Faith Matters

Andrew Watson: What is the Good Friday truth?

Good Friday, celebrated tomorrow, marks the trial, Crucifixion, death and burial of Christ. Andrew Watson reflects on Pilate's famous question 'What is truth?'

Rev Andrew Watson

The Empty Cross of Holy Saturday, by Catherine Makem

HERE is a sad and cynical question which the Roman governor Pontius Pilate asks while interrogating Jesus: "What is truth?"

It's understandable. The uncomfortable truth, which Pilate realises, is that humanly speaking this trial is a set-up, the culmination of a jealous vendetta by Jewish leaders desperate to cling onto their limited power.

But then so is he. Word of unrest in Palestine must not get back to Rome. This is the only truth Pilate knows - he's built his career on it - so, not for the first time, he suppresses what's left of his conscience and signs the death warrant.

But there's more to the truth than Pilate and many others might wish to see.

The truth is that there is a higher throne, a higher judgement seat than his, or that of any human authority.

In fact, it's not Jesus who is on trial but Pilate himself, along with the high priest Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin.

The Apostle John was eyewitness to these events. He writes of a better and higher truth than just our shameful human compromises with evil.

His purpose in writing is to proclaim the Gospel, the 'good news' of Jesus, who has come into the world from the Father "full of grace and truth" to be the Saviour of all who believe.

The divine "Word" became flesh and made his home among us, so that whoever receives him and believes in his name is given power to become a child of God and will not perish but have everlasting life.

John presents us with examples of people discovering this life and salvation: the guests at the wedding party, the pharisee Nicodemus, the woman at the well in Samaria, a disabled man, a blind man, even a dead man.

Jesus, Son of God, Saviour of the world; the Holy Spirit sent to live in the hearts of His followers; the Word of God, written in Scripture; this is the most vital truth the world needs to hear

Jesus says that those who hold onto and practise his teachings are his disciples who "know the truth".

He is the only way for sinners like us to approach the judgement seat of God and call Him "Father". "I am the way," he declares, "I am the truth, and the life."

On the cross on that first Good Friday, Jesus demonstrated and put into effect the truth of God's justice, his uncompromising holiness coupled with his amazing grace and love.

God detests our sin and rebellion, but he loves us dearly. Justice is satisfied and sin atoned for by the offering of the pure and perfect Lamb of God.

All this mercy and forgiveness and generous blessing of life is paid for with our Lord's suffering.

The way is cleared, the truth made plain, the life offered to all who will receive it.

Jesus, Son of God, Saviour of the world; the Holy Spirit sent to live in the hearts of His followers; the Word of God, written in Scripture: this is the most vital truth the world needs to hear.

John, the eyewitness, is unapologetic about his agenda as he comes towards the end of his Gospel: "Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples that are not recorded in this book.

"But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name" (John 20: 30-31).

Two thousand years later, this truth of Jesus remains and continues to transform lives in every corner of every continent.

It's not just Pilate and Caiaphas who are on trial. The whole world stands guilty before its maker; you and I are being weighed today in the balances of the Almighty. What will the verdict be?

The Rev Andrew Watson is minister of the Presbyterian congregations in Dunfanaghy and Carrigart in Donegal. He blogs at

Rev Andrew Watson

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