Passive-aggressive behavior

John 19:1-16

I’ve written a lot of “what do we do with Jesus” blogs because the man is clearly an enigma.

Everyone has some idea of who God is, or whether or not He exists, but it is difficult to overlook the stumbling block that is Jesus. By no means does He contradict what God says, but He has a way of rattling the devout as well as the casual observer in a way no one else ever has.

If you look through the gospels, it seems He runs into constant trouble.  As soon as Jesus starts teaching, or doing miracles, or just showing up to stuff, He stirs up the religious folks and makes quite a tumult.

This is entirely by design, and really, what makes the man so fascinating.

Jesus has been at it for a few years now, and by the time we arrive at His trial before being crucified, there are two prominent groups that develop around this man: the proactive and the inactive.

The proactive

The Jews are furious. Not only has Jesus ruined their reputation by acting as an authority and performing miracles (“working”) on the Sabbath, but their disdain has topped out, for Jesus has made a public proclamation of His deity.

Remember that these are religious folks. They’re solid, hardcore deists that do everything by the book. You’d love these guys heading up your small groups at your church.

Yet what makes them hate Jesus so vehemently is their need to have control.  They mustn’t have someone else telling them who to worship, how to live, and what to serve. Religion must be done on their own terms, and ultimately, it must benefit themselves. With this in mind, they had great motivation to rid themselves of this man.

Until Jesus makes His triumphant return, there are going to be endless haters. Jesus has said He is the only way, and that’s that.  This will perpetually infuriate humanity, who will not settle on the prospect that a God would set it up that way, and in response, man will continually shift in their seats and squabble and work to reach God by their own means and for their own selfish gain. And, figuratively, these will desire to crucify Christ over and over again.

The inactive

On the other side of the trial, we have Pilate. Pilate seems like a smart man. He’s thoughtful, respected, and appears to consider all parties involved.

These aspects, however, make him a people-pleaser.

Twice in this section, Pilate defers responsibility to the mob.  As the Roman prefect to the territory, he has to keep the population happy, as a good politician should.  Instead of making a political blunder, he asserts that he finds “no fault in Him,” then gives the Jews the authority to do as they please with Jesus. He takes a passive approach to the situation, keeping his hands clean and avoiding scrutiny.

Sometimes, we find it’s best to just take a back seat on the issues.  It’s safe. We don’t want to get involved, because we don’t want to look like a bigot or make a scene. And in doing so, we’re going to win friends — at the very least, people will find us respectable and non-contentious.

The inactive, however, can be just as dangerous as the proactive. In our reluctance to make a decision, we allow for “whatever” to happen, even though we have the power to stop it. Integrity becomes the victim, and compromise ascends to the throne, dressed up as tolerance.

You might have noticed that I use the pronoun “we” to describe this group. This is intentional, because Christians are quite guilty of becoming floppy under pressure.


You might have also observed in this scene that the disciples are nowhere to be found. This is foretold centuries before, but it’s also of note that, hereafter, they would arise as controversial figures themselves, and even more so, difficult to ignore. It needs to be recognized that the men had no idea what to do, yet upon Jesus’ return and the coming of the Holy Spirit, they were an unstoppable force.

I bring this up because, if we are neither “proactive” nor “inactive”, we must become something else.  This is Christ, a stumbling block for the Jews, and foolishness to the Gentiles. He is counter-culture, difficult to ignore, and always concerned with glorifying the Father, and nobody else.

If we desire to embrace a role, embrace Christ. Let us be influenced by Him, and not the mob mentality. In doing so, we stand firmly upon a sturdy foundation, not wavering, and not giving in to self-righteousness; rather, truth, love, and service pervade our decision-making.

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