Ecclesiastes 3:7

A time to keep silence, and a time to speak (Ecclesiastes 3:7). 

Standing before the high priest, false accusations being hurled at him from several directions, Mark records that Jesus “remained silent, and made no answer” (Mark 14:61).  Why?  Let me suggest two possible reasons.

Perhaps Jesus knew that speaking would make no difference.  One thing we know of Jesus is that he knew people.  In commenting on Jesus’ response to his popularity, particularly due to the signs he performed, John writes “Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man” (John 2:24-25).  False charges are only trumped up by those who care nothing for the truth, only the blood of the one they accuse.  In other words, Jesus knew that if the will of a man was set, any defense of himself would fall upon deaf ears.  It was not a time to speak. 

Perhaps Jesus kept silence for another reason.  Returning to his prayer in Gethsamane, recorded just a few verses earlier, we read “And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him.  And he said, ‘Abba, Father, all things are possible for you.  Remove this cup from me.  Yet not what I will, but what you will’” (Mark 14:35-36).  Jesus is clear that his Father is able to remove this cup, but also is prepared for his Father not to do so.  He prays through the night, apparently rising with the knowledge that he will need to go through this dreaded hour: “It is enough; the hour has come.  The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners” (Mark 14:41).  That being the case, perhaps Jesus’ silence is simply his submission to what he understands to be the will of his Father.  If so, there is no need to defend himself. 

Perhaps Jesus was silent due to a combination of these two reasons, or perhaps for another reason entirely (e.g. to full the Scriptures, such as Isaiah 53:7).  Of course we don’t know.  What we do know, however, is that Jesus was well aware that there are certain times to speak, and certain times to be silent. 

There are, of course, also times to speak.  How then can we know the time to speak and the time to remain silent?  Jesus prayed.  He remembered that God was his Father and was in control of all things, and in that knowledge surrendered himself to his Father’s will.  Apart from knowing God’s sovereign love and control, could Jesus have discerned well?