Focal Passage: John 7:14-29
Jesus affirmed that he was a king (not earthly, but spiritual), and concluded by saying, “For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world — to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice” (John 18:37). But after hearing His words, Pilate curiously replied, “What is truth?”
While we often brush past Pilate’s response, what he says really summarizes the deepest thoughts and assumptions of today’s culture, where “truth” doesn’t exist as something fixed or concrete, but a standard we create for ourselves.
In the postmodern world, truth is simply what a person believes and values, and that can differ from person to person. We hear people describe truth in terms of “your truth” and “my truth,” where there are no universal standards or morals, only what each person has decided is best in his or her own heart.
However, not only did Pilate think about truth this way, but we see it lived out in the religious community of the first century. John records one such occasion where Jesus was teaching in the temple.
The Jews were “marveled” by His learning, for this was a man who had “never studied” (John 7:15). Jesus responded by testifying, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me.” Our Lord further commented, “The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory, but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent me is true” (v. 18).
Why did Jesus respond so critically to those who admired His teaching? If we use the interpretive practice of “mirror reading,” which is understanding the nature of a problem by examining someone’s response, it seems that Jesus was speaking against the assumption that educated teachers have the authority to define and interpret the truth according to their own desire.
In other words, He was speaking against the religious leaders’ tendency to decide for themselves what was lawful and unlawful, good and evil, loving and unloving, etc.
Jesus gives an example of this issue in what follows, where He criticizes them for wrongly deciding that it was acceptable to circumcise a man on the Sabbath but not acceptable for Him to heal an invalid on the same day (cf. John 5:2-9).
Why would they do this? It was because religious leaders were not following what God had revealed in Scripture but interpreting and applying the law as they saw fit. Therefore, Jesus wanted them to know that God is our only source for truth and authority.
The lesson here is simple. We as believers need to resist the temptation to decide what is true and good and acceptable for ourselves. Rather than allowing our own sinful flesh to guide us or following the popular opinions of the world, we must seek God’s truth — the only truth — as revealed in Scripture.
No matter how unpopular or backwards it may seem, we must seek and apply God’s truth today. As Jesus said, “Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” Soli Deo Gloria! B&R