When Jesus was Silent

Photo by Dušan veverkolog on Unsplash

I almost leaped to my feet, but instead turned my head to stare at my pastor’s wife. “Say something!” I screamed the words in my head. But Ella did not speak.

The pastor of our tiny mission church had just announced that he would be away and, as had been the custom in the past, his wife would take the pulpit the next Sunday. A man, (a new-comer to the congregation), stood to his feet and exclaimed that allowing a woman to preach was not Biblical. A fair bit of discussion ensued, ending with the pastor inviting that man to preach in his place.

As a strong ‘women’s lib.’ proponent at the time, I was incensed. It was not until years later that I realized God’s will was being done and my pastor’s wife had the maturity and discernment to see it.

When I first came across the passage in Matthew 26 where Jesus does the same thing, it pushed that same justice (or was it vengeance?) button, and I could feel the anger rising. “Say something, Jesus! Do something!” That was the cry of my heart.

We all have a streak in us that cries out for justice. Or perhaps, on occasion, its more ugly cousin, vengeance, rises up.

But Jesus was silent before His accusers. In this, as in all things, He obeyed His Father, so prophesies about Him would be fulfilled – “He was oppressed and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.” (Isaiah 53:7, ESV)

For we who have a limited, earthly perspective, the silence of our Saviour seems outrageous. As David Guzik says in his commentary on Matthew 26, “Jesus could have mounted a magnificent defense here, calling forth all the various witnesses to His deity, power and character. He was silent but not helpless.”

Charles Spurgeon puts it well: “His was the silence of patience, not of indifference; of courage, not of cowardice.”

Jesus knew speaking up would not change the minds of his accusers or change the course of the path before Him. None of that mattered, because He knew who He was and the destiny He was to fulfill.

It is not until the high priest finally confronts Him bluntly and asks if He is the son of God, that Jesus responds, “You have said so.” And He goes a step further, telling Caiaphas that one day even he will see Jesus’ true identity. David Guzik states: “Instead of defending Himself, Jesus simply testified to the truth. He was indeed the Christ, the Son of God. He answered as briefly and directly as possible.”

Jesus had no need to defend Himself to those who did not recognize Him. He knew the day was coming when even the High Priest would bow his knee.

Every believer is able to follow His example, to pray for that same patience and courage in the face of ridicule and even persecution. We too know who we are – children of the most high God who can depend on His promises to fight our battles and guide us in the way we should go, as He did for the Hebrews in the book of Exodus.

We can be assured that, at just the right time, the Holy Spirit will lead us to testify to the truth, that Jesus is “… the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29, ESV).

Until then, perhaps it would be wise to be silent.

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