Read Mark 15:1-15
And as soon as it was morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council. And they bound Jesus and led him away and delivered him over to Pilate. And Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” And he answered him, “You have said so.” And the chief priests accused him of many things. And Pilate again asked him, “Have you no answer to make? See how many charges they bring against you.” But Jesus made no further answer, so that Pilate was amazed.
Now at the feast he used to release for them one prisoner for whom they asked. And among the rebels in prison, who had committed murder in the insurrection, there was a man called Barabbas. And the crowd came up and began to ask Pilate to do as he usually did for them. And he answered them, saying, “Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” For he perceived that it was out of envy that the chief priests had delivered him up. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release for them Barabbas instead. And Pilate again said to them, “Then what shall I do with the man you call the King of the Jews?” And they cried out again, “Crucify him.” And Pilate said to them, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify him.” So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.
What do you learn from Jesus not defending Himself?
Wow. Well, as I confessed yesterday, I have always been a chronic self-defender. Reading this passage with fresh eyes today, I physically felt Pilate’s amazement at Jesus’ silence. I am befuddled at Jesus’ utter disregard for His own life here.
Because truth is supposed to always win, right?? We are so bombarded in our culture with this notion that the truth always wins. Macrocosmically, I believe that; in the end, Truth wins. But if you’re living with your eyes wide open, there is reprehensible injustices and senseless tragedy all 360 degrees around us. Innocent people sit on death row while murderers and rapists go free on technicalities. There are far too many precious oppressed wasting away in mental hospitals because the truth is not winning in their little world.
Ultimately, Jesus’ refusal to defend Himself brings me to the epiphany that the great American Habit of defending oneself to the death is not in fact a Biblical ideal at all. It is quite the twisted lie, actually! Where in the Bible does it say that we are to defend ourselves? When this particular brand of meekness is even quaintly suggested, it will only take about 5 seconds for someone to say, “But the Bible doesn’t say we are supposed to be doormats.” (How many times have YOU heard or even said that?) But is that true? No, it’s not. The Bible says that “there is no greater love than to lay down your life for your friends. The “least of these” are our friends.
Heroes don’t fight to the death in defense of their own honor or freedom; the awkward legacy of such men consumed by their own self-righteousness seems shallow and selfish in hindsight, would you not agree? Rather, the real heroes lay down their lives for the honor and freedom of others.
I have just been gloriously persuaded by the Word of God that when our strongest, loudest, and longest pleas are for our own innocence, in spite of the fact that there is not even one who is righteous before Him, we have wasted our energy, our breath, and are in danger of wasting our lives.
In Isaiah 1, the Truth speaks loud and clear that whom we are to defend is the oppressed, the orphan, and the widow:
16 Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;
remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes;
cease to do evil,
17 learn to do good;
bring justice to the fatherless,
plead the widow’s cause.
18 “Come now, let us reason[c] together, says the Lord:
though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red like crimson,
they shall become like wool.
19 If you are willing and obedient,
you shall eat the good of the land;
20 but if you refuse and rebel,
you shall be eaten by the sword;
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
As hard as it is to swallow this pill, we should do it. It is good medicine. And as we rack up our “losses” on this side, we can rejoice and rest assured in Him that things look very different on the other side. The Truth DID win. Because Jesus WAS the Truth incarnate and because He was beaten and bruised and spit upon and mocked, and then resurrected from the dead (RESURRECTED FROM THE DEAD!), we have been set free! Jesus the Truth sets captives free every single day all over the planet two thousand years later. What He is doing in your heart and life right now, this impossibly personal, beautiful redemption and that slow, sweet sanctification? He’s doing it everywhere. All over the world among all the colors of the peoples of all the world. That right there gets me all riled up.
It’s gonna be worth it all someday to be counted among those who have joined in the fellowship of His suffering. “For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake.” Philippians 1:29