Strength in Silence

My whole life people have told me I would make a great teacher. “You really know how to engage people,” they would say. “You use your whole body to tell a story!” I guess that’s just the aspiring actress in me. (Hey, it could still happen.)

Insisting that I’d rather be a student than a teacher, I have always laughed off these claims. And yet, here I am – seven months into my new career of teaching English as a foreign language to children in China. I’m definitely still a beginner, and I’m far from perfect, but I feel like I’ve come a long way in my ability to lead a classroom.

A few weeks ago, however, my Saturday class really challenged me. In a moment of chaos, when even my translator couldn’t get the students to quiet down, I impulsively decided to jump in the air and smack my boots back on the ground, thinking the noise might bring my kids back to attention.


But it didn’t work. All that my efforts earned was a bewildered look from my translator, who then told me to calm down. “I wasn’t angry,” I later explained. “I was just trying to get them to listen.”


Later that night, I couldn’t stop thinking about my foolhardiness. I felt ashamed. In the midst of disorder, I thought I could get my students to listen by being louder than they were. Even if these kids don’t understand a word I say, they can surely understand my manner.  And what sort of manner did I display that day in class? Certainly not one of quiet composure and grace. Certainly not one that Jesus would have shown to his little lambs.


When confronted with the loud confusion of unbelievers, Jesus did not slam his feet onto the ground in impatience and desperation.


When faced with the temper of the armed mob come to arrest him, Jesus did not need to be louder than his captors in order for his voice to be heard.


When the angry crowd shouted “Cruc¡fy him!” and the governor’s soldiers tortured and ridiculed him, Jesus did not fight back.


Instead, Jesus was quiet.


Under public scorn and temptation, Jesus maintained a manner of quiet dignity, graceful understanding, and perfect love. Even in the face of certain death, Jesus endured with humble majesty. He did not give his enemies the satisfaction of a cheap, impulsive reply. In fact, his calm was often a more effective and more powerful response than any words could have been. He was quiet not only because the taunts thrown at him were unworthy of an answer, but also because he knew he would have to suffer and die in order to fulfill the Old Testament prophecies and God’s promises to his people.


He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.
— Isaiah 53:7


When Jesus did speak, it was not to defend himself or to hush his scoffers. After being falsely accused and forced under oath to identify himself, Jesus without hesitation broke his silence and boldly confirmed that he is the Chπ¡st. He did not speak for the sake of being heard; he spoke so that we may know the truth. He spoke to set in motion his own condemnation – because he loves us.


Then the high priest stood up and said to Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?” But Jesus remained silent.

The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.”

“Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: in the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?”

“He is worthy of death,” they answered. Matthew 26:62-66


Jesus provides the greatest example of what it means conquer the noise of doubt and evil because he did so with selfless love, humility, and grace. He took on the s¡ns of the world and ultimately accepted his own death sentence because “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” Matthew 20:28. Even at his weakest moments, he did not return any slander or give in to anger and temptation. Rather, he continued to pray to his Father, often on the behalf of those who hated him.


When God’s children were noisy and unruly, Jesus did not need to shout in order to be heard. To this day, his death on the cross and his glorious resurrection resound more thunderously and magnificently than any spoken word, whether bellowed or whispered.


The way I see it, with a little training and experience, almost anybody can be a teacher. But it takes real patience, humility, and love to be a great teacher. I have a lot to learn before I even come close to reaching that point. Luckily, I can trust in Jesus’ perfect example of quiet strength to guide me. I’ve always been a better student, anyway.


Be still, and know that I am God.
— Psalm 46:10