I can’t convey the awe and wonder I feel as I travel through this verse. Jesus was someone who was so real and pure and single-minded that, when he did not revile in return, it was because he was that kind of person.
To revile means to express foul or abusive language to someone. The fact that Jesus did not revile when reviled took me back to my teen years when I did not revile someone who reviled me. Outwardly, it almost looked the same as what Jesus did.
However, that did not make me LIKE Jesus, but DIFFERENT from him.
Because Jesus did not revile as an expression of his real self, the Word of God in the flesh. His relationship with his Father was everything. He never lost sight of who he was, and never wanted to be different than who he was.
For me, not reviling when someone expressed foul and abusive language was because I was too traumatized to speak. I was protecting myself from further reviling by keeping my mouth shut. It wasn’t even a conscious strategy, but the crushing of a wounded soul. I was not different from Jesus because I reviled when I was reviled, but because I wasn’t my real self at all. I was a silent shell of a traumatized child. And that realization made me feel genuine worship because of who Jesus is, and how he relates to me.
When I take this further into what it means that, “when he suffered, he did not threaten,” it is not like one sinful and wimpy speck of dust trying to scare off a sinful and bullying speck of dust by yelling loud and threatening words. It was the Creator, the King of the universe, the Son of Almighty God, not threatening the sinful specks of dust who were crucifying him when he had the power to command their immediate destruction if he so desired.
And that brings us to the reason he was not drawn to revile or threaten even though he is the Lamb of God with the two-edged sword coming out of his mouth. It was because, in his perfect knowing of what was good, and his perfect love of his Father, and his perfect enjoyment of righteousness, he found pleasure in continuing to entrust himself to his Father who judges justly.
When Christians have this hang-up of bitterness towards abusive people, and this bitterness includes God who “allows” unjust things to happen, they are unable to follow Jesus’ example because they are unable to attach to the Father as someone who judges justly. Perhaps they believe that God will not judge at all, or that when he judges it will not be justly. Out of such wrong beliefs they hang on to their grievances as if they are the only person who knows the right thing to do.
But when we look at our Savior who faced the mocking words, and the cruel beating, and the piercing with a thorny crown, and the injustice of judges who would not act justly, and the crime of his crucifixion, we see that he did not revile anyone because he was not a sinful man. He did not exercise his authority to call legions of angels to come and destroy the mockers and haters with a display of his glorious power because that would violate the timeless plan of God.
Instead, he lived who he was. What he was doing was a greater expression of glorious and predetermined love than we can yet fathom. He was not even inclined to act like a mere worldling. He was so in love-relationship with his Father that his mind was in perfect peace and rest that his death, burial and resurrection would satisfy the justice of God so that God could express perfect justice in condemning the wicked and saving the poor in spirit.
I cannot express how personally this is touching me to know that when I have not reviled someone whose foul and abusive language was traumatizing my soul it was not because I was a good man, but that I was too wounded to speak. When I did not threaten someone who was hurting me, it was not because I was a good man, but because I was too crushed inside to face what might happen if I dared to stand up to a bully.
But when Jesus did not revile those who were foul-mouthed and abusive towards him, it was because he was holy and righteous as both God and man. When Jesus did not utter threats against his abusers, it was not because he was afraid of what they might do to him if he stood up to their bullying. He was already LETTING them do the very worst thing in the world to him!
The fact is that Jesus had such a perfect attachment to his Father, and a perfect knowledge that his Father would not and could not act unjustly, that he could endure the very injustice of the cross that would satisfy the justice of God… AGAINST ME AND MY SIN!!!
Which brings me to this grand conclusion, that “now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law,” because everyone God wanted as his child had already become unrighteous by the law. And now there is this “righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe,” because, “for our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
This morning, God ministered such things as this to my heart in a real and personal way. I face a world of injustices that are far worse than the stealing of our rights by governmental wickedness. Just as God describes in his word, even though the world “knows God's righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.” The reviling and persecution from the world is sure to increase as Satan fulfills the Scripture, “the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!”
But “Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.” I can now learn to never revile when reviled, but out of a heart that is becoming like Jesus instead of one that is severely afraid of pain. I can learn to respond to cursers with blessing instead of threatening, not because I am afraid of what will happen to me if a bully calls my bluff, but because I have a genuine desire to find the lost sheep for whom Jesus died.
While I know I am a work in progress about this, my comfort is in God’s own description of what he is doing. “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” And that “degree of glory” will not only look the same as Jesus on the outside; it will also feel more like Jesus on the inside, and that is what gives me joy.
Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.)