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A Surprising Silence

According to the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations General Assembly, everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression. Most of us believe it is a virtue to stand up for ourselves, especially when we believe our rights have been violated.

Jesus was different. When invited to defend Himself before Pontius Pilate, Jesus was silent (v. 14). His answer, when Pilate asked Him directly whether He was the king of the Jews, seems a little ambiguous to modern ears (v. 11). According to the Greek text, Jesus’ reply was “you have said” or “you say.” But this was the same answer He gave to the high priest Caiaphas who understood it to mean “yes” (Matt. 26:63–64). It is also the answer given to Judas when he responded to the Savior’s prediction of his betrayal by saying, “Surely you don’t mean me?” (Matt. 26:25).

Pilate represented Rome at the trial. He had full authority and seemed inclined to release Jesus. It was his custom to release a prisoner at Passover, and he invited the assembled crowd to choose between Jesus and Barabbas. Luke’s Gospel says Barabbas was involved in an armed uprising and had murdered someone. The chief priests influenced the crowd to choose Barabbas instead of Jesus (Mark 15:11).

Pilate’s wife sent a message, “Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him” (Matt. 27:19). Matthew does not identify the source of the dream, but previous dreams mentioned in his Gospel name God as their source. The wife’s counsel serves as another evidence of Jesus’ innocence. Under pressure from the religious leaders and the crowd, Pilate ignored her advice.

>> Someone once said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” In Jesus’ case, the only One who could truly be called good said nothing so that we would triumph over sin. Rejoice in this today.

BY Dr. John Koessler

Dr. John Koessler, who retired as professor emeritus from Moody Bible Institute, formerly served in the division of applied theology and church ministry. John and his wife Jane enjoy living in a lakeside town in Michigan. A prolific writer, John’s books include The Radical Pursuit of Rest (InterVarsity), The Surprising Grace of Disappointment (Moody), and True Discipleship (Moody). John is a contributing editor and columnist for Today in the Word.

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