Do You Know When to Remain Silent?

11 Lessons from Mark 9

image for remain silent

Whenever a person is arrested in America, they are informed by the police that they have the right to remain silent. Whether the person avails themself of that right is a matter of wisdom.

In the world of Christianity, we hear sermons and read books about the importance of speaking. That speaking may be described as preaching, teaching, sharing, or witnessing. We are urged to speak up, to confess our faith, to provide a verbal witness.

In the 9th chapter of Mark’s gospel, we read of times when silence is commanded or preferred. Below are eleven lessons from Mark 9. These lessons teach us that we should avoid often the urge to run our mouths. These are times we should remain silent.

1. Remain silent when you don’t know what to say.

For he did not know what to say, for they were terrified.
–Mark 9:6

When Peter witnessed the transfiguration of Jesus along with the appearance of Moses and Elijah, he did not know what to say. That did not stop him from speaking anyway. So he spouted something about building tents for the three transfigured men.

Jesus wasn’t interested in memorial tents for the occasion. Peter would have been better served by observing and listening. We are not unlike Peter in this regard. That awkward silent pause often compels us to say something…anything. Better to remain silent.

2. Remain silent when the King appears in glory.

This is my beloved Son, listen to him.
–Mark 9:7

Peter had been confronted with Jesus in great glowing glory. When he spoke up about the tents, the Father from heaven spoke up to remind Peter that he should be listening to this glorious Son of God rather than making his suggestions.

We often think that when we see Jesus in glory that we will pepper him with our lifetime questions. We should note that when mortal men encountered the glorified Lord in the Bible, the typical response was to fall at his feet as though dead.

3. Remain silent when God is speaking.

And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud.
–Mark 9:7

Instead of speaking, Peter should have been listening. A cloud overshadowed the men on the mountain, and the Father spoke from heaven.

Perhaps we have become so insistent on pouring out our prayer requests when the Father is waiting for us to be silent so that he can speak. This is why in your prayer time, you should spend much time in reading God’s Word rather than simply going down your prayer list. Listen more than you speak.

4. Remain silent when Jesus is teaching.

Listen to him.
–Mark 9:7

What was the message from the Father? It was to listen to the Son.

As soon as they began descending the mountain, Jesus began instructing Peter and his cohorts. Jesus does speak to us if only we would but listen.

5. Remain silent until the appointed time to speak.

He charged them to tell no one what they had seen, until the Son of Man had risen from the dead.
–Mark 9:9

The initial teaching that Jesus gave to these men was they were not to speak of what they had seen on the mountain until the appointed time.

A time would come when they would be responsible for telling about their life with Jesus. They would tell it loud and long. But now was not the time. It takes godly wisdom to know when we should declare our message of the gospel and when we should wait. God has appointed the times and the seasons. Walking closely with the Lord will allow us to understand how to fit our actions to his schedule.

6. Remain silent when you are tempted to ask the wrong source.

So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what this rising from the dead might mean.
–Mark 9:10

Peter and his associates did not know what Jesus meant by what he had said. Instead of asking Jesus to clarify his message, they asked each other.

That is the blind leading the blind. If I don’t know the answer, why do I ask others who also do not know? Why do we seek eternal answers from worldly people who know not the Lord?

7. Remain silent unless you are asking for wisdom.

And they asked him, “Why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come?
–Mark 9:11

Having just seen Elijah on the mountain with Jesus, Peter and the other two men asked Jesus about Elijah’s coming. This was a valid question. It showed that they were trying to learn biblical truth.

But they did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him.
–Mark 9:32

Later, however, Jesus told them about his death and resurrection. They did not understand this at all, but they were afraid to ask him. That is not the time to remain silent. James would later teach us that when we lack in wisdom, we should indeed ask God (James 1:5). God responds to our requests for wisdom by teaching us. He does not get angry when we ask for the sake of wisdom.

8. Remain silent when you are lacking in power.

“What are you arguing about with them?
–Mark 9:16

When Jesus made it to the bottom of the mountain, he found the other nine disciples arguing with some scribes. Jesus inquired about the argument. He was told by a man that his disciples were unable to cast out a demon from his son.

Faced with a lack of power, these disciples would have been wise to maintain their silence. Instead they were arguing. I am not sure what they had to say in this argument. They obviously had been unsuccessful in trying to help this boy. But like many of us, being wrong doesn’t always mean that we can’t still argue. Wisdom would dictate that we learn to maintain silence when we have no argument.

9. Remain silent if your prayer life is weak.

“This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”
–Mark 9:29

After their ineffective attempt at helping the demon possessed lad, the disciples asked Jesus about their lack of power. He told them that kind of power comes by prayer.

I suspect that we place our own powerless lives on display when he have ignored time in the presence of the Lord. When we are weak in prayer, we will be weak in power. Remember that Jesus taught that we cannot do anything apart from him (John 15:5).

10. Remain silent when your ego is engaged.

“What were you discussing on the way?” But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest.
–Mark 9:33-34

Remarkably the powerlessness of the disciples turned into an argument amongst themselves about which one of them was the greatest. We may think ourselves above this sort of thing, but our actions often speak louder than our words. We act like we are greater than the other people of God.

The disciples should have remained silent instead of engaging in such a debate. When confronted by Jesus, at least they had the sense to hush up about their petty claims. A man who boasts of his greatness lacks a true understanding of his self. We are weak. We only find strength in the Lord because he is strong.

11. Remain silent when tempted to criticize other Christians doing the work of God.

“Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me.”
–Mark 9:39

When the impotent disciples saw a man casting out demons in Jesus’ name, they did not encourage him. Instead they tried to stop him. He was doing what they were unable to do. So what was the problem? He was not in their huddle. Jesus corrected the erroneous thinking and speaking of the twelve.

Granted we are not to be silent in the face of false teachers and practitioners. But we should be rejoicing when God works through those who may gather at a Bible believing, Jesus honoring church down the street. We certainly should be silent of criticizing words.

As you can tell in just this one chapter of Mark’s Gospel, we have plenty of opportunities to remain silent. We not only have a right to be silent. We have a responsibility to be silent at times.