Criticism can either be helpful or unhelpful. Criticism is unhelpful when it aims to attack the person and belittles them. Criticism is valuable when it seeks to help the person grow to be like Jesus. In this article from Luke 23:6-12, we will see Jesus interact with His critics on His way to the Cross by being quiet in His response to His criticism instead of responding to them. At the end of the article, we will discover 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.”
Jesus Response to Criticism
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 placing 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 and now had hardened his heart. By the time he 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 attacked unjustly. Instead, Jesus example here reminds us to wait patiently for the Lord to defend us. Remember the example Jesus set for us and what Peter taught us in 1 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 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 to give you not the verdict that you deserve but the verdict that He deserves.
How to Best Handle Criticism
The best way to handle criticism is 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. 2 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.” 1 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. Sometimes criticism is based on hearsay which is 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. 2 Timothy 3:16 teaches that the Word of God is “profitable for reproof and correction.” In other words, the inspired Word of God leads Christians to analyze everyday situations critically.
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 grow in grace and being overly critical. A critical spirit is never pleased, and expects and finds disappointment wherever it looks. Rather than looking for evidence of God’s grace and loving people, a critical spirit judges falsely, are easily provoked and accounts for every wrong. A critical spirit also 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 God’s people 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.