I’m still ruminating on this verse from last week’s post: The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still (Exodus 14:14). And then there’s this: There is a time for everything…a time to be silent and a time to speak (Ecclesiastes 3:1a, 7b).
Consider this situation…
The temple guards seized Jesus on the Mount of Olives and took him to the high priest’s house. After the guards mocked and beat him through the night, the religious leadership in Jerusalem interrogated Him briefly then took Him to stand before Pilate, the Roman governor of the region. Pilate really didn’t want to deal with this religio-political mess in the first place, and he was even more hesitant to have Jesus killed (John 18:28-19:16). Matthew tells us Pilate literally washed his hands of the affair (Matthew 27:24). So when he heard Jesus was a Galilean, he snatched the opportunity to pass this big mess on to someone else.
Herod Antipas just happened to be in town. Herod (the son of the Herod visited by the wise men in Matthew 2) ruled Galilee and Perea at this time, therefore Pilate thought the Jesus issue should fall under his jurisdiction. This is the Herod who beheaded John the Baptist (Matthew 14:1-12). Herod had been trying to see Jesus for awhile (Luke 9:9, 23:8), so he didn’t mind the interruption of Passover festivities. In fact—and this is key—Herod was hoping Jesus would entertain him.
Here’s the man who killed Jesus’ cousin–a prophet, nonetheless–on the whim of his niece/pseudo-stepdaughter, and he expected Jesus to entertain him. This is wrong in so many ways. But Jesus was silent.
Jesus didn’t answer even one of Herod’s questions. He answered Pilate. He answered the religious leaders. But he wouldn’t answer Herod. Well, that got old really fast, so Herod and his soldiers made fun of Jesus, dressing Him up like a king and mocking him. When that got boring, they sent him back to Pilate.
Why didn’t Jesus answer Herod? I think it’s because He knew Herod’s motives. He answered many (not all) of Pilate’s questions because Pilate was authentically trying to understand the situation. He answered the religious leaders’ questions in order to provoke them; He knew the time had come for His death, and He needed them angry enough to do it. (Side note: This is one of the reasons we know Jesus willingly undertook His sacrifice.) He refused Herod’s questions because his motives were completely selfish.
Me? I would have blasted Herod with that phenomenal logic Jesus sprung on the Pharisees (e.g. Matthew 22:15-22), or I would have called down fire on his head for such an attitude. I would have cursed him more thoroughly than anyone has ever been cursed (You know Jesus had the power!), or I would have listed all his sins right there in front of everybody, shaming him like nobody’s business.
But Jesus didn’t even try to defend Himself. I think the reason goes back to Exodus 14:14.
The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.
He was led like a lamb to the
slaughter, and as a sheep before
its shearers is silent, so he
did not open his mouth.
Jesus knew His role that day: what He needed to do, what would happen, and the consequences of it all. He knew that answering Herod, defending Himself, getting into an argument—none of those things would contribute to the plan. He knew God could defend Himself, and He needed only to let things happen…to be still.
Just like the Lord fought for the Israelites and for Jesus, He fights for us, too.
We let ourselves get drawn into conversations/discussions/arguments even when we know the other person’s motivations aren’t upstanding. How many times have you and I been provoked on Twitter, been mocked in the media (Sheldon’s mother on Big Bang Theory, for example.), been called to the social media carpet for something the Bible says or—much worse—for something another so-called Christian did?
I don’t need to defend myself in any of those situations. I’m not interested in a debate for debate’s sake. I’m not even interested in proving my point. When the person on the other side is looking to be entertained or to pick a fight or merely to prove his/her point, I can remain quiet. I can be still. I haven’t always done it, but I can because God will fight for me.
At other times, those of us in the public realm are approached with an authentic question from someone who sincerely wants to know (like Pilate). Those are the questions to answer, the debates to undertake, the people to which we respond. Those situations aren’t an earthly battle; they are part of the Lord’s fight for that person’s soul, and like Moses raising his hand toward the Red Sea, we have a small part to play.
Discernment helps us know
when to answer and when
to keep still.
How do we know the difference? Prayer. Holy Spirit discernment. Maybe getting burned a few times (like I have).
Here’s a question to ask yourself the next time you’re tempted to respond when someone provokes you: What is to be gained and who is to be glorified by my response? Your answer will determine your next action.
Have you been provoked, either on social media or in person, by someone who was just seeking entertainment? How did you handle it? What did you learn from the experience? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.