Thursday, March 31, 2016

Inaction is an action

My sermon for today was based on John 18:1-19:42.

Something struck me as odd for the first time this Holy Week.  History does not remember the names of the people who actually hurt and killed Jesus.

For example, we do not know the names of the Pharisees or priests who plotted against Jesus and orchestrated his capture and executions.  We do not know the name of the police officer who struck Jesus in the face.  We do not know the name of the person who wove the crown of thorns and placed it on Jesus' head.  We do not know the names of the centurions who flogged Jesus, drove the nails through his hands and feet or hoisted the cross up.  We do not know the name of the officer who speared him in the side.

Who do we remember?  Pilate, Herod, Annas, Caiaphas.  People who, as far as we know, never laid a finger on Jesus, never drew his blood, were not present at his crucifixion or his death.

Odd, isn't it?  Normally, history remembers the names of people who actually cause harm, who actually draw blood or kill, who actively participate in a crime.  With the exception perhaps of Judas, we don't know the names of anyone who actively participated in Jesus' capture, torture and execution.

Why do we remember Pilate, Herod and the rest?  Because they could have done something and they failed to.

In an earlier blog, I wrote about how the phrase "things we have left undone" from our Confession has kept coming back to me this Lent, and I realize that the scandal of the Crucifixion was only partially about the actions that were taken, but was also in the inaction around it.

At any point, Pilate, Herod, Annas or Caiaphas could have said, "You know what, you really have done nothing wrong, so let's smuggle you out the back door".  They could have stood up to their subjects and said, "You guys are really out of line.  The punishment you are clamoring for is not proportional, so get a grip on yourselves".  They could have save an innocent man from torture and death, but they did not.

The Crucifixion, I have said, is a case study in the abject failure of human nature at just about every turn.  From Judas trying to force Jesus into a messianic mold to Pilate not wanting to risk his position and being afraid of the crowd, people in this story fail not by what they do, but by what they fail to do.

They fail to be courageous.  They fail to take responsibility.  They fail to defend the innocent.  They fail to stick to their convictions.

In one Gospel rendition of the Crucifixion Narrative, Pilate actually washed his hands before the crowd to demonstrate that he was innocent of spilling Jesus' blood.

Yeah, not quite, Ponty.

Inaction is an action.  Failure to make a decision is a decision.  Not taking responsibility does not mean you are not responsible.

Once again, if anything is undone in your life, whether that is mending fences with a neighbour, telling your parents you love them or returning to God, perhaps it is time to take action, make a decision and take responsibility for it.

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