Tuesday after the Fourth Sunday in Lent
Then the chief priests accused him of many things. Pilate asked him again, ‘Have you no answer? See how many charges they bring against you.’ But Jesus made no further reply, so that Pilate was amazed. Mark 15:3-5
Lent is a time for silence, and not always in the quiet contemplative way we might be tempted to associate with it. In this short but mighty scene from Mark’s Gospel we witness Jesus refusing to respond to Pilate’s demand for answers following a false accusation. His silence is a far cry from any image of a hermit sitting on a distant hilltop. His silence is a powerful form of protest—a sign of his true power in the face of a lesser adversary.
Pilate believes himself to have the upper hand, and at first blush the world might tend to agree. He has the might of the Emperor behind him. He has the crowd turning to him to wield their brand of justice. He has money, prestige, and military might. Because of all of these trappings of power, he has come to believe that people will listen and respond to him when he speaks—even if he is demanding answers to lies. Pilate was so sure of his own power that there were really only two responses he expected from Jesus in this moment: fight or flight. Jesus could have openly fought back with yells or screams or been terrified and tried to plead for mercy.
But Jesus chose a third way. Jesus chose the dignity and defiance of silence. Jesus chose the way of nonviolent resistance. Instead of pretending that Pilate was all-powerful, Jesus acted on what he knew to be the bigger truth—that God was in charge. As such, he did not respond to Pilate as though he were an equal of God. Assured in his knowledge that he was acting on God’s will, Jesus had no need to defend himself from lies or defer to a lesser power. Imagine what a shock it must have been for Pilate to see someone as low on the proverbial power scale as Jesus having the audacity NOT to respond to him! Jesus’ silence amazes him and he must take notice of Jesus in that moment.
In an era when people literally shout at each other for entertainment (think ESPN) or for political discourse (think Fox or CNN), making a choice to not respond to lies or inflammatory noise is an act of rebellion. It is choosing a third way of peace in a time that desperately needs the strength of those who do not need to be the loudest person in the room to feel like the most powerful. Lent give us the chance to develop the strength to be silent so that the love of God might be the loudest sound of all and that people might be amazed at his power.
O God, with you is the well of life, and in your light we see light: Quench our thirst with living water, and flood our darkened minds with heavenly light; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
The Rev. Dr. Hillary D. Raining
St. Christopher’s, Gladwyne