Your Silent King

When false accusations are made, the natural reaction is to respond and deny. But Matthew 27:11–14 tells you that Jesus, before Pilate, was silent. He did tell Pilate he was King, but in the face of false accusations, he was silent.

Jesus acknowledges his kingship before Pilate. Jesus is accused of being a king. The Sanhedrin had condemned Jesus for blasphemy, but before Pilate they needed a charge which the governor would understand. Thus they apparently accuse him to Pilate of claiming to be a king. Pilate was not in a position to appear soft on opponents of Roman rule. Pilate’s efforts to release Jesus (as well as the warning from his wife) indicate that he recognized that these charges were not true. By all appearances Jesus was not a rebel leader. So Pilate asks Jesus if he is the king of the Jews.

Jesus does respond to Pilate’s question. The response is a qualified affirmative. “You said it,” or “that’s the way you put it,” might be clearer. A simple “Yes” would have appeared to agree to the false accusations of the Sanhedrin that Jesus was a rebel against Rome. A “No” would have been read as a denial of his messiahship. Jesus is indeed King, and in a far deeper sense than his accusers or Pilate realize. John’s Gospel indicates that Jesus elaborated briefly, admitting his kingship, but pointing out that his kingdom was not of this world. Jesus is the Son of Man from Daniel, the one who is given authority over the kingdoms of the earth.

Your King stands silent. The King is silent, despite numerous accusations. The silence is remarkable, especially since it could be taken as an admission to the accusations. Pilate is puzzled, and perhaps frustrated, by the silence. If he is trying to let Jesus off, it would help if he would deny the charges against him! The accusations were false, and even Pilate could see that Jesus was not the threat that the leaders of Israel made him out to be.

Your King is silent in obedience to Scripture. His silence fulfills the prophecy of Isaiah 53:7. Even more, his silence is the fulfillment of the entire Old Testament Scriptures. It is the carrying out of his Father’s plan for the salvation of his people. Perhaps it would not have taken much to have tipped Pilate’s decision the other way. But Jesus knew that he had to suffer and die. “The suffering of Christ, which begins with his incarnation and is completed in his ‘great passion,’ is the will and command of the Father…. The purpose of his condemnation, not only by the [Jewish] Sanhedrin but also by the secular Roman judge Pontius Pilate, was that he would not die in secret as a result of an assassination or in an insurrection, but that he would be publicly and legally killed, after being properly examined, in accordance with a verdict from the then best and most though system of justice, and that in the process his personal innocence (Matt. 27:18–24 as well as the basis for his condemnation, namely his confession that he was the Son of God and Israel’s Messiah (Matt. 26:63; 27:11), as well as the will of God (Acts 2:23; 4:27–28) and the character of his death as dying for others (Matt. 2-:28) would be clearly and incontrovertibly made manifest before the eyes of all.” (Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 3, p. 409) In that silent suffering your Lord is also teaching you how to respond to unjust persecution which comes your way. That persecution will come if you live in this world, but live here as one who really belongs to the heavenly kingdom. Obedience to your King may mean that things happen to you that are not fair. Keep your eye on the Lord who suffered far more than you did.

Jesus ascends to his throne through his suffering. Pilate may not have seen Jesus as a threat, but he was a far greater threat to Rome than the governor imagined. Rome, like the empires and nations before and after it, demanded total allegiance from its subjects. “Caesar is Lord!” was the expected confession. Even a government with democratic process can be just as demanding of total allegiance. You live in a country in which you have an active voice and role in selecting rulers and passing on laws. Use those opportunities, but don’t fall into the trap of seeing governmental reform as what will ultimately change our culture. By his death the Silent Sufferer established a kingdom that is greater than any of the kingdoms of the earth. Rome would finally crumble. The nations of the earth today will come to an end. It is the kingdom of heaven that will last though the ages, for it comes from heaven and really belongs to heaven. As you trust in him, he calls you to live as a citizen of that kingdom.

Place your confidence, not in anything the world offers you, but in the silent suffering of your King.

About jwm

I serve as pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church, Newberg, Oregon.
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