An Argument for Silence

Where the Bible gives no specifics on a thing, or is limited or even silent, so ought we Christians to be proportionately limited or silent for our own good and for the reputation of Christ.

This is not to say God leaves us without principle and/or command to be our guides, but there are many things for which God refuses to prescribe specific “rules.” In cases where God provides no specific rules about matters, Christians should look only to the clear principles of Scripture, not to man-made rules and especially not to any one man (1 Cor. 4:1-6). Neither is it good to become “wise above the Scriptures” or “wise in one’s own eyes”… or, as Ecclesiastes 7:16 puts it, “Be not excessively righteous and do not be overly wise. Why should you destroy yourself?” The context there is that a “holier-than-you” person ends up dead or with his reputation destroyed, perhaps due to his arrogance or attempts to control others in matters of living righteously/wisely. The balance to being overly righteous is to avoid being given over to evil. Don’t be one who ends up dead due to stupidly deviant and prolifically evil ways. We all live and die–how is another matter. The Lord Jesus is our example for both.

When standing before Pilate, just prior to his going to the Cross and despite having answered other of Pilate’s interrogations, the Lord Jesus chose to remain silent. The night before his interview with Pilate, when the Sanhedrin tried him in a kangaroo court, Christ answered some questions and to others he remained silent. How do we take this silence of Jesus? Well, we take it as He gave it.

In the case of standing before the High Priest and the Sanhedrin, Jesus was asked about his identity as the Messiah, the Son of God. In fact, the High Priest asked him twice, because Jesus did not answer the first time. (Mark 14:52-65) Why did Jesus not answer? Besides 1 Peter 2:23, which indicates he was committing himself to God who judges righteously, the context gives us clues. The first clue is the trial was a kangaroo court… illegal to be held in many ways, let alone false witnesses made up stories about him. So, silence in that circumstance could mean Jesus did not recognize the court. It had no real, legally binding authority.
Secondly, Jesus remained silent because that was his legal prerogative. By law, a Jewish man could not be sentenced to death based on his own testimony. Therefore, Jesus remained silent… for a moment, perhaps to give those present a moment to think on what illegalities they were committing. [They sought to kill him.] Or, perhaps Jesus thought on his duty as the suffering, Righteous Servant of the God the Father in the moment the High Priest asked Christ his identity. You see, the High Priest did not wed the truth that the Messiah was prophesied to suffer for sins with the other truth that the Messiah would be a Ruler in might and righteousness. 

Maybe all of these reasons came together in one moment of silence before Jesus finally answered. Regardless, He angered them all by affirming:  1) he indeed is the Son of Man (a title for THE Prophet of God, the Messiah);  2) although he obviously was humbled before them at that time, one day the accusers would seem him as they always expected the Messiah… vested with all ruling power and glory. Personally, I believe from that scrap of context we can gather that Jesus paused dramatically before giving them a witness about himself that might help their faith. But, for them, the truth did help; they were insistent.

Then, in the case of standing before Pilate (Matthew 27:11-14), the Lord Jesus insisted on silence. The reasons for this silence are more than likely very similar to the time of silence before the High Priest and elders. In fact, that is mentioned by Matthew. However, another reason exists for Jesus’ silence here. It was prophesied. Isaiah 53:7 (written many hundred years before Christ) foretold that the Messiah would be silent before his executioner, because the Messiah would bear our sins on himself on that cross, satisfying God’s wrath against us, so that (at faith) we might be reconciled to God through Him and receive only God’s love, none of His wrath.

Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Accordingly, there are times which Christians should be silent, especially when it is suffering for Jesus’s sake or otherwise commanded by God. Please see the following passages:   Matthew 7:6; Proverbs 26:4&5; 1 Peter 2:23. These times of silence might include when or when not to instruct or debate someone, or it might be when to join someone in their grief by the consolation of silent friendship (Job 2:13). Yes, silence can be golden.

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