In the long and tortuous hours between His betrayal by Judas Iscariot and the moment in which He finally breathed His last breath, the quiet and calm demeanor of Jesus was baffling.
His attitude was strangely quiet in the face of crowds who clamored for His crucifixion, liars who leveled fiery darts of slander against His innocent love for them, and haters who hastened to heckle and harass Him while He simply prayed for the Father’s forgiveness for them.
One wonders why and how He could keep His cool (God though He was and is) in the face of such horrific hatred and malice. But of course, centuries before He was born and ministered, before He was betrayed and mocked, before He was tortured and crucified, the Scriptures foretold Jesus’ indomitable engagement with His persecutors.
“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).
He did not defend Himself and we are hard pressed to comprehend why. It was not natural … or at least it was not what our own natures would have recommended. It was not normal in the sense that the typical person could not be expected to behave similarly. And it was not expected … the people around Him had no clue as to what He was up to, and you and I would never have thought of such a plan or ever really intended to carry it out even if we had.
But then, most of the ways that Jesus handled things are so different from the ways we would have had we been in His place. Jesus was consistently reluctant to explain Himself to Pilate in John 19:9; He refrained to answer His accusers in front of either the Pharisee’s phony court in Mark 14:61 or later when they petitioned Pilate to execute Him in Matthew 27:12-14; and He flat out refused to even acknowledge Herod and humor his petty amusement in Luke 23:9.
There was something going on deep in the heart of Christ that allowed Him to stand strong though we would have wriggled and writhed to escape the same predicament. Though dread and sorrow surely hung about His shoulders like some cumbersome weight, He was buoyed up by an invisible strength of resolve that was fueled by His passion for accomplishing His Father’s will (John 4:34) and His compassion for those who sought an end to His holy audacity.
Now, it may seem to be an almost paradoxical observation, but His silence was far louder than any objection He might have raised vocally. Consider that the Son of God could have, at any moment, summoned 60,000 to 70,000 angels to dispatch the mob that came to “arrest” Him (see Matthew 26:52-53). Consider further that at His word the sun could be made to stand still, the earth be forced to open up and swallow its inhabitants, or all of creation be reduced to dust.
But He held His tongue. He pronounced judgments upon none of those who accused, beat or mocked Him. He rendered no condemnation upon those who sought His life, neither those who called for His execution nor the ones who literally drove spikes into His blessed flesh.
There was a focus within Him that rendered all the distractions of hate around Him null and void. Righteousness prevailed, love was victorious, and now forgiveness of sin and life with God forever is ours through faith in His Son.
Amazed as I am by the awesome mercy and grace that kept Jesus from “reacting” and allowed Him instead to “respond” to the situations about Him, I am humbly reminded how difficult it can be to “forgive” those who have no real desire to be forgiven and maybe cannot see the need for it in their own lives. As much as we would like it to be otherwise, there are going to be people in our lives who will hurt us, some without malice or intent, but some who intend to hurt and wound us.
If and when such occasions do arise in your life, remember first to keep Jesus’ glory your primary concern. Then let His grace heal your heart and renew your hope. After that, simply let Him live His life out through you. Remember to love as He has loved you. Forgive, even if others do not ask for it and remember that forgiveness is not the same thing as enabling sinfulness and selfishness on the part of others. It simply means to no longer hold over the heads of others their mistakes or misdeeds.
Keep in mind that Jesus was silent against His accusers because dealing with the distractions of their hateful attacks would have compromised His purpose in redemption. But He is not silent forever. Remember that a moment is coming when there will be “a white horse! The One sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems, and He has a name written that no one knows but Himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which He is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following Him on white horses. From His mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty” (Revelation 19:11b-15 ESV).
We need not fear that justice will not prevail. Let us instead rejoice that there is yet a season of grace for those who have not yet accepted His gift of forgiveness. His silence right now is a moment of mercy for those who do not yet believe.
Pastor Thom Mollohan leads Pathway Community Church and may be reached for comments or questions by email at [email protected]