This article was written and published by BCL
“So he questioned him at some length, but he made no answer” (Luke 23:9).
Ecclesiastes tells us that there is time to speak and a time to keep silent. And this makes sense enough, but the issue is, when is the fitting time? When is it better to speak? And when is it necessary to stay quiet? This is the art of wisdom.
Yet, as a society, we have pretty unanimously voted in favor of speaking. Our world, filled with technology and social media, never stops speaking, be it with words, pictures, or videos. Background music follows us everywhere. There is pressure to yelp every restaurant, photo every meal, and post every opinion that passes between your ears.
This obsession with speaking has crowded out any positive value of silence. Yet, our Lord masters the art of the silence for us, so that we might speak better for him and so that our words may be conformed to his words.
In the gospel accounts of Jesus’ trial, we read that Pontius Pilate tried to acquit the innocent one. Yet, Pilate didn’t have the courage to do the right thing. He wasn’t going to risk his life for Jesus, so Pilate threw him to the wolves, granting the demands of the violent gang. Pilate set free a murderer and rioter, and Jesus was handed over to the will of the riotous crowd.
And with this, it appears that the many words of the crowd have won. Jesus didn’t even defend himself (Luke 23:9). In his quietness, we hear no eloquence, no powerful reproaches, no clear condemnation of wickedness. The loud speaking of the people appeared to have defeated the silence of Jesus; yet, nothing could be further from the truth.
Here are seven things you need to know about the silence of Jesus.
1. The silence of Jesus before Pilate makes us think back to what he said previously.
And they remembered his words. (Luke 24:8)
2. The silence of Jesus makes us remember how he prophesied that the Son of Man must suffer and die for our salvation.
And he strictly charged and commanded them to tell this to no one, saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” (Luke 9:21-22)
3. The silence of Jesus recalls to our minds God’s Word of Isaiah 53:7—that the Messiah had to be a silent lamb.
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. (Isa. 53:7)
4. The silence of Jesus reminds us that silent suffering was necessary for Jesus. We are taught that sometimes being quiet takes more strength than talking.
Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;
he has put him to grief;
when his soul makes an offering for guilt,
he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. (Isa. 53:10)
5. The silence of Jesus instructs us that sometimes silence speaks louder than words.
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:….
6. The silence of Christ leading to his crucifixion is the power of God for our forgiveness, justification, and redemption.
For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (1 Cor. 1:18)
7. The silence of Christ was his Word triumphing for you. Jesus was speechless here to prepare himself for the silence of the grave that would then give way to the words of the Resurrection.
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. (1 Cor. 15:3-4)
Because Jesus said not a word in order to fulfill God’s Word, by faith you are taken from death to life, from being dead in sin to being alive in Christ. Thus, in faith, we come to realize that Jesus muzzling himself was his powerful love to make you his own.
Indeed, Jesus was not silenced forever by the evil crowd; he rose to speak again the healing and hopeful words of resurrection.
It is now our turn to speak.
Jesus rose to make us those who speak about his resurrection. In fact, in the narrow sense here, we are told not to imitate our Lord. Back in Luke 21, Christ told us that when we are dragged before rulers for his name not to worry about what to say, for the Spirit will teach us what to say.
The Spirit will give us the words to speak for Christ. Thus, before our accusers, we testify about Christ. Before the noisy hostilities of the world, we gather on the Lord’s Day to sing and speak that Christ is the Son of God at the right hand. One of our highest privileges is that we get to speak well of our Lord and we can sing forth his praises.
And even if the world silences us with death, we have the sure confidence that the silence of Christ is more powerful than all the rhetoric of the world. Thus, let us root our faith and confidence in the Word of Christ that never fails and the silence of Christ unto death that won for us the resurrection.
And with Christ on our side, may we never be ashamed to speak for our Lord, to testify that he is both Lord and Christ. And may we sing boldly the name of Jesus Christ, the Righteous One, every Lord’s Day, until we join the heavenly choir to offer up to God both our words and our silence for his eternal glory.