Why Was He Silent?

28 March 2023
Sr. Cheryl Rose

It keeps coming up lately—Jesus silent before Pontius Pilate.  In speaking recently with a directee, I suggested they might imitate Jesus when He was questioned before Pilate.  It made me realize that this encounter with Pilate has been haunting me for a while now.  What is it that Jesus was teaching us?  It was not a reaction of fear, or despair, or exhaustion that kept Him silent.  Clearly, He had not given up!  It was not by default that He was speechless.  Was this not instead a great moment of delivering, near the end, without words, a profound lesson for us?  Was He not saving the best till last—one of the greatest lessons on holy living, on the fullness of human response to life’s unfairness, to the very last days?

Let’s meditate on this a bit.  What was the great teaching? WHY was He silent?  When I think of why people might be silent when questioned about their thoughts or actions, it’s often because of not wanting to admit or reveal what was behind their behavior.  Perhaps fear of the response or reaction of others to what they would answer.  Or a desire to stay out of the spotlight, to not be seen or known more deeply.  One might not express their thoughts in order to not rock the boat in any way. Yet NONE of those motives fit Jesus in the scene before Pilate.  Jesus rocked so many boats in His short years of public ministry that it led to these events of His death. 

But another thought disturbs us when we ponder the last days.  Why did He not REFUTE the accusations against Him? The most natural human response is to defend ourselves when we are questioned or accused—even if we’re “guilty” we get defensive, but even more so if wrongly accused.  We cringe to see one so totally innocent, who did nothing to harm anyone, nothing without mercy and compassion—nothing but preach a wisdom we had never heard the likes of.  WHY WAS HE SILENT?

And no one, nothing intervened in this tragic, redemptive unfolding event to stop or prevent the Great Lesson.  I’ve had so many years of being uncomfortable with the silent Jesus, unjustly accused and treated like the lamb led to the slaughter. I think the most I could see was that He was humbly non-resistant.  But now—I don’t think He was teaching non-resistance.  Because in so much of what He did as He walked and worked among us, He was definitely resisting a theology laid on the people that was too external, too restrictive, too small.  Every day He rocked the boat and challenged the establishment’s theology of a punitive, judging God, revealing instead a tender Abba who loved all.  So He was NOT a lamb led to the slaughter!  He was giving us a POWERFUL instruction.

And what was it? I’m just trying to unpack this great lesson.  What if the silence before Pilate was because of a greater KNOWING?  What if He understood who they were, from what level of consciousness, of knowing, they were operating?  What if Jesus might answer my question something like this?

“Don’t be so quick to retaliate.  Forgive them for they know not what they do.  Don’t condemn them, even as they condemn you.  You must rise WAY above: ‘But this is so unfair!!  They’re WRONG—they’re so blind…they missed the whole boat!  They are so wrong…and I’m so clearly right!’  Like a frustrated child you rail against what you see as evil.  Forgive them…there are many who have not seen or heard what YOU have.  I was silent in the face of their blindness because the fullness of what I KNOW, and taught to you, does not need to be defended.  They cannot see yet.  They do not have the eyes to see, nor the heart to understand.  But YOU--when you KNOW the Truth, when you have been touched to the core by Love, you must give your whole self to it.  There is no need to defend.  Pick up the power I have shared with you, and LIVE on in my Love.  Then you, too, can silence the need to defend, and wash the feet of the blind and the deaf.”