I find it hard to be silent when I am being accused of something I did not do. I even find it difficult to not defend myself when I am guilty of wrong-doing. My natural tendency is to defend myself. I want to look good in front of people. I don’t want to be seen as flawed and sinful, but that’s a problem because I keep proving that I am.
Jesus impresses me. He reacted much differently than I would have. Luke 23 records that Jesus was taken by the Jewish council to the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, and accused of insurrection. Pilate asked him some questions that Jesus answered simply. Pilate then sent Jesus to King Herod. Herod mocked Jesus, sarcastically threw a fancy robe on him, and then sent him back to Pilate with a determination that Jesus was not guilty. All of this Jesus endured without defending himself. It’s almost like he didn’t want to get out of the trouble he was in. Why not?
Pilate declares to the shouting crowd that he has found Jesus innocent of the accusations. Pilate tries to soothe their ire by having Jesus severely beaten. After the beating Jesus still refuses to defend himself. He knows he is innocent. Pilate knows he is innocent. But the crowd is still calling for Jesus to be crucified. At what point will Jesus say, “Enough!” I would have said it long before. I would have done whatever I could to convince Pilate to spare me from the beating and a death sentence, especially when a convicted murderer is being released instead. Jesus says nothing. He allows the crowd to sway Pilate into agreeing to the execution. Why? Why doesn’t he say something?
Jesus is led away toward the place of execution, the place they called, “The Skull.” There he is nailed to a wooden cross that is then dropped into a hole. Jesus’ full weight was on the nail in his feet and the nails in his hands. The pain was excruciating. He bled profusely and lost strength with each passing moment. Why didn’t Jesus proclaim his innocence from the cross? Why didn’t he call to God for deliverance?
Instead of pronouncing curses and judgment on those who falsely accused him, he looked around and saw those who had crucified him gambling for his clothes. Finally he speaks, but what he says is shocking. He says, “Father, forgive them” (Luke 23:34). When one of the thieves who is being crucified at the same time asks Jesus for mercy, Jesus says, “Today, you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). What? Forgiveness and mercy at a time like this? How can that be?
Then I remember the reason Jesus came in the first place. Our sin had created a great chasm between us and God. God needed a bridge to be built between us and him. Jesus didn’t defend himself because he knew his innocent blood would build that bridge. Jesus was silent because he knew his death would mean that I wouldn’t have to die. Jesus’ forgiveness and mercy on the cross was simply the last breath of a life lived and sacrificed so everyone who chooses to cross that bridge can be at peace with God.
Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace impresses me.
Bruce Swanson is pastor at Montesano Assembly of God.