You Have the Right to Remain Silent
“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.” These opening lines, commonly called your “Miranda rights,” have become familiar through television and film.
In today’s reading, you’ll notice each plotline involves wrongdoing, accusation, or temptation. In each case, the guilt or innocence is clear to us as the jury, seeing an outside view of the facts.
Case #1 “If you did what you are supposed to do, there’s nothing to worry about.”
There is no Scripture preceding Genesis 4 that explicitly outlines what Cain’s sacrifice was supposed to be, but God’s remark to Cain indicates that Cain knew what he was supposed to do and didn’t do it. Cain goes on to further incriminate himself by his quest for revenge.
Case #2 “Bet you can’t…”
Jesus, the sinless Son of God, is in the wilderness at the Spirit’s leading. Three times, the Deceiver tries to trick Jesus. However, Jesus answers each with the Old Testament law. Interestingly though, each of Jesus’ quotations shows guilt – not his but Satan’s! Imagine that: every time a prosecutor asks a question, the defendant quotes a law that shows the prosecutor’s guilt. The prosecutor would probably stop quickly, and that’s just what Satan does. (See James 4:7-8)
Case #3 “Do you know what they did?!”
One of the most frustrating feelings is to finally receive permission after a long wait, only to have that permission revoked. That’s exactly what happened to the Jews. They had returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls when their neighbors wrote a letter to the king who had given them permission to build in the first place. The king places the project on hold until he can figure out what to do. Unfortunately, he never restarts the project, and they aren’t able to continue building until the second year of king Darius (nearly 18 years after they first returned to begin the building project!)
Case #4 “You can’t do that!”
Peter and John had just seen God’s miraculous healing of a man who had been lame for 40 years. The leaders of the Jews were irate because this healing was done in Jesus’ name…the same Jesus that those leaders just crucified. Imagine if someone said they gave money to the church in the name of Osama bin Laden. There would be an obvious conflict of interest. The Jewish leaders would have undoubtedly imprisoned Peter and John or worse, but there was a major problem. People were glorifying the name of God. If the Scribes and Pharisees work against Peter and John, they tell the people that they are against the work of God. Their accusation would be a self-indictment.
So what can we learn from these 4 cases? Guilt is known by the guilty. Cain, Satan, and the Jewish leaders each understood their own guilt, while the innocent are vindicated. Sometimes that vindication takes time, as in Ezra 4, while other times, there is an immediate cessation of the accusation as in the cases of Jesus and Peter and John.
Romans 13:3-4 summarize this concept: “For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.”