I honestly find it a little funny how we always drop the Pilate's questioning retort to what Jesus has just said about the truth that he is bringing into the world. It's not as if the lectionary is pairing down a longer scene that could be broken in half. Pilate's question, "What is truth?" (John 18:38) is how the author chooses to end that scene! My guess is that we as a society often have trouble with ending a story with questions. We want resolution. We want to be able to say, "This is what has happened and all my questions have been answered." Yet that might be the precise reason that we end with a question rather than an answer.
So much of life is filled with doubts and unanswerable questions. Questions like, "Why did my son have to die?" and "How can some people act so cruelly firing guns at children in an elementary school or abducting a school full of girls to be sold as slaves?" When are encountered with these kinds of situations in our life, we cannot help but to begin to search for some kind of meaning, some kind of truth that will help us to understand. So, by cutting off Pilate's question from this scene, we, in some way, are cutting off the question that plagues us all throughout the years of our lives. And in doing so, we just might be diminishing what Jesus is about to accomplish in his death on the cross. The Gospel of John wants us to see and know the truth which is depth and breadth of his love for us.
One of the things that gives me life throughout my week is a group of people that I have come to know over the years through my hobby of online gaming every now and then. This group of people hail from all over. This group of people come from Toronto, Calgary, Baltimore, Seattle, Houston, Alabama, New Jersey, Colorado...one things seems to be a common characteristic: We always want to know more about the world that surrounds us. We link articles covering politics and economics. We'll discuss theoretical physics. A lot of them are computer programmers and will get into discussions about how to solve what I can only describe as "computer issues." We'll talk about TV shows, movies, and games that are coming out. And yes, we'll even get into conversations about faith.
One of the other things you probably should know about this bunch is that they're not all Christian. Some of them may be out and out atheists. Others are true agnostics, not want or being able to say one way or another. I know some have been hurt by the church in the past. Others are hurt by the way that they see some Christians act in hateful ways and by the way that some in the Christian communion willfully throw knowledge and reason to the way side. But no matter where any of them might fall on the theological continuum, they all value the quest (maybe the QUESTion?) for truth.
This is a quest that people, especially the younger generations thrive upon in their lives. People are searching for truth, and they don't necessarily want it handed to them without regard for their own questions. That is probably why I want so desperately to tack on verse 38 to our reading for today. It leaves in the air this question of truth that dominates our lives. So what is the truth that dominates our lives? It is none other than the plain and simple truth that we all can and will experience suffering and death in our lives. That is a truth that none of us can escape, but that is the truth that Jesus came into the world to do something about.
We all have doubts and fears, and God knows we all have experienced some amount of suffering in this world that we live in. Even if we have not a personal experience of suffering, we cannot escape the stories of suffering that is plastered on news on a weekly basis. In this story, in this life-giving narrative, Jesus see all of this, and he has one reaction: compassion for us and the whole of creation. So Jesus comes, this man who our faith informs us is "God from God, light from light, true God from true God," to bring a new reality into the reality of our death and suffering. In his death that he will not stop from happening, he comes to share with us in our suffering and death so that we know, see, and trust that God is not an uncaring all powerful deity who sits above wondering if any of us are ever going to be good enough to make our own way into heaven.
That's what this day, "Christ the King," is all about. This is a day where we celebrate not how Jesus is a better king than Pilate and Caesar could ever be, but rather how he comes to bring this new reality where our suffering and death are met love and compassion. I know that's a sweeping claim to truth, but when I reflect on my faith and how I feel something that can only be described as the Holy Spirit inspiring me, I trust that it is true. And here's the wonderful thing: when I think about my friends who may not agree with me to that claim of truth, I still believe that that word of promise goes forth to embrace them in their lives as well. The truth that Jesus brings is a truth that is for the whole of creation, even and maybe especially those who might consistently ask, "What is truth?" (John 18:38) For me, even if it doesn't answer all the questions that I might have, it does give me hope even in that which befalls us all.