If you remove every religious implication or theological interpretation of Jesus’ last week of life, it still remains compelling. This is evident in the numerous books, stage plays, and movies based upon its narrative filled with sinister villains and an anti-hero/hero. It’s storyline includes betrayal and love; secrecy and rebellion. No wonder we never tire of hearing it. However, one particular scene has always baffled me and its purpose eluded countless scholars. It is when Jesus stands before before Pontius Pilate — the one person with the power to decide whether Jesus will live or die — and Jesus says nothing! Nothing! Not the response one might expect from someone facing a crime worthy of capital punishment.
Wouldn’t you think he might mention a few healings that included, not just Jews, but Romans? How about the time he refused to undercut the power of the Empire by affirming payment off taxes to Caesar? No, nothing! Instead, the only conversation he enjoins with his accuser and judge regards TRUTH. WHAT IT IS! WHO IT INVOLVES! WHERE WE FIND IT!
As I read the morning news, the scene from the Passion Story came to the forefront of my mind as I read over the accusations of misconduct by Congressman Matt Gaetz. This may seem unrelated or kind of strange, but here’s the thing. Whereas Jesus remained silent, offering no defense, Representative Gaetz immediately provided a loud and aggressive, verbal defense. And though truth and justice require time to be sorted out, such a reaction always raises suspicion in my mind. As the saying goes, “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire!” And haven’t we been played by celebrities, preachers, politicians, etc. in this way before?
It reminds me of an old story involving a church organist who is searching for a misplaced sheet of music and in final desperation examines papers on the pulpit. Her music was not to be found, only the preacher’s sermon notes, which read: 1) make the case for our need of God’s forgiveness; 2) provide Biblical examples of God forgiving Moses, Jonah, Peter; etc.; 3) WEAK ENDING, so whatever you say . . . . SHOUT LIKE HELL!
This appears to be the outline of the multiple defense stories we hear these days: Say you’re sorry if caught (i.e. code for - sorry, I got caught); blame someone else; deflect (i.e. what about them?) deny, deny, deny; and always, SHOUT LIKE HELL!
But, Jesus resorted to none of these. Confronted with accusations involving his life and death, Jesus was silent. His defense had, for years, been presented — played out publicly for all to see. Nothing hidden. No double life. His words and deeds spoke for themselves. The truth of his life was clear. What more needed to be said?
We live in an age of rage, pervaded by the belief that if we say anything often and loudly is will be true — or dismiss the search for truth. But, as gramma used to say, “The truth is in the pudding.” Actions speak louder than words.
Jesus knew precisely what he was doing by remaining silent . As he said many times, “Those with eyes will have seen, likewise, those with ears will have heard.” And in an aged of constant shouting, loud and senseless arguments, it’s critical we watch what people do, rather than be swayed by what they say. IT’S CRITICAL WE GIVE… SILENCE ITS DUE.!
Rev. Keith A. Haemmelmann