Herod eagerly received Jesus from the Sanhedrin, “because he had heard many things of him; and he hoped to have seen some miracle done by him. Then he questioned with him in many words; but he answered him nothing.”
I’ve thought long and hard about those words “he answered him nothing.” Why didn’t He answer? I decided in one sense, Jesus just didn’t respect Herod enough to speak to him. Maybe He stood in kingly silence juxtaposed to a babbling king.
But after Herod’s interrogation and frustration, the Jews took Jesus back to Pilate.
And Pilate asked him, Art thou the King of the Jews? And he answering said unto him, Thou sayest it.
And the chief priests accused him of many things: but he answered nothing.
And Pilate asked him again, saying, Answerest thou nothing? behold how many things they witness against thee.
But Jesus yet answered nothing; so that Pilate marvelled.
I know that Jesus knew the futility of the “trials” ahead of His impending crucifixion. But as Pilate marveled, so do I.
Isaiah prophesied this silence.
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.
Was He just trying to symbolize that slaughtered lamb’s inability to communicate? I never felt fully satisfied by the answers I gathered.
Alma and Amulek Answered Him Nothing
After Alma and Amulek preached to the city of Ammonihah, the local judges and lawyers asked around to discover who believed the preachers’ words. They rounded up all of the believers, including women and children, threw them into a large pit, and burned them alive with their religious records. The persecutors forced Alma and Amulek to watch this horrific scene and then berated them.
Behold, ye see that ye had not power to save those who had been cast into the fire; neither has God saved them because they were of thy faith. And the judge smote them again upon their cheeks, and asked: What say ye for yourselves?
And it came to pass that Alma and Amulek answered him nothing; and he smote them again, and delivered them to the officers to be cast into prison.
And when they had been cast into prison three days, there came many lawyers, and judges, and priests, and teachers, who were of the profession of Nehor; and they came in unto the prison to see them, and they questioned them about many words; but they answered them nothing.
And it came to pass that the judge stood before them, and said: Why do ye not answer the words of this people? Know ye not that I have power to deliver you up unto the flames? And he commanded them to speak; but they answered nothing.
This citizen lineup occurred for many days. Finally, Alma spoke. But not to them.
And Alma cried, saying: How long shall we suffer these great afflictions, O Lord? O Lord, give us strength according to our faith which is in Christ, even unto deliverance.
The Lord did give them strength. Alma and Amulek broke their bonds. Terrified, the people all fell down in the prison as an earthquake leveled the structure. Everyone inside perished, except for Alma and Amulek who walked from the rubble.
Hezekiah’s People Answered Him Not a Word
And the king of Assyria sent Rabshakeh from Lachish to Jerusalem unto king Hezekiah with a great army. … And Rabshakeh said unto them, Say ye now to Hezekiah, Thus saith the great king, the king of Assyria, What confidence is this wherein thou trustest? I say, sayest thou, (but they are but vain words) I have counsel and strength for war: now on whom dost thou trust, that thou rebellest against me?
But they held their peace, and answered him not a word: for the king’s commandment was, saying, Answer him not.
The men took Rabshekah’s message to Hezekiah who petitioned the Lord. The Lord answered through the prophet Isaiah. Ironically, the people of Judah didn’t respond to Rabshekah, but Rabshekah heard something—a rumor (as promised by the Lord) and returned home.
Abraham Answered Him Nothing Whatsoever
All of these stories’ similarities kept me searching for a more complete answer for years. I found an answer in the Apocalypse of Abraham.
After Abraham realized his father’s idol gods were completely powerless, he sought to find the true God. The Lord answered Abraham’s searching and provided a messenger to teach him truth. The Lord commanded Abraham to offer a specific sacrifice. (This commandment preceded the one to sacrifice Isaac.)
During the sacrifice, Azazel (Satan) appeared and warned Abraham.
“Abraham, what are you doing upon these holy heights, where no man eats or drinks, nor is there upon them the food of man, but these heavenly beings consume everything with fire, and will burn you up. Forsake the man who is with you and flee, for if you ascend into the heights they will make an end of you.”
Abraham asked the messenger for guidance. The messenger’s answer provided the answer to my question, too.
I said to the angel, “What is this, my lord?” And he said, “This is ungodliness; this is Azazel.” And he said to it, “Disgrace upon you, Azazel! For Abraham’s lot is in heaven, but yours is upon the earth. Because you have chosen and loved this for the dwelling place of your uncleanness, therefore the Eternal Mighty Lord made you to be a dweller upon the earth, and through you every evil spirit of lies, and through you wrath and trials for the generations of ungodly men; for God, the Eternal Mighty One, has not permitted that the bodies of the righteous should be in your hand, in order that thereby the life of the righteous and the destruction of the unclean may be assured.
Hear this my friend, and begone with shame from me. For it has not been given to you to play the tempter in regard to all the righteous. Depart from this man! You cannot lead him astray. He is an enemy to you, and to those who follow you and love what you desire. For, behold, the vesture which in heaven was formerly yours has been set aside for him, and the mortality which was his has been transferred to you.”
And the angel said to me, “Know that from henceforth the Eternal One has chosen you. Be of good courage and use this authority so far as I bid you, against him who slanders the truth. Should I not be able to put him to shame who has scattered over the earth the secrets of heaven, and has rebelled against the Mighty One? Say to him, ‘Become the burning coal of the furnace of the earth! Go, Azazel, into the inaccessible parts of the earth, for your heritage is to be over those who are with you, the ones brought forth with the stars and clouds, and with the men whose portion you are, even those who exist on account of your being. Justification shall be your enemy. Now depart from me by your perdition!'”
And I uttered the words that the angel taught me. And then the angel said to me, “Answer him not! For God has given him power over those who answer him.” And the angel spoke to me again saying, “However much he speak to you, answer him not, in order that he may have no free access to you, because the Eternal One has given him ‘weight and will’ in this respect.” And I did that which was commanded me by the angel, and no matter how much he spoke to me, I answered him nothing whatsoever.
As I read those paragraphs, the stories above flashed to my mind. I thought about the influence of Satan in those scenarios. This principle applied to every other story I could think of where people answered not a word. And I felt like the Lord not only answered my question, but taught me an amazing lesson at a very applicable time when I was ready to learn it.