Jesus, His Critics and How to Handle Criticism
Criticism can either be helpful or unhelpful. Criticism is unhelpful when it aims to attack the person and belittle them. Criticism is helpful when it aims to help the person grow to be like Jesus. In today’s post from Luke 23:6-12, we will see Jesus interact with His critics on His way to the Cross by not responding to His critics but instead be being quiet in His response to them. At the end of the post we will learn how to give godly criticism motivated by loving God and people, as well why unhelpful criticism is so harmful.
Luke 23:6-12, “When Pilate heard this, he asked whether the man was a Galilean. And when he learned that he belonged to Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him over to Herod, who was himself in Jerusalem at that time. When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had long desired to see him, because he had heard about him, and he was hoping to see some sign done by him. So he questioned him at some length, but he made no answer. The chief priests and the scribes stood by, vehemently accusing him. And Herod with his soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked him. Then, arraying him in splendid clothing, he sent him back to Pilate. And Herod and Pilate became friends with each other that very day, for before this they had been at enmity with each other.”
The account in Luke 23:6-16 is found only in Luke. Luke recounts this incident to reveal that both Pilate and Herod found Jesus innocent. Herod was glad in Luke 23:8 not because he wanted to kill Jesus, but because he longed to see Jesus perform some sign. Jesus makes no answer in this passage, and His silence fulfills Isaiah 53:7, and places the responsibility for His death squarely on His accusers.
Jesus didn’t respond to the injustice in this passage. Whenever someone asked Him to confess His true identity He testified that He was the Son of God or the King of Jews or whatever proper title they wanted to give Him. Why did Jesus refuse to say anything to defend Himself? It may have been because there was nothing else to say. Herod had already had his chance to hear the Gospel but now he had hardened his heart.
By the time that the man closed his conscience and refused to repent there was nothing left for Jesus or anyone else to say to him. This is a warning to anyone who rejects the free gift of God’s grace: eventually the day will come when He will have no more Gospel to give you. Jesus knew there was no need to defend Himself because His Father would vindicate Him at the right time by raising Him from the dead.
His very refusal to argue His own case was in fact another proof of His perfect innocence. Psalm 37:5-7, “Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices!”
These were all good reasons for Jesus not to speak in His own defense. His example reminds us not to be so quick to defend ourselves when we are attacking unjustly, but instead to wait patiently for the Lord to defend us. Remember the example Jesus set for us and what Peter taught us in 1st Peter 2:22-23, “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.”
This is one further reason why Jesus refused to speak in His own defense—a reason that goes beyond anything we could ever do. Suffering in silence was part of the work that Jesus was called to do for our salvation. It was the fulfillment of an ancient prophecy. Isaiah 53:7, “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not 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.”
Jesus fulfilled the prophecy in Isaiah 53:7 by refusing to protest His own innocence or to strike back at His accusers. The image Isaiah used to convey the spotless innocence of the afflicted Savior was the pure image of a sacrificial lamb. In His quiet submission to the torments of His oppressors Jesus fulfilled this prophecy and thereby proved that He was the Savior whom God had promised to send.
Jesus suffered in silent majesty without protest so He could do the perfect work of our salvation. Never lose hope that Jesus did this so He would have something to say when we ourselves are put on trial. One day we will all appear before God for judgment. If we have nothing to say then it will not be because of our perfect innocence but because there is nothing we can really say in defense of our sinful selves. The good news is that Jesus will have something to say! Though silent in His own defense, He will not be silent in the defense of anyone who trusts in Him.
Jesus has promised that one day He will openly acknowledge everyone who openly acknowledges him in Luke 12:8. Through faith in Christ when you at last appear before God justly accused of all your sin, Jesus will plead the merits of His own royal and innocent righteousness. Having suffered for your sins all the way to the Cross, He will speak up and tell His Father not to give you the verdict that you deserve but the verdict that He deserves.
The best way to handle criticism is not to respond immediately but rather to get on your knees and seek the face of God in His Word and prayer. Any criticism that Christians offer should be grounded in love. Ephesians 4:15 “speaking the truth in love” should be our primary guide in criticism. Godly criticism is true and loving, and ought to come from a humble, caring heart that wishes the best for the other person. Godly criticism should never be bitter, condescending, insulting, or cold-hearted. 2nd Timothy 2:24-25a, “And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness.” 1st Corinthians 13:4-7, “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” Criticism, if it is loving will express those attributes.
Criticism must be grounded in the truth of God’s Word. Often time’s criticism is based on hearsay which is not helpful, but gossip. Uninformed criticism will in most situations end up embarrassing the critic when the truth is revealed (Proverbs 18:13). The self-righteous Pharisees criticized Jesus based on their own faulty stances when Truth was not on their side. Godly criticism is concerned to be critical only of what the Bible is critical of. 2nd Timothy 3:16 teaches that the Word of God is “profitable for reproof and correction.” In other words, God’s inspired Word leads us to critically analyze everyday situations.
While discussing how to handle godly criticism is critical, Christians also need to beware of a critical spirit. There is a significant difference between helping someone improve and having a critical spirit. A critical spirit is never pleased, and expects to and finds disappointment wherever it looks. Rather than looking for evidences of God’s grace and loving people, a critical spirit arrogantly judges, is easily provoked and accounts for every wrong. A critical spirit damages the critiqued and the critic.
Biblical criticism is helpful, loving and based on the truth of God’s Word. Correction is to be gentle since it comes from love. Galatians 5:22-23 teaches that the Spirit wants to produce in us love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. If criticism cannot be expressed in keeping with the fruit of the Spirit it is better left unsaid.