He was treated harshly and afflicted,
but he did not even open his mouth.
Like a lamb led to the slaughtering block,
like a sheep silent before her shearers,
he did not even open his mouth. (Isa 53:7)
“When you do what is good and suffer, if you endure it, this brings favor with God. For you were called to this,
because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in His steps.
He did not commit sin,
and no deceit was found in His mouth;
when He was reviled,
He did not revile in return;
when He was suffering,
He did not threaten
but entrusted Himself to the One who judges justly.” (1 Peter 3:20-23)
The silence of Christ is most remarkable to study in this age of complaint. In today’s world, we like to complain about everything from the missing napkins on our restaurant table to the itchy spot on the front of our leg. We complain about our bosses, our jobs, our spouses, our society, our government, our… well, if it exists, it’s probably the target of someone’s complaint! We complain about the just (paying our taxes) and the unjust (being forced to work a weekend because the boss is negligent to do their job). Either way, someone feels unfairly persecuted.
Jesus went to the cross unjustly, as far as justice is concerned. He was treated harshly and afflicted with immeasurable embarrassment and shame. He was detained overnight without trial, then tried unfairly, then publicly rejected by His own people as their rightful king, then lashed on the back and front with razor-sharp whips, spit at, mocked, had a crown of inch-long thrones forced upon his head, then… well, you get the picture. He was led to the slaughter. Unjustly. As Peter put it, Jesus was without sin — even so much as speaking an ungodly word or lie, nor returning verbal fire when insulted. He had the power of heaven behind Him and, yet, He threatened no human with its use. Complaint? Not for the King of Kings. Silence? Golden and just.
The first time I saw 2004’s The Passion of the Christ I was amazed at how powerful the silence of Christ was during His most traumatic time of life. He endured scorn and shame and yet kept His mouth silent. Twice, Isaiah says that Christ did not even open His mouth. Even though He was innocent He went to the cross, enduring its shame. Why? For the glory of God and the salvation of mankind. He entrusted His life to, as Peter puts it, “the One who judges justly.” The ultimate determination of what is right and wrong lies in one person — God Almighty. And of the Holy Trinity, God the Father is the judge. Jesus, the Son, trusted in His Father to uphold His innocence. The resurrection is that great clearing of His Name.
It is so tempting in our western world to play a “tit for tat” game of “you hurt me, I’ll hurt you.” An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. Even though our Lord said, “If your enemy strikes one cheek, give him the other,” we instead return fire with five knuckles or an open palm. The same principle applies to verbal abuse. We seem to value quick responses, usually sharp-tongued ones. But the example of Christ Jesus is the only just action for when we are wrongly accused. Silence.
Silence has power, you know? To not speak when verbally attacked? To endure unjust circumstances without seeking retaliation? That draws praise from heaven. And God the Father, who gladly defends His Children, will justify you. It may come after a few bruises and a wounded ego. But in the end, you will be proven to be just. Let silence be your witness to your innocence, no matter how much it pains you. God will defend you. Like Jesus, entrust yourself to Him.