 'he' controls exactly what each of us becomes. Doesn't quite add up somewhere.

No answer as to why man was imbued simultaneously with a crazy desire to kill off all competition for breeding ground with also the ability to cooperate closely with those to whome they feel related. (Interestingly, we're ALL biologically related!)

Religions can be summed up quite briefly. Self perpetuating memes. Brain visualisations that happen to fit so well and cover up so many of each of our inconsistencies and fears that they become much loved and passed on by word of mouth, getting becoming stronger and stronger as they pass from person to person.

Each of these memes proclaim that their own rituals lead to eternal 'salvation' and that all the others lead to permanent 'damnation', ie our invisible and unprovable part, that removes any need to fear death, will either 'live' on in a condition of eternal 'happiness' (no mention of what goes with this happiness of course) or will languish in a condition of undying torment forever, if not obedient or daring to be a member of a competing cult (perhaps brought up with a different meme already in the family)

The most important part of course is that they all require that we indoctrinate our children (and anyone else who's sufficiently vulnerable and unlucky enough to encounter us at the handiest time) with exactly our set of superstitions, a new copy of our own indoctrination. This ensures that particular meme's survival and propagates the power base of those who currently hold the position of interpreters in chief.

It's funny really, the similarities they all have - be good to your neighbour, provided your neighbour bows to the same doctrinaire as yourself, strive with all your might to 'enlighten' neigbours who don't. If this fails then many of them allow for 'final solution' - impose your rituals onto them, bar their own, and in extremis, kill them as carriers of an alternative (blasphemy! Think extreme Hindus or early Christians) - after all, a good meme's evolutionary structure wouldn't be complete without multiple ways to counter the competition.

The one good thing you could say about each of the thousands of 'magic creator' memes is that they're all astoundingly viable, otherwise they wouldn't still be with us in light of modern scientific logic. They all have more than the necessary ingredients to spread, to defend themselves against competion and to survive cool rational analysis.

Now, in the twenty first century, hundreds of years after we've stopped persecuting people for thinking the earth is not flat or that the universe doesn't revolve around our planet, and after we've (mostly) ceased to believe that lone magpies signify bad luck, or that Thor gets angry if we don't kill someone on Thursdays, it really should have become a public perception that the unprovable mythologies, are no more than hangover from our superstitious and scientifically ignorant past.

All these memes are based quite simply. Each of us fears death, none of us can imagine it, so we all unconsciously seek a way to 'picture' it - preferably as an escape from the horrors we have to endure here. Each of us likes simple rules that can be written down, by which to live our lives and to use to teach to our children (as an alternative to sharing life with them going through real experiences together as a way to pass on a true core morality, the way it used to be done). Also, each of us has a desire for there to be a power greater than our own, someone/thing that will look after final destiny, so all we've got to do is stick to 'what is right' (based on those nice simple rules remember) and everything will magically 'look after itself'… These memes are nice simple creatures..

It's the infinite variation, their probable mutual hostility, and it's their ablity to distract from the real, things, the difficult things that need to be fixed by us now that makes them so physically dangerous.

You'd think we'd recognise ancient superstion (in all its myriad of forms) as nothing but a handy excuse to ignore the real and pressing problems of potentialy burning our home to the ground while starving half the population in the process. You'd think we'd get around to the realities.

But no. People who've been indoctrinated since their infancy still lovingly cling to this 'faith' stuff, it's so much easier to live lives by it (lots more time to chase the next model of washing machine for a start) and they still see passing on their particular meme (so like so many others, but each with enough slight differences to mean they must, often aggressively, compete for the limited amount of brainspace) as being the best thing they can do for their children, rather than humanity's epitaph.

People still think that converting each and every human to the ritual reinforcements that go with their 'faith' will solve the problems of the planet. It's too complex to try uniting everyone around them and getting them to share a desire to fix the massive and real social problems that lead to millions of humans starving to death, for the sake of massive companies collecting more and more 'wealth' while keeping us all to working ever harder chasing disposable new toys, designed to break in 13 months, just to keep it growing.

Why? Why oh why oh why? Why do we see 'faith' (by definition a belief in something intangible and unprovable, along much the same lines as believing in the power of sticking pins into voodoo dolls) as something positive when by any modern day rational analysis it is a sign of a malfunctioning human brain? Why on earth do we still see it as something good ?

Such a sad situation, such a sad waste of the power of human insight. Human insight could focus on the fact that with modern technology enough energy could be produced by non fossil burning means to keep us all happily typing away for the next century or ten. Human insight that could focus on the way that if we weren't all so concerned with how many dollar bills our particular country can collect (at the cost of tons and tons of carbon being burnt, tons of toxic heavy metals being mined by poverty stricken miners who'll certainly die young as a consequence and tons and tons and tons of waste) we could all live a happy, intellectually inspiring and hugely enjoyable life that truly does centre around the love of the human race and truly doesn't consume more than it produces.

But many people think that it would do better to focus on the love of some invisible wizard or other, who's existence is only held to be real because of mythologies that have been passed since we lived on a flat planet, and made sacrifices to volcanoes because we didn't understand why they belched fire.

All it takes is for each and every member of the 'magician to worship' mindset, the lovers of the instant forgivness for 'sins' (though usually with no automatic obligation to rectify the damage they caused), the believers in an 'ultimate reward' for infecting others with identical copies of these memes, and 'ultimate punishment' for not following these rules, for these people to see the real things to be feared and the real solutions. For their perception of the potential to love the whole human race as a family and the joy of just with cooperating, get things done and to create a system to which anyone would automatically contribute, because it all genuinely needs to be done, because it's so little actual time or effort, and because we're all knowingly enjoying the results day by day.

That would indeed be possible. There is far more to strive for than the next model of mp3 player, there is almost certainly more enjoyment in learning and playing, plus a little bit of 'looking after the (global) house' than in fighting each other over imaginary rewards. Technology is certainly at the level where this is easily possible Just read up a bit and see what some 'wartime urgency' would do for getting us easily over all the initial hurdles. Then look at how little would still need to be manually done.

If only we could pull our collective fingers out.

Why has this not happened? To me it all seems self evident, humanity is right on the brink of building or becoming something truly beautiful, taking life a step or two onward you might say. Alternatively it's on the brink of a mindless plunge, down a trough of competition, consumption, and discovering little more than how to enjoy' yet more of the above.

The technology's there, the communication structure to spark a 'human consciousness' is there, the resource to sustain the entire population is certainly here, but no, we have to keep burning it all, whilst busily arguing over which (bit of which) god-book is still true and how much oil rich land we can each have. I've got news for everyone. None of the scriptural stuff is any more than archeological relics and we don't need to fight over resources. The relics are as valid as each other. Not. Kindly written, cleverly thought out, certainly cunningly adjusted, but no more real, than 'Merlin the Wizard' or Santa Claus.

How many people now think Zeus deserves regular sacrifices.
How many believe adulteresses should be stoned to death?

Why did we grow out of thinking that way? The books didn't change.

Why can't we grow out of the current infectious memes and stop propagating and feeding them?

Maybe even grow some new ones?

Because we're stuck in the past, won't look at the future, and won't let go. That's why.

Have a happy and positive new year. May you catch on to the true place for insights and inner beliefs, may you too feel the desire to persuade everyone that now is the time to pull our finger out, stop being selfish and start to recognise that a benefit to one human is a simultaneous benefit to all. And that there is no need for thousand year old books of re-re-written stories just to teach people those simple truths.

Love,

Dave Johnson.

PS: I dare the publication of this. If enough intelligent peoplt read here I'd find it a fascinating experiment, and possibly a learning experience. I will be around to listen.ir own 'books of rules'.

All rely on immortal life and deadliness of failure to regularly bow in obeisance to the immortal wizard that created the entire universe. Of course, no one mentions who or what created the creator, no clue's ever offered about why this immortal magical magician didn't leave a sign on his work and show us the way. I mean, the wizard's omniscient, there's supposedly no way for anyone to turn out any way than how they were designed. He's the creator of all. We're the product of our experience, 'he' controls each of our starting points and every one of those, so 'he' controls exactly what each of us are. I think not.

No answer as to why man was imbued simultaneously with a crazy desire to kill off all competition for breeding ground with also the ability to cooperate closely with those to whome they feel related. (Interestingly,
we're ALL biologically related!)

Religions can be summed up quite briefly. Self perpetuating memes. Brain visualisations that happen to fit so well and cover up so many of each of our inconsistencies and fears that they are passed on by word of mouth, slowly becoming stronger and stronger as they pass from person to person.

Each of these memes proclaim that their own rituals lead to eternal 'salvation' and that all the others lead to permanent 'damnation', ie our invisible and unprovable part, that removes any need to fear death, will either 'live' on in a condition of eternal 'happiness' (no mention of what goes with this happiness of course) or will languish in a condition of undying torment forever, if not obedient or daring to be a member of a competing cult (perhaps brought up with a different meme already in the family)

The most important part of course is that they all require that we indoctrinate our children (and anyone else who's sufficiently vulnerable and unlucky enough to encounter us at the handiest time) with exactly our set of superstitions, a new copy of our own indoctrination. This ensures that particular meme's survival and propagates the power base of those who currently hold the position of interpreters in chief.

It's funny really, the similarities they all have - be good to your neighbour, provided your neighbour bows to the same doctrinaire as yourself, strive with all your might to 'enlighten' neigbours who don't. If this fails then many of them allow for 'final solution' - impose your rituals onto them, bar their own, and in extremis, kill them as carriers of an alternative (blasphemy! Think extreme Hindus or early Christians) - after all, a good meme's evolutionary structure wouldn't be complete without multiple ways to counter the competition.

The one good thing you could say about each of the thousands of 'magic creator' memes is that they're all astoundingly viable, otherwise they wouldn't still be with us in light of modern scientific logic. They all have more than the necessary ingredients to spread, to defend themselves against competion and to survive cool rational analysis.

Now, in the twenty first century, hundreds of years after we've stopped persecuting people for thinking the earth is not flat or that the universe doesn't revolve around our planet, and after we've (mostly) ceased to believe that lone magpies signify bad luck, or that Thor gets angry if we don't kill someone on Thursdays, it really should have become a public perception that the unprovable mythologies, are no more than hangover from our superstitious and scientifically ignorant past.

All these memes are based quite simply. Each of us fears death, none of us can imagine it, so we all unconsciously seek a way to 'picture' it - preferably as an escape from the horrors we have to endure here. Each of us likes simple rules that can be written down, by which to live our lives and to use to teach to our children (as an alternative to sharing life with them going through real experiences together as a way to pass on a true core morality, the way it used to be done). Also, each of us has a desire for there to be a power greater than our own, someone/thing that will look after final destiny, so all we've got to do is stick to 'what is right' (based on those nice simple rules remember) and everything will magically 'look after itself'… These memes are nice simple creatures..

It's the infinite variation, their probable mutual hostility, and it's their ablity to distract from the real, things, the difficult things that need to be fixed by us now that makes them so physically dangerous.

You'd think we'd recognise ancient superstion (in all its myriad of forms) as nothing but a handy excuse to ignore the real and pressing problems of potentialy burning our home to the ground while starving half the population in the process. You'd think we'd get around to the realities.

But no. People who've been indoctrinated since their infancy still lovingly cling to this 'faith' stuff, it's so much easier to live lives by it (lots more time to chase the next model of washing machine for a start) and they still see passing on their particular meme (so like so many others, but each with enough slight differences to mean they must, often aggressively, compete for the limited amount of brainspace) as being the best thing they can do for their children, rather than humanity's epitaph.

People still think that converting each and every human to the ritual reinforcements that go with their 'faith' will solve the problems of the planet. It's too complex to try uniting everyone around them and getting them to share a desire to fix the massive and real social problems that lead to millions of humans starving to death, for the sake of massive companies collecting more and more 'wealth' while keeping us all to working ever harder chasing disposable new toys, designed to break in 13 months, just to keep it growing.

Why? Why oh why oh why? Why do we see 'faith' (by definition a belief in something intangible and unprovable, along much the same lines as believing in the power of sticking pins into voodoo dolls) as something positive when by any modern day rational analysis it is a sign of a malfunctioning human brain? Why on earth do we still see it as something good ?

Such a sad situation, such a sad waste of the power of human insight. Human insight could focus on the fact that with modern technology enough energy could be produced by non fossil burning means to keep us all happily typing away for the next century or ten. Human insight that could focus on the way that if we weren't all so concerned with how many dollar bills our particular country can collect (at the cost of tons and tons of carbon being burnt, tons of toxic heavy metals being mined by poverty stricken miners who'll certainly die young as a consequence and tons and tons and tons of waste) we could all live a happy, intellectually inspiring and hugely enjoyable life that truly does centre around the love of the human race and truly doesn't consume more than it produces.

But many people think that it would do better to focus on the love of some invisible wizard or other, who's existence is only held to be real because of mythologies that have been passed since we lived on a flat planet, and made sacrifices to volcanoes because we didn't understand why they belched fire.

All it takes is for each and every member of the 'magician to worship' mindset, the lovers of the instant forgivness for 'sins' (though usually with no automatic obligation to rectify the damage they caused), the believers in an 'ultimate reward' for infecting others with identical copies of these memes, and 'ultimate punishment' for not following these rules, for these people to see the real things to be feared and the real solutions. For their perception of the potential to love the whole human race as a family and the joy of just with cooperating, get things done and to create a system to which anyone would automatically contribute, because it all genuinely needs to be done, because it's so little actual time or effort, and because we're all knowingly enjoying the results day by day.

That would indeed be possible. There is far more to strive for than the next model of mp3 player, there is almost certainly more enjoyment in learning and playing, plus a little bit of 'looking after the (global) house' than in fighting each other over imaginary rewards. Technology is certainly at the level where this is easily possible Just read up a bit and see what some 'wartime urgency' would do for getting us easily over all the initial hurdles. Then look at how little would still need to be manually done.

If only we could pull our collective fingers out.

Why has this not happened? To me it all seems self evident, humanity is right on the brink of building or becoming something truly beautiful, taking life a step or two onward you might say. Alternatively it's on the brink of a mindless plunge, down a trough of competition, consumption, and discovering little more than how to enjoy' yet more of the above.

The technology's there, the communication structure to spark a 'human consciousness' is there, the resource to sustain the entire population is certainly here, but no, we have to keep burning it all, whilst busily arguing over which (bit of which) god-book is still true and how much oil rich land we can each have. I've got news for everyone. None of the scriptural stuff is any more than archeological relics and we don't need to fight over resources. The relics are as valid as each other. Not. Kindly written, cleverly thought out, certainly cunningly adjusted, but no more real, than 'Merlin the Wizard' or Santa Claus.

How many people now think Zeus deserves regular sacrifices.
How many believe adulteresses should be stoned to death?

Why did we grow out of thinking that way? The books didn't change.

Why can't we grow out of the current infectious memes and stop propagating and feeding them?

Maybe even grow some new ones?

Because we're stuck in the past, won't look at the future, and won't let go. That's why.

Have a happy and positive new year. May you catch on to the true place for insights and inner beliefs, may you too feel the desire to persuade everyone that now is the time to pull our finger out, stop being selfish and start to recognise that a benefit to one human is a simultaneous benefit to all. And that there is no need for thousand year old books of re-re-written stories just to teach people those simple truths.

Love,

Dave Johnson.

PS: I dare the publication of this. If enough intelligent peoplt read here I'd find it a fascinating experiment, and possibly a learning experience. I will be around to listen.

Posted by Dave Johnson - Dec 27, 2008 | 8:28

Re: Pilate's Truth

Wish there was a way to undo a double posting..

Sorry all. Happy Festivals anyhow..

Dave

Posted by Dave Johnson - Dec 27, 2008 | 8:29



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