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The Fountainhead

“And the singers, like the dancers — all my fountainheads are in you!”

(Psalm 87:7)

There are a great many different views on these final words of this psalm. Many of our English translations present the last phrase as what it is that the singers and dancers are singing. While that could very much be so, that would be an inference that is being made for they must insert the word, “say,” into the text when it it not absolutely needed, as these words may simply be the Psalmist’s final words — perhaps it is his personal “selah” at the end of the psalm.

Some commentators suggest that “singers” belongs to the previous verse, but that would be odd given the presence of the selah at the end of that section. Many of our English Bibles create a kind of play on words with their English translation that is not present in the Hebrew, as they translate the final words as “all my springs are in you.” Given that dancers twirl and spring, this rendering implies a form of jumping dance not unlike what we see in David as he leads the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem (2 Samuel 6:16). Yet, in Hebrew, the word here has to do with headwaters of a well or of a spring, so while in English a play on words might seem to be at work, that kind of play on words was clearly not intended by the author.

So, what is in view? The singers and dancers, in context, seem to be a reference to the worshippers coming in to Zion, lifting their praises to God because they have been included in the great and eternal city of Jerusalem above. Such is implied with the repetition of those who were “born there” — reflecting a sense of belonging. This is strengthened by the ancient Greek translation of this passage, found in the LXX, which translates the Hebrew NÎyVoAm (ma’yan — “spring” or “fountainhead”) as katoiki/a (katoikia), meaning “dwelling place.” Thus, when the ancient Jews were seeking to communicate the sense of this verse to the Greeks, they emphasized the notion of dwelling in the city of Zion.

Yet, we would be remiss if we did not speak of the significance of the notion of fountainheads of water in the Christian life. Jesus presents himself as the source of living water (John 4:10) and later he says that if we believe in Jesus, out of us will flow living water as well (John 7:38), presenting a picture of the water flowing out of Jesus and into the life of believers and then out from us. In each case, it is Jesus who is the true fountainhead of living water. Indeed, even in Revelation, we see John borrowing from the imagery of Psalm 23 and presenting Christ, the Lamb of God, who shepherds his people and leads us to springs of living water (Revelation 7:17). Given the Messianic nature of this psalm, that it is Jesus and Jesus alone, who leads us into the Jerusalem above — true Zion — we should indeed see these words as that of the psalmist speaking for all true believers — “my fountainhead (of living water) is in you, oh Jesus!”

“You will say, in that day, ‘I will praise you, Yahweh, for you were angry with me, but your anger turned away and you repeatedly comforted me.’ Behold! God is my salvation, whom I trust. I will not fear. For my refuge and my strength are in the Lord Yahweh; He is my salvation. You draw water with joy from the fountainheads of the salvation. You will say, in that day, ‘Praise Yahweh! Call on his name! Make his deeds known to all the people — proclaim that his name is exalted! Praise Yahweh, for he has done illustriously — make this known in all the earth. Rejoice and cry out loud, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.’”

(Isaiah 12)

Judges; A Messianic Warning

“And Yahweh raised up Judges. And they saved them from the hand of their looters.”

(Judges 2:16)

The role of the Judge is one that clearly is designed to prefigure Christ. They are redeemers of the people from their adversaries. They are signs of God’s grace, given that the people are in the hands of their adversaries because of their sins. They are signs to the people that God will not leave or forsake them, despite their sin. They are often prophets in their role, they often offer sacrifices as the priests do, and they certainly have a kingly function as they rally the armies (or are a one-man army) against the enemies of God’s people. Thus, they fulfill to a limited extent the role of Mediator, which again we find Jesus fulfilling in an ultimate sense.

As we arrive at this verse, though, we also enter into a summary of the whole book of Judges (we have moved from looking back to looking forward). The sad thing is that this cycle of sin is not unlike the cycle that Christians today, Churches today, and even nations today find themselves falling into. Yet, we must be aware that God also gives the warning to the church that he will remove their lamp stand from its place if they persist in their sin. Judges is far more than a history book. It is Messianic as it points toward Christ. It tells us of the long-suffering of God towards his covenant people. But it also stands as a warning to us today lest we turn to idols of our own making.

The Last Generation

“Going around Zion, encircle her, 

counting her towers,

You will establish your heart — the ramparts through her palace.

You shall continually write this for the sake of the last generation.”

(Psalm 48:13-14 {verses 12-13 in English})

So the singing is continued (previous verse) and while singing those who are in Jerusalem are to encircle her in songs of praise to our God…filling the air with the sound of their worship. They are to count and number her towers and examine the ramparts (defensive walls built around the city), and establish their heart. Now this phrase (the establishment of the heart) may sound a little awkward to our western ears, but it is a figure of speech that implies that we are to pay close attention to something even to the extent of placing our affections on that something, whatever it may be.

Yet, why would the psalmist command that the people of God place the fortifications of Jerusalem on their heart? The answer seems to be two-fold. First, as we have discussed previously, the focus of this psalm is not so much on the physical, earthly Jerusalem, but on the eternal city of God — the New Jerusalem — that is being kept preserved in heaven until the return of our Lord (1 Peter 1:4-5). The Jerusalem here that is in the experience of the psalmist is but a shadow of what is to come…and with the coming of the New Jerusalem comes the new creation where God and man will once again dwell without separation. There is indeed a reason to set your heart on such things.

The next verse, though, also gives us a clue as to what the psalmist has in mind. He says to the people that not only are they to observe Jerusalem, they are to write down those observations for the sake of the “last generation.” Most of our Bibles seem to translate the term,   NOwr≈jAa (acharon) as “next” or “future,” implying that this writing is for those who will follow in the future. Yet, if this writing is simply for future generations through time, then we might expect that the term rOw;d (dor — “generation”) would be plural, not singular. Thus, we should recognize that NOwr≈jAa (acharon) can also refer to the last of something — “the last generation.” Yet, who will be the last generation for whom these people are writing? I would suggest that these writings are to benefit the last generation to see Jerusalem and the Temple standing proud — to remind the last generation what would be lost when the Babylonians were brought in by God to punish the people for their perpetual sin — to remind people of the glory they exchanged for the lusts of their flesh and for the pride of their hearts. Oh, how far we fall when we take our eyes off of God and rest them on ourselves.

We are long past the last generation to see the temple. Even those who rebuilt the Temple realized that the second-temple was a far cry from the glory of the first and from the promised restored glory. Jesus is the greater temple and the temple that Ezekiel anticipates is yet to come. All things revolve around Christ and the Temple and all of its former glory are meant solely to point toward our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ. It is his glory, not ours, of which we write.

A Good Report

“And you know his character, how as child of a father he has served with me in the Gospel.”

(Philippians 2:22)

Over the years, between my time as a school teacher/administrator and as a pastor, one of the more enjoyable things that I have had the privilege of doing is to write letters of recommendation for students and former students. Whether they were applying for jobs, to colleges, or for scholarships or other honors, it is always a joy to tell others of the character of one you admire. And this, Paul has been doing on behalf of Timothy — and indeed, based on these words, Timothy has much to live up to, indeed.

Notice too that these words of Paul’s about Timothy are not an empty compliment. Timothy has proved himself to be faithful and useful to Paul by labor, integrity, and sacrifice. It is the laboring of Timothy in faithful service that gives definition and meaning to this statement. Of course, as Christians, we too ought to strive, like Timothy, that the same might one day be said about us not only by those Christians who have mentored us but ultimately by God himself pronouncing the words, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” We certainly do not earn our salvation nor can we ever do enough and sacrifice enough to warrant such a statement from God, but that statement of God takes on meaning in light of the sacrifice and faithfulness of the service for which we strive.

Indeed, let me reassert, we are not saved by or through our works…if works are added to grace then grace is no longer grace (Romans 11:5-6). If even one single work is necessary…no matter how small or insignificant seeming…then grace is meaningless. Even if that one work is nothing more than a choice one makes to accept grace, then it is still a work and grace is nullified. Salvation is God’s doing from beginning to end and many of us are brought into the kingdom kicking and screaming…but even if we aren’t, it is still God who brings us. If we seek, it is because God is drawing us to seek Him. Apart from God we are dead in our sins and a dead man can do nothing to help himself. God must first give us life and then we can respond.

That said, we are also called to make our calling and election sure by building on the things that God has begun in us (2 Peter 2:5-11). My challenge to you is to do so in such a way that, like Timothy, a good report will be issued in that day we stand before Christ’s judgment seat.


“clinging to the Word of Life, that I will be satisfied in the day of Christ that I did not run in vain nor did I labor in vain.”

(Philippians 2:16)

There are many things in which we can take satisfaction. We can find satisfaction in a hard day’s work. We can find satisfaction in a good meal or in a good book. We often find satisfaction in watching our children grow and mature, living as they ought. We can go on in our list and all of these things are good, but Paul presents us with another aspect of satisfaction…or another thing in which we ought to take satisfaction…that of watching those you have mentored stand strong in their faith. And for Paul, it is not just that he is taking satisfaction that they are living faithfully now…but he prays that in the end, when Jesus returns and brings all deeds both good and evil into judgment, that they will be still standing in that day.

I spent a number of years teaching Bible to High School students and repeatedly, I would set down for them a principle that I think echoes what Paul is speaking of in this verse. I would tell them that if they studied there was no reason that they could not earn an “A” on any given exam that I might set before them or on any assignment that they might have. At the same time, getting an “A” in a course I might teach was not the measure to see whether or not you did well in my class. I would go on to say that the real measure of whether you did well in my class is whether or not in 15 years, 50 years, 70 years, and on their deathbed they were still living out their faith. “If you get an ‘A’ in my class,” I would say, “but do not live your life out in faith, you are the one who failed because you have not understood what I am teaching.” I would go on, “But, if you struggle to pass my class but live out a life of faith until your dying day, you are the success.” Paul wants the Philippians to be a success — not just in Paul’s here and now — but for all of the days in their life so that he might take satisfaction in them and be assured that his labors on their behalf were not in vain (at least from a human perspective).

Beloved, don’t just take satisfaction in earthly things (work done, a meal served, etc…), take satisfaction in eternal things…one of which being the walking in faith of those whom you have mentored. May one day, when our Lord returns, we see the fruit of our labors and be humbled by the way that God has seen fit to use us.

Can I Grumble About It?

“Do all this without grumbling or debate,”

(Philippians 2:14)

Oh my. This is where we so often get ourselves in trouble. We know what the right thing is, we know we ought to do it, we don’t want to do it, but since it is the right thing we do it anyway — grumbling the whole time (at least to ourselves!). And here we go, we have the Apostle Paul telling us that we need to count one another’s needs as greater than our own and that we are to be obedient to Christ’s commands in all ways…but also that we are to do so without griping about it. Oh my. For some, I think that griping is a favorite hobby even, but no, not in the life of the Christian.

God’s interest is not just in our right actions. Were that the case, he would never have rebuked the wayward Israelites regarding their sacrifices…even to the point of saying that he hated and detested them. Why? Because their hearts weren’t in the right place. They believed that if they just performed the ritual in the proper way, then God would be pleased with them. God was not. And Paul echoes to us as well, in the Christian church, that God likewise will not be pleased by our service or by our offering of praise if our heart is in the right place.

Note that this also means that Christians don’t have carte blanche in their worship even if their heart is in the right place. for the Christian, the spirit of obedience must be joined with actions of obedience. Both go rightly together and cannot be separated in a life of faith.

And just in case you are wondering, the words that Paul uses here carry exactly the same connotations in English as they do in Greek. The word goggusmo/ß (gongusmos) means to talk about things in a low voice behind people’s backs or behind the scenes, typically in a way that voices a complaint. The word dialogismo/ß (dialogismos) means to debate or dispute someone’s reasoning…to argue about the conclusions of others. As fond of grumbling about our obedience as we might be, this too needs to be put to death in our lives.

True obedience follows a heart that is committed to Christ in all things and no matter the cost. That kind of heart does not typically develop overnight, but happens through training and conscious decisions to honor Christ in all things. It is a reflection of our love to God and his Son, Jesus. And a heart like this is equipped and empowered by the Holy Spirit. Loved ones, embrace it…oh, and embrace it without grumbling or arguing about it…

Our Lifeblood

“Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always been obedient, not only in my presence alone, but now also even more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling for God is the one working in you, even to will and to work for satisfaction.”

(Philippians 2:12-13)

The word, “His,” is often inserted before the word “satisfaction” in this phrase, which clearly is the meaning in context, though the word is only implied and not present. That stated, it should be noted that when we are in Christ, that which satisfies or brings God good pleasure ought to be that which satisfies us the most. Thus, as God the Father is most satisfied in his Son, we too are only truly satisfied when we are deeply in relationship with the Son as well.

Now, sometimes people get a little hung up on the language of working out your salvation…in this context, Paul is referring not to our justification, where we are made right with God through the atonement of Jesus Christ…we do not contribute to that work … but to the ongoing process of sanctification where we participate alongside of the Holy Spirit in seeking to grow in grace. The clincher, though is found in the language that immediately follows… “for God is the one working in you.” He does the real work both in justification and in sanctification, the question is whether we will be submissive to the work of the Spirit in us or whether we will kick and fight against the goads in that process.

The key word is obedience. Sometimes I wonder whether Americans still understand the word or instead see it as something that is archaic and out of fashion. Obedience is a willing submission to the authority of another. It is hearing what that person in authority says, remembering it, and acting upon it. It seems that people in our culture detest such a notion with every fiber of their being, so whether from God or from men. Yet, as a believer, we are called to be obedient to the Word of God. As Moses commanded, these words are our very lifeblood (Deuteronomy 32:47). All too often people in our culture want what they want and they sometimes even become violent rather than appealing to the authority of scripture, seeking to submit to its wisdom. In a world filled with ideas, it seems that no one wants to critically evaluate them. It seems that instead of wanting to communicate, all people really want is a “bully pulpit.”

Bowing in Submission

“in order that at the name of Jesus every knee would be bent in heavenly places and in earthly places and in places under the earth and every tongue would admit that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.”

(Philippians 2:10-11)

And all of God’s people said, “AMEN!” This is one of those passages that ought to stir us up because it is a reminder that there is a time coming when all of the pretense of atheism and all of the rebellion of false religions will be brought to a crushing halt and Christ in his fullness will be revealed even to his enemies and they will bow before him. Amen. Amen. Amen. What a day that will be.

Yet do know, this passage is not talking about universal conversion. The language of knees bending is language that refers to people bowing in submission to one who is greater than they are. In some cases, it refers to a willing submission to one’s good and just master. But in other cases, it is used to portray the humiliating defeat of a king’s enemies who are then forced to bow, if even under the crushing foot of the victorious king.

The confession follows along with that notion. Believers, of course, will joyfully proclaim the Lordship of Jesus. Unbelievers, though, will utter it out of abject hatred through clenched teeth. They then are the defeated foe made to confess the Truth against which they have been rebelling with all of their might. These who stand in rebellion against the King of Kings hate him so greatly that they would choose even the torments of hell to remove themselves from his presence. And had Jesus not saved us from our sin by giving us spiritual rebirth, changing our wicked hearts, we would be doing the same…seething at the notion of admitting to be true that which we had spent a lifetime suppressing in our hearts.

Thus, while these verses are a song of triumph and hope for the believer, they are utter condemnation to the unbeliever. It is glory and salvation for some and utter defeat for others. May indeed we all be amongst those who will celebrate at the throne of Christ, bowed in grateful submission before his feet. And to those who stand against Christ here and now in this life, know that there will be a time when you will stand no longer but will be bowed down in utter defeat.

The One Name that is Above All other Names

“Therefore God exalted him and honored him with the name that is above all names,”

(Philippians 2:9)

As we have noted above…Jesus laid down his rightful heavenly glory and veiled it in flesh in the incarnation; in the resurrection, he took that glory back up, this time no longer veiled by the flesh, but instead glorified in the flesh as well, and took his seat at the right hand of God the Father almighty. And he is given the name that is most highly exalted above all over names — He is the firstborn from the dead, he is the Divine Son, he is the captain of our faith, and numerous others. He is Christ the Lord! There is no other name under heaven by which man can be saved. And he deserves all praise and adoration!

It amazes me, in light of these clear teachings in the Bible, how many people reject this truth and seek to co-opt Jesus’ glory and offer it to another, suggesting that there are many ways to the Father that can be found in different cultures and in different religions. Such is a lie, it comes from the depths of hell, and it ought smell like smoke to us. Yet some relish the smoke. Sadly, many will die in the smoke.

Friends, it is right to give honor where honor is due…and Paul is leading us into that. But if honor is due to any man for his accomplishments, it is infinitely more so due to Christ for his accomplishment. Men may build towers, write novels, and create works of art, but Jesus showed us grace and Truth. Men may climb mountains and dive into the depths of the ocean, but Jesus bore the weight of our sins. Men may defeat armies and conquer nations, but Jesus conquered death. Honor is due to his name. Will you give it above all others? Will you give it not only inside of but outside of the church building? Will you share the knowledge of the glory of Christ with the world around you…they are dying to hear it (in an all-too literal sense).

He Divested Himself of Glory

“but he divested himself of glory, taking the essence of a slave, becoming in the likeness of men, and being found in the state of man he humbled himself, becoming obedient even up to death…even death on a cross.”

(Philippians 2:7-8)

While usually I try and offer a pretty literal, word-for-word translation of the text, verse 7 is another passage that has again led many astray in their understanding of Jesus. Literally, the verse begins with the words: “but he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave…” Now we have already discussed the word morfh/ (morphe) and its relationship to the essence of something, but here we also need to deal with the term keno/w (keno’o), which literally means, “to empty,” but what is being emptied?

There have been some theological circles who have argued that Jesus emptied himself entirely of his godhead to become man. Yet, to argue in such a way means that God is divisible, separable, and changing…a contrast to the Biblical picture that God is one (Deuteronomy 6:4; 2 Samuel 7:22; Nehemiah 9:6; Isaiah 44:6; Romans 3:30; Galatians 3:20; James 2:19) and that he is unchanging (Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 13:8; James 1:17). Others have taken a more romantic view of this, for example Charles Wesley in his classic hymn, And Can It Be, writing the words that “he emptied himself of all but love…” Surely God is love and Jesus exemplifies that love, but clearly from the scriptures it can be seen that Jesus did not divest himself of Truth, Grace, Mercy, Righteousness, Wrath, Power, etc…

So, of what did Jesus empty himself? In the context of the previous verse it becomes clear that Jesus emptied himself of his glory, and chose to veil that glory in flesh to come and save fallen humans…the elect from all of the nations…every believer throughout the generations. Thus, what is being communicated by Paul is not that Jesus ceased to be God in the incarnation nor that he emptied himself of his Godlike attributes; but instead, while remaining God in essence, he took on the essence of man — and thus everything that is an essential part of God and everything that is an essential part of man (even the lowliest man) is part of his essence. He became man to save men. What of sin? Jesus had none. Furthermore, while sin is part of our common experience as men, it is not an essential part of our nature for Adam and Eve were created free from sin and from a sin nature and they were in many ways, more human than any of us still alive today. Thus, those things that were essential attributes Jesus took to himself, not sin.

And to prove his love and his obedience to the Father, he went to death — even death on a cross — an accursed way to die (Deuteronomy 21:23; Galatians 3:13). He took the curse upon himself so that we do not need to bear it for ourselves. It is the greatest exchange that has ever been made in all of history…the substitutionary atonement of Jesus. And whether here and now by believers or in judgment, he will receive the honor he is due.

My Fear…

“For God is my witness how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.”

(Philippians 1:8)

What a beautiful line this is as he expresses his desire to be with the Philippian believers. His desire is to be with them and the desire is great. This is more than a man simply being homesick while he sits in chains, wishing to be out of bondage. Were this simply an expression of Paul’s homesickness, we could write this statement off, but such would not be consistent with the character of the Apostle Paul who has discovered (as he will later write) that he has discovered how to be content in all things. Here is a man with a genuine affection for the church of Jesus Christ.

As we reflect on the nature of Paul’s affection for the church, it ought to cause us to ask whether we share the same affection for Christ’s church in our midst. Do we love the people of Christ’s church in the same manner or with the same intensity as Jesus loves them? Would we gladly be willing to suffer for the church? Would we gladly be willing to die for the church? If not, are we ready to repent? For is this not the model to which we are called? And if we are not able to love other believers, with whom we will spend eternity and with whom we are counted as one body, then how will we show the love of Christ toward unbelievers?

Loved ones, my fear is that the church has fallen into the trap of living with a wester-self-centered mindset. My fear is that the church has fallen into the trap of living for itself rather than sacrificing itself for others. My fear is that the church would not be able to say with the Apostle Paul, “how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.” And if my fears are true, what of our witness to a watching world? May the world look upon us as a people that seek to serve Christ and not ourselves nor our institutions. And as the world looks at us, and sees the love of Christ in us for one another, may the world desire to partake of that which God has done in us.

Rejoicing in Yahweh’s Divine Actions

“For you make me rejoice constantly, Yahweh, in your divine action; in the works of your hands, I continually exult.”

(Psalm 92:5 [verse 4 in English])


The question that we must raise is whether or not we can really say, with the psalmist that we rejoice and exult in the works of God. On the surface level, our first response is probably to say that we do rejoice in God’s works, but in saying that we need to take a closer look at what we are suggesting. Indeed, it is easy to rejoice in the blessings that God brings into our lives, but what of the trials? What of those times when everything is falling apart and we just cannot figure out which end is up in life? Is it not harder to rejoice in God and exult in his works when such things take place? Yet this, too, is in sight of what the Psalmist is saying.

Sometimes the hardest thing to do, when things fall apart in our lives, is to praise God in the midst of such things. Yet, in times of distress like this, such is what our soul most needs. We need that communion and worship and we need to affirm that God’s work is continually a good thing in my life because it is used to conform me into the image of his Son, Jesus.

One of the great reminders of this principle is the setting aside of the Sabbath day. A day where we join with the body of Christ and worship together — where we even lift one another up in worship, standing in the gap for the brother and sister who is broken and cannot stand (spiritually) on their own feet to do so. That joined with the promise that if we count the Sabbath a delight, God will raise us up from our depths and give us a taste of his glory (Isaiah 58:13-14).

Justice Being Served

“And while they ridiculed him, they took off the cloak and put his own clothes on him and took him to crucify him.”

(Matthew 27:31)


“And while they ridiculed him, they took off the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him and took him out in order to crucify him.”

(Mark 15:20)


“Then they entrusted him to them that he might be crucified. Therefore they took Jesus.”

(John 19:16)


Thus we arrive at the end of a section; what follows will be the crucifixion and the death of our great and glorious Lord. All that will take place follows directly from this wicked trial. Justice is being served…yes, you read this right, but not in the way that you probably think. Justice is being served not in Jesus’ case and not because of this wicked trial, but because God is bringing us to justice but is substituting his Son in our place. The wrath we deserve will be meted out on the cross — that is justice. God’s Son, though, is on the cross in our place — that is grace.

What strikes me as this section wraps up and as we anticipate the following sections of the Gospel accounts, is how little description that the Gospel writers give on the physical events of the crucifixion…even the events here that speak of Jesus having been whipped and mocked and beaten. Very little physical detail is being given.

Now, granted, the physical event must have been horrifying, but it as if the Gospel writers don’t want us dwelling there…instead they want us dwelling on the innocent man who is making atonement for us as our Great High Priest. They want us to focus on the completed work of the cross and the guilt of all of us who sent Jesus to the cross. As horrid as the event on the cross was, this substitution should be even more scandalous to us…and even more wonderful at the same time. Our guilt being paid for…justice being served, just on the head of another.

Yet, if this is the case, why is it that those who produce films and books about this event spend so much time emphasizing the gore of the cross and so little time emphasizing the wrath of God being poured out or the atonement that is being worked. Perhaps could it be that we “moderns” have become so desensitized to gore that we need to be shocked? Could it be that we moderns have become so desensitized to our own sin that the substitutionary atonement of Christ no longer shocks us? Could it be that the film producers simply want to tell a story and don’t want to offer (or don’t understand themselves) truth? Whatever the reason, in communicating the truth of this event, should we not endeavor to place emphasis where the Scriptures place emphasis and tread lightly where the Scriptures also tread lightly?

Thus, as we close this section, Jesus was entrusted to the Roman soldiers and they took him to crucify him that on the cross of Calvary he might bear the wrath of his Holy Father and pay the penalty for my sins…every single one…that I might be made clean and whole…and not just for me, but for all of the elect through the ages. What a wondrous Savior we have…how can our response be to do anything but worship?


“From then, Pilate sought to release him, but the Jews screamed and said, ‘If you release this one, you are not devoted to Caesar — the one who make himself king works in opposition to Caesar!’”

(John 19:12)


Were this trial a chess match, here would be the move that would lead Pilate into check-mate. He has finally been maneuvered by the Jews into a corner. If he does not go along with this Jewish mob, they will make it look as if Pilate has rebelled against Caesar himself. The final words of this verse carry with them a double meaning…the Jews are pointing out that Jesus has claimed to be a king and thus is an enemy of Caesar and secondly, they are implying that if Pilate does not put Jesus to death, he is acting as king over them and that makes Pilate an enemy of Caesar. One by one the chess pieces have been put into place and Pilate is realizing that he has lost this bout with the Priest’s manipulation of his authority. Again, Pilate’s authority comes from Caesar…to become an enemy of Caesar means losing that authority.

Yet, as much manipulation is taking place on a human level, we need to be reminded that God is yet sovereign over all these events and he has so ordained that these events come to pass. These Jews are doing exactly what they want to do, as is Pilate, but God is permitting these things to come to pass. The darkness of this week and these events is a reminder of the darkness of our sin and depravity and what Jesus entered into on our behalf. The contrasting light will come with the resurrection, but for now, evil is being allowed to spew hatred at the Lord of Life.

Beloved, may we never be quick to take for granted the gift of grace found in the work of Christ. Worldly kings rise and fall…there would be other Caesars…but this King Jesus reigns supreme eternally. He is the source of all power and authority…though how often we put our hopes and dreams in the power of men.


“Then Pilate said to him, ‘Won’t you talk to me? Don’t you realize that I have the authority to release you and I have the authority to crucify you?’ Jesus answered him, ‘You have no authority over me apart from that which has been given to you from above. Because of this, the one who delivered me to you has a greater sin.’”

(John 19:10-11)


Authority is a sticky kind of thing because it does not reside within our persons. Authority must be given and similarly, authority can be taken away. Yet what makes it even stickier is that there are different levels of authority and thus those who give authority have first been given authority by something or someone that is outside of them. Thus, Pilate’s authority comes from the office that he fills and the authority of that office comes from Rome. But where does Rome get its authority? Their armies extend their authority, indeed, but in the end, it is God and God alone who gives authority to one nation to do this and for another nation to do that. Sometimes God does this with his direct ordination; sometimes God passively permits a course of action, but in the end, it is God and God alone who gives the authority to men to do what men do.

From whom does God get his authority? That is the wrong question to ask. The right question to ask is, “Why is authority given in this way?” The answer to this question answers both. First, authority is given this way because we are “contingent beings.” In other words, the fact that we have life and health and authority to do anything is contingent on the existence of a greater being or institution. Thus, Pilate’s role is contingent on the existence of the Roman Empire. Without it, there would have been no role for him in Judea. Even our lives themselves are contingent on the existence of the planet that houses and sustains us. Yet, God is the only non-contingent being. His existence is fixed — always has been, is, and always will be… And as a non-contingent being, not only does his existence reside within himself, but so does his authority.

Thus the authority that Pilate has is not absolute in any way. Kings and governors like to think of their authority as absolute, but it is still an authority that is permitted by God. And in specific, the authority that Pilate has over Jesus, to put him to death, is again an authority that has been granted to him not just by Caesar, but by God himself so that the promised redemption of the elect might take place through his son’s sacrifice on the cross. Jesus tells Pilate this not as a way of taking Pilate off of the hook, but as a way of cutting this prideful man back down to size.

Yet Jesus does make an interesting statement. He says that the ones responsible for handing him over to Pilate were guilty of a greater sin than Pilate. It is clear that Jesus is speaking of the Jewish authorities that have been contriving to put Jesus to death. They are guilty of a greater sin for their part in Jesus’ execution has been intentional and carefully planned out; Pilate has been a man trapped by powers outside of his influence.

Yet there is one who is ultimately responsible for Jesus’ death that is free from all sin…and that is God the Father who ordained from before the foundation of the world that he would send his Son to pay the righteous penalty for sin that we, as God’s chosen, owe. Indeed, in grace, it pleased the Father to crush his Son because of the redemption this would work for his own. This is the perfect mark of grace, a standard of redemption by which all things are measured…no sin as God’s perfect standard is demonstrated. From this point on, Jesus will remain silent before Pilate.

The God-Man

“When Pilate heard these words, he was more fearful. And he went back into the Praetorium and said to Jesus, ‘Where are you from?’ But Jesus did not give him an answer.”

(John 19:8-9)


So, why would Pilate give a start and be “afraid” with the accusation that Jesus had made himself the “Son of God.” Part of this ties into Roman polytheism and superstition. When Romans conquered the world, their practice was to incorporate the gods of the local cults of lands they had conquered into their own pantheon. Of course, Judaism was a bit of an anomaly for them as would be Christianity. Yet, within Roman thought was the idea of a “god-man” who would walk amongst the people. Pythagoras, for example, had been considered part-god and part-man, Apollonius of Tyana was a contemporary of Jesus, and others had been considered to be living demigods of sorts, not fully human nor fully divine. Now this, of course, opens the door to the discussion of one of the first major Christian heresies: Arianism — a view that Jesus was such a “demigod,” part God and part man. This fear, many have considered, was roused at the suggestion that Jesus might be such a man.

The other fear was that he was losing his chess match with the priests and he knew it, but this view doesn’t quite fit with the emphasis on his becoming more fearful or “very afraid” as some translations render it. Either way, Pilate was losing this match with the Jewish authorities and what will follow will reflect the spite he has in losing this contest.

Jesus was not the god-man, though, at least as Pilate (and later, Arius) suspected. Jesus was not part-god and part-man, but he is fully-god and fully-man — one person but two natures. He had to be both to do what he did. He had to become man to identify with us in our weakness and in our trials, to mediate for us, and then to die, facing off against our final adversary. Yet, to do so without sin and to pay for the sins of all the elect, he had to do so in the strength and power of his godhead. If either nature is compromised (not 100%), then he fails to do what the scriptures claim to be true and we are lost forever.

Yet, praise be to God that we are not lost forever! We have reliable witness not only to his life and death but to his resurrection from the dead — the great testimony to us that it is done — no longer does death hold power over our eternal state, but it is Christ and all Christ for those who flee to him. My prayer for you is that you do just that, that you run to the Son of God and not fear his wrath…clinging to him as Lord and Savior with all of your being.

We praise Thee, O God!

For the Son of Thy love,

For Jesus who died,

And is now gone above.

Hallelujah! Thine the glory.

Hallelujah! Amen.

Hallelujah! Thine the glory.

Revive us again.

-William Mackay

Crucify! Crucify!

“Thus, when they saw him, the chief priests and the assistants screamed out, ‘Crucify! Crucify!’ Pilate said, ‘Take him yourself and crucify, for I find no cause in him.’”

(John 19:6)
Pilate is playing a dangerous political game with the Jews at this point. On one level, his contempt for being manipulated by these Jewish officials shows through, but on another level, the chief priests have whipped the people into such a mob that there is no telling what is going to happen next. It is a very dangerous game of chess that he is playing and it seems as if his king is being boxed in move by move, each verbal interchange that is taking place.

Yet as intense as this interplay must have been at the time, God has superintended it all to bring it to the conclusion he has designed for his Son. Jew and Gentile are here together vying to see who would be responsible for the actual death of Jesus while the guilt fell on both groups. Sin is sin whether you are the hand that carries it out or whether you provide the thought that instigates it. There is no other word but “evil” to describe what is taking place.

But indeed, there is another word…and that is grace. Though the working and debating of Pilate and the Chief Priests is evil unbounded, God is overseeing these events to leave none guiltless and then to offer grace to those who turn toward his Son in faith. Loved ones, this is why Jesus is before these wicked men. It is not because of the plans of the wicked but it is because of the design of God the Father, that he, God the Son, be crushed for our sins and that he bear the iniquity of all believers upon his shoulders that we (believers) might become the righteousness of God. There are not words to describe the debt of gratitude and love we owe for this gift of grace…all we can do is commit our lives to serving Him who has given his life to save us.

Will you?

Behold the Man!

“And Pilate again went out and said to them, ‘Look, I am bringing him out again in order that you may know that I find nothing of cause in him.’ Therefore Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorn vines and the purple robe. And he said to them: “Behold the Man!”

(John 19:4-5)


On the face of it, it appears that Pilate is making one last, half-hearted, attempt to assuage his own conscience. And that may be so, but I think that there is more at stake than just a man trying to soothe his own worries for they intentionally leave the crown and robe upon Jesus. Thus the mockery of Jesus is made to extend to the mockery of the Jews. It is as if Pilate is saying to the Jewish authorities, “Look, I am giving you your king back, your king of thorns and a tattered cape.

Either way, Pilate parades Jesus before the crowd, making a spectacle of this “King of the Jews” — a pauper king in the eyes of the Roman authority — and pronounces again that he has done nothing to justify the penalty of death. Indeed, hear the emphasis he makes when he says, “behold the man!” Or perhaps we could word it: “Look at what we have reduced this man to; surely he is not a deliverer but simply a broken man before your eyes.” Yet Pilate only judged power by earthly standards.

But how often are professing Christians also guilty of viewing power by earthly standards as well? How guilty we are of appealing to worldly powers and not resting in the almighty power of our savior? How often we get intimidated by the threats this world lifts up when we serve the God who spun this very world into being. Beloved, let us live with the confidence that comes from serving our great King and not back down from the call he places on our lives. May our lives proclaim not the words of Pilate: “Behold the Man!” but may we proclaim: “Behold our God!”

Jesus in the Praetorium

“Then the governor’s soldiers took jurisdiction over him and brought him to the Praetorium where the whole Cohort was gathered.”

(Matthew 27:27)


“But the soldiers led him inside of the courtyard, that is the Praetorium, and they gathered the whole Cohort together.”

(Mark 15:16)


What strikes me about this passage is the number of soldiers present. A Cohort is a tenth of a Legion in Roman terms, which marks the number here at about 500 soldiers. This is the same term that is applied to the band of soldiers that Judas acquired from the priests to arrest Jesus, though those soldiers were most likely part of the Hebrew Temple Guard while these are Romans. One may speculate as to why so many soldiers needed to be present at the flogging of a single man. As Jesus and Pilate had already had a discussion about where Jesus’ Kingdom resided, perhaps Pilate was trying to show Jesus his own earthly kingdom or give Jesus a taste of the Roman kingdom. The number may also have to do with the timing of the event. This is Passover where the city of Jerusalem’s numbers would have swelled greatly. Perhaps he had all the soldiers there so that he could complete his judgment of Jesus. Jesus was being tried as an insurrectionist, so perhaps Pilate wanted to ensure that there would not be any more violence, this time brought on by those supporting Jesus. The answers to these questions we just cannot know on this side of the veil.

There is a significant theological purpose for what happens here, which ought to be noted. This palace or courtyard, known in Roman terminology as a Praetorium, was gentile ground. The Jewish priests had refused to enter these courts for doing so would have made them ritually unclean, and such would have made them ineligible to offer the sacrifices of the Passover that day. But note, in the Old Testament giving of the Passover commands (see Exodus 12), one of the instructions was that the passover lamb was to dwell in the house of those offering the lamb as a sacrifice. Typically this was done for a period of four days, though this was likely not consistently practiced given the prevalence of sellers haunting the streets and temple courts during this time. Nevertheless, here we find Jesus, having spent 4 days in the house of Jerusalem, now entering the house of the gentile — a reminder that the Gospel is not just for the Jewish people, but is for people from far off whom God will bring to himself…Jew and Gentile alike, through faith in Jesus Christ.

Remember, beloved, that there are no accidents in God’s providence and all things happen for a purpose. Jesus entered into this depth of sorrow for you and for me and for all of the elect through history that are trusting in Him as Lord and Savior. He is our Passover Lamb and we find our hope in Him.

Christians on the Sidelines

“Then he released Barabbas to them and scourging Jesus, he delivered him over that he should be crucified.”

(Matthew 27:26)


“But Pilate, wanting to make the crowd satisfied, released Barabbas to them, and delivered Jesus to be scourged in order that he should be crucified.”

(Mark 15:15)


“And Pilate had come to the decision to grant their request, so he released the one whom during the revolt had been thrown into prison for murder, which was whom they requested, and delivered up Jesus to their will.”

(Luke 23:24-25)


“Then Pilate took Jesus and had him scourged.”

(John 19:1)


Many of our English translations will render the beating that Jesus received as a scourging in the Synoptic Gospels and as a flogging in the Gospel of John. This is done to reflect the fact that two different words are being used here for these events. At the same time, the words are synonyms and each one can refer to a whipping, a flogging, or a scourging depending on their context, and, as it was the Roman custom to scourge a person before crucifixion to weaken him, this is the word that it seems sensible to choose.

A scourge is a whip with multiple strands coming forth from the handle and often would have little hooks or pieces of metal and stone woven into the ends for the purpose of tearing out hunks of flesh with each beating. In ancient times, these whips with metal ends were figuratively called “scorpions” respecting the amount of pain that they brought to the recipients of the beating. Indeed, such use adds light to the quote of Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, when he said: “my father disciplined you with whips; I will discipline you with scorpions.”

Notice how Luke focuses the attention on the wish of the Jews. Pilate chooses to grant their request, he releases Barabbas, whom they requested, and he delivers Jesus up to their will. Clearly, he is making sure that it is clear that it is the Jewish authorities and the Jewish mob that is figuratively driving the train in this matter. Pilate and Herod are still guilty, but it is the Jewish authorities that are ultimately behind this wicked, wicked event. And thus Pilate seeks to placate the crowd and send Jesus to be crucified.

All through these devotions we have been speaking about peer pressure, mob mentality, and the wicked politics that happen to be taking place here at the prompting of the enemy. But let me again remind you of how often we fall prey to not doing the right thing due to the fear of men. How often we make a choice based on human standards rather than divine ones. How often we are guilty, like this crowd, of following along and not risking doing what is right and true and just. Can you imagine how different our communities would be were we to do what is right and true, not fearing the pressure of the wicked, and seek justice…always. We would transform the culture. We often pray for revival and transformation in the culture, but beloved, it will not come if we satisfy ourselves sitting on the sidelines.

Blood on Their Hands

“And the people replied, saying, ‘His blood is on us and on our children!’”

(Matthew 27:25)


If ever a people did not understand the eternal ramifications of a statement, here is a prime illustration. How foolish, how wicked, how hateful, how grievous a statement. Having been whipped into a frenzy by the chief priests, these people could say no other thing — they wanted to see Jesus die. How the enemy, the accuser of the brethren, Satan, must have rejoiced at these words, feeling as if over 4,000 years of planning and scheming had finally come to a head and victory was within his grasp. Here are the people of a nation that God had set his blessings on, had given his law, and had given promises of blessing, turning away from all revealed truth and putting to death the greatest gift of mercy handed down by God to men. God’s chosen nation had turned apostate, led by a wicked cadre of priests, and sought to put to death the Prince of Peace — even rejoicing in the prospect of having his blood on their own hands for all of eternity.

Yet, God has always kept a people for himself — a faithful remnant. This remnant we will see as our Lord hangs upon the cross, this remnant is scattered throughout the Holy Land in homes and small gatherings, aching over the wickedness being perpetrated, and this remnant will carefully gather Jesus’ body and place it with dignity into a tomb. And this remnant would see our Lord resurrected. Even later, before God used the Romans to enter Jerusalem and tear it to the ground, God delivered his remnant from that wicked city and set them on a missionary journey throughout the world to tell of the good news that God offers reconciliation between himself and men through his Son, Jesus. And if you who are reading this are trusting in Jesus as your Lord and as your Savior, then you, too, are part of this remnant that God has faithfully preserved through the generations.

In the midst of what he must have considered his greatest triumph, Satan was ultimately destroyed, for the Lord of Life could not remain in death, such is the way of truth. And though we stand at a point in history somewhere between the first and second comings, we stand in the assurance that Satan will never steal this remnant out of our Lord’s hands. We are held secure. But as ones who are held secure, why do we so often act so timid when speaking of Christ to others? Why do we often make so little of him who did so much for us? Loved ones, do not despair, Christ sits enthroned, the worst Satan can do is to steal your flesh, but what is that when God preserves your soul?

“Fear not, little flock, it is the good pleasure of your Father to give you the kingdom.”

(Luke 12:32)

Hills to Die On

“Pilate said to them, ‘Then what am I to do with Jesus whom is called Christ?’ And they all said, ‘He shall be crucified!’”

(Matthew 27:22)


“And then Pilate again asked them saying, ‘What then do you wish for me to do with the one called King of the Jews?’ But they again shouted angrily: ‘Crucify him!’”

(Mark 15:12-13)


“Yet again Pilate called out to them, wishing to release Jesus. But they were shouting, saying: “Crucify! Crucify Him!’”

(Luke 23:20-21)


Perhaps we have simply heard these words too many times that we often miss the sheer horror of what is taking place. Here is an angry crowd — a mob really — crying out for the death of an innocent man. Luke describes them as shouting, Mark uses the term kra/zw (kradzo), which means to shout angrily or vehemently with ill intent. Even the repetition that Luke is recording just drives home the point even further about this angry mob. These people are out for blood and there is no way that Pilate does not see that as well. At this stage, justice is giving way to preserving control of the situation.

We do find a peek into the mindset of Pilate in these verses, though. Luke records that Pilate was intentionally seeking to find a way to release Jesus. What we will find in the verses that follow is that Pilate even goes as far as to protest Jesus’ innocence — not something we might expect from a Roman official, but indeed Pilate is no dummy nor is he a puppet of the Jews as some have portrayed him. He recognizes the innocence of Jesus, his wife has already warned him not to have anything to do with this man, and Pilate also realizes that most of this is taking place because of the jealousy of the Jewish officials. Yet, he is being pressed hard.

It strikes me as interesting that we often falter when it comes to such pressures as well. True, most of us don’t have to face tribunals like this, but how often we falter when pressed from various sides and sacrifice truth, justice, and righteousness, for an “out” from whatever it is that we happen to be facing. We compromise and what we fail to remember is that one compromise always begets another until we find ourselves losing the battle for which we once hoped to stand.

Beloved, we are fallen and frail and apart from the work of God in us there is nothing good that can come from us. Yet, let us find hills that we are willing to die on and let us make those hills Truth, Justice, and Righteousness. Let that hill to die on be the call of Christ for he indeed commands us to take up our cross and follow him.

King of the Jews… An Earthly or Divine King?

“Yet there is a custom with regard to you that I should release one to you during the Passover. Do you desire that I release to you the King of the Jews?”

(John 18:39)


There is a lot of overlap between the different Gospel accounts at this point in the trial, each Gospel writer emphasizing those aspects that the Spirit directed to be most valuable for their respective initial audiences. Though all four writes mention the title, “King of the Jews,” it seems to me that John’s use of the term is the most directed — it is set off in ways that make it more pronounced.

Clearly, Pilate does not see Jesus’ kingship as a threat to his own power or the trial would have been done with already. We have also seen already the conversation that Pilate had with Jesus about the nature of Jesus’ kingdom — that it is a heavenly kingdom, not an earthly one. So why is Pilate continuing to use this language? Clearly he is seeking to taunt the Jewish authorities. What a pathetic king, from a Roman standpoint at least, one whom a mere Roman Governor has the power of life and death over. You can almost see the Priests squirming at this statement and Pilate enjoying every minute of that confrontation. Who is manipulating whom, we might ask as the politics of the event continue to unfold.

Yet, in the midst of the politics, what an appropriate title. Jesus is the King of the Jews from old, he is the one to whom they have always and historically looked as their divine King, and he is the one that all True Israel serves even unto this day, for if we have faith in Jesus Christ, we are children of Abraham. And even today, Jesus sits enthroned on the right hand of God the Father Almighty, worthy of all praise and glory and adoration and honor. Worthy of our obedience and our love.

There will come a day when all nay-sayers will bow their knee before the Lordship of Christ — sadly, for many it will be to their utter condemnation and judgment. Amongst those are this group here who are bickering over who will execute our Lord. While each is trying to ensure that the blood of Christ is on the others hands, by the dynamics that take place, blood is on the hands of all. God’s providence is remarkable…remember what Peter said of this in his sermon at Pentecost:

“Men of Israel — Hear these words! Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was proven by God to you though might and wonders and signs which God did through him in your midst, just as you yourselves know, this one, by the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, was delivered up through the hands of lawless men to be crucified and killed.”

(Acts 2:22-23)

Do you hear what Peter is saying? Who delivered Jesus up? Lawless men did. But lawless men did it because of the definite plan or design and foreknowledge of God. God superintended all of these things from the beginning through miracle and providence to reach this end. An end that will bring salvation to all those who call on Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

In the end, we are left with one question. Which king will you serve? Will you serve a divine one that rules even today? Or will you serve an earthly king who will be here today and gone with the passing of God’s providential design. Pilate and Caesar are dead. Pilate and Caesar have bowed before the crushing foot of God’s justice and are facing judgement in the fires of hell. Jesus sits enthroned. Which king will you follow?


See No Evil…



“And Pilate said to him, ‘What is truth?’ After this he went out again to the Jews and said to them, ‘I find no grounds for a charge in him.’”

(John 18:38)


“Pilate then summoned the chief priests and the leaders and the people, saying to them, ‘You brought me this man as one who was misleading the people, but behold, I have examined him before you and I found no guilt in this man with respect to your charges against him. And neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us. Behold, nothing deserving of death has been done by him. Thus I will punish and release him.’”

(Luke 23:13-16)


There is some overlap here, but Luke is really just providing us with a little more detail on the content of the conversation being had between Pilate and the Jewish authorities. Frankly, Pilate wants nothing to do with this Jesus. The offer to release is an interesting one that we will reflect on further when we approach the tradition of releasing a prisoner at Passover, but one can speculate what was going through Pilate’s mind. Here is an angry mob desiring Jesus’ death, if he releases this man to the mob, what else would he expect apart from the mob’s angry murder of the man? Essentially, he must know that Jesus’ blood will be spilled, the question will be, by whose hands and Pilate wants nothing of it — and neither did Herod, which is (on a human level) why they are passing Jesus back and forth like a hot potato. Of course, in hindsight, we recognize that each player in this account is culpable and the passing back and forth is divinely designed to ensure that all the wicked had a part in this man’s death.

And when speaking of “all the wicked,” that finger needs to be pointed at us as well. It is because of sin that Jesus was sent to die — and it is because of our sin that we need that sacrificial death of our Lord. That means we too are part of that guilty group that would condemn Jesus. We stand guilty with the crowd of shouting, “Crucify!” if only by our actions.

How often, too, we stand with Pilate in wanting to turn a blind eye toward sin and unrighteousness. It is easy to fall into that trap. Somehow we get it in our heads that if we don’t see it, touch it, taste it, smell it, or hear about it (like those five monkeys) we won’t be guilty of it. But what if we know about it? Washing our hands of the act, as Pilate did, does not excuse our guilt. God regularly calls his people to seek to work justice in this world, especially for the poor and outcast — and Jesus qualifies on both levels at this point! So, the sin of omission is just as damning as the sin of commission.

Loved ones, examine your lives and reflect on how God calls you to take a stand in this world. It might not be in a murder trial, but God might be calling you to take a stand against injustice in your local community and not remain silent even if remaining silent is the popular thing to do. Ultimately it is God’s design that our sins would be wiped clean by this work of Christ and the cross to come, but we must understand that we all stand guilty of Jesus’ death because of our sins. Let us live in a way that reflects that knowledge and does not follow the pattern of Pilate and Herod.

What is Truth?

“And Pilate said to him, ‘What is truth?’ After this he went out again to the Jews and said to them, ‘I find no grounds for a charge in him.’”

(John 18:38)


Pilate’s iconic statement, “What is Truth?” is one that not only sets the context of his Roman culture, but speaks across the generations into the world in which we live today. The two dominant philosophical world views of the ancient Roman culture are that of Stoicism and Nominalism. Stoicism is the view that we are really more or less pawns in a much larger game where the gods and the fates control our lives. It is a view that we have limited freedom, but ultimately what is to come to pass will come to pass so there is no reason to get too excited or upset about the events of your life. In this perspective any form of transcendent truth is shadowed and unknowable, held in the hands of fate.

Nominalism follows very naturally with the Stoic view. This is the perspective that there are no such things as absolutes. In ancient times, Plato and Aristotle had argued for the existence of absolute and perfect “forms” that are the basis for all representations we experience on earth. Thus, we may draw a circle on a blackboard, but the circle is not a perfect one — instead it is a representation of the “perfect circle” that exists as a form — or we might say as a definition. The same idea can be applied to trees, dogs, ideas, etc… For Plato, those forms existed in a transcendental, spiritual world. For Aristotle, those forms existed within the thing itself. Either way, forms existed. But as we moved into the rise of Roman thought over Greek thought, the idea of forms was discarded and people held that these forms were simply names (hence nominalism) given to such things. There was no such thing, for example, as an absolute circle from which all circles get their meaning. Instead, circle was just the name we give to things falling within a certain class of entities. And thus, any concept of an absolute Truth was abandoned.

It should be easy to see Pilate’s displeasure at Jesus’ statement that he came to testify to the Truth. “What truth?” “Truth is just a name we give to ideas we prefer.” “If there is such a thing as absolute truth, it is unknowable, so why bother searching for it or listening to it?” One can almost hear the dismissal in Pilate’s tone when he finally responds: “What is truth?” This is not a question seeking an answer, it is a remark of a frustrated governor who is weary of the prospect of rebellious messiah figures, political maneuvering by the Priests, and what he would consider the superstitions of the people. He simply returns to the Jews and essentially says, “Look folks, you haven’t given me any basis on which I can charge him.”

Stoicism and Nominalism have more or less passed out of vogue, but today’s post-modern culture, while rejecting fatalism almost entirely, has embraced a rejection of absolutes. In  our culture truth is no longer seen as transcendent and as a result it finds its meaning in the self-definition of every person. This is not an entirely new idea, a contemporary of Plato was a man named Protagorus, sometimes seen as the first humanist, who is best known for his phrase, “man is the measure of all things.” Plato easily demonstrated the foolishness of such a thought, for who is the measure of man? Nevertheless, the words of Pilate are much the same of many in the western world today — what is truth?

The answer to the question is that truth is contained in the mind of God and that we can know truth by his self-revelation (Jesus came to testify to the Truth — the ultimate self-revelation of God!). We find that self-revelation contained in the Bible and contained in the universe around us that testifies to the glory of God (so long as we look at the universe through the lens of scripture). Loved ones, there is Truth and it is accessible to us — Jesus made it so. What is Truth? Look to Christ.