Taking a stance

Luke 23:1-25

Your stance dictates what you’re trying to accomplish.  The proper stance is the difference between crushing a home run or poking a slow ground ball to the shortstop, or it could determine whether you appear confident when delivering a presentation or come across as terribly awkward instead.

In the face of scrutiny and unfounded, twisted accusations (Luke 23:1-2), Jesus takes up His stance — the very stance He would maintain all the way to the cross. The Jewish officials push Jesus to a Roman governor to get Him in trouble for treason, because there are rumors floating around that He’s looking to take over the throne in the region surrounding Jerusalem.  To address the matter, the governor Pilate asks a question outright: “Are you the king of the Jews?”

To avoid punishment or further mockery, Jesus could just state that He meant no harm, and apologize for stirring up a mob and be on His way.  He also take the hyper aggressive approach and toast everyone in a Mt. Carmel-like firestorm of judgment. Instead, He assents to Pilate’s question and answers, “It is as you say.” (v. 3)

Jesus’ stance is definitive and unchanging, much like His Father’s character. He doesn’t waffle — in the midst of turmoil, He is unwavering.

To get the Jews off his back, Pilate sends Jesus to Herod so the Jews can be appeased by their own (v. 7).  King Herod isn’t much help, to say the least; while Herod seems fascinated with Jesus and His miracles (v. 8), Herod is not concerned with Jesus’ fate.  He begins interrogating Jesus “with many words”, indicating a lack of substance in his speech — Jesus completely snubs him in response.  In an act of mockery, Herod and the Jewish mob adorn Jesus in a fancy robe (v. 11), and then send Him back to Pilate.

Herod’s stance is unstable and inconsistent. What he does is dependent upon emotion and circumstance. Overjoyed at the start, he resorts to looking impressive in front of the crowd, then becomes furious once he doesn’t get his way.

The infuriated Jewish horde escorts Jesus back to Pilate, finding the governor still seemingly indifferent to the Jews’ demands to see Jesus brought to justice.  Pilate accuses the Jewish people of inciting a riot. But — as other gospels indicate — Pilate fears the mob and appeases them by suggesting they punish Jesus in some way before releasing Him. (v. 16). To further appeal to them, He releases a prisoner hoping they’ll eventually calm down. Pilate continues to fight for Jesus’ release, but the Jews grow increasingly hostile and demand crucifixion (v. 20-21). Eventually, Pilate relents and allows them to do as they please to Jesus. (v. 25)

Pilate’s stance is one of compromise. He is swayed by the masses because he fears a backlash and a hit to his reputation. The pressure of his surroundings close in on him, and he buckles to please the people.

We’ve found ourselves in all three of these positions at times. Sometimes we demonstrate compromise, when our level of integrity dips because we become selfish, determined to do it our way.  Sometimes we avoid having any stance whatsoever, becoming unstable in thought and emotions because there is no foundation present.

But let us strive to remain in an unchanging position. This is not popular; people like to use expressions like “go with the flow” and being “an empty canvas”. While it appears this would be a way to develop character, it only makes you a product of environment rather than the product of what God would like from you.  We all want to be different; God created us to venture and explore, but we must be willing to stand on the foundation of the Lord and let Him guide our steps.

I find Jesus’ journey to the cross incredibly compelling because He never veers off course.  He recognizes the mission, even with His humanity trying to distract Him. He lets a close friend betray Him, ignores the raucous crowds, submits to horrible punishment, and finally succumbs to the death penalty.

While this will likely never be our fate, we must persist and maintain our stance. It not only keeps us steady and helps us dodge compromise, but we begin to mimic the Lord Himself, which is our goal as His children.

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