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A Time to Be Silent

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to uproot; a time to kill and a time to heal; a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance… a time to be silent and a time to speak…

- Ecclesiastes3:1-7

Sometimes, silence speaks louder than words. Traditional Japanese men, particularly those with authority and rank, carry an outwardly expressionless austerity, while yet inwardly at a gut level, also possessing powerful passion, often depicted in “samurai” movies that iconify the bushido philosophy or “Way of the Warrior.” In comparison with American movie counterparts where communication rests more upon verbal exchange, there are moments in Japanese films where word exchanges between the characters are nearly none to nil with the effect of only intensifying the pathos. Paradoxically, powerful statements of love, loyalty and honor can be made by what is not stated.

May I add further than when a person of good reputation enters a place of business or work, he needs to say nothing in regard to his integrity. Likewise, when someone of bad reputation enters, again, he needs to say nothing further, because even what he says, matters less to his hearers. Trustworthiness over the long-run bears the fruit of sound character that is known by those around him. How blessed is the person whose silence can speak louder than words!

During the Passion weeks leading up to his crucifixion, Jesus Christ embarked on a journey of joy, suffering, rejection, and death, the required rite of passage to resurrection victory. Along the way, there were times when he refrained from speaking, that now speaks volumes to us of who he was and the nature of his earthly mission. On one such occasion, Jesus was entering Jerusalem with the crowds lining his way and shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! The King of Israel” (John 12:13)! Jesus did not say anything to restrain the panoply of praise or to reject the statement of his kingship that would be promulgated centuries later and even now at Easter in Handel’s Messiah with the lyrics, “King of Kings!” and “Lord of Lords!” In another instance, silence was his only response when he stood on trial before his accusers who beckoned him for an answer (Mark 15:3-5). Seven centuries earlier, the prophet Isaiah saw a vision and received these words:

He was let like a lamb to the slaughter,

and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,

so he did not open his mouth.

– Isaiah 53:7b

Isaiah identified the silent one as the Messiah by whose “wounds, we are healed,” and upon whom the “iniquity of us all has been laid,” and therefore also, as our liberator us from human death and decay as our ultimate state. Through his victory over death is a victory of life, we have been absolved from sin and released from the power of Satan, now and for eternity (Isaiah 53:5-6). Hallelujah!

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