At Christ’s trial we shouted, but Jesus’ silence shouted louder. Some think that Matthew has birthed such anti-Semitic atrocities as the holocaust with Matthew 27:25; “His blood be on us and on our children.” But if you’re reading Matthew rightly you’re aware that Jesus alone is righteous and everyone else is guilty. You know you’re meant to see yourself as Peter, as Judas, as the priests, as Pilate, and as the crowds. Stuart Townend has taught us to sing well:
Behold the Man upon the cross
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers
The cry for a savior of our own choosing is a sin we’re all guilty of (Romans 1:22-25). And we not only want our own savior, we want the Savior crucified. “Before we can begin to see the cross as something done for us (leading to faith and worship),” John Stott tells us, “we have to see it as something done by us (leading to repentance).” Don’t just see Jesus’ rejected here, see your rejection. Don’t just see Jesus hated, see your hatred. Don’t just see the clearest and greatest display of human sin here, see your sin. Don’t just see the Savior you need, see why you need a Savior. Our sin cries, “give us our idols, let Him be crucified.”
Hear your cries loudly, and then hear Christ’s silence thunder over them and drown them out. Pilate heard only an echo, but for the saints Christ’s cross is sin-deafening. Jesus’ silence didn’t simply surprise Pilate, it left him “greatly amazed.” There was a noble calmness; a majestic dignity in it. Rebels have long tried to claim Jesus’ image, but Jesus isn’t bucking authority. He is demonstrating a higher one.
So Pilate said to him, ‘You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?’ Jesus answered him, ‘You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin (John 19:10–11 ESV).’
Don’t lose the regality of Jesus that is shining through the darkness of His suffering. Don’t lose what Jesus is doing for man for what man is doing to Jesus. Jesus isn’t just passively suffering. He is actively sacrificing. In his excellent book, The Cross He Bore, Frederick Leahy captured the loudness of Jesus’ silence well.
All too often Christ’s silence has been given a dangerous one-sidedness, as his passive obedience is stressed almost, if not altogether, to the exclusion of his active obedience. Christ’s silence was deliberate, emphatic and authoritative: it was his deed. The passivity of his suffering was real, but so was the activity of his obedience. Led as a lamb to the slaughter and like a sheep dumb before the shearers, he was active right up to and on the cross. He went as a king to die.
It was not the shouting priests who ruled the events of that day, but the silent great High Priest who was offering Himself as a sacrifice for sins.
There is a gloomy irony in Pilate’s actions on this day. He tries to wash the blood off his hands, but he cannot. The only thing sufficient to wash Jesus’ blood off Pilate’s hands and ours, is the very blood he is trying to wash off. The cross is the ultimate expression of our sinfulness. We can’t wash that off, but we can wash in it. For all who trust in Christ, His silent salvation thunders over our shouting sinfulness.