But the Jesus those New Testament bullies “picked on” (previous posts) actually had way more power than they—as exhibited by His simple “I am” answer in Gethsemane knocking down a whole slew of tough soldiers (John 18:4-6)!
Why didn’t He hit back? How does this work?
I think of two examples from my life. One is the boy I saw getting pummeled outside my sixth-grade classroom—by a kindergartner! The other is the bullying I endured myself as a second-grade girl.
The Bully and I
In my own case there truly was a great size difference: the tallest kid in the class and the shortest. Only… the tallest was…me! (I did all my growing before junior high.)
But I was a non-warrior, unused to such aggression as this little Napoleon displayed every time I passed his house when he was home and spotted me. (Which was nearly every school day afternoon, because he made a habit of racing home for the opportunity.)
I was also my mother’s daughter. Her great desire was for people around her to live in peace, harmony, and gentleness toward one another.
But one day when I came home in tears, with another rotten-peach stain on my dress and bruise on my arm, she finally said, somewhat sheepishly, “Well, maybe… you ought to… just hit him back.”
I’m not presenting this as a parenting skill. I’m not even saying it was right. I’m just telling you that the next day as I approached his house (out in the middle of the street where I usually walked to avoid it), I was ready. When he came running out like one of those terriers that like to bite people, and started flinging his arms and legs wide to bar my progress, then let loose with his punches, I just stood still, hauled back, swung hard, and walloped him! That day my gentle mother saw a triumphant daughter stride in, un-muddied and un-bloodied, exclaiming, “I hit him back. And you should have seen the look on his face!”
He never bothered me again. He had come to recognize our relative sizes.
The sixth-grade boy getting pummeled and backed against a wall had an even greater size discrepancy. He was about twice the weight and height of his tormentor. After I had shuffled the little squirt picking on him off to his own nearby classroom and returned, my sixth-grader shrugged his shoulders and asked, “What could I do? I couldn’t hit him back!”
Why not? Just because of his greater power. He could have made pulp of that twerp. But he was a kind and gentle sort who wasn’t going to knock kindergartners against walls.
Two Reasons Why
There you have it: one reason Christ didn’t hit back. His enormous power could wreak great destruction, and it wasn’t time for that. Earlier on, when He had opened the scroll in the synogogue and read Isaiah 61:1-2, proclaiming the text spoke about Himself, He left off His reading right in the middle of verse 2. Then was “the acceptable year of the LORD.” “The day of vengeance of our God” was—and is—yet to come. In that day, every one of us is going to become suddenly, intensely aware of our relative size.
The other reason? Grace. Jesus Himself explained in Matthew 26:53-56: How else could all be fulfilled that would open the way of grace for all repentant sinners–even bullies?