Pilate was a well-educated man, a man who had succeeded – at least in the eyes of the world. He was the viceroy, a Roman Governor-General. He was at the peak of his career – power, prestige, wealth, everything was his. Whatsoever he had been doing in his life had paid him well. Facing him was Jesus, almost a hobo, a failure, one who had not achieved anything – at least in the eyes of the world. He had no power, no prestige, not even respectability. He was just at the other end of life, a tremendous failure, mocked, jeered, insulted. Whatsoever he had been doing had all failed. It had not paid him in any way. His life was futile – at least for others.
The successful man asked the failure, “What is truth?”
There are two types of successes in the world. One, the worldly, which is not really a success but just trying to deceive yourself, just trying to keep up faces, appearances. The eyes are full of tears but you go on smiling; the heart is miserable, but you go on showing something else, just the opposite, to the world. They say “nothing succeeds like success” but I would like to tell you “nothing fails like success.” As far as the inner journey is concerned, as far as the transcendental is concerned, nothing fails like success and nothing succeeds like failure.
The first possibility is that the question was not sincere, it was asked just by the way. The man was well educated, well trained in philosophical concepts. He could have asked the question as a philosophical question. Then Jesus remained silent because the question was not really asked and there was no need to answer it.
The second possibility is that the question was sincere, that the question was not just a childish curiosity, that there was passion behind it, that it was authentic. Then why did Jesus remain silent? He remained silent because if this ultimate question is authentically asked then silence is the answer, because there is no way to answer it except silence. The question is so profound that words will not be capable of answering it. The question is so deep that words will not be able to reach it, to touch it – only silence will.
If the second is the case then Jesus did answer it, but he answered it by silence.
There is also a third possibility: that the question was sincere and yet not so sincere, that it was ambiguous, split – which was probably the case because where can you find a man who is total? A part of him was authentically asking, another part was pretending, “Even if you don’t answer I am not in a hurry. And even if you don’t answer, I don’t mind because in fact I don’t need it. In fact, I know the answer already, I am asking just to test you.”
The question was ambiguous, Janus-faced. That seems to be more probable because that is how man is and has always been – split. A part of Pilate feels the truth of this man who is standing before him – a complete, utter failure, but yet his eyes are luminous, yet he has a glow. Pilate can feel it, can almost touch it. Yet another part, the egoist part, is not ready to surrender, so he pretends he is asking only casually – “Even if you don’t answer, don’t be worried. It is not my need. In fact, I already know the answer.”