Jesus stood silent. He did not speak not even a word. In spite of the many questions put to Him, in spite of the desperate attempts to induce Him to speak, He remained silent. It was the most solemn response Jesus ever made, and there is significant truth to be learned today from that silence.
It was during His trial before Herod. Jesus had been arrested in Gethsemane and taken to the court of Annas, then to Caiaphas, and then before the Sanhedrin. He had been brought to Pilate, and Pilate, in turn, sent Him to Herod. "And when Herod saw Jesus, he was exceeding glad: for he was desirous to see him for a long season, because he had heard many things of him; and he hoped to have seen some miracle done by him. Then he questioned with him in many words; but he answered him nothing" (Luke 23:8, 9).
When I first read about Jesus' silent treatment of Herod, I was happy. Herod was the one who had killed John the Baptist as a result of a drunken party with his lords and his rash oath to Salome. So when I read how Jesus treated him, my reaction was "Good for You, Lord! That's the way. Show him whom he's been fighting against. Ignore him. Be rude." And if I had been in Jesus' shoes, I would have curled my lip and put a scowl on my face; I would have looked daggers at Herod. But then I realized that Jesus didn't feel that way at all. Jesus came to this world to die for Herod just as much as He came to die for me.
We shouldn't see Jesus' silence as being rude and vindictive toward Herod. Instead we should see Him standing there silently, perhaps with tears in His eyes, sorrowing that another one of His created children had turned Him down. Jesus was simply accepting the decision that Herod had already made. Herod had rejected the message of John the Baptist, one of the greatest of the prophets, and there was nothing more that even Jesus Himself could do or say to reach him.
John the Baptist was a prophet and "more than a prophet" (Matt. 11:19). He taught the people that Christ was greater than he (Luke 3:16). He was a lesser light to lead them to the Greater Light. He was the Lord's messenger (Matt. 11:10). Once before, a prophet had been "more than a prophet." We find the record in Numbers 12. Miriam and Aaron had decided that Moses was nothing special. They said, "Hath the Lord indeed spoken only by Moses? hath he not spoken also by us?" (verse 2). God Himself came to Moses' defense, appearing in the pillar of cloud at the door of the tabernacle. He explained to Miriam and Aaron that Moses was indeed more than a prophet, and then asked, "Wherefore then were ye not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?" (verse 8). Miriam, who had been foremost in the criticism, was stricken with leprosy.
Herod, who should have been afraid even to speak against the Lord's messenger, was so insensible of John's importance in the eyes of heaven that he put him to death! And when the voice of the prophet was silenced, Jesus Himself had nothing more to say. He had nothing to say because it would have been useless to say more. From the story of Jesus and Herod we can learn that if one is unfriendly to the prophets, he is going to be unfriendly to Jesus Himself. The two attitudes always go together.
One of the outstanding characteristics of the people in Palestine at the time of Christ's first advent was that they had problems with the prophets. They had always had problems with the prophets. In the days of Christ they came along and garnished the tombs of the prophets and said, "If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have treated these lovely prophets the way they did." They splashed on the whitewash and hung the wreaths. And then they went back to Jerusalem, after their buckets were empty, and planned the crucifixion of Jesus!
Jesus spoke hard-hitting words to them: "Wherefore ye be witnesses unto your selves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. Ye serpents, ye generations of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?" (Matt. 23:31-33).
The apostle Paul had something to say on this point too: "For they that dwell at Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they knew him [Jesus] not, nor yet the voices of the prophets which are read every sabbath day, they have fulfilled them in condemning him" (Acts 13:27). So Paul made it clear that whatever the people did to the prophets, they did to Jesus, and their relationship to the prophets was simply a prelude of how they would relate to Jesus.
In Acts 7 we find the well-known experience of Stephen, sometimes called the first Christian martyr. In the middle of his final discourse, he broke off from his review of the history of Israel and ringingly accused his listeners: "Ye stiffhecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers: who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it" (verses 51-53).
This was too much for his hearers, and they rushed at Stephen, dragged him out of the city, and while a young man named Saul collected the coats, they stoned him to death. But in his last moments of life Stephen saw a vision. He looked up into heaven and saw Jesus at the right hand of God, standing up. I've always liked that part of the story. Jesus was not going to take this attack on His servant sitting down. He was standing up, on Stephen's side. And Stephen died in peace, praying for his enemies. But he had said it. He had spoken the truth, and it went too deep and it hurt too much. He had said, "You people listen to the prophets every Sabbath and pay lip service to the prophets, but you reject them and the One of whom they spoke." The same can still be true today!
In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, Jesus told how the rich man asked that Lazarus be allowed to return from the dead to warn his five brothers. But Jesus had Abraham tell the rich man, "If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead" (Luke 16:31).
Shortly after Jesus gave this parable, another Lazarus was raised from the dead, proving Jesus to be correct, for even the resurrection of Lazarus from the dead did not convince those who rejected the instructions and warnings given by the prophets. And when Jesus Himself was raised from the dead, those who, along with Herod, had refused the testimony of the prophets and put Him to death were filled with terror. But still they were not persuaded.
Jesus always manifested the utmost regard for the prophets. "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets," He said (Matt. 5:17). At another time He promised that "he that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet's reward" (chap. 10:41). The gospel writers point repeatedly to events in His life, saying, "This was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet" (chap. 1:22; cf. chaps. 2:15; 3:3; 8:17; 21:4; Luke 3:4; John 1:23; 12:38). Early in His ministry Jesus read from the book of the prophet Isaiah in His own hometown church on the Sabbath day and was pushed to the edge of a cliff as a result (Luke 4:16-30). He quoted from the prophets repeatedly in His teachings from Daniel (Matt. 24:15), from Jonah (chap. 12:39), from Moses (Luke 24:27), and others.
Jesus spoke to the Jewish leaders, warning them of the danger of following man-made traditions instead of the commandments of God (Matt. 15:1-9). And His disciples, forgetting how often He had read minds, came to Him and said, "Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended, after they heard this saying?" (verse 12). Jesus responded by giving one of His shortest parables: "Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch" (verse 14).
This short parable is relevant today, for the church called Laodicea, the last church until just shortly before Jesus comes, also has a problem with blindness, among other things (see Rev. 3, 14-22). It was not only the people in Christ's day who were blind or blind leaders of the blind!
The apostle Paul, comparing the different parts of the body to the different parts of the church, speaks of the eyes of the church (1 Corinthians 12). Now, eyes are for seeing, and in 1 Samuel 9:9 we discover that in Bible times a prophet was called a "seer"—a see-er, or one who sees. In giving to His church the gift of the prophets, God has provided eyes so that we can see and escape being either blind followers or blind leaders. The people at the time of Christ, blind as they were, had no reason to be blind, for "eyes" had been provided for them. They were blind because they refused to see (Matt. 13:14, 15). Seeing, they did not see, and hearing, they did not hear. Jesus said to them, "If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth" (John 9:41). It was in rejecting the light that was available to them through the seers that they became blind, and that very rejection of light made further enlightenment impossible for them.
Jesus Himself spoke of the impossibility of reaching those who reject the prophets. In His farewell to Jerusalem, He cried out, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!" (Matt. 23:37).
On the morning of the resurrection, as Christ was walking toward the little village of Emmaus, He was endeavoring to bring encouragement to two men. Their hearts heavy, their eyes filled with tears, they recalled for this "Stranger" the events of the past few days. And with all of the resources of heaven at His command, Jesus chose one method above all others to reach their minds and comfort their hearts. "And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning him self (Luke 24:27). Jesus designed that His people should be guided by the messages given through the prophets, and thus He gave the prophets top priority by His own teaching and example.
On the basis of Jesus' teachings, on the basis of Scripture, and on the basis of the repetition of history, I propose that what ever you do with the prophets, you will do with Jesus in the end. If you accept the prophets, listen to them and follow their counsel, you will accept Jesus and listen to Him and follow Him. If you reject the prophets and ignore their messages, you will reject and ignore the Lord Jesus. The people of Israel were not unique in their problems with the prophets, and we are invited to learn from their experience. "All these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come" (1 Cor. 10:11).