One of the most powerful movie scenes of all time puts us in the middle of a courtroom showdown between an apathetic JAG lawyer Lt. Daniel Kaffee (Tom Cruise) who is in a battle of wits against Col. Nathan R. Jessup (Jack Nicholson). In 1992 classic, “A Few Good Men” Lt. Kaffee demands answers from Col. Jessup regarding the accusation of illegal orders he gave that resulted in the death of a young Marine. Lt. Kaffee, risking his own career, screams at Col. Jessup, “I want the truth!” Col. Jessup retorts with a simple yet powerful line, “You can’t handle the truth!”
Two-Thousand years ago, Jesus stood in the courtroom of Pontius Pilate, the Roman Prefect ruling over Judea. There was no yelling or screaming in this courtroom, yet this trial for the life of Jesus was just as tense . Here we encounter a real-life drama centered around this same issue of Truth. In the Gospel of John we pick up at the pinnacle of this scene.
John 18:33–38 (ESV)
33 So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” 34 Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?” 35 Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?” 36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” 37 Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. 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.” 38 Pilate said to him, “What is truth?” After he had said this, he went back outside to the Jews and told them, “I find no guilt in him.
Truth is something that matters to all of us. Whether it is in a court of law where we seek justice, or with our kids as we seek to raise them well.. truth matters. However, we also live in a time when the “truth” is considered very transient and personal. For Col. Jessup, truth was something he could abuse to serve his own goals, to Pontius Pilate, truth could be shaped to suit the best end, but for Jesus.. truth was an absolute reflection of the Father and His will for humanity.
As we move toward Easter Sunday, consider each of these verses below. This is every occurrence of the word “truth” in the Gospel of John from the ESV translation. Read each verse and respond to these questions.
- What is the relationship between God, the Father, and truth?
- What is the truth of Jesus’ death and resurrection? Why does it matter?
- What role does the Holy Spirit play in bringing truth into your life?
- How would you answer Pilate’s question, “What is truth?”
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.
God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
You sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth.
and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did.
You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me.
Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me?
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.
“But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.
Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.
When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.
For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me.
Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.
And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.
Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. 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.”
Pilate said to him, “What is truth?” After he had said this, he went back outside to the Jews and told them, “I find no guilt in him.
He who saw it has borne witness—his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth—that you also may believe.