A Time to be Silent and a Time to Speak

By Mark D. Roberts

March 13, 2017

Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?” But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer.

Mark 14:60-61


Two sculptures, unspeaking to each other.After Jesus was arrested, he was taken to the home of the high priest, where he was interrogated by Jewish leaders from Jerusalem. Many witnesses offered testimony against Jesus, but their stories were not sufficient to condemn him. As he was being accused, Jesus remained silent.

After a while, the high priest stood up and asked Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?” (14:60). Jesus said nothing. Then the high priest asked, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?” (14:61). Jesus finally spoke: “I am,” he said. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven” (14:62).

Later, we’ll consider the meaning of Jesus’s answer and why it got him into such trouble. For now I want simply to note that, for Jesus, his trial was not a time to fill the room with words. It was as if he was living the line from Ecclesiastes 3:7 – “[There is a] time to be silent and a time to speak.”

We don’t know exactly what motivated Jesus to be so quiet and then to speak so bluntly. He may have sensed the inadequacy of words to communicate in such an unfriendly context. It may be that Jesus felt no need to defend himself when he knew and had accepted the outcome of his trial. But, no matter Jesus’s exact motivation, his example reminds us that there is a time to be quiet and a time to speak.

These days, our world is filled with anything but quiet. Endless words pummel us from sources human and electronic. And we can add to the empty, oppressive chatter with our own drivel, complaining, and gossip. I’ll confess to doing this way too often. I need to learn to be silent, to wait upon the Lord, to listen well before I speak, and to use my words judiciously. Perhaps you do too.


Do you tend to be a person of quiet or a person of speaking?

When do you use too many words? Why?

What helps you to be quiet, to listen, and to speak wisely?


Gracious Lord Jesus, I don’t really know why you were so quiet during your trial. Honestly, a part of me wishes that you had spoken up, that you had defended yourself. I wish you had called up a battalion of angels in self-defense. But you knew better. You knew what was right at that time. You knew it was a time, mostly for quiet, and then for blunt speech.

Help me, Lord, to be wise even as you are wise. Help me to know when to be quiet, as well as when to speak. Teach me to listen deeply to those around me, to honor them by my receptive silence. And then, by your Spirit, help me to speak words of truth . . . not too many, but just the right number. Amen.


Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online commentaryTiming (Eccl 3:1-4:6)

Mark D. Roberts

Senior Strategist

Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders,...

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