Isaiah 53:7 says that the suffering servant “humbled himself and opened not his mouth” as a lamb about to be slaughtered or a sheep dumb before its shearers. Does this describe Jesus’ behavior at his trials?
Jesus’ claim to be the Messiah was the accusation placed against him before the Sanhedrin and Pilate. To the charge of his messianic claim, Jesus
Answered both the Jewish authorities and Pilate in a forceful manner (John 18:19-23, 33-37).
The statement: “Therefore Pilate entered the judgment hall again and called Jesus, and said to him: ‘Are you the King of the Jews?‘” makes it clear that claiming to be the King Messiah was the Jewish accusation against Jesus. Matthew and Mark comment that Jesus did not Answer the Jewish accusations when Questioned by Pilate: “But he did not Answer him, not even to a single charge” (Matthew 27:14); “But Jesus made no further Answer” (Mark 15:15).
However, the list of charges made by the Jews, which is found in Luke’s Gospel: “misleading our nation and forbidding to pay taxes to Caesar, and saying that he himself is Christ, a King” (Luke 23:2), is Answered by Jesus. The charges are
Answered in his defense before Pilate, as found in John’s Gospel. There he claimed to head a peace-loving, nonmilitary, otherworldly group, which would not countenance revolt against the Roman Empire. John argues, with the help of alleged quotations from the trial, that Jesus claimed to be King of the Jews but not one who sought power in this world, i.e., at the expense of the Roman Empire (John 18:36).
Far from showing the humility and silence with which Isaiah describes the servant in verse 7, the encounter between the high priest, the elders, and Jesus is highlighted by a vigorous verbal exchange. In addition, Jesus did not show humility and silence during his confrontation with Pilate. At their meeting, Jesus is depicted as skillfully defending himself. Jesus at no time humbled himself, but, on the contrary, presented a clever verbal defense before Pilate (the one man who could condemn him to death), pleading shrewdly that his messianic teaching was a nonviolent, “not of this world” movement, one which the Romans need not fear. Pilate, Jesus assumed, would not be interested in a non-political, non-military movement that was not of “this world.” However, Jesus’ movement must have appeared to Pilate like any of the other seditious movements that confronted him. He reacted accordingly.
Jesus was obviously defending himself by presenting a shrewd verbal response when he tried to convince Pilate that he was not the head of a seditious movement but that his intentions were peaceful.
Contrary to what Christian theologians claim, the Gospels’ Jesus presented a strong defense before the Jewish officials and Pilate. Jesus was not “dumb” but very outspoken before his accusers, Jewish or Gentile. Therefore, it is simply not true to say of Jesus that “he humbled himself and did not open his mouth.”