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TRUTH, PEACE, and MISSION

John 18: 28-38 & 20: 21-22

In Johns gospel, the scene of Jesus appearance before Pilate unfolds. Jesus mission inevitably
led to a face-to-face encounter with Pilate, the representative of the Imperial power in Palestine.
Jesus is led, bound, from Caiaphas house to Pilates headquarters on the day of preparation for
Passover.

At the outset of Johns narrative, the evangelist specifies that the Jews did not enter the
praetorium so as not to incur legal impurity which would prevent them from celebrating the
Passover on that very evening (18.24, 28).

Now, since the questioning of Jesus must necessarily be conducted inside the praetorium, there
follows a series of scene changes in which Pilate continuously goes out of the praetorium to
argue with the Jews, then reenters to interrogate Jesus. Pilate asks what accusation they bring
against Jesus. Rather than state the charges, the religious leaders respond that they have already
established that Jesus is a criminal. Pilate answers that, if the religious leaders found Jesus guilty,
they should also punish him. However, the religious leaders wanted Pilate to execute Jesus
because he was not only guilty of a religious crime but also political.

If Jesus is to die a Roman death, he must be a threat to Rome, a subversive. Pilate must question
Jesus to determine if he is one (John 18:33-38). Are you the king of the Jews? Pilate asks.
Jesus answered My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent
my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.

Another way of saying this is to state that the royal power of Jesus does not belong to the world
from below; it is not founded on constraint or violence, it does not lean on another earthly power,
but it comes from above (19,11), from God alone.

However, it should be pointed out that Jesus kingdom was not apolitical or indifferent to the
Roman Empire. Rather, when seen in conjunction with his ministry as a whole, Jesus was
offering a different politics to Roman imperial politics. The language of kingdom itself
indicates that Jesus understood himself to be posing a contrast between his community and
Rome. According to Jesus, Gods Kingdom is a Kingdom base on TRUTH.

Jesus is a different kind of king, rejecting the militarism and hoarding of wealth that
characterized emperors. He advocates inclusiveness, humility, and mercyall in contrast to how
the Roman leaders lord it over them.

v.37 You are a king, then! said Pilate. Jesus answered, You say that I am a king. In fact, the
reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth
listens to me.

Jesus offers Pilate to listen to his testimony and be part of the truth, but Pilate dismisses Jesus
answer to his question, What is truth? Moreover, with this, he went out again to the Jews
gathered there and said, I find no basis for a charge against him.

Despite the truth of Jesus innocence, Pilate condemned Jesus to death. Pilate did what was
convenient, rather than upholding the truth. Instead of listening to the voice of his conscience,
the truth, he chose to silence Jesus. For Him, the measure of truth was the Roman Empire: its
global power, its conquests, and subjection of many peoples, its total exploitation of the occupied
people. There was no greater truth than that. By rejecting the truth, Pilate commits the ultimate
cruelty and permits the death of the innocent one. To sdeny the truth is to commit injustice. And
any act of injustice entails a denial of truth.

However, truth cannot remain hidden. You cannot kill truth. Jesus rose from the dead. The
resurrection of Jesus after the Empire killed him was a powerful message. Empire uses the fear
of death to control the dominated population. As long as people know that Rome can destroy and
kill them, as long as they know that Pilate has no scruples condemning an innocent man and
killing him, people will be afraid and despair. They will submit to Imperial power because they
fear torture and death. Resurrection and the greeting of peace subvert the Imperial power and
make the story of Jesus resurrection dangerous to Rome.

v.21: Jesus said to them again, Peace be with you; As the Father has sent me, even so I send
you. The mission of the disciples proceeds from the Easter event (cf. Mt. 28,16-20; Mk 16, 15-
20; Lk 24,44-49; Ac 1,7-8); but John sees it as deriving from the entire mission of Jesus (17,17-
19). This peace that Jesus offered is not the same with Pax Romana, which is based on violence,
fear, conquest, and death. Jesus peace brings life and hope. Jesus resurrection also exposes
those who lie, deceive and suppress the truth are real threats to genuine peace. Jesus hopes that
His followers will be an instrument of peacenot violence or war.

v.22: And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, Receive the Holy Spirit.
It evokes the first creation of human (Gn 2,7) and suggests that we are dealing here with a new
creation, with a genuine resurrection (as in Ez 37,9; cf. also Rm 4,17). Thus, the Spirit will be
the power of salvation which enables the disciples to carry the mission of Jesus.

REFLECTION

1. Jesus confrontation with Pilate, a truth-denier exposes the actual violence of empire toward
any and all perceived threats. Despite the truth of Jesus innocence, Pilate condemned Jesus to
death. To reject truth is to commit injustice. With social media, internet and other means of
telecommunication, truth should be more accessible today. But what we are seeing is the exact
opposite. We live in a day that not only denies truth, but is against truth. What we have today an
increasing censorship and the proliferation of fake news. Some government officials, leaders
of corporations including religious institutions have employed deception, disinformation, and
suppression of the truth. Many seek power, domination, money, control, military might, political
rule, and fameanything but truth. They have lied to people and subverted the truth just to
remain in power just like Pilate.

In Asia, there are many issues that powerful groups politicians, corporations, State, and
religious leader want to remain buried or distorted. But there is one issue that Churches in Asia
must address. Its the reality of climate change. Despite irrefutable evidence from around the
worldincluding extreme weather events, record temperatures, melting glaciers and rising sea
levelsall point to the fact that climate change is happening now and at rates much faster than
previously thought, there are powerful people like Pres. Trump, who deny that climate change
exists or that humans are causing it. Trump recently has withdrawn from the Paris Agreement to
climate change, a commitment to limit global warming. Moreover, we know that many countries
in Asia are vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Whether climate impacts for a particular
place are worst or mild, one thing will be certain: the poor will suffer more than others. The
reason is simple and straightforward: they are poor. Denying the truth of climate change will
result in climate injustice.

Followers of Jesus, of all people, should be unremitting critics of those who deny the truth and
those who peddle alternative truths whenever they arise. Christians in Asia cannot close their
eyes to the truth. We are called to bear witness to the TRUTH. Like Jesus, Churches in Asia
must be ready to face todays Pilate(s).

However, before engaging in the authorities, we need to be informed. The more informed the
Churches are, the better they can face the authorities of this world. Reliable information depends
largely on the capacity to gather it. Government, corporation and powerful groups have the
tendency to be unduly secretive and insufficiently concerned about communicating what they are
doing. Here churches have a vital role to fulfill, not only for their members but also to the public
at large. With their available resources, they can gather the much-needed information and share
the information to guide the general public. Access to the truth is vital in the pursuit of justice
and peace.

2. The Gospels story of Jesus, of course, does not end with his execution. When God raised
Jesus from the dead, God reveals that truth cannot remain buried. It explains the mission of the
disciples. Jesus said, Peace be with you; As the Father has sent me, even so, I send you. God
sends Christ in mission to the world, and Christ, in turn, sends the Church in mission to the
world. But, in what does this mission consist?

This is a challenge to Asian Christians considering that Asia is the home of some of the world's
great living religions. Christian mission and proclamation of Christian truth may not have
always led to peace but conflict. Asian Christians are acutely aware that some of these conflicts
have been abetted if not aggravated by religions, flaring up in open armed conflicts and bloody
repression as in Indonesia between Muslims and Christians; the armed conflict in Southern
Thailand between its military and Muslim militants, the communal violence between Hindus and
Muslims in India; and between Buddhists and Rohingya Muslim in Myanmar.
The risen Jesus has sent his followers to be an instrument of peace. Witnessing to the truth will
lead to peace. The center and heart of the Church's mission, which is God's mission, is to
proclaim Gods reconciling love to humanity and creation which Jesus has ushered. Hence,
Churchs mission in Asia, like her master, is sent on a mission to proclaim the truth that leads to
peace. Jesus made peace with God for the entire human race and gave the church to convey his
peace.

GUIDE QUESTIONS

1. What is Truth? When is truth prophetic? When is it liberating? How can Christians in Asia
be a witness to the truth in the face of fake news, alternative facts and lies of the powerful?

2. Jesus said, Peace be with you; As the Father has sent me, even so, I send you. How can the
Churchs proclamation of the Truth lead to peace? In what ways?