But Jesus gave no answer, not even to a single charge, much to the governor's amazement.
1. His silence before the high priest. False witnesses, bribed witnesses, made an accusation, by twisting one of his figurative sentences. The high priest was prepared to twist any reply that Jesus might make. "But he held his peace." And the silence made the consciences of his judges speak out, and accuse them of unscrupulous and malicious wickedness.
2. His silence before Herod. "Herod poured out a flood of rambling remarks, but Jesus did not vouchsafe him one word. He felt that Herod should have been ashamed to look the Baptist's Friend in the face. He would not stoop even to speak to a man who could treat him as a mere wonder worker who might purchase his judge's favour by exhibiting his skill. But Herod was utterly incapable of feeling the annihilating force of such silent disdain."
3. His silence before Pilate (as in text). It does not seem that our Lord was silent to Pilate. It was when the clamour of the priest party arose, interrupting the trial, that Jesus preserved silence. Observe the very important distinction between the silence of moodiness and sulkiness and the silence of conscious innocence. Only the latter silence has the true, reproachful, conscience-quickening power. "A silent lamb amidst his foes." The lamb is the type of innocence. Christianity has glorified the silent endurance of wrong, and has made such "silent endurance" one of the most masterful forces that sway humanity. Illustrate these points.
I. INNOCENCE CAN AFFORD TO BE SILENT.
1. Because it sufficiently speaks in attitude and in countenance.
2. Because God is always on its side.
3. Because time works its vindication.
II. INNOCENCE CONVICTS THE INJURER BY SILENCE.
1. It takes away all possibility of contention.
2. It prevents the injurer keeping up the excitement of rage and malice.
3. It compels the injurer to question his own doings.
4. It takes away all the pleasure of the injurer, when a man bears the injury meekly and silently.
The silence of Jesus searches priest party, Herod, and Pilate. - R.T.
And Jesus stood before the governor.
I. In speaking of the CHARACTER AND CONDUCT OF PILATE, we desire to bring him before you, as far as possible, as a man. He has won a terrible pre-eminence among the sons of Adam. Every child is taught to say that its Lord was crucified "under Pontius Pilate." It is a mistake to suppose that these instruments of our Lord's sufferings were men of astounding depravity. Pilate was not of this class. He was a reluctant agent in these events. He was induced simply by expediency. Indifference to religion can issue in deeds as unpardonable as utter violation of its spirit. Again and again, on a narrower stage, has been acted over that scene of criminal irresolution, resisted impulses, and weak concession to the fear of man.
I. Consider THE PROVIDENCE OF GOD TOWARDS PILATE. We are sometimes tempted to think that they were in very hard case, who, like Pilate, were involved in events so peculiar as were all things connected with Christ's life on earth, that it must have been a great trial of faith to recognize a present God in Jesus as He stood before Pilate. The answer is twofold: First, Pilate's guilt did not lie in this, that he condemned the Son of God, but that without evidence, against his own convictions, he condemned an innocent man, — that to gratify the mob, he prostituted his high office. The fact that the prisoner was God in the flesh, only enters into the question of his guilt, so far as he might, if he would, have known Him. But, secondly, it is evident that Pilate was in a remarkable degree held back from his sin. It has been observed, that the Saviour appears to have exercised the most marked grace towards all who were concerned in His final agony. In Pilate's instance, every possible way consistent with his free-will seems to have been tried, in order to save him from consummating his guilt. Such was the long silence of Christ at the beginning. It is clear from the Gospels, that there was in the whole of our Lord's demeanour an almost supernatural dignity. No words dropped from His lips; He declined, i.e., to plead before an authority inferior to His own, insomuch, it is said, that "Pilate marvelled." And when, after Pilate had uttered the fatal words, "Take ye Him and crucify Him," yet another appeal was made to his conscience. The Jews triumphantly responded, "We have a law, and by our law He ought to die, because He made Himself the Son of God." This open and undisguised claim to superhuman rank, did for a moment startle the wavering judge: "When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he was the more afraid." Again, it may be, there recurred to his mind the feelings of involuntary awe inspired from the beginning by his mysterious prisoner; thoughts glanced across him, that there might be more than he surmised in the events in which he bore a part; "that Just Man," against whom no charge could be substantiated, and of whose miraculous power tidings so strange had reached his ears, might be (as old records told there had been in former times), at least a messenger of Deity. Hence his earnest question to our Lord, "Whence art Thou?" Throughout that dread scene of judgment there seems not to have been a moment when Pilate might not have been saved for ever. Again and again he was all but delivered from blood-guiltiness.
(J. R. Woodford, M. A.)I. THE CIVIL MAGISTRATE UNDER WHOSE ADMINISTRATION HE SUFFERED. Pilate's name intimately interwoven with the history of Christ's sufferings; mentioned more than twenty times. The elements which composed his character were contradictory. He had good qualities, but associated with bad principles.
1. He was influenced by the fear of man.
2. He had a sordid regard to place and power.
3. He discovers a servile love of human applause.
4. The sequel of his history is affecting and instructive; the thing he dreaded came, he lost the favour of the emperor.
II. THE PECULIAR NATURE AND CHARACTER OF THOSE SUFFERINGS WHICH HE ENDURED. Look at the sufferings of Christ.
1. In their visible form.
2. Their moral design.
III. THE LESSONS THEY TEACH.
1. The infinite evil of sin.
2. The unbounded love of Jesus.
3. The full compatibility between the irreversible decrees of God and the freedom of man's agency, and the culpability of man's transgression.
4. The true ground of hope for the self-accusing sinner.
5. What a provision of comfort for the suffering Christian.
6. The fear of man bringeth a snare.
1. Was this singular silence the index of His perfect self-sacrifice? Did it show that He would not utter a word to stay the slaughter of His sacred person, which He had dedicated as an offering for us?
2. Was this silence a type of the defencelessness of sin? Nothing can be said in palliation or excuse of human guilt; and therefore He who bore its whole weight stood speechless before His judge.
3. Is not patient silence the best reply to a gainsaying world? Calm endurance answers some questions infinitely more conclusively than the loftiest eloquence. The best apologists for Christianity in the early days were its martyrs. The anvil breaks a host of hammers by quietly bearing the blows.
4. Did not the silent Lamb of God furnish us with a grand example of wisdom? Where every word was occasion for new blasphemy, it was the line of duty to afford no fuel for the flame of sire The ambiguous and the false, the unworthy and mean, will, ere long, overthrow and confute themselves, anal therefore the true can afford to be quiet, and finds silence to be its wisdom.
5. Our Lord, by His silence, furnished a remarkable fulfilment of prophecy (Isaiah 53:7). By His quiet He conclusively proved Himself to be the true Lamb of God.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
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