Matthew 27:11–14

Matthew 27

11 Now Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus said, “You have said so.” 12 But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he gave no answer. 13 Then Pilate said to him, “Do you not hear how many things they testify against you?” 14 But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed.

There is an interesting article at News Nation Now entitled “‘Muzzle him like Hannibal Lecter’: ‘Banfield’ on Waukesha suspect.” It is about the unruly behavior a defendant named Darrell Brooks, Jr. who was representing himself in a Waukesha County courtroom on “77 charges, including six counts of first-degree intentional homicide and 61 counts of reckless endangerment, for allegedly driving his vehicle into a Nov. 21 parade.” Brooks’ dismissed his attorney and represented himself before Judge Jennifer Durow.

Representing oneself in court is unusual but allowed, based on the 6th Amendment. The real problem with Darrell Brooks’ approach here was not that he represented himself, but how he did it. The article talks about Brooks’ “constant outbursts” in court, his occasional refusal “to recognize his own name,” and his extremely “disruptive” behavior.

“It’s what you call remarkable judicial restraint,” NewsNation’s Ashleigh Banfield, who has covered hundreds of controversial, high-profile court cases, said while discussing the case with her Friday night panel. “It has also had a lot of court watchers steaming mad that she didn’t smack him down, put him in his place, and just muzzle him like Hannibal Lecter.”

“Banfield” story editor Paula Froelich said she “can’t believe this is happening in a taxpayer-funded court.”

“This man is literally acting like a 9-year-old. The judge can’t get a word out. … I don’t know that much about the law, and I just have to ask, How is this happening? Why is he considered competent? How is this allowed to go on?”[1]

In point of fact, some judges finally do have enough of unruly defendants and have them muzzled or their mouths duct taped.

That is an amazing thought, is it not: a defendant who will not stop talking and who is so disruptive that they have to be muzzled!

What is most interesting about the trial of Jesus is that people were disturbed by the exact opposite behavior. Jesus’ silence seemed to enrage or perplex the authorities before who He was standing. Pontius Pilate seemed to be particularly confused by it. And this raises an interesting question: Why was Jesus so silent throughout His trial? When He speaks, it is brief and oftentimes enigmatic. But, mainly, He is silent. Why?

The Silence of Jesus was a Fulfillment

Let us notice, first, that the silence of Jesus was a fulfillment of prophecy. Speaking of the coming savior who would suffer for His people, the Lord, through Isaiah, in Isaiah 53, says:

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.

It was prophesied, then, that this savior would:

  • be oppressed
  • be afflicted
  • not open his mouth

And this last point is mentioned twice in verse seven, as if to underscore both its surprising nature and its significance. Likewise, in our text, in Matthew 27, we see Jesus’ silence emphasized twice.

11 Now Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus said, “You have said so.” 12 But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he gave no answer. 13 Then Pilate said to him, “Do you not hear how many things they testify against you?” 14 But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed.

In verse 12, we read: “he gave no answer.”

In verse 14, we read: “he gave him no answer.”

First, Jesus is silent before the priests and elders. Then before Pilate.

In so doing, Jesus revealed that He is the figure of Isaiah 53, the prophesied one about whom it was said in that great chapter:

4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

In fulfilling this, Jesus’ silence paradoxically becomes proclamation. In saying nothing, He was, in fact, saying, “I have come. I have come to save you by laying down my life for you! I am the lamb who is silent and the lamb who saves.”

The Silence of Jesus was an Association

In remaining silent, Jesus was also associating Himself in a powerful way with sinful humanity. He had come to save sinners and had come to have our sins placed upon Him on the cross (2 Corinthians 5:21).

In Matthew 26, as Jesus stands for the sham court of the treacherous council, false allegations are brought against Jesus, culminating in a twisting of Jesus’ own words about the temple.

59 Now the chief priests and the whole council were seeking false testimony against Jesus that they might put him to death, 60 but they found none, though many false witnesses came forward. At last two came forward 61 and said, “This man said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to rebuild it in three days.’” 62 And the high priest stood up and said, “Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?” 63 But Jesus remained silent. And the high priest said to him, “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.”

We marvel at the silence of Jesus. In the first century, this silence would have been seen as damning. Craig Keener observes that, in the first century, “[a] defendant who offered no defense was normally convicted by default.”[2]

Is it not the case that if somebody twisted our words in a court of law or if “many false witnesses came forward” against us, that we would protest with all the vehemence we could muster? “It is not true, your honor! I did not do these things! I protest! These are lies!”

Not so, Jesus. He resigns Himself to the ignominy of this court. Why?

Adrian Rogers has helpfully pointed out that at least part of this is Jesus’ desire to associate with sinners. Rogers writes:

The Bible teaches us that when Jesus Christ took our sin, he took all of the punishment that goes with that sin. A part of that punishment is shame. Had Jesus defended himself and protested his innocence, he would have suffered no shame, and that would have left us guilty.

Jesus could not prove himself innocent and then die in our place the shameful death that we deserve. Thank God that Jesus was willing to be counted a sinner before God, that we might be counted as righteous before God!

Jesus held back any words that would have relieved him from the shame and blame of sin. He was not a sinner, but he took fully the sinner’s place.[3]

In being willing to be reckoned a sinner, He was preparing Himself to take our sin upon Himself. In His silence, Jesus was standing with us in our guilt. In His refusal to assert His innocence, Jesus was already showing that He had come to be reckoned among sinners, though, in reality, without sin.

Let us thank God that the Son of God was willing to stand silent in His great work of salvation!

The Silence of Jesus was an Acceptance

In His silence, Jesus was also showing that He was submitting to the Father’s will that He lay down His life on the cross. The Son is obedient to the Father. How then could the Son seek to derail the necessary steps of that obedience?

In John 3, we read not only the words of the most famous verse in the world, but also of the crucially important verse that follows.

16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

First, in verse 16, we see the intent of the Father: “he gave his only Son.”

In verse 17, we see the result of this giving: “that the world might be saved through him.”

The Father sends the Son to lay down His life. This is why He came! This fact helps us understand the ferocity with which Jesus rebukes Peter in Matthew 16.

21 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” 23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

“Get behind me, Satan!” Jesus says. He says this because it was truly the devil who sought to move Peter to dissuade Jesus from doing precisely that which Jesus came to do: to be delivered over, to suffer, to be killed, and to rise on the third day.

Jesus is silent because He was submitting to the will of the Father! Jesus was silent because this was precisely why He came!

I very much appreciate Peter Leithart’s description of the silence of Jesus. He writes:

Matthew’s Jesus is voluble. He teaches in long discourses, laying out Israel’s way of righteousness and peace, commissioning disciples, disclosing the secrets of the kingdom, teaching his followers how to govern disciplined communities of forgiveness. Israel’s leaders never listen. Pharisees try to catch him in his words. Priests and elders plot against him and accuse him of being in league with the devil. So in his final discourse, on the Mount of Olives, Jesus predicts the judgment looming over Jerusalem, then stops. In the final chapters of Matthew, he says almost nothing. He speaks only once during his trial before the high priest—warning him he will see the Son of Man enthroned—and says even less to Pilate. It’s a startling moment. When Israel’s divine husband stops speaking to his bride, it’s a sign his patience has come to an end. Jesus has finished all his words.

As he goes silent, Jesus the healer, Jesus the exorcist, Jesus the wonder-worker is reduced almost to an object, “delivered” or “betrayed” from hand to hand to hand. He’s betrayed by Judas into the hands of soldiers, who deliver him to the priests, who deliver him to Pilate, who “delivered him up to be crucified” (27:26). Jesus goes limp, a lamb resigned to slaughter. The man of speech and action enters a wordless Passion.

Yet Jesus remains Lord. Nothing surprises him.[4]

Consider too Hans Boersma’s beautiful idea:

We often do the opposite of listening. Our tongues just rattle on, never mind what others say to us. The reason is simple: We think too highly of ourselves, we prefer teaching over learning, we are proud. Holy Week confronts us with our pride…

Perhaps [Jesus’] silence before Caiaphas and Pilate should not surprise us. The Word is the one who woke up the prophet each morning. He is the one who spoke into Isaiah’s ear…He is the one who prophesied his own slavery, suffering, and silence. Perhaps the Word is silent during Holy Week because he is carefully listening to the speech he himself once whispered into the prophet’s ear.[5]

Ah, how good that is! Part of Jesus’ silence is His hearing the words of the Father: “This is why I sent you. It was for this!” In Gethsemane, Jesus had prayed:

39 And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”

Jesus’ silence was His acceptance of the Father’s Gethsemane answer: “It is my will.”

The Silence of Jesus was an Anticipation

And we might see this in Jesus’ silence: anticipation. To understand this, let us remember how, in Acts 8, Philip uses the prophecy of the silence of Jesus to lead the Ethiopian eunuch to the Lord.

30 So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31 And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. 32 Now the passage of the Scripture that he was reading was this: “Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter and like a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he opens not his mouth. 33 In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth.” 34 And the eunuch said to Philip, “About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus.

There are two powerful pictures here that are juxtaposed and that make a powerful point. Watch:

  • “so he opens not his mouth”
  • “Then Philip opened his mouth”

The first is referencing the silence of Jesus.

The second is referencing the speaking of Philip.

And what does Philip say?

35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus.

Brothers and sisters, it is no stretch to say that part of the silence of Jesus was a paradoxical prophecy that He would indeed speak one day, but He would do so through His church.

Jesus was silent so that His purchased, redeemed, and commissioned body, the church, would not be!

Jesus stood before the world authorities at His trial and refused to thunder His innocence so that now we, the church, can stand before the world and do precisely that!

His silence purchased our speech!

He held His tongue then so that we can loosen our tongues now!

He restrained so that we can engage!

He confounded so that we can proclaim!

The silence of the Lamb gives way to the heralding of the body!

The Savior was silent so that the church can now shout to the whole wide world this great fact: Jesus is Lord! Jesus is King! And the silent King now speaks through His people and calls all the world to Himself!



[2] Keener, Craig S. The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (IVP Bible Background Commentary Set) (p. 120). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.




2 thoughts on “Matthew 27:11–14

  1. Thank you; the footnotes 3, 4 & 5 were very helpful; me had missed Matt 26:1 where we get ….when Jesus had finished ALL these saying… that little “all” here is unique to His “sayings” in Matt prior to just there; missed it, just missed it. Some of us miss a lot so thank you for the message and esp. the references, quotes & footnotes. The opening court room story is a bit much; the event as it was told on the news/radio back then was sickening; still makes bums me out knowing “it” happened. Your friends reminded me to be a like “Simon” helping in silence “if we” can find the grace cf. Matt. 27:32. Go Wym & thank you CBCNLR team 🙂

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