Friday, March 25, 2016

He Answered Nothing

Now Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?”  Jesus said, “You have said so.”  But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he gave no answer.  Then Pilate said to him, “Do you not hear how many things they testify against you?”  But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed.  (Mt 27:11-14)

When false witnesses testified against our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, He remained silent.  And when unfounded charges were brought against Him, He returned no answer, believing that His whole life and conduct among the Jews were a better refutation than any answer to the false testimony, or than any formal defense against the accusations.… Now, with respect to our Lord’s silence when false testimony was given against Him, it is sufficient at present to quote the words of Matthew, for the testimony of Mark is to the same effect.  And the words of Matthew are as follow:
And the high priest and the council sought false witness against Jesus to put Him to death, but found none, although many false witnesses came forward.  At last two false witnesses came and said, “This fellow said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and after three days to build it up.”  And the high priest arose, and said to Him, “Do You answer nothing to what these testify against You?”  But Jesus held His peace.
And that He returned no answer when falsely accused, the following is the statement:
And Jesus stood before the governor; and he asked Him, saying, “Are You the King of the Jews?”  And Jesus said to him, “You have said so.”  And when He was accused by the chief priests and elders, He answered nothing.  Then said Pilate unto Him, “Do You not hear how many things they testify against You?”  And He answered him nothing, so that the governor marveled greatly.
It was, indeed, a matter of surprise to men even of ordinary intelligence, that one who was accused and assailed by false testimony, but who was able to defend Himself, and to show that He was guilty of none of the allegations, and who might have enumerated the praiseworthy deeds of His own life, and His miracles worked by divine power, so as to give the judge an opportunity of delivering a more honorable judgment regarding Him, should not have done this, but should have disdained such a procedure, and in the nobleness of His nature have disregarded His accusers.  That the judge would, without any hesitation, have set Him at liberty if He had offered a defense, is clear from what is related of him when he said, “Which of the two do ye wish that I should release unto you, Barabbas or Jesus, who is called Christ?” and from what the Scripture adds, “For he knew that from envy they had delivered Him.”  Jesus, however, is at all times assailed by false witnesses, and, while wickedness remains in the world, is ever exposed to accusation.  And yet even now He continues silent before these things, and makes no audible answer, but places His defense in the lives of His genuine disciples, which are a preëminent testimony, and one that rises superior to all false witness, and refutes and overthrows all unfounded accusations and charges.

Origen, Against Celsus, I.1-2

Do you see what He is first asked—which thing most of all they were continually bringing forward in every way?  For since they saw Pilate making no account of the matters of the law, they direct their accusation to the state charges.  So likewise they did in the case of the apostles, ever bringing forward these things and saying that they were going about proclaiming king one Jesus, speaking as of a mere man, and investing them with a suspicion of treason.… But all things they put forth and manipulated in order to bring Him to death.

What then did Christ say to Pilate’s question?  “You have said so.”  He confessed that He was a king, but a heavenly king, which He spoke more clearly elsewhere in replying to Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world.”  Neither they nor this man should have an excuse for accusing Him of such things.  And He gives a reason that cannot be doubted, saying, “If I was of this world, my servants would fight, that I should not be handed over.”  For this reason, in order to refute this suspicion, He both paid a tax and commanded others to pay it.  And when they would make Him a king, He fled.

Why then did he not bring forward these things at that time, when accused of treason? Because having the proofs beyond number from His acts: of His power, His meekness, His gentleness.  They were willfully blind, and dealt unfairly, and the tribunal was corrupt.  For these reasons then He replies to nothing, but holds His peace, yet answering briefly (so as not to get the reputation of arrogance from continual silence) when the high priest adjured Him and when the governor asked.  But in reply to their accusations He no longer said anything, for He was not now likely to persuade them.

John Chrysostom, Homilies on Matthew 86.1

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