The concept of a courtroom drama is not new to us. Charges are put forward by the prosecutor and a defense is mounted by the accused. All of this happens in front of a judge who makes the final determination of guilt or innocence.
But when Jesus comes before Pilate in a courtroom drama of immortal consequence, the accusers don’t even come into the courtroom. Pilate must prosecute the case himself, and so he questions Jesus, “Are you the King of the Jews?”
No doubt he was expecting Jesus to mount a defense. After all, He had been accused of blasphemy. Claiming He was the Son of God would be considered an act of rebellion against the ruling authorities and would make Him subject to the death penalty. But Jesus does not defend himself, except to acknowledge “You have said so.”
Pilate gives Him another chance: “’Have you no answer to make? See how many charges they bring against you?’ But Jesus made no further answer, so that Pilate was amazed.” He didn’t get it!
At the time of Jesus, there was no “innocent until proven guilty” assumption. If someone failed to defend himself, he was presumed guilty. Pilate could not understand why Jesus would say nothing in His own defense. But Jesus was submitting to the true authority of God, and His silence was to fulfill the words of the prophet Isaiah:
“He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.” (Is 53:7)
Jesus was the sacrificial Lamb Whose death on the cross would atone for the sins of all men in accordance with God’s great plan of redemption. Jesus chose not to defend Himself lest He be found innocent by Pilot and released. His silence produced a verdict of guilty and the innocent Son of Man was condemned to die on a cross for the sins of His accusers, of Pilate, and of you and me.
Was it for crimes that I had done He groaned upon the tree?
Amazing pity, grace unknown, and love beyond degree! (LSB 437)
Contributed by Susan Hathcock