“Jesus answered him, ‘I have spoken frankly to the world — I have always taught in the synagogues and in the temple where all the Jews gather. And in secret I have said nothing. Why then do you question me? Question the ones who heard me as to what I said to them. Look, they know what I said!”
To those who like to insist that the word “world” — ko/smoß (kosmos) — always refers to all people without any exceptions, here is a great illustration of the breadth of the term. For clearly, the world of whom Jesus is saying he has spoken to is not talking about all people without any exceptions. Instead, Jesus is implying that he has spoken to all kinds of people in the length of his ministry and in doing so he has spoken openly, boldly, plainly, and frankly. Certainly, in some contexts, the word ko/smoß (kosmos) can refer to all people without exception, but it must be noted that there is a breadth in the usage of the term such that context must be the key to understanding this word’s meaning when it is used.
What is more significant is Jesus’ statement to Annas that he has spoken nothing in secret. There are some who would challenge this statement citing the times when Jesus took the disciples to the side to instruct them or who would cite that the purpose of Jesus’ parables was to keep the unbelievers in the dark as to what Jesus was communicating (Matthew 13:13). While it is true that Jesus did take his disciples to the side on occasion, there was nothing secretive about these actions and the disciples were there as a witness to what it is that Jesus taught. Jewish culture also required two to three witnesses to charge a person with a serious crime — Jesus always took at least three (Peter, James, and John) with him so that they could record what was said and done. In terms of the parables, they were being spoken publicly, if the spiritual truth behind the message was unrevealed that stood as condemnation against the unbelieving Jewish officials, not as judgment against Jesus.
The bottom line is that Jesus is not going to recognize that these false judges have any authority over him — thus he does not legitimize their late night travesty of justice by answering their questions. He simply says, go ask the witnesses. If the witnesses would speak truth, there would be nothing that they could charge Jesus with — but truthfully or otherwise, the wicked priests had arrested Jesus for the purpose of murdering him — this evening would not come to a close without them making their charges — in this case, through trumped up false witnesses, but here I get ahead of myself.
And thus begins the false trial of Jesus in Caiaphas’ court. Perhaps, though for us, it is most important that we ask the question of ourselves — what have we been teaching others by our words and by our actions? Can we say, with Jesus, that our faith has been articulated in a way that would be considered bold, frank, or otherwise plain? Could witnesses to the things we have said and done articulate what we really believe? Would those witnesses even know you as a Christian by what you have talked about on a lunch break at work or at the ballfield? Sadly, I fear that “bold, plain, or frank” would not be an adjective that could accurately describe the lives of many professing Christians in America today. Yet, if the problem is noticed, the next step is to correct the error. Will you do so in your life? Will you strive to the kind of witness that speaks truthfully of Christ to a world that is in desperate need of the Gospel?