Jesus said: For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth.
There is a saying in corporate and political circles that “Perception is Reality.” Very often, to what extent how you and your actions are perceived are more important than your actual motives or actions. Perception becomes more important than truth and influences how much or little power or influence you are able to wield. The power structures of the world are often tied to how much political capital is gained and spent as much as financial capital.
Power can be seductive. It seems to be one of the keys to success and happiness, but as we know everyone who attains power of some kind learns its limits. The President of the United States is arguably the most powerful person in the world, but even he is limited by Congress. Bringing things down to a more mundane level, consider how much power and control parents are able to exert over their children, or bosses to employees. And sadly, power itself has a corrupting nature.
In this past Sunday’s Gospel reading for Christ the King Sunday, we see the classic scene of Jesus before Pilate as given to us in the Gospel of John. Pilate is the governor of this corner of the Roman Empire and represents the most powerful insitution on the planet at the time. He would have access to mass amounts of wealth and could call on his political and social connections if necessary by virtue of his office. When a supposed rabble-rouser and blasphemer is brought before him by the local religious authorities (who just happen to be getting ready for their single most important festival and tensions were already high in the city of Jerusalem), they immediately begin pressuring him to do away with the troublemaker.
Pilate is representative of a person or an institution who is faced with a critical decision, but is pressured to move in a direction that all of his instincts tell him, “Don’t go there.” He begins the scene in an apparent position of power but as things progress, we see he is really getting himself boxed into a corner. Pilate’s world is shown for what it is, an illusion. For all the trappings of his office, in this particular situation at least, he actually has no control of the situation and try as he might, can only play out his part in history.
Pilate asks if Jesus is a king when they are alone, and Jesus response is rather typical as he seems more interested in what others say about him, and more importantly how the question “Who do you say that I am?” gets answered. Eventually, Jesus indirectly admits his kingship, but he also is clear that he operates on a totally different level than what Pilate is used to. In the end, Jesus is the one in the real position of power because his power does not derive from the world’s fallen system of illusion, domination, violence and exploitation.
Pilate asks “What is truth?” As in today’s world, Pilate operates in realm where perception is reality, a carefully maintained web of illusion. When faced with one whose says that he doesn’t play those games and his entire mission is to reveal truth, he also reveals that he is a threat not only to the religious authorities, but to Pilate himself and the world’s entire way of doing business.
The truth can be threatening when your life is based on illusion and you find yourself standing face to face with one who says he is “The Way, the Truth and the Life,” and the source of this power is God’s love. It is a love that gives literally gives life as with the case of Jairus’ daughter and that of his friend, Lazarus. It is a love that heals the sick and cast out demons and changes hearts and minds.
For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify of the truth. May we always hear the voice of Jesus, our King, and be continuously transformed by the way , the truth and the life and that is the incarnate love of God.