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Monday, August 31, 2009

The Last Word

Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?” John 18:38 (New American Standard Version)

The words Jesus spoke are the most profound any human has ever uttered. Why then did He say so little during His trial before His crucifixion? He was silent before Herod Antipas. When the Roman procurator, Pontius Pilate, later interrogated Jesus Pilate asked the rhetorical question, “What is truth?” It really wasn’t a question asked to gain insight but was asked in a spirit of distrust and skepticism. It is not recorded that Jesus said anything to him in reply. We can look at that momentary pause after Pilate put that question out and are surprised that Jesus said nothing. Imagine what He could have answered in that moment. He could have said something that would have knocked Pilate to the marble floor. He did it to the men who came to arrest Him with the simple words “I am He.” (John 18:6). But He made no defense to this Roman chief but only agreed He was indeed a king. Most of us would be looking to sing like canaries, to give a rapid defense and to have the last word. It isn’t that Jesus was powerless to do so. He told his disciples that if He wanted He could summon more than 12 legions of angels for help (Matthew 26:53). To give you an idea of what that might have looked like consider a fully equipped Roman division of infantry (a legion) consisted of about 6000 soldiers. Twelve legions would be 72,000 men. Now 1 angel went through the camp of the Assyrians and slew 185,000 of Israel’s enemies in one night (2nd Kings 19:35, Isaiah 37:36). Imagine what 12 legions of them released for war could have done to the earth in defense of the King of Glory. I truly believe Jesus was keenly aware that all He needed to do was speak the word and thousands of angels would immediately pour out of heaven on His behalf.

Why didn’t He do that? When He was brought before the disbelieving Jewish Council wouldn’t it have been grand if He’d proved without a shadow of a doubt that He was Israel’s long awaited Messiah by releasing His power before them and revealing the truth of who He really was? Instead the opposite happened. Jesus made no defense. As Isaiah foretold, as a sheep before its shearer is silent He didn’t open His mouth (Isaiah 53:7). During the entire arrest, trial and execution of Jesus He didn’t strive to demonstrate the upper hand although He held it the entire time. At any moment He could have called on heaven to immediately get Him out of the situation. He simply chose not to. There was another motive He followed and that was obedience to the will of His Father to become the supreme sacrifice for all the sins of the human race. To those who arrested Him He said simply, “But all this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets may be fulfilled.” What He did that night in allowing His arrest was not by constraint, but by consent.

Jesus Christ could have had the last word but for your sake and mine He chose not to. He knew the shedding of His blood would bring the solution of total forgiveness for our sins. His silent obedience led Him to a cruel method of execution and the perfect sacrifice and the shedding of His innocent blood satisfied God’s wrath toward sin and sinners. But before He died on the cross His final sentence proclaimed the plan of God’s redemption as finally finished. Three days later the grave He’d been buried in came up empty with no practical explanation of how it was done under the noses of seasoned Roman troops guarding the tomb. He had been resurrected from the dead and in the ensuing days He was seen powerfully alive to hundreds. Considering the evidence of His living presence throughout the past 2000 years it is clear He will again have the opportunity for the Last Word and at that time He will not remain silent. The next time the King of Glory speaks it will be in His established eternal kingdom ruling in all Authority. There will be no doubt that as a man born in a lowly Middle Eastern town some 2,000 years ago He is now the Exalted King of Glory. His kingdom will be established in the highest and greatest glory the universe has ever seen or ever will. All because when He had every right to do so He chose not to seek the last word.