"You have the right to remain silent, but anything you do say will be taken down and may be used in evidence against you."
These are familiar words to readers of old detective stories. However, since 1984 in England and Wales the police caution to suspected criminals has been: "You do not have to say anything but it may harm your defence if you do not mention, when questioned, something that you later rely on in court. Anything you do so may be given in evidence. Do you understand?"
No jury today is allowed to presume that silence infers guilt.
It is also an attempt to ensure that no statement or confession has been made under duress or torture.
That is now, but it was not the case in earlier centuries in England. Anyone arrested had to take the oath EX OFFICIO MERO. They had to confess or swear innocence, usually before hearing the charge. If they refused it was deemed that they were guilty.
So the right to silence is considered to be important today in the conduct of a fair trial. The most infamous illegal trial in human history took place in Jerusalem nearly 2000 years ago.
But surprisingly for that age, the accused was silent. The accused was our Saviour, an unspotted Lamb.
In Matthew's account of Christ's life, he often explains that some event "was done in order that such and such prophecy might be fulfilled." But he does not say that Christ's silence was to fulfil Isaiah 53:7:
"Hard pressed is He, and He Himself is humbled, yet He is not opening His mouth; like a flockling to slaughter is He fetched, and as a ewe is mute before her shearers, He is not opening His mouth."
The reason is simple. Some of the time Christ DID speak and reply to His judges during His trials. The prophecy refers to after the trial when He was led off to Golgotha.
He was silent when accused by false witnesses. They did not agree in their testimony. The accusations were obviously false. Christ did not need to say anything. He only replied to the questions:
"Are You the Christ, the Son of God?" and "Are You the King of the Jews?"
He could only answer the truth.
Christ's silence spoke volumes. The people who were really on trial were Christ's accusers: His judges and false witnesses. They were shown to be what they were - murderers, liars and hypocrites.
The judicial system at the time was different to ours today. In Jewish and Roman courts, silence was taken as guilt. There was no Crown Prosecution Service acting on evidence provided by the police. There were no defence or prosecution lawyers. No jury. There had to be a minimum of three judges - even up to 71 judges. At least one had to speak for the accused.
Witnesses brought the accusations, not the judges. There had to be at least two witnesses, preferably three, and they had to agree on all important points.
If the accused was found guilty of the death penalty, the witnesses were the ones who cast the first stones. If the witnesses were found to be liars, their punishment was what they wanted the accused to suffer.
Christ was not silent because He did not know how to answer His accusers. Months before, He had already shown He did not fall into any traps set for Him by the religious leaders.
"Render to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's," silenced the Pharisees and Herodians.
Matthew records the result of silencing them on another occasion, in 22:46:
"And no one was able to answer Him a word, neither dares anyone, from that day, inquire of Him any longer."
Before His trial, Jesus had been accused of appearing as His own witness. They claimed that His testimony was not valid. His answer is in John 8:18:
"I am the One testifying concerning Myself, and the Father Who sends Me is testifying concerning Me."
Verse 20 explains why they didn't arrest Him there and then:
"... and no one arrests Him, for not as yet had come His hour."
In all this, God was in the picture.
It is often asked, "Who killed Christ? Was it the Jews or the Romans?"
Isaiah 53: 8-9 reads:
"By oppression and judgement He was taken away ... For He was cut off from the land of the living, for the transgression of My people He was stricken. He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in His death, though He had done no violence, nor was deceit in His mouth."
So was it the Jews or the Romans or the rest of humanity?
Verse 10 tells us:
"Yet Yahweh desires to crush Him, and He causes Him to be wounded."
Verses 11 and 12 explains God's purpose in what may seem a cruel, vindictive act on God's part:
" ... My righteous servant shall justify many, and with their depravities He Himself shall be burdened. ... He Himself bears the sins of many, and for transgressors shall He make intercession."
Christ made intercession when He said:
"Father forgive them, for they know not what they do."
The passage from Isaiah was used by Philip when he preached the evangel to the Ethiopian eunuch, as recorded in Acts 8:29-35. Verse 35:
"Beginning from this scripture [Philip] evangelizes to him Jesus."
This is just one example of the power of God's Word to change lives. All the apostles, including Paul, "argued from the SCRIPTURES that Jesus was the Christ."
We must not think that only a righteous person can prophesy. It is well known that Caiaphas, the chief priest, said, as recorded in John 11:50:
" ... that Jesus was about to be dying for the sake of the nation, and not for the nation only, but that He may be gathering the scattered children of God also into one."
He prophesied that, not from himself, but also because he was the chief priest of that year.
What is not so well known is the significance of the words Pontius Pilate said, "Ecce homo!" in Latin; "Behold the Man!" in English. In the Games at Rome, when one gladiator had overcome all the others and become the champion, the victory cry was "Behold the Man!" In other words, "Behold the Winner!". The winner was then given his freedom. Possibly without knowing it, Pilate was saying Christ had won the victory.
Paul told Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:5:
"Now if anyone should be competing in the games also, he is not given a wreath if ever he should not be competing lawfully."
Christ competed lawfully, i.e. according to the rules: Obedience to God. Christ was in total submission to God's will. In Gethsemane, Christ prayed, as recorded in Matthew 26:39:
"My Father if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as You will."
This prayer was offered three times but there was no other way.
It is useless to speculate that if Christ had received a fair trial He would not have been crucified. All is of God. He had to die the shameful death of the cross.
Galatians 3:13 reads:
"Christ reclaims us from the curse of the law, becoming a curse for our sakes for it is written, 'Accursed is everyone hanging on a pole', that the blessing of Abraham may be coming to the nations in Christ Jesus, that we may be obtaining the promise of the spirit through faith."
Paul was quoting from Deuteronomy 21:23. Christ had to be crucified, not stoned to death. This was the time in human history when this could happen. This did not happen by chance but was ordered by God.
Christ's trial had to be a miscarriage of justice. It had to be proved to all creation what was in the heart of man, and in the heart of God.
But when Christ came down from the tree, the disciples must have been stunned into silence. And this despite the fact that Christ had warned them beforehand. Surely Jesus was God's Anointed, the King of Israel?
Yet later they would realize that Pilate was right - Christ is the Victor, not just over death for Himself or for a favoured few.
If Christ were not God's Anointed, the Son of God, He could only have been yet another good man who had suffered a miscarriage of justice. And we would still be in our sins, without hope of life over death.
Paul explains this truth in 1 Corinthians 15:13-19:
"Now if there is no resurrection of the dead, neither has Christ been roused. Now if Christ has not been roused, for naught, consequently, is our heralding, and for naught is your faith. Now we are being found false witnesses also of God, seeing that we testify by God that He rouses Christ, Whom, consequently, He rouses not, if so be that the dead are not being roused. For if the dead are not being roused, neither has Christ been roused. Now, if Christ has not been roused, vain is your faith - you are still in your sins! Consequently, those also, who are put to repose in Christ, perished. If we are having an expectation in Christ in this life only, more forlorn than all men are we."
Then Paul thunders (verses 20 to 22):
"Yet now Christ has been roused from among the dead, the Firstfruit of those who are reposing. For since, in fact, through a man came death, through a Man, also, comes the resurrection of the dead. For even as, in Adam, all are dying, thus also, in Christ, shall all be vivified. Yet each in his own class: the Firstfruit, Christ; thereupon those who are Christ's in His presence ..."
What people did not know in the 1st Century and what many people do not know in the 21st Century is that GOD has the right to remain silent. And he exercised that right until He used Paul to break that silence. There may well be things which God is remaining silent about now, but He has revealed to us what we need to know now.
God has done it before, as Moses told the people of Israel in Deuteronomy 29:29:
"The things being CONCEALED are Yahweh our Elohim's, yet the things being revealed are OURS and our sons' until the eon, so that we might keep all the words of this law."
Shortly before His trial, Christ made a triumphant entry into Jerusalem. Luke 19:37 records:
"The whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen. Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, 'Teacher, rebuke your disciples.' 'I tell you,' He replied, 'if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out!'"
If Christ's disciples THEN could not remain silent, how could Christ's disciples TODAY do anything different?
WE do not have the right to remain silent. It is true that we should not force the truth down people's throats. Not everybody has the gift of being an evangelist or teacher, but we can speak, and we MUST speak.
"During every prayer and petition be praying on every occasion ... that to me expression may be granted, in the opening of my mouth with boldness, to make known the secret of the evangel, ... that in it I should be speaking boldly, as I must speak."
What Paul wrote then is also true for us today. We should pray on every occasion that those who preach, speak boldly, making known the SECRET of the evangel.
If we have received peace from the Conciliation from God, how could we not want others to know?
No, as Ambassadors of the glorified Son of God, we do not have the right to remain silent.
Surely, we can say with the celestial messsengers, as recorded in Revelation 5:12 and 14 (KJV):
"Worthy is the LAMB that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing."
"And the four beasts said, 'Amen.'"
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© James Johnson