When Silence Is Eloquent

Wayne Jackson
During his trial before Pilate, Christ boldly confirmed that he was a king, but that his followers did not fight—a bold claim since hours earlier one of his disciples attempted to decapitate a government official. Why, then, was this one little statement by Christ not exploited by his enemies?

On that fateful night before his death, Jesus and his disciples had adjourned to the garden called Gethsemane, a place where the Lord had frequently communed with his little band of men (cf. Jn. 18:2).

Judas, the traitor, surmising the Lord’s whereabouts, led a group of soldiers and temple police to the secluded spot. With torches and lanterns (and in the light of a full Passover moon), the blood-thirsty mob made their way up the slope of Mt. Olivet in search of the Son of God, With weapons they came seeking the Prince of Peace.

As they sought to arrest the Lord, the following incident occurred, as recorded by the apostle John.

“Simon Peter therefore having a sword drew it, and struck the high priest’s servant, and cut off his right ear” (18:10).

We are informed that the servant’s name was Malchus. The Master rebuked his impetuous disciple, warning him that “all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword” (Matt. 26:52), further purposing to drink the cup of death which had been appointed by his heavenly Father (Jn. 18:11).

Interrogated by Pilate

With this dramatic event in mind, let us go forward in time several hours and observe the Lord’s appearance before Pilate, the Roman governor.

Pilate interrogated Jesus: “Are you the king of the Jews?” (18:33) That was not a question that could be answered with a simple “yes” or “no.” No, he was not a political king who had come to establish earthly Jewish supremacy (a lesson some religionists could well learn today), but yes, he was the long awaited king of the Jewish scriptures.

The Savior thus answered the governor’s question in the following way.

“My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence” (36).

Christ argued that his kingdom is not of a political nature, as evidenced by the fact that his followers would not fight to prevent his arrest by the Jews.

It is at this point, however, that a very intriguing question arises. Why did not Pilate stop this defense of Jesus by calling attention to an obvious “flaw” in his argument. He might have said, “Hold it a second. It is well-known that one of (7) your disciples — Simon Peter by name — attempted to fight in your defense only hours ago. In fact, he cut off the ear of Malchus. The incident was witnessed, and as a matter of fact, one of the victim’s kinsman is in the vicinity right now.” (cf. 18: 26). Would not that have been a powerful rebuttal?

Yes indeed — except for one gigantic problem.

Christ might well have responded: “Now why don’t you bring Malchus himself into this court? Let him testify. Let us examine his wounded head.”

Had the gentleman been brought into court what an awkward situation that would have created for the Jewish authorities and indeed for Pilate himself, for, as one learns by an examination of Luke’s record, the amputation of the ear was not the end of the incident. Luke, the physician, ever interested in investigating medical matters, declared that Jesus “touched his ear, and healed him” (22:51).

Now we know why this event was never mentioned. The last thing these men wanted at this point was to attract additional attention to the miracle-working deeds of the Son of God.

And in this respect, their silence becomes all the more eloquent. The incident was simply too well-known and too powerful not to use against Christ had it not been for the fact that his healing miracle demolished it!

This case affords, therefore, very strong indirect evidence for one of the miracles of Jesus; and it is a type of evidence which no gospel writer could ever have contrived.

The miracles of our Lord bear up under the most rigorous investigation. He is the Christ, the Savior of all who obey him (Heb. 5:8, 9).