Dead – or just asleep? – What’s the truth?
In John 18 v38 Pilate asks the million dollar question – “What is Truth?” Of course, even if he wasn’t really looking for an answer, the fact that he is addressing Jesus, who IS the Truth, is highly ironic! But looking at this led me to think about how I would actually answer Pilate’s question to some of my friends today, given that the concept of any sort of universal truth is pretty alien. I started by looking at how the dictionary defines truth, and the 2 definitions are interesting:
1. A fact or belief that is accepted as true
2. That which is in accordance with fact or reality
Both of these link truth to something that is generally accepted by society as being solid fact or reality. But, of course, facts about all sorts of things are ever-evolving due to new discoveries and advances in science etc. What are the facts and realities that we are going to use as our benchmark? Clearly our human view of reality depends on our perspective – and aren’t there are as many perspectives as there are people!?
Wasn’t it old Obi Wan Kenobi who said – “Luke, you will find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view”. In a sense he’s right, but a Biblical definition of truth would say Truth = Reality from GOD’S perspective. All other vantage points on reality cannot take in the fullness of Truth seen through God’s eyes. A great example of this is in Luke 8, the Healing of Jairus’ daughter.
In v49 the synagogue leader comes to Jairus to tell him “Your daughter is dead”. I think it would be fair to take from this that medically speaking the girl had actually died and that what the synagogue leader stated was indeed a fact.
But was it the Truth?
Jesus goes on say “Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed” and he is laughed at as he goes in to the house and tells them all “she is not dead but asleep”. In all honesty, it’s not hard to imagine laughing in this situation – the words don’t match up with what the HUMAN eyes are seeing in front of them – a dead girl! But Jesus sees with eyes of FAITH and of course the girl does indeed live. In fact it says ‘her spirit returned’ which underlines the fact that something much more than normal sleep had occurred.
Luke’s account shows that faith is the key to accessing God’s reality (I believe Bob Dylan may have a song or two on this point!)
I found it very interesting to discover that Faith and Truth both stem from the same root word ‘aman’ in Hebrew. This word means ‘firmness, certainty, reliability’. I’m sure those would not be words that a modern dictionary would attribute to faith, which is often seen as something nebulous and hard to pin-down. Hebrews 11 v1 in the amplified Bible says:
“Now Faith is the assurance (the confirmation, the title deed) of the things [we} hope for, being the proof of things [we] do not see and the conviction of their reality [faith perceiving as real fact what is not revealed to the senses]”.
Is that not exactly what Jesus was demonstrating in that house? Faith perceived life in that girl when no human eye or examination could detect it – and by faith it was assured and confirmed. Cause for celebration!
The challenge, of course, is to live this out in our world of facts and figures. Am I prepared in any given situation to ‘see’ beyond the limits of my human eyes and allow myself to be guided by God with eyes of faith? Am I prepared to be laughed at like Jesus? And to answer Pilate’s question, well words are never going to really cut it. Jesus didn’t offer any to him at that point, he didn’t need to; his whole life gave the answer.