Revive Our Hearts Podcast

The Majestic Silence of Christ

Leslie Basham: Here's Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: When you’re secure in who you are and in your calling, you don’t have to talk too much. I see this dignity in a few—not enough—but a few Christian women. They don’t have to defend what they do. They don’t have to say a lot—even times with family members or friends who greatly misunderstand them. They just live the life.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Friday, March 20, 2015.

Nancy's continuing to focus on Jesus in a series called "The Incomparable Christ."

Nancy: We took a look yesterday at the trial of Jesus—the Jewish trial and the Roman trial. One of the things that stands out to me about that trial is the way Jesus conducted Himself with incredible calm, dignity, and restraint, especially when you contrast the behavior of His opponents who were so angry, vitriolic, and determined to be rid of Him and to put Him to death. The contrast between the two is really stark.

I want to extend another session on the trial of Christ and just park on one aspect of it today. That is the trial was notable for the few things He did say, but even more so for what He didn’t say. Repeatedly—and I don't think this is an incidental matter—the gospel accounts record that Jesus was silent before His enemies—what Oswald Sanders in his book, The Incomparable Christ, calls the majestic silence of Christ.

Let me read to you a few passages that will just show you how that's mentioned. First of all, in Jesus' trial before the Jewish rulers in Mark 14,

Now the chief priests and the whole Council [that’s the Sanhedrin] were seeking testimony against Jesus to put him to death, but they found none. For many bore false witness against him, but their testimony did not agree. And some stood up and bore false witness against him, saying, "We heard him say, 'I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.'" Yet even about this their testimony did not agree (vv. 55–59).

At this point, the high priest sees that his case was failing, so he tries to get Jesus to incriminate Himself and testify against Himself, which was according to Jewish law illegal. The high priest knew that, no doubt.

And the high priest stood up in the midst and asked Jesus [because he couldn't get the false witnesses to agree], "Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?" [Hoping that whatever Jesus says would be self-incriminating. Here's the key verse.] But he remained silent and made no answer (vv. 60–61).

Now fast forward to Matthew 27, the trial before Pilate.

But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he gave no answer. Then Pilate said to him, "Do you not hear how many things they testify against you?" [As if Pilate is begging Jesus to say something in His own defense so Pilate can let Him go.] But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed (vv. 11–14).

Twice. Now a third time, Jesus stands before Herod in Luke 23:

Now when Herod saw Jesus, he was exceedingly glad; for he had desired for a long time to see Him, because he had heard many things about Him, and he hoped to see some miracle done by Him. [He wanted to be entertained.] Then he questioned Him with many words, but He answered him nothing [Isn't that a contrast? Herod can't stop talking, and Jesus won't start talking. Jesus will not answer the questions.] And the chief priests and scribes stood and vehemently accused Him (vv. 8–10 NKJV).

When we read texts like these, I think sometimes we may have a sanitized picture in our minds of what this trial might have been like. We may forget that these were no peaceful, decorous courtroom scenes. Rather, there was mounting tension. There was clamor, anger, shouting, confusion, blood, and more blood. Jesus, throughout this time, was being cruelly abused, beaten, mocked, railed against by the Roman soldiers and by the blood-thirsty mob. Jesus’ accusers are beside themselves with rage. They are out of control. So ultimately, there was bedlam, as hell itself unleashed its fury on the innocent Son of God.

In that clamorous context Jesus’ silence is even more striking. Most people if threatened with their lives—fairly or unfairly—would tend to be a little bit scared, terrified maybe. If nothing else, they would talk to save their skin.

Most anyone else who was being tried for a capital offense of which they knew they were innocent would have been earnestly forming their defense. They would have thrown up every piece of evidence possible. They would have insisted on a cross-examination of the witnesses. They would have appealed to every possible authority and court to get vindication.

As I think about that, I think about the few times when I have felt, in relatively mild ways, attacked and felt falsely accused. My natural impulse in those moments was to talk up a storm to defend myself. If I couldn’t talk to the person who was misunderstanding me or falsely accusing me, I’d talk to everyone else about it. You look like you’ve been there.

But see in contrast the incomparable Christ, no one is like Him. As He demonstrated His extraordinary strength and dignity, He does not resist; He does not cry out to defend Himself against the false accusations; He doesn't rail against His enemies; He doesn't protest His innocence; He doesn't expose the lies of His accusers, and He doesn't appeal to a higher court.

It's amazing when you think about it. The One who is the Word, the One who spoke the worlds into being by His Word, holds the world together by His power, did not speak a word to spare His own life. He had nothing evil to say about His enemies. He had nothing evil to say about His heavenly Father, whose will it was for Him to suffer and die. He held his peace.

Now, we could perhaps see man being stoic in face of death. This was not a matter of being stoic, nor was it a sullen and angry silence. Rather, as I’ve meditated on this, I see it was a silence of submission to the will of the Father. As Matthew Henry says in his commentary of Isaiah 53, He “kept possession of his own soul.”

This is evidence of what we've been talking about in recent days of the humility of Christ and of the serenity of Christ. We see it lived out here in technicolor. He didn't have to fight or strive. He didn’t fight for his right to be treated as God or even to be treated fairly as a human being.

When you’re secure in who you are and in your calling, you don’t have to talk so much. I see this dignity in a few—not enough—but a few Christian women. They don’t have to defend what they do. They don’t have to say a lot—even times with family members or friends who greatly misunderstand them. They just live the life. In so doing, they reflect the heart and the spirit of Jesus.

Where did that resolve and that composure come from as Jesus stood in that trial and was silent? We've looked this week at the Garden of Gethsemane where we saw Jesus in great anguish, pleading with His Father in prayer to spare Him from having to drink this cup of sin, suffering, and death. But having confirmed this cup to be the will of His Father, and having been strengthened through prayer, He emerges from the garden resolute, composed, not once again pleading for His life to be spared, and never losing control or striking out against His enemies.

I think how opposite that progression is from the way we often handle trials. We spend little or no time talking to our heavenly Father about it, wrestling with Him to understand His purposes, bringing our hearts into alignment with His will and getting His perspective. Instead, we talk endlessly with everybody else about our distress. We dash off angry text messages and emails. We're quick to explain to everyone else how we were wronged. I'm telling you how I know about this, because I've done it.

We strive with those who misunderstand or malign us, intent on vindicating ourselves, on exposing our opponents, and putting ourselves in the best possible light. “My husband . . .” “My kids . . .” “My boss . . .” “My pastor . . .” “My ex . . .” whatever—we're telling everybody else. Jesus told God His concerns and then left them with His Father and went composed and resolute to the trial.

I wonder how much more like Christ—resolute and composed—might we be in the presence of evil and evil people if we first got before God and worked things through with Him?

Jesus’ silence had to be disconcerting to those who tried Him. Undoubtedly, they had never experienced anything like this before. They were used to everyone scraping and bowing before them. They felt they were the ones in charge. Jesus’ silence was in effect a challenge to their authority.

Oswald Sanders says in the book we’ve been going through, The Incomparable Christ, “Both by His silence and His words, Jesus made clear that it was Pilate and the Jews who were on trial before Him, and not He before them.” They had to sense some of that. I think that is why Pilate was so uneasy, why Pilate's wife was uneasy, because they realized, "We're not the ones trying this man; He's the one trying us."

What to do with a man who couldn’t be provoked, who refused to defend Himself or to lash out against His accusers? We know that Jesus wasn’t completely silent at His trial; He did speak up at times. For example, Matthew 26:63, a high priest asked Him a direct question, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One,” knowing that Jesus was under a solemn oath, and legally had to answer. In 1 Timothy 6:13, “in his testimony before Pontius Pilate [Jesus] made [a] good confession.” He never denied the truth by what He said or what He didn't say.

But in the few times every time Jesus did speak, He was completely in control. He only spoke when He was charged before God that He needed to speak. He knew when to speak and when to be quiet. The problem is we speak when we should be quiet and are quiet when we should speak. I think a key indicator of when to speak up when being harassed or misunderstood is determined by whether it is our honor or God's that is in question. There's a big difference there.

I want to suggest several reasons why I believe Jesus was silent before His enemies. Those reasons give us greater insight into the purpose of His life and death. It helps us also better understand what it means to be a follower of Christ and how to respond when we are falsely accused or treated unjustly.

1. He had already spoken. For three years He had said all that needed to be said. His time of teaching, delivering messages, sharing of truth had already been said. Now was the time for silence. There was no point in casting pearls of truth before those who had no heart for truth.

2. He knew He was innocent and that the accusations were false. It's kind of like if someone said you were a toad. You would laugh it off because it is so ludicrous. Nothing could be further from the truth. When they falsely accused Jesus, it was just as ludicrous. When you see false accusations from this perspective it makes those accusations harmless.

3. Jesus refused to defend Himself against ludicrous claims because He had at heart God’s greater plan. After all, He had said in John 10, “no one takes [my life] from me. I lay it down of my own accord” (v. 18). He knew there was a plan here. So rather than resist, He embraced the plan of God, the will of God.

4. “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but [here’s the reason, He] continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly” (1 Pet 2:23). By not lashing out against His accusers, Jesus was saying, my life is not in your hands, my life is in God’s hands. He trusted that God would ultimately vindicate righteousness and bring recompense against evildoers.

Last week, I got an email from friend whose husband had been laid off the night before, after thirty-five years with the same company. From my friend’s perspective, he's being treated unjustly by his employer. She said to me, “Now is the time when we're called to endure sin patiently, being ‘mindful of God’ (1 Peter 2:19), knowing that we are walking in Christ's footsteps. We must avoid threatening and lying, and we must entrust ourselves to our heavenly Father.” That’s the heart of Christ. He suffered without reviling, without threatening in return, because He kept entrusting Himself to God who judges justly.

5. The silence of Christ fulfilled Old Testament Messianic prophecy. In Isaiah 53, we have the song of the suffering servant. It says,

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, [we know that Jesus endured intense physical, verbal, mental, spiritual abuse, injustice, humiliation] 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” (v. 7).

I believe one of Jesus' reasons for being silent is that He always wanted for Scripture to be fulfilled. In being silent, He was fulfilling this Old Testament prophesy.

This passage also speaks of the gentle, quiet nature of sheep. Christ, the Lamb of God, submitted quietly, and willingly went to death. It was the Father’s will. It was necessary that He suffer and die for our redemption. So we see Jesus saying in John 18, “Shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?” (v. 11). There’s this meek, quiet resignation to the will of God. Not only in fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy, but in the type of Him being the Lamb of God. "Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given Me?"  It’s a submissive, quiet heart that was behind His silence.

6. I want us to see what I think is the main cause for the majestic silence of Christ. That is seen in the previous verse of Isaiah 53:6. It's a verse that is familiar to most of us. This is the verse that precedes the one about Him not opening His mouth, Him being silent as a Lamb led to the slaughter. What does the previous verse say?

It says, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

And then it says, “He was oppressed, He was afflicted, and yet He opened not his mouth.” This is the cause for His silence. He was suffering vicariously, in our place, as our substitute. He took the punishment of this trial—the beatings, the mocking, the scorn, the rejection, and ultimately the cross as if He deserved it. He willingly endured the punishment due us for our sins. He was “stricken for the transgression of [His] people.” (v. 8). The Lord laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

Silence is often seen as an admission of guilt. You ask your kid, “Did you do this?” If they don’t say anything, you know their answer is, “Yes, but I don’t want to tell you.” Right? And in fact Jesus is silent because He was taking the place of the guilty one. Our sins were placed on Him. He was taking upon Himself before God every sin of which He was accused, the sins of which we were guilty, not He. The Lamb of God suffered silently, as our substitute. The iniquities of us all were placed on Him. He was suffering as our representative, our sin bearer, as the judged one, the condemned one under God's wrath, as our substitute, paying the debt for our sin.

He suffered as He did because He was experiencing the full ramifications of our sin. The blows He took were blows meant for us and deserved by us. In His silence He was fulfilling His role as our mediator, representative, and Savior.

What does that do to your heart? Does it make you say, “Lord, I should have been there. I'm the one who deserved the pain. Thank You. Thank You for taking it silently for me. For not only being accused, but taking the place of the accused one, bearing my sin.”

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss will be right back to pray.

Jesus was silent before His accusers. I'm always going to have a new appreciation for this after hearing today's teaching. It's part of a series called "The Incomparable Christ." If you've missed any of the programs in this series, I hope you'll catch them at ReviveOurHearts.com. You can stream the audio or download the podcast. It's been a rich series—one that could greatly affect your worship and thankfulness this Easter season.

We’re focused on Jesus as we lead up to Resurrection Sunday, but getting to know Jesus is a life-long goal. One way you can take another step in getting to know Him to get a copy of a book by a friend of Revive Our Hearts.  It’s called Comforts from the Cross by Elyse Fitzpatrick.

She will show you why Jesus’ work on the cross can rescue you from condemnation. A lot of women, even in the church, have a feeling that they can’t make God happy. That they’re never doing enough.

Elyse will show you how you can be free from that worry at the cross of Jesus.

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Next week will be very special on Revive Our Hearts as part of the series "The Incomparable Christ" will begin to focus on the final seven words of Christ on the cross. There is no better way to prepare for Good Friday and Easter. We hope you'll learn, worship, and serve at your church this weekend, then be back for Revive Our Hearts. Nancy's back to wrap things up.

Nancy: As we consider the majestic silence of Christ today, I think it’s noteworthy to say that today Jesus is still generally silent in the face of those who blaspheme Him. Think about all the atheists who are writing books, people who falsely accuse Him of being an unfair, unloving, unjust, unrighteous God; people who say He is not God at all. For the most part, Jesus still today endures that silently, but one day He will speak.

He is silent when we, as His people, protest against His ways. He knows that one day we will acknowledge He has done all things well. So don’t mistake the current silence of Jesus for His ultimate silence. He will speak.

When Jesus came the first time to this earth, He came as a Lamb to suffer quietly, to offer up His life as a sacrificial offering for sinners. But I want to tell you that when He returns, it will be as the Lion of Judah, to recompense all evildoers, and to reign and rule with those that He has redeemed through His substitutionary sufferings. Amen? Come quickly, Lord Jesus.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version.

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