The Silence of the Lamb
He just stood there.
Weary. Solitary. His hands bound behind his back.
He hadn’t slept since his arrest.
Instead he had been screamed at, jeered at, his face spit upon, beaten with fists and slapped.
He had been hurried to the home of Caiaphas, for a special meeting of the Jewish leaders, the Sanhedrin. Taunted, accused, roughed up and mocked.
“Well,” demanded Caiaphas, “aren’t you going to answer these charges? What do you have to say for yourself?” (Matthew 26:62).
Jesus remained silent.
When he was asked directly by the high priest if he was “the Messiah, the Son of God” Jesus said he was.
Caiaphas stood in horror and tore his robe.
“Blasphemy!” he cried, as the leaders gasped. “Why do we need any more witnesses? You’ve all heard his blasphemy.”
They’d heard enough.
The leaders looked at each other. The murmurings grew louder.
They looked at Jesus. Then they looked at the high priest.
Staring angrily, Caiaphas loudly demanded:
“What is your verdict?”
“Guilty!” they cried. “He deserves to die!”
In acknowledging his deity, Jesus sealed his fate.
So central was this truth.
Now, standing before the Roman governor Pilate, Jesus again said nothing.
The leading priests and elders - the hate-filled spokesmen for the religious establishment - shouted their accusations against him.
He was a blasphemer, claiming to be God. He had violated the Sabbath. He said he could forgive sins. He must be put to death.
“Don’t you hear all these charges they are bringing against you? Do you have no answer to any of them?”
We read in Matthew’s gospel:
“But he gave no answer, not even to a single charge” (Matthew 27:14).
In the face of a torrent of unremitting anger, clenched fists, gnashing teeth and frothing charges - silence.
Perfect love met unreasoning hate - and said nothing.
Isaiah 53 is one of the most beautiful and prophetically persuasive passages in the Bible. The detail of its descriptions is impressive. It is a majestic and moving account of the atoning work of our suffering Savior.
Seven-hundred years before his birth.
“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.”
Pure innocence was led to death. Compassion was inflicted with indescribable cruelty. Gentleness was assaulted with sadistic torture. Goodness was encompassed by unmitigated evil.
Surrounded by the basest and most sordid of all human instincts gathered in one place, through the blatant injustice of it all, Jesus “opened not his mouth.”
Before the Jewish leaders, he claimed his divinity. Before Pilate, he claimed his authority. Beyond that he uttered not a word in his own defense.
“He opened not his mouth” to condemn, to challenge, to explain, to defend, to attack, to protest, to apologize, to clarify or to justify.
Throughout his trial and crucifixion his words were always on behalf of others. Never himself.
On behalf of his frightened disciples, Jesus told the soldiers who had come for him, “Let these men go.”
He told Peter to put away his sword and restored the soldier’s severed ear.
From the cross, Jesus appealed to John to care for Mary.
And on behalf of every mocking tongue, taunting finger and shaking head, he prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Jesus offered no defense at the mockery of his trial. He went to the cross unjustly accused, bearing the sins of the whole world, though he himself was without sin. He neither struggled nor resisted.
Peter says we should be like Jesus.
“Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him who judges righteously” (I Peter 2:23).
Suffering the greatest shame, pain and injustice of any person who ever lived, Jesus did not retaliate. He did not seek revenge or threaten his tormentors.
Instead, Jesus committed his death and his destiny to his heavenly Father, who held back the angels and permitted his Son to die.
For you. For me. For the world.
Paul says we should be like Jesus.
Who, though he was God, did not cling to his divinity as some inherent and royal right, but humbled himself and left his throne in glory to take on the form of suffering humanity (Philippians 2:6-7).
Because of love, Jesus left his ivory palaces and came into a world of woe.
God’s love was so great, his grace so matchless, his condescension so deep and his mercy so wide, the Creator stood in silence while his creatures attacked him. Spat on him. Scorned him. And put him to death, hung on a cross between two thieves.
In Jesus, God was condemned. In Jesus, God was crucified. In Jesus, God saved us. In Jesus, God destroyed all the power of sin and death. And gave us eternal life as a gift.
It was all for us.
The silence of his passion was the singular expression of his humility and obedience.
And in the end, his triumph.
“Bearing shame and scoffing rude,
In my place condemned He stood;
Sealed my pardon with His blood.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!”