In my Bible study class last night one of the things we studied and discussed was Jesus’ trial before Pilate. I wrote a bit about this in my most recent post but I have another thought tonight from a little bit farther on in the text.
John 19:1 says,
“Then Pilate took Jesus and flogged him.”
While the biblical text in this and the succeeding verses discusses the treatment Jesus received there is no mention that Jesus made any kind of response. Similarly, the accounts of Jesus’ trial in Matthew, Mark and Luke are quiet concerning any response that Jesus may have made there. And none of the other Gospels describe anything as violent as the flogging that John reports in his account.
If we accept that the lack of any biblical record of Jesus’ response means that he was silent as he was being flogged then the next question is “Why was he silent?”
For many people Jesus was silent in fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah 53:3-7, which says,
“He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.”
I can agree with the idea that silence during his physical punishment fulfills the scripture prophecy, but in trying to answer the question of “Why?” we need to go deeper.
Jesus torture and death are for the punishment of sin. Jesus is bearing on himself my sin, and the sin of all who believe in him.
My wife and I have one child at home, a pre-schooler who when asked why she does one thing or another almost automatically answers, “I don’t know.”
Sometimes she really doesn’t know, or perhaps she doesn’t know quite how to express her reason, if she could think about it in those terms. But other times she does know and “I don’t know” is an attempt to escape responsibility and any consequences that may come from her actions.
When I sin it is because I choose to act in ways that are contrary to those ways laid out by God as being good and God-honoring. I usually don’t think about it in those terms but that is what the real truth is. If God were to ask, “Brad, why did you sin?” any “I don’t know” on my part would just be a lie. It would be piling another sin on top of the first one. There really is no defense for the actions, for the thoughts, that I make that are outside of God’s good rules and boundaries.
And that is why Jesus is silent in John as he is flogged and crucified. He is bearing my sin in the honest way before God that I cannot. He is bearing it silently, knowing that as a sinner before God there is no excuse. Sin cannot exist in the presence of a God that is not just loving, but also holy, righteous and just. And neither can there be an excuse for sin.
As we continue to move through Lent, Good Friday is a little more than one week away. I invite you to take some time and ponder your place before God, a place made possible by the finished work of Christ, a work that reached its culmination on the cross, in the painful and perfect sacrifice of Jesus, given for me, and given for you.
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.