When Good Men (or anyone, for that matter) Do Nothing (or too little)

Then Pilate took Jesus and flogged him. And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe. They came up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and struck him with their hands. Pilate went out again and said to them, “See, I am bringing him out to you that you may know that I find no guilt in him.” So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Behold the man!” When the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out, “Crucify him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no guilt in him.” The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has made himself the Son of God.” When Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid. He entered his headquarters again and said to Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. 10 So Pilate said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” 11 Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.” -John 19:1-11


An image from my 2016 Portfolio “Unsung Heroes: A Visual Parable” These images remind us that just as many things are working behind the scenes, and without our notice, so God is holding all things together through the word of his power. We often take his presence and protection for granted.

I have been paralyzed before the audacity of others: unable to speak in the face of an outrageous comment, unwilling to stick my neck out when someone needed to act. Perhaps you have too. Sad. Shameful. Sinful.

This is the place of Pilate here. He was the governor, however, and could have spoken more clearly than, “I find not guilt in him.” That could have been his last word and it would have been enough. Because it wasn’t his last word, Jesus died at the hands of the Roman authorities.

But this is no failure of nerve that caused Jesus’ death. It was not just because Pilate would not stand up to the Jewish leaders. It was because God was running the events of those days in a very specific manner: Jesus was going to die at the hands of the Romans, all according to the plans of God.

It’s a good thing he did: for there are too many of us who do not act when we should or could. There are too many of us who fail to speak when we ought to. There are too many of us who fail. In fact, for most Christians, our most grievous sins are sins of omissions. Thank God Jesus did not fail to speak or to act. Thank God that he acted for our redemption. Thank God that though good men fail God’s goodness never fails. Thanks be to God indeed, for I need a Savior. And so do you. His name is Jesus and he has acted definitively in our behalf.

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