It would be accurate to say that more and more people are asking this kind of question these days. Most Christians will know that it was the first century Roman governor of Judea, Pontius Pilate, who posed this question to Jesus during a private interview with him at the Lord’s trial.
The apostle John records the account in John 18. Sadly, the question was not put to Jesus because Pilate had a humble heart and was seeking to know about ultimate truth.
If anything, it was a sneering response from a hard, cynical man to what the Lord had just said to him. And what was that? It was something hugely significant about both Christ and the members of his kingdom: ‘I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice’ (v.37).
Our society today seems to be trying increasingly hard to distance itself from the notion that there is such a thing as ultimate truth. People don’t like the idea, because it has implications for them and the way they live their lives.
So many would prefer to be free from such restrictions, and any limitations that would hinder their fun. So the idea of ‘right and wrong’ is taken as being merely relative. But the tragic result is we are finding ourselves back in the often selfish, greedy and violent days of the Old Testament Judges, when ‘everyone did what was right in his own eyes’ (21:25).
The man on the street is saying something like, ‘What is right for you may not be right for me’. It sounds quite plausible on the surface, but look a little deeper and it eventually spells disaster for everyone.
If, for example, we applied this philosophy to the motorist, there would quickly be anarchy on the roads. You think the roads are bad now? They could be very much worse!
As we take opportunities to share the gospel with others, we should be glad that there are still those who are asking Pilate’s question, but doing so because they sincerely want to know the answer to it.
Some just want to know if there is an answer at all. There used to be a popular science fiction drama called The X-files (not my cup of tea!). The programme became synonymous with the catch phrase, ‘the truth is out there’. In other words, if you go out and look for the truth, you will find it.
Of course, our responsibility as Christians is to make sure we are out there, so that these people can find us and have their questions answered. The main priority of the Open-air Mission (OAM) is to be doing exactly that — out on the streets of our nation, to engage with people about the gospel.
Both our eight evangelists and 53 associate evangelists are delighted to be able to have conversations on a daily basis with people looking for answers. But let’s not just ‘leave it to the professionals’. All of us as individual believers need to be willing and ready to expose the false notion that truth is relative, and then proclaim that a personal God has revealed himself and his truth in the person of his divine Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
There may be those reading this article who have spent much time in the past, years even, searching for the truth. You perhaps looked here, there and everywhere in different philosophies, religions and experiences, eager to discover the truth, yearning to find meaning, purpose and reality?
You perhaps became desperate in your search for a rock on which to pitch the anchor of your life, for security, peace and contentment? Perhaps too you discovered that that truth wasn’t to be found in any of those things and you were left feeling utterly disconsolate?
Such was the case with a young Muslim man in the north of England last year, who came across a team from OAM preaching on the streets. He said he had not found the truth in Islam, and so was still looking.
The gospel message was explained and he went away with a Gospel of John to read. He returned to find the team the next day and announced with great delight that the previous evening he had asked Jesus to become his Saviour.
The blessed news is that your own search for the truth can find a happy conclusion as well. For that to happen, you too must seek Jesus Christ by faith. He really is the most wonderful person who has ever lived. In fact, he existed before this earth was even created, and yet came to this earth 2,000 years ago to declare that he and he alone is ultimate truth.
The apostle John said of Jesus in the introduction to his Gospel that Jesus is ‘full of grace and truth’ (John 1:14). That couldn’t be said of anyone else in history, but it was perfectly displayed in Christ’s unique life.
Jesus said about himself to his disciples, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life, no man comes to the Father except through me’ (John 14:6). He is the incarnate Word of God and he has graciously given us the Bible, which is the infallible written Word of God.
OAM workers are always looking to give a copy of the Gospel of John to anyone who wants to know more about the truth. Around 12,000 copies a year are given out to people. Receiving one provides people with the opportunity to go home and read it for themselves, and, God willing, discover the truth. Jesus once said to a group of Jewish people who professed to believe in him, ‘And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free’ (John 8:32).
So yes indeed, there is an answer to Pilate’s question. Though the answer is not a ‘what’, but a ‘who’; and that ‘who’ is the One we need to trust in to be free from our sin, content in our hearts and certain about our futures. And let us not forget that, as believers, we need to busy ourselves in telling others about Jesus Christ, who is the truth!
Andy Banton is general secretary of The Open-Air Mission