But he held his peace and answered nothing. Again the high priest asked him, and said unto him, Art thou the Christ the Son of the Blessed? And Jesus said, I am: and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.
The Preacher said it, “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven. . . .a time to keep silence and a time to speak.” Eccl. 3:1, 7.
Notice, silence and then speech!
Who could better practice this counsel than our Lord Jesus Christ, even as He stood in the midst of his taunting adversaries. We read, “But he held his peace and answered nothing.” Not until the High Priest placed Jesus under oath and demanded of Him His identity, does He speak in answer to the question, “Art thou the Christ the Son of the Blessed?” by saying, “I am.”
He was obedient even in His silence and in His speech.
And that was the wisdom of God.
Only the perfect Son of God could ever have held his peace and said nothing at such an hour. Sinful nature would have had plenty to say, but the Son of God was silent.
A brief review of the scene will make this evident.
The Jewish dignitaries had converged under the cloak of darkness upon the house of Caiaphas. The Scribes were present, they were the intelligentsia of the day, the doctors of law, the instructors in their schools. Most of them were of the sect of the Pharisees. The Levites were represented, to them had been entrusted the consecrated work of the temple. Since they were closely allied with Annas and Caiaphas most of them were Sadducees. We must not forget the Elders: they were represented in the Sanhedrin because they could be trusted for their wisdom; they were old and experienced; what may have inflamed brash youth could well be dampened by the Elders. Look closely and you will notice that in their composite they constitute the Sanhedrin, the ruling body of the Jews, the church and state united in one “theocracy.”
Alas, they have shed their dignity; by confederating together at such an unearthly hour of the night they only reveal that their work cannot stand the light of day; it must needs be shrouded by the darkness of the night. We have a very apt description recorded in James 3:14-16, “But if ye have bitter envyings and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is there is confusion and every evil work.” Envy brooded in the soul of Judas and it led him to lie against the truth. Contracting an illicit agreement for 30 pieces of silver, Judas waited for the opportunity to complete his part. God however, makes the wisdom of the world become foolishness. Contrary to the stipulations of the agreement, Judas presented Christ to the Sanhedrin in the early hours of Friday morning. Now what were they going to do? They had decided to wait until after the Passover; it was going to be a quiet affair without any stir. Judas must have convinced the Jews that it was now or never, for he secured the temple guard and with their unnecessary assist of swords and staves they had brought Jesus to the house of the High Priest. This devilish wisdom produced unbelievable confusion. Doctors of the law, Levites, Elders, are seen babbling together trying to assess the situation and agree on one particular charge with which they may present Jesus to Pilate as grounds for execution.
It is in the midst of this confusion that finally Caiaphas has taken notice that Jesus is extraordinary in His silence. Usually at such a pre-trial the suspect takes up the brunt of the argument. After all when one’s life is at stake he is at least expected to show some interest. If one is innocent he will surely produce all the proof and argumentation to substantiate such a fact and plead for his release. Having observed this repeatedly in other prisoners, Caiaphas turns to Christ and says, “Answerest thou nothing? what is it which these witness against thee? But He held his peace and answered nothing.”
There can be no question about a possible defense for Christ. Let no one imagine that Christ had no defense, that He considered Himself guilty and worthy of death. One can fill pages of evidence to show that all during His life and ministry He never did one thing that made Him worthy of death. There could be no lawful charge placed against Him. On the contrary one could also fill pages with evidence that the Jews, and more particularly the Sanhedrin, had violated law after law in their mock “trial.” They had arrested Him without warrant, Annas had engaged in unlawful private inquiry, the time and place of their meeting was contrary to law. They had taken a citizen and subjected Him to inquiry without first establishing the charge, there were present no unbiased witnesses, they decided to establish guilt and execute the sentence on the same day, all violations of the Jewish law. They even sentenced Him to death, an act outside their own jurisdiction, for they were subject to Rome. The Jews had a law that if one was unanimously declared guilty, he should be freed for such overwhelming evidence could only have come about by mistrial.
Jesus was not silent because He had no argument. He could have blistered their ears with railing accusations.
It was time to be silent. According to wisdom that is not earthly, sensual, devilish, but heavenly and divine, Jesus answered nothing.
Nothing determined more effectively the guilt of His accusers than Christ’s own silence. Nothing made it more clear that He was innocent than His own silence. All the while, during which He said nothing, they were forced to produce their own “evidence.” This they could not do. Attempts were made, but this produced more confusion, for no agreement could be reached. There was only one conclusion that could rightfully follow the “witnesses” were false, and Jesus was innocent.
Caiaphas began to realize this. He sensed that the way things were going they would never conclude this trial, and presently dawn would break and expose this fracas of justice. His soul was seething with contempt and bitterness welled up within. Finally it spilled over when he snarled, “Answerest thou nothing?”
Finally Caiaphas wielded the only weapon which he had by virtue of his office—the oath. According to Matthew’s account we read, “And the high priest said unto him, adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God.”
Jesus recognized that Caiaphas, though he prostituted justice, yet possessed the authority to exact from Him an answer. Jesus obeyed those in authority whether it was godless Caesar, or apostate Caiaphas. Under oath He bore testimony as to His identity, “I am.”
It was time to speak. Heavenly wisdom demanded this of the obedient servant.
Why? Indeed because it was demanded of Him, but there is much more. Not only must it be established that He is innocent and His accusers are guilty, they must execute their evil intent, they must act according to their evil design, they must in their guilt kill the innocent, for the Just must die for the unjust.
This is divine wisdom. In the midst of confusion and wrangling, Jesus sounded forth in words that harbor no doubt, nor becloud any issue; He told them, “1 am the Christ the Son of the Living God, and ye shall see the Son of man sitting at the right hand of power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.”
Behold Him as He stood in the midst of His accusers. He who is the natural Son of God, Who dwelt in the bosom of the Father before the worlds were framed. He came in the fullness of time to assume the task of the obedient servant having upon His shoulders our guilt in order that He might carry it all away. He never faltered a moment. He knew no sin, but He became sin for us that we might obtain the righteousness of God in Him.
And what does natural man say to such wisdom? Listen to the words of Caiaphas, “Ye have heard the blasphemy, what think ye?” The universal answer is, “worthy of death.” It will not do for us to self-righteously condemn the Sanhedrin as if we would exalt ourselves above them. That they were unworthy cannot be questioned. So too we would conclude the same for apostate church of our day. Many are the present day Sanhedrins who coldly calculate the “death of the Son of God” by deriding the true gospel and try to make of none effect the blood of the atonement. This is evident in the same calculated hatred that broods in the human soul scheming ways to get rid of the Christ who came to satisfy the righteous wrath of the Holy God. Men prate so freely of the love of God that God’s justice is maligned and the cross put to open shame.
True as this may be, we must look first at ourselves. Deeply within our own hearts we see the same wrath seething and brooding and all too often erupting in rebellion against the holy God. If the Son of God doesn’t do what we like, if He doesn’t pamper us in our sins, we become so vehement against Him. The message of our text is this, “we are miserably depraved.” The enmity displayed by the rulers of the Jews is an eruptive display of what we are inside. Depravity is so dark, the guilt is all on one side, our side.
In the midst of so great wickedness, God speaks the gospel of mercy—sovereign mercy, for even the wicked performed His will. In silence the world becomes guilty before God, in speech they become so incensed that they nail Him to the cross. The wisdom of God overrules it all, for He loved His enemies, He prayed for those who despitefully used Him, He died with the prayer on His lips, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” Through this work of the obedient servant we behold the depth of God’s mercy. He reached down into the pit of hell and drew us out.
Need we proof of this?
A centurion was joined in the execution party. He amused himself at the foot of the cross by joining in the gambling. His mouth was stained with derision as he joined in saying, “He saved others, himself he cannot save.” Yet his lips were silenced when God spoke at the cross. The darkness, the words of the Saviour, the earthquake, all brought this centurion to smite his breast and cry out by grace divine, “Indeed, this was the Son of God.”
This is the power of God unto salvation. Having paid for the sins of those whom the Father had given unto Him, He shouted forth triumphantly “It is finished” and gave up the ghost. Even death could have no power over Him, for on the third day the righteous Father raised Him from the dead and He ascended into heaven and now reigns over all things, having received power to gather His church unto Himself. He shall come as Judge to destroy His enemies and establish His Kingdom forever.
Are you part of that church? By nature we are all alike—we despise the Son of God, His silence before the Sanhedrin made this evident. By nature we nail Him to the cross—His speech before the Sanhedrin evoked this.
By the power of saving grace we are changed. When He says, “I am the Christ,” we shout forth, “Thou art the Christ the Son of the living God.” We acknowledge Him for what He is, that God may be glorified.
Silence—speech, the wisdom of God unto salvation.
Hallelujah, what a Saviour! Great is Jehovah.