John 18:28 – 19:16 – What Do You Stand for?
Lately, I have been practicing withholding judgment against the inaction of individual’s. I’ve begun this practice because I’m recognizing that the inaction of others most often results from ignorance or lack of urgency, not from maliciousness or hatred.
I don’t want to put someone on trial in my heart who does not intend to do me wrong. So the best thing to do is allow my feeling towards someone else’s inaction fall.
Jesus in the Gospel of John chapters 18 and 19 is on trial not for inaction but for generous and truthful action. His concern, compassion and desire for God’s creation leads to his crucifixion.
There is also a man named Pontius Pilate. Pilate is not too concerned about Jesus’ claims to be a king, yet Pilate administers some punishment. Pilate is complicit. If we are honest with ourselves, many of us are like Pilate.
We won’t judge the innocent, we might punish the bold, but we will certainly wash our hands of responsibility of standing against injustice if it becomes more inconvenient than we desired.
Yet we are also swayed. When the world shouts loud enough we bend often forgetting what we are called to stand for because of fear. Or we back ourselves into another box of identity that is other than Christian. We might back into: conservative, liberal, progressive, American, Russian, man, woman, vegan, straight, gay, white, black, fat, fit, famous, obscure.
For Jesus, He was accused of being false. The Truth, the Light, the Life, The Resurrection, the Divine is accused and crucified because others did not recognize who He really was. The same type of accusations come against you and me. They try to make us forget what or rather who we are meant to live for or potentially die for.
What amazes me about this trial in the Gospel of John is what turns Pilate. If you read too quickly, you might miss that for a few moments, Pilate is the one on trial.
Jesus tells him in John 19:11 “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.”
Jesus lets Pilate know where Pilate’s power comes from…
but so does the crowd.
In 19:12 the crowd yells, “If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.”
Pilate is asked to choose between allegiance to the empire or allegiance to God. But Pilate doesn’t know God or truth. He does however, know Caesar.
Caesar writes his check, Caesar keeps him safe, Caesar keeps him comfortable, Caesar is the one who Pilate perceives as the one with power.
And when I am not careful, I might forget that God is greater than the nation in which I live and greater than my perception of the other things that seem to speak power: money, status, responsibility, personal records while lifting weights.
The temptation to trust in other forms of power is often subtle and often presents itself as reasonable. I believe John, in his Gospel, is trying to show us just before Jesus’ death, that what we trust in other than God eventually reveals itself as evil.
It reveals that no matter how firm your or my stance, if it is not grounded in faith in Christ, it will undo our devotion. We become willing to hand over rather than stand on.
Because humanity consistently proves our willingness to hand over, Jesus takes the stand first. He accepts his fate to garner our allegiance through bloody dangling death by hanging on wood from nails.
He takes our punishment, then holds the power to judge, and in his fiery compassion is both willing and patient to allow us to decide our own verdict.