As we remember the suffering of our Lord this week, leading up to Good Friday, we should take special note of his response toward those who reviled him. Namely, none. He did not respond. “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he did not open 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,” (Is 53:7). That is the prophetic description of Jesus’ suffering by Isaiah, hundreds of years prior to his crucifixion.
Now, here is Peter’s description of Jesus’ suffering some years after he went to the cross:
For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 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. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. (1 Pet 2:19-25)
If you want a real perspective-changer, sit on these verses for a little bit.
Jesus, “though he was in the form of God” (Phil 2:5-11), humbled himself by coming to us as a human. Not stopping there, though such an act needed no further humbling, Jesus allowed himself to be scorned, reviled, despised, rejected, and, ultimately, killed by people who lied about him. Knowing that obedience to the Father was the most important thing he could do, and knowing that he would be vindicated in the end, he did not take it upon himself to justify himself to the wicked people he came to save. Though falsely accused, he was silent, and he carried his own cross to Calvary.
To see if we can more fully realize how amazing this is, imagine little, wooden toy soldiers that could talk. Just think of a toy maker carefully crafting and carving these toys with his masterful hands, and then, when he was finished, the soldiers coming to life in their own wooden-toy world. Now imagine their maker becoming a wooden soldier himself so that he could more clearly convey to them his concern for them, for their good. Although that move hardly makes sense in the first place, of everything that exists, it would seem that the wooden soldiers would appreciate it the most. But instead, they falsely (and ridiculously) call their now-wooden maker a fraud, slander him, and hate him. They beat him up, scratch his finish, and crush him.
What did the artist-in-toy-form do? That whole time, he silently and humbly endured it. Though he could have turned back into the human toy maker at any point to justly exalt himself and immediately shame and crush his wicked creations, he did not.
Though imperfect and incomplete, maybe this silly little example will help us see how much more astounding it was for God’s only Son to suffer ridicule and death at the hands of his creation.
Yet in the middle of the violence, Jesus kept his eyes on the prize. Jesus knew that in the end, he would be “highly exalted” as the one bearing “the name that is above every name,” the one to whom “every knee should bow,” and the one about whom “every tongue [would] confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil 2:9-11).
Now, because of Jesus’ humble obedience and love, we have been reconciled to God through his death, and we can cling to the same promise of ultimate vindication in the end. If you endure when reviled for following him, remember that in God’s eyes, you are doing a gracious thing (1 Pet 2:19). Keep your eyes on the prize of the glory of eternal life with God in his eternal Kingdom. To pick up on what Paul lays out in Romans 8:18, the suffering you endure now doesn’t even compare to that prize.
As you share Jesus with people, chances are, you’ll be shot down sooner or later. Many times. And chances are, it won’t just be Jesus they reject and revile, but you with him. Before you stand back up, ready to duke it out with them in a verbal boxing ring, remember Jesus’ example. Will you have the guts not to defend yourself, even if what people say about you isn’t true? We must be prepared to defend the hope that is within us (1 Pet 3:15), yet like Jesus, we must also be ready to silently and defenselessly endure when we are mocked because of it. All the while, we can joyfully count such suffering a blessing, for in the end, we will be victorious. As Jesus’ said to his disciples, “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kind of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matt 5:11-12).