“yet He opened not His mouth.” Isaiah 53:7b
The exact words these are which the Ethiopian eunuch was reading, when Philip the Evangelist met him, in the desert, on the way from Jerusalem to Gaza, and expounded to him the Gospel concerning the Christ of God.
Remember that beautiful story?
An angel of the Lord had commanded Philip to go there: more he not told him.
There, in that lonely desert, Philip had met this Ethiopian, a full-fledged Gentile. He was reading his Bible, aloud, while he was traveling. Isn’t it beautiful? What book was he reading? Isaiah, Chapter? Fifty-three. Verse? Seven. “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 opened not his mouth.”
The door was open and Philip entered, and beginning at this text he preached to this child of God the whole blessed Gospel of Christ crucified and risen from the dead.
“Yet!” In spite of all men did to Him! In the face of all the suffering and abuse and injustice!
Surely, if ever a man had reason to open his mouth; it was Jesus, was it not?
How true, how terribly true it was: “He was oppressed, and He was afflicted.” Oppressed means: pressed, hard pressed, hunted, hounded. DRIVEN.
How true this was of His entire life. Like a rabbit is pressed, hunted, hounded, driven to death by men and dogs; like a sheep is pressed, driven to the slaughter; so Jesus was driven all the day long to the inevitable cross. In all this sin sick, God-forsaking world there was for Him no rest.
How true this was of the end of His life on earth. Think of Gethsemane, the garden of sorrows, – the battle there fought, the bloody sweat, the betrayal, the capture. From Gethsemane He is driven to Annas, from Annas to Caiaphas, from Caiaphas to Pilate, from Pilate to Herod, from Herod back to Pilate, from Pilate to Herod, from Herod back to Pilate. See how He is bound, slapped, condemned, beaten, spit upon, reviled, scourged. From Pilate He is driven to Calvary. See how they nail Him to the cross. Hear how they mock and blaspheme, until God Himself draws His curtain of Stygian darkness over their brutal sport.
All the day long He was killed for our sake. He was led as a lamb to the slaughter; oppressed and afflicted; despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.
And all without even a semblance of justice. Usually, when the rulers of the world commit their judicial murders, they manage to give to their crimes at least an appearance of justice. Even Hitler have his reason for what He did. Here there is not even that. With all their eagerness and devilish cunning they could find nothing against Him in the way of accusation. Five times Pilate declares Him “Not guilty”, yet he delivers Him to be crucified.
If ever, therefore, a man had reason to “open his mouth” it was Jesus.
“Yet” – He didn’t!
He didn’t in the garden of agony, and He didn’t when they led Him away; He didn’t before Annas, and He didn’t before Caiaphas; He didn’t before Pilate, and He didn’t before Herod; He didn’t when they pressed the crown of thorns into His brow, and He didn’t when they draped the faded robe over His bleeding body; He didn’t when they scourged Him, and He didn’t when they nailed Him to the cross!
This does not mean that Jesus never spoke. True, there were times when He refused even that. We read: “And when He was accused of the chief priests and elders, He answered nothing.” Again: “And He answered him never a word; insomuch that the governor marveled greatly.” At other times, however, He certainly did speak. He did before Annas, and before Caiaphas, and before Pilate, and on the cross.
But, never did He open His mouth to resist, to contradict, to protest. Never did He seek to deliver Himself from the power of the enemy. Never did He recoil from the way of suffering and death that lay ahead. Never did He plead His own cause or cry out their injustices against them.
Why? Why opened He not His mouth?
He was the Mediator, sent of the Father to save a sin, sick, curse-filled world. He was not a mere individual; He was the representative of sinners, a whole multitude of them; sinners who had forfeited forever the grace and life of God. He was not merely Jesus of Nazareth; He was the Christ, our chief prophet, our only high priest, our eternal king. “Jesus Christ came into the world to save SINNERS.”
To realize this salvation, to redeem such lost but eternally chosen sinners, He had taken upon Himself all their debts, all their original as well as actual guilt. Himself He had no sin and no guile was ever found in His mouth. But, the iniquity or countless sinners was laid on Him, so that “He who knew no sin became sin for us.” As such He became THE guilty One par excellence, not in the sight of men, but before the tribunal of the living God.
Bearing that guilt, He had to bear the punishment, the wrath of God, all the agonies of the damned, in the moment He was on earth, more by far than any reprobate in hell will ever know. From the viewpoint of the world, therefore, He suffered innocently. From the viewpoint of God, however, His way was that of strictest justice. As our vicar it could not be different.
A moment ago we said; if ever a man had reason to open His mouth, it was Jesus.
Now we must say: if ever a man had reason NOT to open his mouth it was Jesus. He Himself was deeply couscous of the fact that He had to do, not with men, but with God. He was oppressed and afflicted-by GOD. To realize His Father’s purpose with Him He had to bear His punishment willingly. Unwilling suffering cannot atone for sin. Only perfect obedience even amidst the flames of hell can satisfy the Father’s justice. One moment of rebellion on the part of Jesus, and we all would not be hopelessly lost.
Thus He finishes the work of Messiah, delivers His people from the dungeon of guilt and death, perfects the covenant of God with men in the way of severest justice.
Thus we are saved through faith in Him, and able to sing as believingly we stand before that awful Cross:
“Dearer than all that the world can impart,
Was the message that came to my heart-
How Jesus alone for my sin did atone,
And Calvary covers it all.
“Calvary covers it all,
My past with its sin and stain;
My guilt and despair Jesus took on Him there,
And Calvary covers it all.”