“Then the leading priests kept accusing Him of many crimes, and Pilate asked Him, ‘Aren’t you going to answer them? What about all these charges they are bringing against you?’ But Jesus said nothing, much to Pilate’s surprise.” (Mark 15:3-5 NLT).
Jesus said nothing. He doesn’t offer a defense. I’m surprised along with Pilate! If my life were hanging in the balance, I’d have some kind of defense. Why didn’t He fight for His life? Standing before Pilate would have been the time to do it. It was Pilate who had the authority to crucify Him or set Him free, after all.
“’Why don’t you talk to me?’ Pilate demanded. ‘Don’t you realize that I have the power to release you or crucify you?’ Then Jesus said, ‘You would have no power over me at all unless it were given to you from above. So the one who handed me over to you has the greater sin'” (John 19:10-11 NLT).
In Gethsemane Jesus surrendered to God’s will. Since God is the source of authority, Pilate only has authority to crucify Jesus or set Him free because it was given to him from above. Jesus wouldn’t give a defense because He accepted His fate, God’s will, “this cup”, before He ever left the Garden of Gethsemane.
“He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, ‘My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine'” (Matthew 26:39 NLT).
We see from Gethsemane He sought total submission to God’s will. Therefore, He freely laid down His life so completely He didn’t take the opportunity to respond at a time it seems Pilate wouldn’t have faulted Him for it.
Still, He didn’t defend Himself, which is an amazing feat in and of itself, because people innocent or guilty plead their case in self-preservation. So His silence was a profound act of humility. Not only because His ego didn’t drive Him to try to change everyone’s mind about Him, but also because He exemplified submitting to God’s perfect will, not stepping outside of it even to utter a single word in His defense.
Headed toward a horrifying slaughter and this moment where He says nothing to stop it, is the result of His time of prayer in Gethsemane. Taking a break from praying, He went and found His disciples sleeping, then He told them to pray so they wouldn’t fall into temptation (Matthew 26:41). Praying to the Father and seeking the Father’s will, prepared Him to demonstrate the incredibly amazing spiritual fortitude to say nothing that might fight God’s will when He was finally given the chance. His prayers before God strengthened Him for His silence before the men about to execute Him.
Jesus was so committed to God’s will, He didn’t even want Peter to speak against it! (The following interaction between Peter and Jesus took place chronologically before both His prayer at Gethsemane and His trial before Pilate, enumerating what Jesus started to explain to His disciples up until these events happened.)
“From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. ‘Never, Lord!’ he said. ‘This shall never happen to you!’ Jesus turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns'” (Matthew 16:21-23 NIV).
After observing the text, it begins to make sense why Jesus wouldn’t defend Himself before Pilate. If He didn’t even want Peter to speak against His death, certainly He wouldn’t be inclined to convince Pilate it shouldn’t happen.
I am more like Peter than Jesus (putting my foot in my mouth). There have certainly been times in my life I wish I would have prayed beforehand to keep from stepping outside of God’s will with my words. Maybe sometimes prayer is not only about what we say to God, but also about the words we don’t say to each other. Sometimes it means not saying something even when everything but the Spirit tells you it’s ok.
Prayer. I could certainly do some more of it. Praying like the psalmist:
“Set a guard over my mouth, Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips” (Psalm 141:3 NIV).
P.S. So enters an opportunity to remember another one of those cool messianic prophecies from Isaiah:
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on Davidʼs throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this” (Isaiah 9:6-7 NIV).
This adds some cheer to the story and proves God is a better story writer than I am, telling of the glorification of Jesus way before the crucifixion part, the end from the beginning. His glorification wasn’t really an afterthought at all—but happened just according to plan.
Jesus’ obedience, especially in these solitary moments like praying in Gethsemane, makes more possible than we could ever understand on this side of eternity, but I’m so thankful He so loved the world. I’m also grateful His strength instructs in the power of love for Him and others. God bless!