Ever heard of the Truth campaign?
It’s a group that’s become well known in the early 2000s for exposing the “Truth” about cigaretts. They ran ads on radio, TV and publications about the dangers of tobacco. They exposed the “Truth” that it contained poison and showed the “Truth about what it can do to you.
It’s safe to say that the campaign worked. I’m not sure too many Americans would tell you that smoking is healthy. (At least we don’t hold it to the same level as an apple.)
It kind of makes you wonder what people used to think about smoking. What kind of misconceptions did they have in order to make this campaign necessary?
Try this. Google: CIGARETTE ADS. I found a couple from the 30s and 40s that are pretty interesting.
There’s one showcasing a young model that says, “Smoking…makes you sleek and slender.” (That’s an interesting way to burn calories.)
Another shows a smiling dentists that simple says, “Dentists approve!”
My favorite has a doctor…smoking & a caption above his head that reads “20,679 physicians say smoking Luckies is less irritating!” -- Why such a specific number? I’m not sure.
It’s one thing to have a misconception about smoking. It’s another thing to have a misconception about spiritual Truth.
Today, we’re taking a look at the next step in our walk with Jesus to the cross. We’ll meet a man named Pilate who has a few misconceptions about Truth. Our goal is to learn about 3 common misconceptions, examine ourselves to prevent them from overtaking us, and turn to Jesus for the truth about the Truth.
I. Pilate’s All Too Common Misconceptions on Truth
Take a look at John 18:28. It says, “28 Then the Jewish leaders took Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. By now it was early morning.”
I can just picture the scene. Pilate has just woken up from a long stressful day of being the Roman governor. He tossed and turned all night after dealing with very political issues. He’s doing morning stretches. He’s drinking his morning coffee, “Roman Empire Blend.” He’s still got his cozy slippers on when --
-- a violently loud mob starts screaming outside of his window.
Can you imagine what that’s like? I have never had to wake up to violent protestors outside my apartment window. You? It’s one of the reasons I would never, ever, ever want to be President of the U.S.
So I picture Pilate being very grumpy. Sighing as he puts on his governor clothes. Gritting his teeth as he walks the cold, long hallways to the reception area. Thinking, “What in the world do these people want!?!”
1) Misconception: Eternal Truth Isn’t My Responsibility
Pilate makes his wait out to the steps of the praetorium. He sees a man chained up, bruises on his face, and swelling on his right eye. He motions for the crowd to quiet down. He raises his voice (because he didn’t have a microphone) and shouts – “What charges do you have against this man!?!”
“If he were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you,” the crowd replied. In other words, “Dude, there’s a reason we came to you. We wouldn’t have bugged you, if we didn’t have a need to. This guy says that he’s a king. We don’t think he is. We need your help getting to the TRUTH!”
Pilate’s response is very interesting. “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own laws,” What does this have to do with me? Why do you think it’s my responsibility? You want to know; you figure out the truth on your own.
It’s here that Pilate exhibits the first very common misconception about the truth: “The truth isn’t my responsibility.” That’s still a misconception that’s around today.
Sounds a lot like Pilate.
But that response didn’t get Pilate very far. Look at what the people reminded him of, 32“We have no right to execute anyone.” You do Pilate. We don’t have the authority. It’d be similar to a room monitor trying to expel one of his classmates – he doesn’t have the authority. He has to go to the teacher – even the principal to make it happen.
Figuring out the truth about Jesus was Pilate’s literal job. Caesar was paying him to do this. He couldn’t shirk his responsibility.
Here’s the thing – Determining eternal truth is your responsibility too.
Ever been to the book of Ecclesiastes? It’s not just an awesome word for a biblical spelling bee. It’s an interesting 12, chapter book written by King Solomon. Solomon was very wise. He’s one of the wisest men to ever live. In Ecclesiastes, he retrospectively looks at his life and he writes about what the meaning of life is all about. Check out his conclusion in 12:13 “Fear God and keep His commands; this is the responsibility of all mankind.”
In other words – Discover the truth. Learn about the truth. Live by the Truth.
It’s your responsibility, because God said so.
And if you don't?
Well, what happens when your car is making a funny noise. Your spouse tells you to take it in to get looked at--twice. Your coworker says you should get it looked at. Your friends says, "Bud, what's wrong with your car." The guy at the McDonald's drive thru says, "That sounds funny. You should get it looked at!"
Whose fault is it when you find yourself on the side of I-540 with a smoking engine?
And whose fault is it when you appear before God and he asks if you've fulfilled your responsibility in finding out the truth about Him?
(Hint: They both have the same answer.)
2) Misconception: Eternal Truth Doesn't Affect Me.
After Pilate realized it was his job, no matter how much he didn’t want it to be, he told his guards to bring Jesus to a quieter room. They entered into the palace and they both sat down. Pilate in all of his gubernatorial grandeur. Jesus in sweat & blood.\
Pilate got to the point. “Are you a King?” Because of all the charges against Jesus, this is the one that was most concerning. If he was a king, he might lead a revolt. If he led a revolt, pilate might not see it coming. If Pilate didn’t see it coming, he might lose control of his province. If he lost control of his province, he would upset Caesar. If he upset Caesar, Caesar would fire him –
Or kill him.
Jesus answered Pilate’s question with a question. “Is that your own idea? Or did others talk to you about me?”
Pilate’s response is a bit defensive. 35 “Am I a Jew? Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me.” I’m a Roman. This truth isn’t important to me. It doesn’t pertain to me. Why would I care?
Maybe you feel that way. “Pastor – I know this seems important to you, but that’s because you’re a pastor. Eternal truth just isn’t really my thing. I’m not theological. I’m not religious. This stuff is for people like that. Jesus is important, but his truth doesn’t pertain to me.”
But that’d be like saying “I’m not a weather man, so this week’s weather doesn’t pertain to me,” or “I’m not a dentist so the cavity in my mouth doesn’t pertain to me.”
The weather does.
The cavity does.
Eternal truth does too.
In fact, look at Jesus’ response in verse 36 “My kingdom is not of this world…. ” In other words, you’re right. This isn’t a truth for the Roman people. But it also isn’t a truth for the Jewish people.
It’s not geographical. It’s not racial. It’s not cultural. “…my kingdom is not from this world.”
It’s spiritual. It’s eternal. It’s divine.
Truth does not bypass you because you don’t think it pertains to you. That’d be like telling the cop who caught you going into the restaurant without a shirt AND without shoes that you didn’t realize the sign on the front of the door that says ,”No shirt, no shoes, no service” actually pertained to you.
It does. Even if you don’t think it does, it does.
It’s the same with eternal truth. What you believe about eternal truth matters…
3) Misconception: Truth Can be Whatever you Want it to Be
After Jesus’ response, Pilate seems to let the phrases about his kingdom being out this world completely fly over his head. Remember: He wants to get this investigation over with. He fixates on one word: ‘You are a king then!” That’s his Eureka moment! His “Elementary my dear Watson!” You are king and we can get this trial over with. Pilate gets up and he starts shuffling his papers. He pulls Jesus up by the underarm, because he can’t wait to go tell the crowd his findings and send him away.
But Jesus slowed him down: “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”
That must have struck Pilate. It was a divisive statement. Jesus was claiming to be a king of truth. He was claiming that all who were on the side of truth were on his side and everyone who wasn’t on his side wasn’t on the side of truth.
Pilate scoffed. “What is truth?”
This is the third and most dangerous misconception about truth. “Truth can’t be discovered.” It's really common here in American too.
Have you ever heard of the phrase: "You do You?" It's a Hashtag that's used to demonstrate the differences in people.
You like Coke; I drink Pepsi. You do You and I'll do me.
You like Monopology? You do you. I'll play Chutes & Ladders.
It works pretty well when describing likes, dislikes, and inanimate objects.
But here's the problem: We use the same kind of thinking when it comes to religion.
You're Buddhist? You do you.
You worship Allah? Cool. You do you.
You don't believe in God at all. You do you. We'll all end up in the same place anyway.
But is that really how it works? Is eternal truth whatever you want it to be?
Do ya’ll see this. (holding up a red hymnal) This a rhinoceros. Right?
You’re all thinking, “What’s wrong with Pastor? Someone needs to check the coffee. Because that’s not a rhinoceros. It’s not big. It’s not grey. It doesn’t have a giant horns coming out of its face. In fact, it doesn’t have a face. It’s a Confessional Lutheran hymnal.”
My response is: “Nope. I think it’s a rhino. That’s my truth. Your truth can be that’s it’s a hymnal, but my truth is equally as true as yours because I believe it to be so. You don’t have the right to tell me I’m wrong.”
Does that make any sense at all?
Does it make any sense when it comes to religious things?
NO! God only meant one thing. No matter how strongly you feel something is the truth, that doesn't make it the truth.
What the Truth is makes the Truth the Truth!
Believing that truth can be whatever you want -- as long as you believe it hard enough is a misconception! Such a misconception of truth maintains that the only TRUTH is that there is no TRUTH…except that TRUTH by it’s very definition is not TRUE.
Brothers and sistesr, this is wrong. It’s mind numbing & wrong.
II. The Truth about the Truth
Since Pilate is so filled with misconceptions about truth, maybe we shouldn’t listen to him. Besides, He didn’t make deaf people hear. He didn’t make blind people see. He didn’t make lame people walk. He didn’t stop storms, cast out demons, and heal the sick. He didn’t die and then three days later come back to life.
Pilate’s truth would have been that all those things were impossible. But Jesus did those things. Jesus knew truth lots better than he did.
In fact, if Pilate would have calmed down. If he would have relaxed for a moment. If he would have put in some effort, he could have heard Jesus answer Pilate’s question – the same way he had much earlier in his ministry.
Matthew 14:16 “I am the Truth.”
The truth that exposes your sins.
The truth that exposes your guilt.
The truth that exposes your condemnation.
The truth that loves you dearly.
The truth that died for your.
The truth that rose for you.
The truth that makes “you are forgiven” true.
The truth that makes “you are at peace” true.
The truth that makes “you will live forever” true.
The truth is Jesus. The truth is that only Jesus will make these things true.
So…listen to him!“Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” I doubt anyone is going to raise their hands and say, “I want to be on the side of falsehood!” We want to be on the side of truth. Therefore, listen to Jesus.
Don’t listen to false teachers.
Don’t listen to false preachers.
Don’t listen to a world with ideas and teachings that are contradictory to what Jesus said.
There can be only one truth! Jesus is that truth.
Pilate did. “ish”. He came out and said there was no reason to put Jesus to death. He didn’t say he believed in Jesus. He didn’t say he didn’t. He simply said, I believe he doesn’t deserve to die. When the people protested, Pilate had enough and he sent them to another governor named Herod. Pilate wiped off his hands. Breahted a sigh of relief and got his royal bubble bath ready.
But…remember Pilate…He isn’t done in this story yet. We’ll talk about him more next week when the crowd comes raucously back to the palace.
Don’t wait for God to give you another opportunity. Follow the truth now. Learn from the truth now.
Get on the side of truth. Now! Amen.