“But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer.”
In a victimization society, a person’s rights are of paramount importance. When we focus on those who have faced victimization, oppression, and individual or systemic marginalizing, public opinion will excessively side with the victimized. Given that the alternative is society siding with unjust power structures, this may be the best we can do. Today we see this elevation of the oppressed through movements like Black Lives Matter, MeToo, and a variety of LGBTQ-supportive movements. We also see it in modern media, which Walt Mueller calls “both map and mirror” of our society, reflecting it and yet guiding it simultaneously.
This means that we focus a lot in making sure we are given “our rights”. Whatever we feel we deserve, we will fight for. This is different than many cultures around the world where people recognize that they won’t get their due and so learn to live with it.
But Jesus takes a different stance at His trial. He neither fights for His rights nor succumbs glumly to being oppressed. Instead, Jesus remains silent. He has every right to stand up for Himself at His trial. Though the charges against Him are accurate – He did call Himself God which was punishable by death for any human – they fall apart when we consider that He was telling the truth! With the crowds on His side and holding the power elite in check with their numbers again and again, Jesus could have stood for Himself and argued His right to say what He did. He could also have raised a riot from the crowd – remember, these are Jews oppressed by their Roman overseers, marginalized to the point of revolt and upheaval – proclaiming oppression from the Jewish leaders or even the Romans. But instead, Jesus stood silent.
This is not a winning tactic in our society, nor was it in His. But it was the will of God for Him, and so He obeyed. This poor Jewish carpenter turned Rabbi, oppressed by the Romans and the Jewish elite, gave Himself to be the Passover Lamb for us all while not admitting to crimes He had not committed. For Jesus, silence was the right response to His own oppression. Wisdom requires a lot of prayer and thought for us about our application of this principle.