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. – Isaiah 53:7
They crucified my Lord
They nailed him to a tree
They pierced him in the side
The blood came tricklin’ down
He bowed his head and died
And He never said a mumbalin’ word
Not a word, not a word, not a word…
In Phillip Keller’s book A Shepherd Looks at the Lamb of God, he describes a sheep being shorn:
Sheep hate to be sheared. They are terror-stricken but silent in their fear and apprehension of the ordeal. When taken in hand, they rigidly stiffen their bodies, arch their necks, then bury their heads in the midriff of the one who bends over to shear them.
It’s hard to imagine Jesus being afraid and yet he was fully human as much as he was fully divine. The night before Good Friday he had prayed that this fate would be taken from him – prayed until he sweat drops of blood. I bet there was some fear there; the fear of being fully divine and yet bearing the weight of human sin.
And then it all happened: betrayed by his friend, taken before the priests, then Herod, then Pilate. All of them asking questions and Jesus said so little, didn’t defend himself. They tortured him, beat him, rammed a crown of thorns on his head, and nailed his body to a tree and he didn’t defend himself.. He didn’t say “you’re gonna regret this.” He didn’t call down fire from heaven to swallow them all up. He didn’t use his divine power to exact revenge on those who wrongly accused and tortured his human body. Instead, he bowed his head and died and he never said a mumblin’ word.
This song originates back to the days when the U.S. endorsed slavery. Like so many African American spirituals – it tells two stories at once: that of Jesus and that of the slave experience. Crucifixion wasn’t exactly the preferred form of punishment for slaves but it’s no secret that slaves were treated cruelly and unjustly. They had no voice. How strongly they must have identified with Jesus, who was treated the same way, but never said a mumblin’ word.
In re-envisioning this song for our service, Daniel Wagner, gives it a groove and always comes back with that tag: he never said a mumblin’ word, a constant reminder that Jesus bore injustice in silence, knowing there was a greater purpose for his death.
How do you respond to Jesus silence in the face of death?