When day came, the assembly of the elders of the people gathered together, both chief priests and scribes. And they led him away to their council, and they said, “If you are the Christ, tell us.” But he said to them, “If I tell you, you will not believe, and if I ask you, you will not answer. But from now on the Son of Man shall be seated at the right hand of the power of God.” So they all said, “Are you the Son of God, then?” And he said to them, “You say that I am.” Luke 22:66-70
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. Romans 1:16
Watching Jesus verbally spar with the teachers of the law all through the gospels just makes it harder for us to understand how he could be essentially silent during those last two days before Pilate and Herod and the chief priests. There were so many things he could have said…so many ways he could have embarrassed them!
Doesn’t it seem to you that he had some moral and spiritual obligation to have said more to them? Do you wonder whether any of his followers accused him of being ashamed of the gospel, because he wouldn’t speak up when he could have…when he should have? I mean, he KNEW the truth! Is it ever wrong to just speak the truth? Isn’t this the truth that sets men free? These are the questions rattling around in my head as I read the accounts of Jesus in Court before his crucifixion. And, of course, I ask them satirically, because these are all the same arguments I think we, the church, often make to support our “speaking” into issues today.
It occurs to me that a lot of horrible and embarrassing things have been done and said by the church over the centuries (and maybe especially in the last couple of decades) under the banner of “not being ashamed of the gospel”. For Christ-followers, Romans 1:16 has become like the get-out-of-jail-free card in Monopoly, purportedly excusing anything and everything we want to say to the lost and broken world around us…when they start acting lost and broken.
I think Jesus demonstrates another strategy for us. I think he shows us that there are actually moments and circumstances when God can use our silence every bit as powerfully as He can use our voices. Why didn’t Jesus speak? Maybe it was because he knew the hearts of the men questioning him and wasn’t going to waste the energy. Maybe it was because it was unnecessary, because everything was on track and moving exactly in the direction he knew God had ordained. Maybe the truth really does set men free and being set free was not at all what he needed at the moment.
Jesus teaches us that there is a time to speak and there is a time to be silent. We, the church, have got to exercise some discernment about which is which. After all, God can use our silence!