In the various accounts of our Lord’s earthly ministry we find three occasions when He declined to answer those who appealed to Him or questioned Him.
First there is the Gentile woman of Matt. 15:21-28. Her daughter was possessed of a demon and in her trouble she appealed to the Lord to help her, “but He answered her not a word.” Finally, in His grace He did help her, but not until He had taught her the lesson that as a Gentile she had no claim on Him. As Romans 1:28 tells us, the Gentiles had been “given up” because “they did not wish to retain God in their knowledge.” In this connection we Gentiles should read carefully Eph. 2:11,12 and see how utterly without hope we are apart from the grace of God.
Next there was a Jewess, in trouble of a different kind. She had been caught in adultery and was brought to Him for judgment (John 8:1-11). Unlike the Gentile woman, she belonged to the chosen race and possessed God’s holy Law, a distinct advantage — unless you are a lawbreaker. Our Lord, in grace, also helped her, but not until He had demonstrated that the Law is the great leveler of mankind, bringing all in guilty before God (Rom. 3:19).
But finally we find how it was that our Lord could show grace — and do it justly — to sinners, both Jewish and Gentile, for in the third instance we find the Lord Himself in trouble. On trial for His life before the representatives of Hebrew and Roman law, He is accused of all sorts of wicked crimes. But on this occasion too, He declines to answer.
First Caiaphas, the High Priest, asked Him: “Answerest Thou nothing? What is it which these witness against Thee? But Jesus held His peace…” (Matt. 26:62,63).
Next Pilate, the Gentile judge, said: “Hearest Thou not how many things they witness against Thee? And He answered him to never a word; insomuch that the governor marvelled greatly” (Matt. 27:12-14).
Why did our Lord decline to answer and defend Himself? Because He had come into the world especially to die for man’s sins. Had the sinners of all ages been there to accuse Him of their sins, He would still have remained speechless, for He stood there as man’s representative, so that we sinners might be “justified freely by God’s grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:24).