He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter.
And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth.Isaiah 53:7
On trial for his life and Jesus offered no defence. We have all watched trials on television where the accused is guilty so he doesn’t take the stand to offer any evidence because if he is put on the stand he opens himself up to the prosecution to trap him. That was not the point in this case. In Jesus’ case we are talking about someone who truly was innocent. Yet the One who was innocent of all allegations made no attempt to defend Himself whatsoever. “He does not open his mouth.” As the Bible tells us “as a lamb before his shearers was silent”, so was the Son of Man. Jesus was innocent but didn’t utter a word in His own defence. That’s not normal; if we were innocent we would want to proclaim our innocence from the roof tops. But did Jesus really make no response?
Let’s examine all the witnesses for ourselves:
Now Jesus was standing before Pilate, the Roman governor. “Are you the king of the Jews?” the governor asked him. Jesus replied, “You have said it.” But when the leading priests and the elders made their accusations against him, Jesus remained silent. “Don’t you hear all these charges they are bringing against you?” Pilate demanded. But Jesus made no response to any of the charges, much to the governor’s surprise.Matt 27:11-14
Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?” Jesus replied, “You have said it.” Then the leading priests kept accusing him of many crimes, and Pilate asked him, “Aren’t you going to answer them? What about all these charges they are bringing against you?” But Jesus said nothing, much to Pilate’s surprise.Mark 15:2-5
Then the entire council took Jesus to Pilate, the Roman governor. They began to state their case, “This man has been leading our people astray by telling them not to pay their taxes to the Roman government and by claiming he is the Messiah, a king.” So Pilate asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” Jesus replied, “You have said it.” . . .
He (Herod) asked Jesus question after question, but Jesus refused to answer. Meanwhile, the leading priests and the teachers of religious law stood there shouting their accusations. . .
and he announced his verdict. “You brought this man to me, accusing him of leading a revolt. I have examined him thoroughly on this point in your presence and find him innocent. Herod came to the same conclusion and sent him back to us. Nothing this man has done calls for the death penalty.Luke 23:1-3, 9-10, 14-15
Inside, the high priest began asking Jesus about his followers and what he had been teaching them. Jesus replied, “Everyone knows what I teach. I have preached regularly in the synagogues and the Temple, where the people gather. I have not spoken in secret. Why are you asking me this question? Ask those who heard me. They know what I said.”
Then one of the Temple guards standing nearby slapped Jesus across the face. “Is that the way to answer the high priest?” he demanded. Jesus replied, “If I said anything wrong, you must prove it. But if I’m speaking the truth, why are you beating me?” Then Annas bound Jesus and sent him to Caiaphas, the high priest. . . .John 18:19-24
Then Pilate went back into his headquarters and called for Jesus to be brought to him. “Are you the king of the Jews?” he asked him.
Jesus replied, “Is this your own question, or did others tell you about me?”
“Am I a Jew?” Pilate retorted. “Your own people and their leading priests brought you to me for trial. Why? What have you done?”
Jesus answered, “My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. If it were, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of this world.”
Pilate said, “So you are a king?” Jesus responded, “You say I am a king. Actually, I was born and came into the world to testify to the truth. All who love the truth recognize that what I say is true.”
“What is truth?” Pilate asked. Then he went out again to the people and told them, “He is not guilty of any crime.”John 18: 33-38
Most people think that Jesus said nothing, on the basis of the statement in Isaiah 53:7. But as you can see above, after I have gathered the witness statements from all four Gospels, in fact Jesus did respond with some comments. However, what is true is stated by Matthew in 27:14 – “But Jesus made no response to any of the charges, much to the governor’s surprise.“
That is what is surprising! Jesus could easily have played the court game. (Although he couldn’t have pled the 5th Amendment because it had not been written at that point and he was not an American.) The point is that Jesus did not respond in any way to their accusations. He could have easily addressed their accusations factually and in brief, but he chose to say nothing in regard to their accusations which surprised Pilate. Yet Pilate could say, “I have examined him thoroughly on this point (i.e. leading the revolt) and found “He is not guilty of any crime.” Pilate must have been reading between the lines and picking up on the non-verbal communication or perceiving Jesus’ innocence through His silence against the constant backdrop of the Sanhedrin’s protestations.
You have to admit that it was a strange situation and Jesus’ defence was also strange in offering no defence to the charges at all, even to the High Priest. Instead, Jesus remained silent, said nothing and refused to answer. It was all so highly unusual, yet so were the trumped-up-charges and the clandestine way they went about it. Let’s again err on the side of caution and assign a probability of one in a thousand that an accused who is genuinely innocent would not offer anything in their defence at all. Therefore my estimate of probability is 1:1000. You may protest and suggest a probability of 1:100 is more realistic. I can cope with that; if enough of you protest I will reduce the odds to 1:100. But in the meantime I will stick with 1:1000.