Pilate, Pilate, I sympathize with you

August 1, 2005 at 11:18 pm Leave a comment

“You say,” said the bound prisoner to Pilate, “that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Every one that is of the truth hears my voice.”

And when the captive had spoken, the ruler responded with three vacant words:

“What is truth?”

When he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews.


That single question from Pilate’s lips managed to ring in my ears most of the day after I read this narrative. What is truth? is his simple query. And it sounds legitimate enough. But it isn’t.

I know what happens next—Pilate has Jesus scourged and sends Him to His death, that’s what happens. Cheap excuse for a man, he was, asking a question like that just so he could avoid acting on the truth that was clear as glass in front of his face. Pilate knew Jesus was innocent. He knew! And he sent Him to the cross anyway.

What is truth? he asks. Blech.

I am such a hypocrite. I read this passage on Tuesday and sat in judgment of Pilate that afternoon, and then the next day—the very next!—I committed Pilate’s same sin. Asked the truth, I did, when I already knew the truth and wanted merely to excuse myself from acting accordingly.

Nah, I didn’t use Pilate’s words. I was creative enough to supply my own. But the question was the same, and the excuse was the same, and I knew it. I pretended about the nebulousness of truth because I didn’t want to be accountable to the stark standard of exactness.

I do that often, I think—I ask high-brow questions or pose vague philosophical problems because they muddy the waters and distract attention from whatever it is I don’t want to do. It works for most any tight spot where accountability to concrete truth would be inconvenient.

I do it with Mom, and pretend that she wasn’t really that clear in some directive she gave to me; thus I can’t be held responsible for not doing it exactly the way she wanted. I do it theologically, and pretend the Bible is ambiguous about something it says to do or not do, thus I’m not actually accountable if I don’t get it quite like God intended. I do it sometimes with the law, like when I dive into the pool right under the “NO DIVING” sign—because surely it wasn’t put there for people like me.

Funny, isn’t it, how the nebulousness of truth increases in direct proportion to how little I want to be accountable to it.

Pilate, Pilate. I sympathize with you.

Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

Me and mysticism: Why we don’t get along They’re here to serve ME–or is that a wrong-headed view?

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profile.jpgI am working on my M.A. in Religion at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan. Besides having a big interest in theology, history, ethics, and the deep stuff of life, I am also very fond of Mediterranean food, snow, and the color red.

Email me: jamie.kiley@gmail.com

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