“He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.” Isaiah 53:7
After a lengthy trial, the legality of which was shady and corrupt, Jesus was sentenced to death by crucifixion. Pontius Pilate was the final judge to give that verdict. Prior to the verdict, Jesus had to go through multiple trials which can be divided into two phases. The first phase was the trial before Jews. It had 3 parts – first he was taken to Ananias, the former high priest, and the main power behind the high priest, then to Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin (the Jewish council) and then again in the morning around 5 a.m. to Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin. The second phase was the trial in front of Gentile rulers – Pilate and Herod. This too had 3 parts – first in front of Pilate, then Herod (only Luke records it) and then back to Pilate again.
During this journey from Gethsemane to Gabbatha (John 19:13) to Golgotha, one thing that catches our attention is Jesus’ silence during the trials. Matthew 26:62-63 records, “Then the high priest stood up and said to Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?” But Jesus remained silent.” The same is found in Mark 14:61. Again, in Matthew 27:12-14 (also Mark 15:5), “When he 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.” And finally, Luke 23:8-9, “When Herod saw Jesus, he was greatly pleased, because for a long time he had been wanting to see him. From what he had heard about him, he hoped to see him perform a sign of some sort. He plied him with many questions, but Jesus gave him no answer.” The pattern is clear – except for a few statements, Jesus deliberately remained silent before the high priest, Herod, and Pilate.
When one is on a trial, the best one can do is defend oneself. However, Good Friday, or the Friday of Jesus’ crucifixion, and the hours of midnight trials are marked by something incredible – Jesus’ silence. Why did he remain silent? That is a question for another time. Yet his silence speaks volumes to us in our world today. Silence amid trial and tribulations can be one of our best weapons. Psalm 46:10 reads, “He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.””
Church history tells us of the story of Barsanuphius, an Egyptian monk, who entered the hilly region of Thavatha, near Gaza (5 miles south of Palestine), and chose to lead the enclosed life of a recluse in a cell near a village. From there, he offered spiritual counsel to a number of ascetics who were gradually attracted around “the Great Old Man”, which he was fondly called, as he developed a remarkable reputation for discernment and compassion. In offering guidance, following is a conversation between a young inquirer and Barsanuphius:
“Response from the same Great Old Man to the same person, when he spoke about disorder in the world: “Brother, “while we have the opportunity,” let us give heed to ourselves, for everything is in disarray; and let us practice silence. And if you wish to find rest in all things, become dead with regard to every person, and you will indeed have rest. Observe that it is about thoughts, as well as about every matter and conduct and care, that I am telling you to be still in peace.””
Silence amid the disorder of our world, being anchored in God’s Word, and hope that God’s promises are a sure foundation, can keep us strong, focused and committed to our call.
Rev. Abhishek John