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  • Writer's picturePastor Brett

Born to Tell the Truth

United States Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan is quoted as saying, “Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but they are not entitled to their own facts.” That is a statement designed for our times, something that needs to be drummed into our consciousness to counter the mistaken notion of idolizing the individual. The line between opinions and facts has been blurred, to the detriment of all.

There are things that are true that happen to support our opinions. The uncomfortable fact remains, however, that most of form our opinions on what’s familiar and easy to believe, then we collect data that seems to support our prejudice. Your favorite football team is an example. You chose a favorite, then gathered statistics and other malleable data that make your choice seem like a smart one.

Facts, on the other hand, have an existence outside our comfort zone. These are things that are true regardless of personal bias and can be verified by multiple sources. Gravity is an example.

Faith falls somewhere in between. We have faith that things are true even when we can’t prove all of it to the satisfaction of all people. It’s fairly easy to find evidence for the existence of God. It’s harder to convince people your god is the only true god. So many religious people have given up on that quest and simply, erroneously, declare all faiths to be equal.

Why should we care? We should care for the same reason we don’t want people defying the truth of gravity by jumping off tall buildings. It’s a fatal mistake. If we love people, we do everything we can to prevent them from making a fatal mistake.

Faith opens the door to the truth of Jesus Christ. We see the facts He presented and accept them as truth. That decision opens our eyes to the truth in ways that are not at all apparent to fakers and unbelievers.

One reason Jesus was born into the human family was to tell us the truth.

CONTEXT = Pilate had been cajoled into judging Jesus by the Jewish leaders. As part of Pilate’s examination of Jesus, we find information about why Jesus had to be born into the human family.

1. Jesus founded a kingdom. (33-37)

In Luke 23:1-2, the Jewish leaders brought accusation against Jesus, falsely saying He’d set Himself up as a king and discouraged paying taxes to Caesar. Those accusations set up Pilate’s question, “Are you the king of the Jews?” (33) Pilate asked this question to verify that Jesus was actually working rebellion against the Roman Empire. If He could be found guilty of sedition or treason, Pilate could justly punish Jesus. Pilate already had a rebel in prison, Barabbas. He examined Jesus to see if there were any connections or comparisons.

Jesus’ reply demonstrated His knowledge of where that question came from. (34) Rather than come out and say to Pilate, “You didn’t think of that yourself, the Jewish leaders put it in your head,” He expressed it in the form of a question. That’s because it is unwise to offend someone who holds the power of life and death over you. Besides, it was not God’s plan for Jesus to be crucified for such a stupid reason. His was to be an unjust death.

Pilate impatiently took a more general tack. (35) In the Greek, there is more irritation in Pilate’s reply. It could be translated, “I’m not a Jew, am I?” This was an indirect answer to Jesus’ question, Pilate effectively said, “It can’t have come from me, for I am not a Jew, so how should I know?”

Rather than push on with the matter of kingship, Pilate worked a general angle asking, “Why are your own people bringing you before me? Of what crime are you guilty?” This is rather lazy of Pilate, asking the defendant to condemn himself. His authority was so absolute; Pilate needed no reason at all to condemn a Jew to death. He was the law. The thing he feared (according to 19:8) was an insurrection of the people that had to be put down by violent means. He feared Rome’s reprisals and his career if that happened. Also, in Matthew 27:19-20, Pilate’s wife sent him word about a nightmare she’d had about Jesus, an innocent man, and advised Pilate to leave Jesus alone.

Jesus returned to the matter of His Kingdom in verse 36. He said twice that His kingdom was not an earthly one. Therefore, it was in no competition with the Roman Empire. As proof, He said that if His kingdom were merely an earthly one, His followers would have taken up arms to resist His arrest. Since they did not, He is King of an other-worldly kingdom.

This statement may have distanced Jesus from Barabbas. It’s possible some of Barabbas’ followers were killed trying to resist his arrest. I suspect Barabbas played a bigger role in this story than is indicated in the gospels’ silence about him. I also believe Jesus said this to protect His disciples, showing plainly they had done nothing in rebellion against Rome.

Pilate tried to stay out of sectarian religious disputes (as we see in verse 31), but he may have thought the matter of kingship was something over which he had jurisdiction. (37) “So you are a king?” is a leading question, based on a misunderstanding of Jesus’ words. Pilate was, for a second time, trying to get Jesus to condemn Himself.

2. Jesus was born to tell the truth. (37-38)

When Jesus said He was a King and had a Kingdom, He told Pilate the truth. (37) Rather than condemn Himself, Jesus carefully chose His words and threw Pilate’s question back at him. He confirmed His kingly role but refused the label Pilate attempted to attach, with his own understanding of what the word meant.

His purpose in being born was to tell the truth about everything. (37) Throwing aside the question of kingship, Jesus drove to the heart of the matter. He did not come to be a king, but to be a truth sayer. “ACTUALLY, I WAS BORN AND CAME INTO THE WORLD TO TESTIFY TO THE TRUTH.” This is our key verse for today. In a half-dozen places in the gospel of John Jesus made similar claims about coming into the world. For example, in 8:23 Jesus said, “You are from below; I am from above. You belong to this world; I do not.”

Jesus became a human being to tell us the absolute truth. In His character and in teaching, He revealed God to us. This verse is one of several places in John where Jesus claimed to speak for the Father. For example, in 12:49 it is written, “I don’t speak on my own authority. The Father who sent me has commanded me what to say and how to say it.”

Everyone devoted to THE truth will acknowledge He was right. In verse 37 He said, “ALL WHO LOVE THE TRUTH RECOGNIZE WHAT I SAY IS TRUE.” People who are devoted to what is true, whether it is comfortable or convenient or not, are witnesses that verify Jesus presented the truth. I believe this statement was an invitation to Pilate to affirm the truth and join others in believing in Jesus’ true nature. Pilate’s next statement is a rejection of this invitation.

Pilate betrayed his unbelief with a dismissive question. (38) “What is truth?” is evasive. Pilate had no time or patience for what he saw as a useless discussion of philosophy. He was too hard-headed and hard-hearted for that. He was too practical a man to bother with such things. He immediately turned back to the people who’d brought Jesus to announce his decision.

Besides, Pilate was nervous about fomenting a mob outside the steps of his garrison during Passover and probably disturbed about that note from his wife. He was eager to get this situation resolved and disperse the crowd.

A third thing was on Pilate’s mind. On other occasions the Jews had opposed him and because of their stubbornness he was forced to back down. Pilate was acting out of bitterness and attempted to salvage some pride.

3. Look where that got Him. (38-40)

This conversation had convinced Pilate that Jesus’ offense was a religious, not a civil one. He therefore declared Jesus “Not guilty,” hoping his announcement would bring the matter to an end. (38)

Eager to move away from Jesus, Pilate tried to change the subject. While he had a crowd of Jews there anyway, he reminded them of the custom of releasing a prisoner at Passover. This seems uncharacteristically merciful for the Roman Empire in general and Pilate in particular. Indeed, this act of “paschal amnesty” has been debated over the years. There is little evidence outside Scripture that this ever occurred. However, as a gesture of goodwill designed to pacify an antagonistic people, it makes sense.

Pilate hoped to use this custom to arrange Jesus’ freedom and thereby end the controversy. With maybe a bit of sarcasm, Pilate offered to release “the King of the Jews.” He offered no alternative.

But the crowd of locals, whom the Jewish leaders had gathered for this reason, were not swayed by Pilate and called for the release of a violent man instead of Jesus. (39-40) John calls Barabbas a “revolutionary.” Ironically, the Jewish leaders accused Jesus of being a revolutionary when He was not, but now they have prepared the people to demand the release of Barabbas, who was genuinely a revolutionary.

What do we know about Barabbas?

- Luke 23:19+25 identifies him as an insurrectionist and murderer.

- His name meant “son of the father.”

- A variant reading of Matthew 27:16 names him “Jesus Barabbas.” It is another irony to have the crowd choose between two men named “Jesus.”

I imagine Pilate was reluctant to offer Barabbas to them as he was deserving of execution, a real enemy of the state. Jesus took Barabbas’ place on the cross, just as He took our place on a cross we deserved.

One reason Jesus was born into the human family was to tell us the truth.

The Son of God left heaven to be born into the human family, becoming known to us as Jesus Christ. We’re going to be examining a series of Scriptures where Jesus Himself explains WHY He did that. We’re going to hear, in His own words, the purpose of the Incarnation. In so doing, I pray we will have a deeper appreciation of the enormous significance of Creator becoming creation and have even more reason to celebrate Christmas.

Today we began with a foundational reason for the Incarnation – God becoming man – which is to reveal truth to us. One reason Christmas happened is for us to see and hear the truth about God. Jesus came to speak the words and demonstrate the character of God. He made God more real to us in a way that would not have been possible if he stayed in heaven.


Grant R. Osbourne, Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, Vol. 13, The Gospel of John, 2007, pp. 258-270.

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