On the feast day celebrated by many denominations as Christ the King day, the Gospel (John 18:33-37) contains the famous exchange in which Pilate questions Jesus about his alleged kingship — and, in the last verse of the passage, Jesus shifts from talking about kingship to something more important: “For this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”
At St. Ignatius Catholic Parish in Mobile, Fr. Bry Shields noted that the very next verse contained Pilate’s infamous, mocking question: “What is truth?” Pilate, of course, meant that he didn’t believe in something so fixed and lofty as “truth” at all. Fr. Shields rightly focused on the dangers of such “cynical skepticism,” in a marvelous homily.
For our purposes, let us enlist the help — not directly Biblical, but very much in the spirit of Pilate’s obvious meaning — of the rock opera Jesus Christ, Superstar. It has Pilate expanding on the question, thusly: “What is truth?/Is truth unchanging law?/We both have truths/Are mine the same as Yours?”
This is indeed cynical skepticism at its most raw. This is Pilate changing the very concept of “truth” into a multiplicity of “truths,” and in doing so also turning something both ideal and objective into fungible, subjective commodities. “Truth” is constant; “truths” are mere value judgments.
Of course, Jesus was not talking about value judgments. He was talking about something immovable, unchangeable, and unable to be manipulated or, worse, polluted. He came not to testify to His truth among other truths, but to the truth, the truth which is unalterable and eternal.
Importantly, Jesus’ paean to truth comes as a deliberate juxtaposition to the idea of kingship. He’s telling Pilate that by focusing on kingship, Pilate is asking the wrong question and worrying about the wrong subject. Truth is more important even than kingship — even than kingship over the entire world, or at least kingship as the world understood it.
This is powerful testimony.
Truth has a kingdom all its own, and it is the only kingship, the magnificent kingship, of Christ our Savior.
Humans temporize; we seek earthly things; and, in doing so, we pick and choose among relative “values” as if we are in a cafeteria line.
Jesus says “no” to the cafeteria. He says no to even the most (apparently) succulent dish, that of earthly kingship. He offers true food, the bread of life — and only that true food.
We must accept it. We must “belong to the truth.” Yes, Pilate, the truth is “unchanging law.” The truth is God’s indivisible love. We must not forsake it.