It is always inspiring to hear the last words of martyrs. It lifts our hearts to hear their dying words. Polycarp was a preacher early in the second century.
Polycarpus replied, “Eighty-six years have I served Him, and He never did me wrong. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?”
At this the proconsul sent his herald into the arena to proclaim loudly to the crowd, “Polycarp has confessed himself to be a Christian!”
Then the preacher lifted his voice in prayer, praising God that he was “deemed worthy to die.” The fire was lighted and a sheet of flame flashed upward about him. When his body did not crumble in the flames, an executioner stabbed him with a dagger.
Yet the Lord Jesus Christ did not do so when threatened with torture and death! Yes, He had spoken to the high priest. Yes, He had spoken to the Roman governor Pontius Pilate. But when it came time for Him to be flogged half to death and then nailed to a Cross, the words of the prophet Isaiah describe the wondrous fact that He was silent!
“He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth” (Isaiah 53:7).
He said not a word as they beat Him! He said not a word as they nailed Him to the Cross! Let us come to our text and drink deeply from it by asking three questions and answering them.
I. First, who was this man called Jesus?
Who was it of whom the prophet spoke, saying,
“He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth…”? (Isaiah 53:7).
The Bible tells us that He was the Lord of glory, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, God the Son in human flesh! We must never think of Jesus as a mere human teacher or a mere prophet! He did not leave us room to think of Him in these terms, for He said,
“I and my Father are one” (John 10:30).
Again, Jesus said,
“I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live” (John 11:25).
If any other man had said those things we would call him delusional, demonized, distracted, delirious or deranged! But when Jesus said that He and God the Father are one, and when He said, “I am the resurrection and the life,” and words like that, we pause and, even the worst of us, wonder if He may not be right after all!
Though I do not always agree with C. S. Lewis, how can any of us disagree with his famous statement about Jesus Christ? C. S. Lewis said,
I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him:
“You can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God…You must make your choice.”
“I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6).
There you have it! You cannot blend Jesus with Buddhism or Hinduism simply because Jesus “has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
II. Second, why did this man Jesus fail to defend Himself before those who tortured and killed Him?
Why is it that
“He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth “? (Isaiah 53:7).
The great scientist Albert Einstein, though not a Christian, said,
No one can read the [four] Gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus. His personality pulsates in every word.
Yet when He was flogged and crucified He said nothing!
If Socrates lived and died like a philosopher, Jesus lived and died like a God (Jean-Jacques Rousseau, French philosopher, 1712-1778).
Jesus did not defend Himself because His very purpose of coming down to earth was to suffer and die. A year before He was crucified He made that clear.
“From that time forth [from that time on] began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day” (Matthew 16:21).
The Applied New Testament Commentary says,
Peter had just confessed that Jesus was the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the living God [Mark 8:29]. But [Peter] still did not understand what Christ came to earth to do. He thought like the other Jews thought, namely, that Christ had come to be an earthly king. Therefore, when Jesus told him that [He] must suffer many things and…be killed, Peter could not accept it.
But we should understand it.
“Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (I Timothy 1:15)
by His death for our sins on the Cross, and by His resurrection, which gives us life. Jesus did not speak out and defend Himself when He was flogged and crucified because, as He said to Pilate, “To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world” (John 18:37).
III. Third, what does the text tell us about the silent suffering of Jesus?
Please stand and read Isaiah 53:7 out loud one more time.
“He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb [silent], so he openeth not his mouth” (Isaiah 53:7).
You may be seated. “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted.” Dr. Young says that this can be translated, “He [allowed] himself to be afflicted.” “In being afflicted he was voluntarily suffering…
“Then said Pilate unto him, Hearest thou not how many things they witness against thee?
“And the chief priests accused him of many things: but he answered nothing. And Pilate asked him again, saying, Answerest thou nothing? behold how many things they witness against thee. But Jesus yet answered nothing; so that Pilate marveled [was surprised and amazed]” (Mark 15:3-5).
“He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb silent, so he openeth not his mouth” (Isaiah 53:7).
Christ is compared to a lamb. In the Old Testament, men brought sheep to slaughter them for sacrifice to God. To prepare a sheep for the sacrifice they sheared it, cutting off all the wool. The lamb stood silently as it was sheared. As the sacrificial sheep was silent when it was sheared and slaughtered, “so he openeth not his mouth” (Isaiah 53:7).
John the Baptist also compared Jesus to a sacrificial lamb when he said,
“Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).
When you come to Jesus by faith, His sacrifice on the Cross pays for all your sin, and you stand without guilt before God. Your guilt is removed by His death on the Cross.
David Brainerd, the famous missionary to the American Indians, proclaimed this truth throughout his ministry. As he preached to the Indians, he said, “I never got away from Jesus and Him crucified. I found that once these people were gripped by the great…meaning of Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf, I did not have to give them many instructions about changing their behavior”
I know that is true today as well. Once you see that
“Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures” (I Corinthians 15:3),
and once you get ahold of the crucified and risen Saviour by faith, you are a Christian.
As he lay dying, Spurgeon said, “My theology is found in four little words