The Suffering Glory of the Servant, Part One
He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He did not open His mouth; Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, So He did not open His mouth.
My workplace is full of chatty, witty, well-informed people who sometimes think we know more than we do. We can be quick to criticize, to joke, to find flaws, in the guise of displaying that knowledge. This is why, a few years ago, I gave up dissing for Lent. I wanted to hit the pause button on some of the unnecessary utterances I was tempted to make, and examine my motives, and see whether there was something to be learned, even gained, by silence.
More than 700 years before Jesus stood silent before his accusers, refusing to give the defense they expected and his followers must have been rooting for, Isaiah described the scene. We, like sheep, have gone astray, and his emotional suffering has begun, and his physical suffering is about to get horrific, and those closest to him will desert him. Yet he did not open His mouth.
Silence can be eloquent. It can convict. It can be maddening. It can be mystifying. It can be the only thing left to say.
That Lent when I tried to open my mouth less, I learned that often my impulse was out of a desire to entertain or to lift myself above someone or to step in and offer a solution where I wasn’t being asked for one or simply to join others in reindeer games. And I learned that strength and calm and clarity can grow when nurtured by silence.
In this era of 24-hour news cycles and Twitter feeds and endless noise, it can be instructive to imagine that deafening silence of the Lamb as he went knowingly, willingly, obediently to the wounds that would heal us, through the disgrace that would give him glory.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: What strikes you most about Isaiah’s description of Jesus’ silence? In what places or situations might you test your own silence? Is it difficult or unnerving for you to be quiet or to be with people who are, and if so, why?
PRAYER: Father, let me not ever underestimate what Jesus lived on the cross. Thank you for his example of obedience and of the stewardship of words. May your love similarly constrain me not to speak when I should be listening. Amen.