This material was first published by Redemptorist Publications
and is included here with their permission.
“For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth.
Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” (John 18: 37b)
It used to be said that a camera couldn’t lie. When you looked at a photograph, on the whole you would believe you were seeing a true representation of someone or something no matter how unlikely it seemed. Those days are long gone and we know that in this age of digital cameras and advanced technology a photograph can be edited to such an extent that we can no longer be sure about the truth of what we are seeing. This extends, of course, to video cameras filming anything from a family wedding to a blockbuster movie with special effects portraying, for example, the Statue of Liberty struck down and broken by a huge tidal wave.
We have grown so used to such spectacular scenes at home and in the cinema that when some of us first saw the pictures of two planes crashing into the towers of the Trade Centre we thought it must be another disaster movie. To accept the truth of what we were seeing was to recognise the almost unbearable truth about human nature and what we are capable of doing to each other.
As we hear the story of the betrayal, trial and death of Jesus we are again faced with an almost unbearable truth about the way we are capable of reacting to one who is innocent of any wrongdoing. Jesus has shown only love and compassion to those who have followed him and looked to him for healing and yet he is treated with injustice and brutality, ending in a criminal’s execution.
In his encounter with Pilate Jesus speaks these words:
“For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”
Jesus is the prisoner, the accused and the one who faces a possible sentence of death but somehow we sense that in another dimension it is Pilate who is on trial. In the way he responds to these words of truth he will bring his own judgment on himself.
We can say the same about the other characters in this narrative – that in their relationship with and reaction to the Truth they bring about a judgment of themselves.
Judas turns against Jesus because the truth Jesus is speaking isn’t the truth Judas wants to hear. In his anger he betrays Jesus.
Peter saw the truth about Jesus and declared him to be the Christ. He pledged his loyalty saying he would die rather than allow Jesus to be harmed. His loyalty and courage soon slip away from him and in his fear for himself he denies knowing Jesus.
Pilate seems to be seeking the truth about Jesus, who he is, what he’s done and why his own people want to kill him. Pilate does try to act on what he believes the truth to be. But in the end, political expediency wins and Pilate gives Jesus over to be crucified.
So in the way Jesus is treated we see the way in which men and women can react to the voice of Truth when it challenges them and calls into question what they believed to be true.
In our world it’s sometimes impossible to discern the truth of things we see and hear but it also seems to remain important to us to know what the truth is and who we can trust. If only we knew for sure that we were hearing the voice of truth we would listen to it and take notice of what it said.
Perhaps this Good Friday is a time to ask ourselves, and answer honestly, where we are in our relationship with Jesus who is “the way, and the truth, and the life”. We might imagine ourselves present throughout the events of the first Good Friday and be challenged by the way we are reacting.
We might sometimes, like Judas, be disillusioned and angry that the Truth asks us to forgive someone who has hurt us or let go of a grudge we’ve hugged to ourselves for years.
We might sometimes, like Peter, be excited and enthusiastic about our faith in Jesus until we realise that Truth asks us to bear ridicule, insults or even physical danger.
We might sometimes, like Pilate, genuinely want to know the Truth but back away when Truth asks for first place above everything else in our lives.
Whatever our relationship is with Jesus, the Truth, Good Friday tells us that he understands everything about our human, flawed lives and takes the initiative in seeking us out and revealing himself to us in ways we can trust.
1. It is often hard to know what the truth is in any situation or who we can trust to tell us the truth.
2. Jesus is identified as the voice of truth and the narrative of his Passion show us how men and women treat an innocent victim.
3. We are invited to think about our relationship to Truth and the demands it might make of us.
4. We are given an assurance that Jesus, who can be trusted, seeks to reveal his truth in our lives.