We live in a post-truth world full of fake news.
How many people were at President Trump’s inauguration or the recent march against gun violence?
How did Russia influence the US election and how many people has it poisoned in the UK?
What is really going on in Syria? Locally, we have ongoing debates about Brexit, the Good Friday Agreement and attempts to rewrite the past.
More data will be produced between 2017 and 2018 than in the whole of the last 5,000 years.
So swamped with data and with truth in doubt, we have seen the rise of fact-checking organisations, but even they don’t claim or even seem that interested in the truth. That’s the difference between knowledge and wisdom - facts are important, but we need to know what to do with them.
None of this is new. When Jesus was brought before Pilate on that first Easter, the disciple John records the exchange. “Are you the King of the Jews?” asks Pilate. Jesus’ response is provocative, laced with dark humour.
He wants to know if Pilate is asking for himself or if others have put him up to it. Pilate is slightly indignant, “Do I look like a Jew?” He is under pressure from the chief priests and wants to know what Jesus has done to offend them. His role is to keep the peace and Jesus is making that difficult.
Jesus begins to talk about his kingdom. His kingship is not like Pilate’s - it is not about fighting and violence - in fact the opposite.
Pilate thinks Jesus has slipped up by talking about a kingdom and he declares triumphantly, “so you are a King?” Jesus gently explains, “You say I am a king. I came to the world to witness to the truth and anyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate clearly doesn’t get it and like Trump or Putin says “What is truth?”
Truth on its own can be hard to deal with. But on the cross Jesus also demonstrated the power of love. We live in a world of gun violence in schools, the growing #metoo movement and we read tragic stories everyday in our newspapers. We desperately need truth and love.
The truth is that the cross is not a celebration of violence but the moment when Jesus absorbed the violence of this world and took it out of circulation. The truth is that on the cross God’s love and wrath were satisfied, justice was done, and we were forgiven.
The fact that Jesus lived and died is not seriously disputed by historians. But it is the truth that he was God in human flesh and rose from the dead that divides history.
And it is the truth of resurrection Sunday that enables and empowers us to forgive others - to be merchants of holy hope.
In our post-truth world, the truth matters more than ever. The evidence for Jesus is overwhelming but he is not a theory to be proved, rather a person to be encountered. This Easter why not discover the greatest news story of all time and decide if it’s fake or true?
Peter Lynas, Evangelical Alliance NI