Would You Remain Silent?
“You are a king, then!” said Pilate. Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” John 18:37
In trial courts in the USA, a witness or defendant may say, “I plead the fifth.” The Fifth Amendment of our constitution guarantees us the right to remain silent rather than incriminate ourselves.
Reading the accounts of Jesus’s trials before the religious leaders and the political leaders, I was struck at first by his silence. Even though Jesus was falsely accused, he didn’t defend himself. The One who said he came to testify to the truth knew those liars wouldn’t listen to him.
But before an assembly of the high priest, all the chief priests, the elders, and the scribes, Jesus’s words were not only truthful but also self-incriminating (Mark 14:53–62). The high priest asked Jesus to answer under oath, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?” (v. 61).
Jesus said, “I am.” He then added words from Scripture which were messianic: “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One, and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Mark 14:62, quoting from Psalm 110:1 and Daniel 7:13–14).
In Psalm 110, David spoke of One he called “my Lord,” who sat at the right hand of God the Father. Daniel described a heavenly court where books were opened and judgment administered. One day Jesus will judge the men who judged him at his trials.
The Jewish religious court decided that Jesus had incriminated himself: he was guilty of blasphemy, punishable by death. Later Pilate, the Roman governor, asked Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “You have said so” (Mark 15:2). Incriminating words: only Caesar was regarded as king—Jesus was guilty of treason, punishable by death. Although he believed Jesus was innocent, Pilate chose to appease the crowd. He released the insurrectionist, Barabbas, and then delivered Jesus to be crucified.
Hebrews 12:2 says that Jesus, “for the joy set before him … endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” How would you respond if you were on trial for your faith? Would you say, “I plead the fifth”? Or would you courageously declare, as many others have, “I am a Christian”?
James wrote, “No man can tame the tongue” (see James 3:1-12). But Jesus had power over his tongue! How could his example change your actions when falsely accused?
Nancy J. Baker
This devotion is included in Restore the Hope, our collection of Lenten and Easter devotions available as print or ebook on Amazon.