Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”
“Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?”
“Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “It was your people and your chief priests who handed you over to me. What is it you have done?”
Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.”
“You are a king, then!” said Pilate.
Jesus answered, “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”
“What is truth?” Pilate asked. With this he went out again to the Jews and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him.” (John 18:33–38)
Some people do not believe that there is such a thing as universal truth. Instead, they believe that what is true for one person, might not be true for another: it all depends upon one’s point of view. People who think that way will point to the perception of beauty, taste in music, and optical illusions as evidence that they are right. They will suggest that truth is in fact entirely subjective and that we can never get past it. The internal contradiction, that they are asserting a universal truth that everything is subjective rarely occurs to them.
Pilate asked “What is truth?” not because he though Jesus would be able to tell him, but because he doubted that one could ever know it. From Pilate’s experiences as a governor, he had found repeatedly that whenever he thought he knew the truth, too often he turned out to be wrong. His experiences had made him very suspicious of anyone talking about the truth. He doubted that there was anything that he could be certain of. But Jesus argued in favor of universal truth. He insisted that those who recognized the truth, who considered themselves to be on the side of truth, listened to Jesus.
Unlike Pilate, we can believe that knowledge of the truth is not only desirable, not only possible, but certain. We can have confidence in the good news that Jesus taught. We can know that Jesus’ words are the truth.