He Opened Not His Mouth
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned — every one — to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he opened not his mouth.
I cannot keep my mouth shut in the face of injustice, particularly when it bears down on me. I must confront. I must call it out. I must be vindicated immediately and completely. And if it seems at all right that I should be in, I must wedge myself between the jam and the door being closed upon me — whether I belong in the conversation or not.
I cannot be held up quietly in the grocery line. (I cannot be made to look at outlandish celebrity news magazines, unless I can be expected to condescend their readership in proportion to the amount of time I must wait with just eggs in hand.) I want more than justice or fair treatment or equality. I want my way in my time. And it is most dangerous when my way appears right and fair and reasonable.
Christ did no such thing, and this may be the most startling aspect of his willingness to be unjustly accused — quietly. He suffered for the very pride that distorts my convictions for justice into a warped, self-defined demand for importance and fairness. And he opened not his mouth.
Humility is able to hold a word. Love is patient. Staring into an absolute vacuum of reason and justice, he didn’t state his case. He didn’t argue. He didn’t protest.
He opened not his mouth so that he could suffer for a whole world still spinning in the complete void of fairness or reason, with us still upon it. He opened not his mouth that he might expose injustice for all time — if, in fact, we will look at one of the countless crosses that still adorn homes, churches and necks to see that it really means the world steals and kills innocence without a qualm. It means an innocent God suffered silently for a people who have far too much to say for themselves — an endless bevy of insults to spit upon him and each other in the name of our own interpretations of justice.
He opened not his mouth to suffer in solidarity with the voiceless — those who presume to have no say in a world that would prefer they not.
The cross of Jesus means the world is, after all, still unfair and unreasonable and unjust. And Jesus still suffers it with and for us. And for every sin suffered in the vacuum of what is good, beautiful and true, he takes it away without a self-preserving word. He takes it upon himself without complaint.
But make no mistake, when it lands upon him with full weight he cries out in agony. He cries out as a forsaken Son: “Eloi eloi lama sabachthani!” “My God, why?!” This is what injustice feels like. Forsakenness. Unjustly forgotten. Dismissed and alone.
And he cries out, finally, about those who boldly exact their injustice and hurl their insults: “Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they are doing.”
“When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.”
1 Peter 2:23
Your name is glorified even in the anguish of your Son’s death.
Grant us the courage to receive your anointed servant who embodies a wisdom and love that is foolishness to the world.
Empower us in witness so that all the world may recognize in the scandal of the cross the mystery of reconciliation.
Lamb of God (in Latin, Agnus Dei) is an oil painting by the Spanish Baroque artist Francisco de Zurbarán (1635–40).