Alfred Place Baptist Church

14:60-61 The Silence of the Lamb

Mark 14:60&61 “Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, ‘Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?’ But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer.”

God speaks to us day and night in creation telling us of his glory, power and divinity. God also speaks to us in our consciences telling us when we have done wrong and commending us when we have done right. God has also spoken to the world through his servants the prophets. Jehovah the Lord has spoken through Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Samuel, Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, and John the Baptist. He’s had so many servants because he’s got so much to say. God can’t stop talking to men and women. Many of those men actually wrote down what the Lord said so that all the world might know the mind of God. But even with all those prophets God hadn’t stopped talking to us; he sent his own Son to bring us everything else he wanted us to know. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and Jesus went everywhere speaking the message God had given him to speak, whether to 5,000 men or to one woman, from a boat or in an upper room, on a mountainside or from the pulpit of a synagogue, in the temple and in a court room, on a cross as he was dying and after he rose from the dead in a garden, on a road, by the seaside, in an upper room, on a mountain top.

Jesus was always bringing the words of God to us. He spoke in parables and he also gave straightforward narratives. He preached the law and the gospel. He declared God’s grace and God’s judgment. He told of the place he was going to prepare for his people, and the place of wrath awaiting those who rejected his mercy. Christ could change his approach according to the type of person he was confronting; to a Samaritan woman he spoke quite differently from the way he stopped short a member of the Sanhedrin who came to him by night. His opening words to that man were, “You must be born again.” The Son of God did not come into the world only to do something that we might have something to preach. He himself came preaching the kingdom of God.

The Lord Jesus Christ was the greatest prophet that this world has ever heard, and in our text we find him standing in what was the highest court on earth. It was a court enlightened by God’s word and Spirit. Israel led all the nations of the world spiritually, and the greatest tribunal of cosmic justice was the Sanhedrin. There wasn’t much else of God in Israel. There had been no prophets for four hundred years before John’s brief ministry so the voice of prophecy was mute. The kingly line of David had also disappeared; Herod wasn’t of the royal line of Judah, and Caiaphas wasn’t from the tribe of Levi of the line of Aaron. What had once been the thriving people of God was now some mangled remains. So Israel was in terminal decline, but there was this one institution left. It was frail and hesitant, yet it was the highest court of justice in the world. This is where the feet of God the righteous Judge stood on the world. So the scene before us here is the greatest prophet the world has ever seen standing before the world’s supreme court.

We judge that 2,000 years ago the city of Athens was the aesthetic capital of the world; Rome was the centre of the world empire, while Jerusalem was the city of divine revelation, and spiritual authority. “Salvation is of the Jews,” said Christ. The highest court of justice in religious matters meets here, and it is now in sitting. It is standing in judgment on the greatest prophet God had ever sent into the world, or ever will. So we are expecting a fascinating trial that will last for months; the arguments will ebb and flow incessantly, with a parade of witnesses that won’t stop arriving in Jerusalem for many weeks from Nazareth and Galilee. The nation has been buzzing with the words and deeds of Jesus of Nazareth. No one has ever spoken like this man; no one has ever made the claims this man has made; no one has ever done the things that this man has done. Surely the judges will want to examine his Sermon on the Mount scrupulously – there are many in the country who can now repeat it verbatim. They will want to summon the man born blind who now is able to see and interrogate him and his family. They will ask a Roman centurion what were the circumstances of the healing of his favourite servant. They will want to send for the son of the widow of Nain, and the synagogue ruler, Jairus, asking him to bring his teenage daughter, while from Bethany they will call for Lazarus and interview him at great length as well as his sisters, because in these three families there were people who claim they had been raised from the dead by Jesus. Did this happen, or was it a cruel hoax? What of the pig-herders of Gadara who lost a herd of pigs through the action of Jesus? Let them bring their grievances, and what of Zacchaeus of Jericho, and the amazing change which, he claims, Jesus had wrought in his life. What of the woman they caught in adultery? Did Jesus prevent the law taking its course in her case? Send for them all and let the lawyers question them.

There is this whole class of lawyers, and there was never a more fascinating case for them to try, Jesus of Nazareth who claimed to be the Son of God and the divinely sent Messiah, the Son of Man, was being accused of blasphemy. Was this true or not? Let the trial commence, and let it be as thorough as the life of this extraordinary person demands who is standing before them as the accused one. A trial ended on Wednesday in Manhattan of an American called Bernard Ebbers found guilty of the biggest fraud in US history. This man had claimed to be heading one of the richest and most reliable companies in the States, but he was found guilty and sentenced to twenty-five years in prison. This American trial had lasted for many months with teams of lawyers working for the defence and prosecution. Then, I ask, of how much longer should the trial be of the man Christ Jesus who claimed to be the Son of the Highest?

Alas, that is what we do not find. Instead of going on for weeks his trial before the Sanhedrin lasted barely an hour. Instead of a stream of witnesses summoned from all over the land, after half an hour the last witness leaves the witness-box with his tail between his legs. Instead of the lawyers vigorously debating the claims of Christ, with defence and prosecution battling it out, there is no defence and the prosecution wraps up their case in a few minutes. Instead of one of those extraordinary speeches from Christ which left his opponents speechless it is Christ himself who is silent; “Jesus remained silent and gave no answer” (v. 61). There were no vigorous words; there was the most profound and unbearable silence.

Let us clear away some of the false suggestions people have made for the silence of Christ. It was not because, as men say, “speech is silver but silence is golden.” That is not a smart proverb. Let the Buddha keep silent but let the one who told the parable of the Prodigal Son go on speaking the word of God to us all. Bread of heaven feed me now and evermore! Shakespeare put four words onto the lips of Hamlet as he was dying. Hamlet says, “The rest is silence.” If the grave is silent, then let the living speak, though Jesus does not describe those in hell as silent, while those in heaven are full of praise to God for their eternal home.

Neither was the silence of Christ the silence of resignation as though Jesus were acknowledging God’s will for him to be declared guilty – “let’s get on to the cross without delay.” No, not that. Neither was our Lord silent because he could see that there was no way he was going to get a fair verdict, and so he didn’t bother to say anything – “what good would it be for me to open my mouth?” No, not that. Nor was his silence due to a decision not to further incriminate himself – ‘pleading the fifth amendment’ as the Americans say. Nor was he silent as a protest against the injustices in all the court procedures hitherto – there were many rules safeguarding a fair trial that the Sanhedrin had already broken.

There might be some truth in every one of those reasons for the silence of Jesus, but they can’t be the full explanation because we make this simple observation, that very soon Jesus did reply to the chief priest. That’s how we answer the suggestion others have made that Jesus was keeping quiet in order not to cast his pearls before swine, but soon he is speaking to these foxes. Men have said, “See him here, the silent prophet, the silent priest and the silent king.” That’s OK; it’s a bit of rhetoric, but soon Christ is not silent. Obviously he speaks for a purpose and he is silent for a purpose. Why did he choose to be silent here?

1. THERE WERE OTHER TIMES WHEN CHRIST WAS SILENT.

On this very night he was also silent before Pilate. “So again Pilate asked him, ‘Aren’t you going to answer? See how many things they are accusing you of.’ But Jesus still made no reply, and Pilate was amazed” (Mk. 15:4&5). More than that, Jesus was silent before king Herod, “When Herod saw Jesus, he was greatly pleased, because for a long time he had been wanting to see him. From what he had heard about him, he hoped to see him perform some miracle. He plied him with many questions, but Jesus gave him no answer.” (Lk. 23:8&9). So on three occasions that night he was silent. But there had been other times in his life when Jesus had been silent; let me give you two instances.

i] The first is described in Matthew 15 verse 23 where Jesus is confronted by a Canaanite woman with an enormous problem. She cries out to him, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession.” And we are told, “Jesus did not answer a word.” He hears others when they call, but he ignores her. The crying woman and the silent Jesus! People might have warned this Gentile that it was no good her going to the Jewish Messiah, but was she going to stay away when the life of her dear daughter was being destroyed? Will she return home frustrated and tell them they were right? No. This woman wouldn’t give up so easily. She kept crying into the silence of the Lord of heaven. Haven’t we all known times like that? The heavens have seemed as brass, and we cry and it seems to be in vain. Samuel Rutherford once said, “The silence of my God is hell for my soul.” Why does God act like that? He does it – will you hear me? – he does it for his own glory. Can you bear that? I shall say it tenderly. When he did not attend to the crying of Mary and Martha to go to Bethany and save their brother from death then that absence of his healing words from their home, and the dying of Lazarus, was in order to glorify his name. Can you bear that? Jesus was beginning to work in the lives of that family to persuade them that the most important thing in life was not health but the glory of God. Man’s chief end is not to live to ripe old age. Bertand Russell and Chairman Mao lived long lives and they both despised my Lord.

So this Canaanite woman was confronted with the silence of God, and she could have gone home then and there, but no, she did not. “The woman came and knelt before him, ‘Lord help me!’ she said” (Matt. 15:24&25). That is the nature of faith. When God is not speaking to us, though he is speaking to other people in the congregation, then prostate yourself before him. “Lord you are answering others; answer me!” Faith falls unconditionally at God’s feet. Faith prays on and pleads on when it seems the Lord is silent. Let Caiaphas on the throne of judgment tremble at the silence of the Messiah and let him humble himself. “Don’t shut your mouth! Don’t be silent Lord or I perish!” What a different outcome would have occurred if Caiaphas had done that.

ii] The second silence is described in John 8 where a group of Pharisees and teachers of the law haul before Christ a woman caught in adultery. They say, “‘In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?’ They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger” (Jn. 8:5&6). The same God who had written with his finger the ten commandments on tablets of stone was writing on the dust before their eyes. They were carefully avoiding the fact that the God who had written, ‘Thou shalt not commit adultery’ had also written ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.’ This God had become flesh and had said that before we point out the speck in our sister’s eye first deal with the beam of wood in your own eye. Jesus was silent.

When we don’t get a response to some words we’ve spoken . . . there’s this long pause . . . what do we begin to think? “What have I said? Have I offended him? Have I put my foot in it?” Jesus wanted them to examine themselves. Their problem was not out there . . . another person . . . a permissive woman. The problem is never what Jesus Christ has said; it is my response to Jesus. The problem is me, and where my life is today, and how I am accusing Jesus of not being what he claims to be. Little wonder the Lord is silent towards us. Do you realise what you are thinking? Have you thought of the consequences of this for your eternity? Christ has the right to be silent towards you.

2. CHRIST WAS ACCEPTING HIS GREAT VOCATION.

The reason he came into the world was to become the Lamb of God and take away the sin of the world, and as a lamb before the one who slaughters it stands dumb so Christ did not open his mouth. Our Saviour knew the prophecy of Isaiah in chapter 53; he was completely aware that his calling was to become the suffering servant of whom it was written “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent so he did not open his mouth” (Isa. 53:7). I was in Albania two months ago and one of the sights you see as you drive out of the capital city is that of butchers slaughtering sheep at the side of the road. You see a sheep hung up dripping blood and a butcher at work on the carcass, while there in the pen next to the carcass is another sheep sitting down watching all of this and quietly ruminating. It is not battering its head against the sides of the fence trying to escape. It is not bleating loudly in fear. It is totally docile as though it cannot smell blood and cannot envisage the danger. Christ was silent before Golgotha’s cross though he knew all that was entailed. When he had drunk the cup in Gethsemane he was accepting the destiny God had willed for him, and that destiny was the cross.

Now it is common for us to divide the obedience of Christ into two, his active and his passive obedience. His active obedience is the 33 years Jesus lived under the law of God, the civil, the ceremonial and the moral law, doing everything God required of him, loving God with all his heart and loving his neighbour as himself. So this world has seen a man as holy as God, and as blameless as the angels in heaven. This righteousness of Jesus Christ, the last Adam, is a truly human righteousness worked out in the home of Nazareth, lived out under the authority of his Mum and Dad, loving his Nazareth neighbours and his brothers and sisters with a pure heart and fervently. It is the personal righteousness of one unique man, and yet also the righteousness of one representative and federal man. But even more than that, this righteousness is of the God-man, the Word who was in the beginning and who was made flesh and dwelt amongst us. So this is the righteousness of God as well as the righteousness of man. There is in this man an eternal righteousness; here is an infinite righteousness; here is an unchangeable righteousness; here is an immeasurable righteousness; here is a perfect righteousness. It is enough to clothe every blade of grass, every drop of rain, and every grain of sand. It can cover every atom and molecule and electron in this world. It is sufficient to cover every galaxy, every sun, and every planet that surrounds them, and when that righteousness covers it all then there is still an infinite divine-human righteousness yet unused which could cover a million, million times what I have described, and still there would be a measureless active righteousness of Jesus Christ remaining. In the gospel this righteousness is revealed to all who believe. It is imputed to everyone who trusts in Christ. He is made our righteousness, wisdom, sanctification and redemption. He is our righteousness. John Bunyan’s joy at the discovery of this knew no bounds. “My righteousness is in heaven at the right hand of God,” he said.

“Behold Him there! The bleeding Lamb!
My perfect, spotless righteousness,
The great unchangeable I AM,
The King of glory and of grace” (Charitie L. Bancroft, 1841-86)

Have you seen that for yourself, that that is your salvation? The living Jesus Christ is your righteousness before God. For his sake God accepts you. For his sake he blesses you. For his sake he forgives you. For his sake he lets you into heaven. Not for what you have done, because sin has been mixed with your very best deeds. None of your life can pass muster before God. Your only hope in life and death is the active obedience of the righteousness of the God-man Jesus Christ. Pleading that reality and launching into eternity on that foundation is salvation. There is no other way to God. His righteousness is the way. That is the active obedience of Christ.

Then we also speak of the passive obedience of Christ and by that we are referring to how he laid down his life as the Lamb of God in our place. Jesus was silent became he had to become our substitute as our sin-bearer. In our place condemned he stood. To him was our sin imputed; the real guilt of the actual sins of men and women was laid to his charge. He had to answer on Golgotha for our blame and shame. He freely chose to become liable for our debt, and there he paid every last penny of it. He has fully discharged us from the demands of the courts of heaven. He has obtained for us a not guilty verdict.

“Because my sinless Saviour died,
My sinless soul is counted free,
For God the just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me.”

The God-man hung there in the naked flame of God’s holiness; he bore on Golgotha the magnificent rectitude of God’s judgment against our sin; he endured it all until our salvation was accomplished and finished. It was all done; it was all completed; the fight was won; the second death that lies before us and the devil’s charges against us were all dealt with. We have no case to answer because Jesus Christ has answered it all on Calvary. There is therefore now no condemnation. God cannot demand a second payment for the very sins for which his Son has already paid a full payment. There is no outstanding debt; it has all been cleared to the last penny. It is all covered; everything has been cancelled. There is nothing left for a sinner to do but accept the passive obedience of Christ as his entire plea before God. “Because of your Son O Almighty God please be reconciled to me.”

There was a man in the navy called Duncan Macleod from the island of Lewis, who in 1954 met on board a ship called the City of Delhi, a Christian from Liverpool named William Barker. William had been converted for six months and he witnessed to Duncan and prayed with him, and when they arrived at Liverpool he took him to his home church where the pastor was a Mr. Holden. That night he was preaching, and in the sermon he said something that much affected Duncan: “We will say, I have on my left hand a sinner dead in trespasses and sins, condemned by the law of God to eternal destruction. In front of me in the middle is Christ, crucified on a cross and nailed to it hand and foot, with a crown of thorns on his brow under the curse of sin, shedding his precious blood, bearing this sinner’s sins in his own body. And on my right hand is God, by his grace calling this sinner to repentance, and forgiving him through the sacrifice of his only begotten Son. The just for the unjust. Trusting in that Saviour, there in the middle, is all a sinner’s salvation. Going to God by this Saviour is the way of life.” Duncan understood and believed; that was salvation.

Why do young men, some married with children, school teachers and students, blow themselves up as suicide bombers and destroy the lives of total strangers? Where does such wickedness come from? It comes from false religion. Mohammed saw that Christianity had its book, the Bible, and so he wrote a book, the Koran. At the heart of the Bible is the message that God so loved the world that God the Son laid down his life that we might have the gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ. What has Islam done with that? In the Times on Thursday there was an interview with a failed suicide bomber – his bomb had not exploded; he had been shot and captured. What made him act like that? The reporter Nasra Hassan spoke to an immam affiliated with Hamas, a graduate of the prestigious al Azhar university in Cairo. We are told, “He explained that the first drop of blood shed by a martyr during jihad washes away his sins immediately. On the Day of Judgment he will face no reckoning.” (Times, 14 July 2005). It is that lie from hell that makes young men murderers. There is no atonement in anyone’s blood save in the eternal, holy, harmless, undefiled blood of the Son of God. He alone is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. There was no other good enough to pay the price of sin. He alone gains for us a not guilty verdict before the throne of God.

Though we use the phrase ‘passive’ obedience we are referring to a fixed point in which mighty obedience for hours was wrought by Christ. In other words there was a work which Jesus Christ was doing while attached for six hours to one cross on a hill outside the city walls of Jerusalem. My concern is this that when we say ‘passive’ we do not mean helpless. Our Lord explicitly asserts that he controls, absolutely, his own destiny: “No man takes my life from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have authority to lay it down and I have authority to take it again” (John 10:18). Also he tells us that his dying was the very motive of the Incarnation – “the Son of Man came to give his life'” (Mark 10:45). It was his gift – his life was freely given up for us.

You understand that any benefits that come from the death of Christ have to depend on this factor, of it being a life voluntarily laid down. It was not imposed upon him while he argued and spat and fought and struggled against it. He was silent before Caiaphas and Pilate and Herod. I am saying that when we talk of the passive obedience of the death of the cross we are not making the impaled and immolated Christ man’s impotent prey. We may talk in terms of the ‘Passion’ but Christ was not being victimized; he was supremely active on Golgotha. Christ was taking the cross as he hung upon it and while at his weakest physically he was making it an instrument in his hands. The cross was such a formidable weapon; he was conquering his enemies by it; he was climbing the hill to the heavenly Mount Zion by it, his rod and his staff were the cross, and he was gaining the triumph for all of us in his own death. The death of death, and the death of sin, and the death of Beelzebub all in the death of Christ! The Cross!

“It makes the coward spirit brave,
And nerves the feeble arm for fight;
It takes the terror from the grave,
And gilds the bed of death with light” (Thomas Kelly, 1769-1854)

Jesus was not simply passively suffering the will of God like a lamb hung up and slaughtered. He was doing much on Calvary. The cross was not a martyr’s stake; it was a theatre of war; it was the scene of the mightiest conflict that has ever taken place on this planet. He was wielding incalculable spiritual power. He was making sin impotent; he was destroying death; he was routing the powers of death. He was active on that central cross until he cried, “Father into thy hands I commend my spirit,” and he breathed his last.

So I am saying to you that Christ was making no attempt by dazzling argument and rhetoric to answer the chief priest, but in silence was accepting the cup and choosing to humble himself to death even the death of the cross.

3. CHRIST WAS SILENT REJECTING THE LIES OF THE WITNESSES.

Caiaphas’ question presupposed what the witnesses had said was accurate, while it was a lie. “Then some stood up and gave this false testimony against him: ‘We heard him say, “I will destroy this man-made temple and in three days will build another, not made by man.”‘ Yet even then their testimony did not agree” (vv.57-59). That is a false testimony, Mark tells us. Jesus had not said, “I will destroy this man-made temple and in three days build another, not made by man.” What actually had Jesus said? “Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days'” (Jn.2:19). “You destroy this temple.” Jesus never threatened to demolish the temple. Caiaphas does not ask Jesus what he actually said. He did not say to Jesus, “What was your exact phrasing?” and the two witnesses had even disagreed among themselves. Caiaphas commanded Jesus, “Give us the meaning of the riddle – this mysterious saying – which you uttered at the beginning of your ministry.” He was planning to condemn Jesus however he explained his words. So Jesus refused to say anything.

Before the resurrection and before Pentecost the Lord Jesus said many things without any explanation. It took the resurrection and Pentecost to make them clear. The words of Christ are powerfully memorable; his words have thousands of little hooks and they attach themselves to people’s minds. They stick to memory cells so that we can never forget his words. So men remember, but do men understand? No. The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God for they are foolishness to him, neither can he know them because they are spiritually discerned, but he cannot forget them. So here in this court in Jerusalem is an enemy of Christ asking Christ to explain to him what is utter foolishness to him . . . destroying the temple and rebuilding it in three days? Caiaphas and the whole Sanhedrin will never understand Christ while they continue to be at enmity against Jesus and neither will you. If Caiaphas had said humbly to Jesus, “Lord I believe, help thou my unbelief,” it would have been very different, but Jesus keeps his counsel in the presence of his enemies.

This was not the appropriate time to explain his resurrection to those who wanted him dead. The great truths of God are explained to those whose hearts are inquiring and humble and open. Jesus could not give the true interpretation to this supreme court, “God has decreed that you’re going to condemn me to death. You are going to destroy the temple of this my body. This is why God has brought me here and this is his will for you and me, but on the third day I will rise from the dead.” That was all true, but it would have been unwise to have told them any of this before the Sanhedrin itself had freely come to their verdict, “He deserves to die on a cross.” It was their decision, and Jesus was not going to make it any easier for them by telling them the death penalty had been eternally decreed. Jesus is not going to tell the future to Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin, and Jesus is not going to tell the future to you. There are secret things that belong to the Lord and though you ache and itch to know them you are not going to be told them.

i] You want to know the date of the second coming because you want to know is it worth building an expensive new house, or having a major operation, or studying for six years at medical school if the second coming is going to be in a matter of months. “Tell me the date.” The Lord is not going to tell you because your godliness does not depend on knowing the date. In fact your godliness depends on not knowing it, so that each day you live for God because this day may be the last day.

ii] Some of you say that you want an explanation to the origin of evil. How could the holy angels created by God rebel against God in a sinless heaven? You cannot imagine how such a thing could happen. You are saying that you cannot believe in God while there is such a philosophical perplexity. “Tell me the answer and I will believe in you.” I say that the Lord is not going to tell you, and he does not believe that you would suddenly become a Christian if you knew the answer to this mystery. There are other more basic reasons why you are not a Christian; you love your sins too much.

iii] Someone else here is itching to know whether his friend is one of the elect of God. “Is he predestined to heaven? Tell me; I must know because if he isn’t, then I won’t bother to witness to him.” The Lord is going to be silent again my friend. He isn’t going to satisfy your idle curiosity. No one can know who are the chosen ones of God before they trust in the Lord. You will know the ones God has loved before the foundation of the world as and when they bow before him and repent of their sins and trust in the blood of Jesus.

iv] Someone else wants to know how it is possible to reconcile the sovereignty of God with the responsibility of man. God is not going to tell you. Both truths stand on the basis of their own independent teaching in the Bible. Both truths are clearly taught. Of God and through God and to God are all things. He is absolutely sovereign over all the free actions of men and women, and yet no men and women are puppets. All are answerable to God for what they do. How do you reconcile man’s freedom and God’s eternal purposes the Lord won’t tell you, but he also says, “You submit to your Lord and obey him. Believe in his Son. Come to Jesus Christ.” He pleads with you to come. He opens his mouth with a loud voice and cries to you to come. The Sovereign Lord beseeches you to repent. If you believe in the sovereignty of God believe in the sovereignty of that. God is not going to share the secret and sublime announcements of heaven with this little congregation. The Lord was not going to answer the curiosity of Caiaphas about the future destruction and building of God’s temple. God does not have to answer your idle curiosity in religious questions.

v] “Are many people going to be saved?” You want to know that, because there seem to be very few. Well the Lord will be silent and he will say to you that you should make sure that you are through the narrow gate and walking the narrow way before you worry about how many are going to be with you. Many are on the broad road that leads to destruction. You make sure you are on the road to life.

The Lord is telling the Sanhedrin to do its duty as the Supreme Court. “You are guardians of righteousness and truth in Israel. God forbid that you kill the Messiah whom God has sent. Do your duty. Look at Jesus’ life. Consider his teaching. Examine his claims. Evaluate his miracles, and do what is right.” Jesus remains silent. He does not put a stumbling block before these 41 men. He did not speak before the time; he did not give false explanations. He just lets this mysterious truth that he will rebuild the temple in three days lie there festering in the midst of these scornful and foolish men. You too know the great truths of God. Do what everyone should do when they are confronted with the truth – receive it, and believe it, and put it into practise in your life. Until you have done that God will be silent. Everyone else will be hearing the word of God. Everyone else is being taught corrected, reproved instructed in righteousness, but for you nothing! Everyone else is being blessed and helped but for you the empty silence of heaven week after week. How fearful, to hear everything and to hear nothing, to lay down conditions for following the Lord and yet being ignored by the Lord. End you rebellion. When the Canaanite woman was confronted with a silent Christ he simply cried to him, “Lord, help me.” There is the Lord, and there are you, and the link that joins you is your great need and his great power.

“O Saviour, I have nought to plead,
In earth beneath or heaven above,
But just my own exceeding need
And Thy exceeding love.

The need will soon be past and gone,
Exceeding great, but quickly o’er;
The love unbought is all Thine own,
And lasts for evermore’ (Jane Crewdson, 1809-1863)

17th June 2005 GEOFF THOMAS