“He was oppressed, and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth: He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her Shearers is dumb, so He opened not His mouth.”
How striking is the repeated use of the personal pronoun “we” and “us” in this fifty-third chapter of Isaiah! How emphatic, therefore, is the divinely inspired writer’s setting forth of the truth that our Lord Jesus Christ suffered and died only for His own, His elect given Him of the Father!
What an amazing phenomenon we have here! We read: “He was oppressed, and He was afflicted, yetHe opened not His mouth.” In spite of all this, He opened not His mouth. Is it any wonder that the Ethiopian eunuch expresses his amazement, according to Acts 8:30-34? Is not silence under suffering a very strange thing? Is not His silence so much more amazing, unbelievable? Yet we read: He never opened His mouth. All this evil He permitted to be inflicted upon Him, even until the end. As a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so He opened not His mouth.
He was oppressed and He was afflicted. The first word means, “to be driven,” as a rabbit or a hare is driven, hunted and hounded, even unto death. The second word means, “to be depressed or afflicted,” even as grapes are pressed. Christ was hounded and afflicted; no place was permitted Him in the midst of the world. The birds of the air have nests, and the foxes have holes, but the Son of Man had no place where to lay His head. The birds and the foxes are not begrudged these things; but they were denied Him!
How true this was of our Lord Jesus Christ throughout His life! Already during His infancy He was driven into Egypt. And during His public ministry He was hounded and afflicted relentlessly. . . .
This, however, was true especially at the end of His life while among us. Think of Gethsemane. How the devil tried to crush Him, when His disciples slept and could not watch with Him even one hour! From Gethsemane He was driven to Annas, a deposed high priest, and by a motley multitude armed with lanterns and staves and swords. From Annas He was driven to Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin, and from there to Pilate, to Herod, and then back to Pilate. How He was maltreated before the Roman governor! And then they led Him to the accursed tree, crucified Him with two malefactors. And He was crucified in the midst of them. How truly it applies to Him: All the day long He was killed for our sake; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter; He was oppressed and He was afflicted, despised and rejected of men.
And He opened not His mouth. O, this does not mean that He never opened His mouth. Did He not speak to His enemies in the garden of Gethsemane? Did He not open His mouth before Annas—see John 18:20-23? He also spoke before Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin. And of His appearance before Pontius Pilate we read that He gave a good testimony, witnessing of the fact that He is the King of the Jews, and also reminding the Roman governor of the fact that he would have no power except it were given Him from above. Enroute to the cross He addressed the women of Jerusalem. Upon the cross He also opened His mouth, speaking the seven cross words. The meaning, we understand, is that He did not open His mouth in rebellion. He never opened His mouth to ward off the enemy, to escape the cross. He suffered in perfect submission and obedience; He never attempted to escape from the way of suffering and the power of the enemy. He was dumb as a sheep before her shearers.
What an amazing phenomenon! We read literally: “He was oppressed; and while He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth.” Besides, the pronoun “He” appears here with emphasis: while He was afflicted. And then we read: Yet He opened not His mouth.
He was so innocent. I refer now, of course, to the relation in which He stood over against His enemies. How innocent He was and how wicked they were . . . ! When did it ever happen that a judge declares a defendant innocent and then proceeds to execute him?! And when did a judge ever preside over an easier case than did Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin and Pontius Pilate?! Besides, He could have destroyed His enemies, even by the breath of His mouth. This power He surely had. . . . If ever a man had the right to resist, and also the power, it was surely this Jesus of Nazareth. Hence, how utterly amazing is His silence! Indeed, how true it is: Yet He opened not His mouth. Why this perfect and complete submission?
This Silent Sufferer is our Mediator. He did not stand alone. He did not appear merely as another of the sheep; He stood in the place of all the sheep. He was not merely another individual among individuals. He was the Head, the representative, Head of sinners, of an entire congregation of elect sinners, an elect multitude which no man can count. He represented a congregation of lost sinners, lost sheep, who had forfeited all the grace of God, could never save themselves. He was not merely Jesus of Nazareth; He was the Christ, our Chief Prophet, Only High Priest, and Eternal King.
Why did He come? He did not come simply to show us the way home. He did not merely come to tell us how much God loved us and then beg us to love God. He did not come merely as a great example, or teacher, to instruct us how we must conduct ourselves. He surely did not come to extend to us the offer and possibility of salvation, and then leave it to us to accept Him and follow Him the best we can. He came to redeem us, hopelessly lost but eternally elect sinners. He came to seek and to save that which was lost. Unto Him was given a definite charge, mandate, as recorded in John 6:39.
This explains His silence. Salvation is exclusively now a matter between God and Christ. Jesus assumes our guilt, the guilt of sin. And so salvation is exclusively a matter between God and Him. This salvation is not conditional. It is not so that He dies for us if only we believe on Him. We do not establish the efficacy of His work. Jesus’ cross stands alone. God laid upon Him the iniquities of us all. The elect are no longer on their own. Salvation is solely a matter between God and Christ; our salvation stands or falls with Him.
Hence, bearing our guilt He must also bear the punishment. What He must bear is so much more than what all the reprobates in hell will ever bear. Indeed, each reprobate pays for his own sin. Jesus bears the punishment for the sins of all the elect. And, He must suffer this infinite wrath of God in perfect and conscious obedience. In that one awful moment of eternity, upon the cross of Calvary, never to be understood by us, Christ must experience, in all its fulness, the awfulness of the wrath, of God upon all our sins. It reminds us of a song:
“None of the ransomed ever knew,
How deep were the waters crossed;
Nor how dark was the night that the Lord passed thru,
Ere He found His sheep that was lost.”
Now we understand His silence. A short while ago we wrote that if ever a man had the right to open His mouth it was this Jesus of Nazareth. Let us change this, shall we: If ever a man. had no right to open His mouth it was this Jesus of Nazareth., Hence, as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, being led to the cross, so the Lamb of God stood before His divine Executioner; and, as our Mediator, looking up, as it were into the eyes of the living God Who sent Him, He responds: Even so, Father, Thy law is written in My heart; I come Thy will to do; glorify Thyself and reveal Thy righteousness through Me, even in deepest hell; save Me, not from this hour, but out of this hour.
How terrible is this silent suffering of the Man of Sorrows for the wicked! Imagine: He opened not His mouth! They hated Him without a cause. David, too, was hated, but never without a cause. His enemies could always find some fault in him. But this Jesus was hated without a cause. He never gave them a single reason to hate Him. And, He never opened His mouth. He permitted Himself to be led to the slaughter, to allow Himself to be killed. He gave the world full opportunity to reveal themselves in all their sin and wickedness.
Indeed, how terrible! Now the world has revealed itself in all its sin and iniquity. Now the world has established its own condemnation, its own utter unworthiness. O, that world may laugh now. But presently this Man of Sorrows will surely open His mouth, as the Lord of glory, and consign them to hell and ruin, unspeakable misery forever and ever.
However, how wonderful and blessed this Silent Sufferer is for the Church of the living God! On the one hand, how blessed for Christ Himself! Indeed, His way was unutterably difficult. Never will we be able to understand or fathom His way of sorrows. For our Lord Jesus Christ, however, it meant that He finished the work which He came to do. He went all the way, as the Silent Sufferer, and for Him the way of the cross led Him into glory, into the Father’s right hand, and there He saves His church, all His elect own, even unto the uttermost.
And how blessed this suffering is for us! What does this mean for us, who love God because He loved us first, who now believe in Him because He dies for us? What does this mean? It means that we are at peace with God! It means that all our sins and debts are, paid; it means that all is well between us and God; it means that life and glory everlasting and heavenly immortality are ours forever and ever: Philip asked the Ethiopian eunuch: Understandest thou what thou readest? Do we understand? O, the beauty, the comfort of this all! Indeed, He opened not His mouth, suffered and died that we might live. To Him, the God of our salvation in Jesus Christ, our Lord, be all the praise and adoration, now and even forever.