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The Gripping Silence of Jesus

by | Mar 31, 2021 | Accusation, Holidays

“He was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.” (Isaiah 53:7b NIV)

“[Herod] plied him with many questions, but Jesus gave him no answer.” (Luke 23:9 NIV)

“When [Jesus] was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he gave no answer. Then Pilate asked him, ‘Don’t you hear the testimony they are bringing against you?’ But Jesus made no reply, not even to a single charge — to the great amazement of the governor.” (Matthew 27:12-14 NIV)

Suddenly, it was quiet! Your heart skipped a beat. Until now you hadn’t paid much attention to the children’s playful chatter. But now the silence grips every fibre of your being.

That’s the power of silence. Perhaps you’ve experienced such a gripping silence, a silence that rivets your attention and stirs up feelings that you never expected. I suspect that King Herod experienced a gripping silence the day that Jesus “gave him no answer”. I’m sure that Pilate did, too, as well as the chief priests and elders, when Jesus “made no reply” to their accusations. I believe that Jesus’ silence was more potent than any defence could have been. Let me explain:

King Herod had eagerly anticipated an encounter with this popular figure, Jesus. The ego-driven ruler had hoped to see Him perform a miracle, perhaps to satisfy his lust for cheap entertainment. Perhaps, he craved gleefully gloating as his victim sputtered through a feeble defence. But Jesus remained silent. Oh, how annoying this must have been for the narcissistic king. Jesus would have aroused what every narcissist dreads: the unbearable feeling of powerlessness. Herod couldn’t make Jesus perform.

What about Pilate? Pilate already knew that Jesus was innocent, and he couldn’t understand why Jesus refused to defend Himself like anyone else would. But Pilate was less interested in Jesus than in himself. Pilate wanted to protect his position as ruler by preventing unrest in his domain. He scapegoated Jesus to save himself.

Herod, Pilate, and the chief priests all remained unaffected by Jesus’ silence because they cared more about their own interests than about truth. They were fools, and Jesus responded accordingly: “Do not answer a fool according to his folly” (Proverbs 26:4a NIV). Perhaps Jesus’ silence that day was also a gift of mercy — a chance for self-reflection and repentance.

We ourselves may experience our Lord’s gripping silence, perhaps through unanswered prayer. The silence may be God’s way of encouraging us to reflect further. Perhaps, we discover that we wanted a miracle for our own gratification or to avoid facing ourselves truthfully. The silence of unanswered prayer may be the Spirit’s way of leading us to repentance and preparing us to offer a different prayer, one that God will answer.

Of course, fools don’t learn through gripping silence. The two rulers shared that defect, and perhaps that’s why, “that day Herod and Pilate became friends — before this they had been enemies.” (Luke 23:12 NIV) It’s perhaps why, as friends, they colluded against Christ — the revealer of truth.

Like Jesus, we may receive accusations from those who have no interest in truth. Silence may be the prudent response, lest we play into their hands, encouraging them to devise further accusations. Like Jesus, sometimes, we must simply leave our accusers in God’s hands.

Now, that’s a powerful silence!

Prayer: Lord, whenever we feel misunderstood or accused, help us to surrender our urge for vindication and restfully trust You to direct our responses. Amen.

Diane Eaton
Paisley, Ontario, Canada

Reprinted from PresbyCan Daily Devotional with author’s permission