Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Silence of Jesus

In writing about “The Discipline of Solitude” in his book The Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster says that one of the greatest difficulties we have in being silent is our desire to defend and justify ourselves in order to protect our reputation.  He writes:

“One reason we can hardly bear to remain silent is that it makes us feel so helpless. We are accustomed to relying on words to manage and control others. If we are silent, who will take control? God will take control, but we will never let him take control until we trust him. Silence is intimately related to trust.

The tongue is our most powerful weapon of manipulation. A frantic stream of words flows from us because we are in a constant process of adjusting our public image. We fear so deeply what we think other people see in us that we talk in order to straighten out their understanding…Silence is one of the deepest Disciplines of the Spirit simply because it puts the stopper on all self-justification.

One of the fruits of silence is the freedom to let God be our justifier. We don’t need to straighten others out. There is a story of a medieval monk who was being unjustly accused of certain offenses. One day he looked out his window and saw a dog biting and tearing on a rug that had been hung out to dry. As he watched, the Lord spoke to him saying, ‘That is what is happening to your reputation. But if you will trust me, I will care for you—reputation and all.’ Perhaps more than anything else, silence brings us to believe that God can care for us—“reputation and all.”

Foster’s thoughts cause me to consider the amazing example of Jesus.“He did not retaliate when he was insulted. When he suffered, he did not threaten to get even. He left his case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly.” (1 Peter 2:23)

Isaiah prophesied that Jesus would respond to His crucifixion in silence, hundreds of years before He walked on this earth: “He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word. He was led as a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth.” (Isaiah 53:7)

Mark’s account of Jesus’ silence during his trial and persecution reveals the strength that Jesus used to not to defend himself or to accuse his persecutors. “Then the leading priests accused him of many crimes, and Pilate asked him, ‘Aren’t you going to say something? What about all these charges against you?’ But Jesus said nothing, much to Pilate’s surprise.”(Mark 15:3-5)

“Two criminals were crucified with him, their crosses on either side of his. And the people passing by shouted abuse, shaking their heads in mockery, ‘Ha! Look at you now!’ they yelled at him. ‘You can destroy the Temple and rebuild it in three days, can you? Well then, save yourself and some down from the cross!’ The leading priests and teachers of religious law also mocked Jesus. ‘He saved others,’ they scoffed, ‘but he can’t save himself! Let this Messiah, this king of Israel, come down from the cross so we can see it and believe him!’ Even the two criminals who were being crucified with Jesus ridiculed him.” (Mark 15:27-32)

Henri Nouwen writes: “Jesus Christ allowed the will of his Father to be done through Pilate, Herod, mocking soldiers, and a gaping crowd that did not understand. How little is asked of me.”

During this season of Easter, let us follow the example of Jesus’silence and experience the “freedom to let God be our justifier.” As we trust our Father to take control, we can “leave our case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly.”

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