Jesus remained silent.

When Jesus is arrested and faced with the Sanhedrin looking for false evidence against him, they question him. “’Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?’ But Jesus remained silent” (Matthew 26:62-63, NIV). Jesus was aware of their bias, hostility, partiality, and their past history of twisting his words. His silence demonstrated how undeserving they were of a response. Though Jesus later responds in truth to their questions, he is still accused of blasphemy, declared worthy of death, spit in the face, struck with their fists, mocked, and provoked (vv. 64-68). Yet amidst the turmoil, he chooses silence.

Matthew 27:13- 14 Then Pilate asked Him, “Do You not hear how many charges they are bringing against You?” 14 But Jesus gave no answer, not even to a single charge, much to the governor’s amazement.

Matthew 26:63 But Jesus remained silent. Then the high priest said to Him, "I charge You under oath by the living God: Tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God."

Matthew 27:12 And when He was accused by the chief priests and elders, He gave no answer.

Mark 15:5 But to Pilate's amazement, Jesus made no further reply.

Luke 23: 9 Herod questioned Jesus at great length, but He gave no answer.

John 19:9 and he went back into the Praetorium. "Where are You from?" he asked. But Jesus gave no answer. 


There’s a better way to interpret Jesus’ silence, one that is more relevant. Considering the politics surrounding Jesus’ trial is fruitful because they mirror our own. Jesus’ entire trip to Jerusalem is dripping in politics. Everything leading up to Jesus’ trial: Jerusalem’s leaders trapping Jesus and taking him to Pilate, Pilate’s questions about being a King, the crowd’s calling for is execution, especially Jesus’ sentence and punishment, all find their significance in the political realm. Capital punishment, particularly death by crucifixion, is an explicitly political form of control and punishment for Rome. Jesus isn’t silent because he’s defiant, stoic or a hero. Jesus may be silent because he has to be. There are at least two reasons.

First, Jesus’ silence lets Pilate incriminate himself. Empires justify themselves on violence. They remain empires because they keep a monopoly on violence. Jesus’ silence meant Pilate had to make a decision to fulfill his duty as Rome’s governor or release him as a matter of conscience. Pilate doesn’t see what Jesus has done wrong. (Mark 15:14) 

In the passion, Pilate does represent the power of government. But, not just government, he represents empire and all earthly power and justice. The gospels depict Pilate as conflicted. He tries to compromise and have Jesus flogged. But, the crowd insists on crucifying Jesus. They’d rather free Barabbas, a thief and rabble rouser, than face the possibility that Jesus is the messiah. Popular opinion and group think wins out over conscience, and Pilate relents. Empire executes its function. Rome crucifies Jesus. Pax Romana destroys the shalom of God.

Second, Jesus is silent in the face of Pilate’s questions because God is defenseless against human foibles. It’s hard to imagine God defenseless against humans. But, Jesus is. The problem is that most Christians understanding of God’s power is wrapped in worldly fantasies of power – supernatural power, instrumental power, military power, personal power. All revolve around the idea of the will, control, and self-determination. Jesus offers a different picture of God’s power, one not at all like these.

is defenselessness against our sin and human foibles. And, this isn’t the first contradiction Jesus’ silence before Pilate exposes. The contradictions intensifying through Jesus’ trial eventually rupture. They rupture upon Jesus’ public and humiliating death. But, the madness of contradictions revealed in Jesus trial and death begin in the empty void of Jesus’ silence before his accuser. In his silence, the insanity of the whole situation begins to set in.

Jesus is innocent, but he’ll die.

The crowd condemns Jesus, but they won’t be guilty of killing him.

Pilate doesn’t know Jesus or his crime, but he authorizes his death.

Jesus came to save, but he cannot or will not save himself.

The death of God happens in Jerusalem, the city named of God’s reign and peace.

In the face of death, the Son of God says nothing.

Facing the Son’s death, God stands by and does nothing.

Nothing makes sense. None of this intended. The whole is absurd.

Jesus’ silence strips the sin of his world and ours completely naked, unabashed and unadorned. The rage of madness and its contradictions must work themselves out. After all, they are our – not God’s – creation.

This interpretation of Jesus’ silence fits better with Paul’s idea that Jesus really does lay both sin and his evil age bare. He transforms it, and changes everything. But, it’s still hard to imagine anyone staying quiet at a trial like that. It’s still hard to imagine Jesus not defending himself or saying anything. . At least, Jesus could have injected some reason for the insanity of it all. He could have decried himself a victim to the crowd, or defended himself against others’ accusations as he did several times before when he spoke against the scribes and Pharisees in Galilee. Any of these would have made more sense. But, in Jerusalem before Pilate, he says nothing. “You say so,” is all he says to Pilate. Why? 

Jesus, at least, shared something in common with those he was teaching and preaching. As fellow Jews, they were his kinfolk. They were all children of Abraham, who share a history and covenant with YHWH. Jesus also shared a love and reverence for God’s revelation, the Law, with the lawyers and Pharisees. But, when it came to defending himself against a world that didn’t know him and wouldn’t hear him, there was nothing to say. Perhaps, it was futile, even pointless. There was nothing to say because there was nothing he could say.

If Jesus would have answered that he was the messiah, he would have admitted himself as “King of the Jews” in the eyes of the crowd and Jewish leaders. There was no other king than the ruler installed by Rome approved. This would have condemned Jesus under Roman Law. Pilate would not have been guilty of betraying his conscience.

If Jesus would’ve denied he was “King of the Jews,” he would have denied he was the messiah Israel longed for. He would have admitted to being just another itinerant teacher or insurrectionist against the empire. This would have only intensified the situation with confusion if he would have defended himself or told the truth. His silence, instead, drew out the truth of the situation. Jesus didn’t need to give an account for himself because it really came down to what the crowd and Pilate thought, or accepted. “Who do you say that I am?” 

In Jesus, God was on trial. He was defenseless not because God has no defense..But He chose to remained silent because silence at times is the best defense ..

Proverbs 10:19

When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, But he who restrains his lips is wise. 

Job 34:29

When He keeps quiet, who then can condemn? And when He hides His face, who then can behold Him, That is, in regard to both nation and man?-- 

Ecclesiastes 3:7 

7 a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to speak and a time be silent..

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