Why did Jesus stay silent before Herod? Why did he answer some questions but then at other times he gave no answer? At times silence may be perceived as weakness, but in Jesus’ case, he stayed silent for the exact opposite reason. The reason Jesus stayed silent was because Jesus was expressing his strength, power, and authority.
When Jesus Chose Not to Stay Silent, It Was to Express God’s/His Authority
The timeline of Jesus’ trials before the crucifixion started with the Jews, then went to Pilate, who then sent Jesus to Herod, who then sent Jesus back to Pilate, who then ordered the crucifixion. When Jesus finally answered the Jewish Counsel, he pointed to the fact that he is the Son of God who will now be seated at the right hand of God (Luke 22:67-71). When Jesus broke his silence before Pilate, it was only to confirm what Pilate had said, that Jesus really was the King of the Jews (Luke 23:3). And when Jesus came to Pilate a second time, he explained with crystal clarity who is truly in charge, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above” (John 19:9-11).
In each of these three examples, Jesus only spoke about his authority. He told the Jews he was going to be sitting at the Father’s right hand on the throne of authority. He confirmed to Pilate that he was the King of the Jews, a king being the ultimate position of authority. And he later cleared up any misconceptions for Pilate when he explained that the only reason Pilate had any authority to do anything was because God gave it to him.
When Jesus Stayed Silent, It Was to Express God’s/His Authority
Jesus spoke very little throughout the scenes leading up to his crucifixion. The vast majority of the accusations, questions, and lies of his persecutors were met by Jesus’ silence. One of the clearest examples of Jesus staying silent was when he was before Herod. So why did Jesus not speak to Herod? Luke 23:8-9 gives us the context:
When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had long desired to see him, because he had heard about him, and he was hoping to see some sign done by him. So he questioned him at some length, but [Jesus] made no answer.”
What we know about Herod is that he had been wanting to see Jesus for a long time because he wanted to see a miraculous sign. Notice, however, Herod had every opportunity to go see Jesus during his three year public ministry, but he didn’t. Herod wanted Jesus to listen to his summons. Herod wanted Jesus to come to him. And now that he had Jesus, he was commanding Jesus to do a miracle, “Jump boy, go on, do us trick and I’ll toss you a treat.” The whole scene is about authority.
So how does Jesus handle Herod? Jesus stays utterly silent. Jesus showed his authority to the Jews by confirming he is the Son of God. He showed his authority before Pilate by confirming he is the King of the Jews. He showed his authority again to Pilate by reminding him that God was truly in control and not Pilate. And Jesus shows Herod his authority by remaining silent. By not speaking to Herod, Jesus showed us all that he really does have all the power.
Sometimes Staying Silent Like Jesus Shows God’s Authority More Than Speaking Will
If Jesus would have spoke to Herod or performed a miracle at Herod’s command, Jesus would have been obeying Herod, thus showing Herod had authority over Jesus. Sometimes silence shows our power more than anything else will.
Whatever can elicit a response from you is what has power over you. That’s why bullies teas and try to rile the other kids up. If they can get the other kids mad, sad, or even fighting, the bully feels powerful because he is forcing the other kids to do what he wants.
Satan and the world seek to do the same thing to Christians. You know who has power over you by who is making you do what they want. When we are tempted to yell, to shout, to gossip, to speak words of anger towards those who are angry at us, sometimes the best way to show that God is the authority in our life is by staying silent.
As Jesus showed us, silence is sometimes the greatest display of power. Jesus showed his power in many ways, and one of those ways was through his silence. May we too seek to show the world the power of God through our words, deeds, but also through our silence.