Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter,
and as a lamb before its shearer is silent,
so he opened not his mouth.
In his humiliation justice was denied him.
Who will tell of his posterity?
For his life is taken from the earth.
The Egyptian eunuch was so fascinated by these words of the Prophet Isaiah he asked the lad Phillip about them. It just so happen that Phillip was running alongside his chariot on the road to Gaza. Actually, it was no coincidence; the Holy Spirit had directed Phillip to go that way and to "catch up with that chariot."
The New Testament often refers to Jesus as the Lamb of God. We first heard the expression when Saint John the Baptist pointed out Jesus to his disciples and said, "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world."
Lambs were traditionally offered as sacrifice to God on the day before Passover, and then eaten during the feast. Saint John the Evangelist shows us that Jesus, the Lamb of God, was crucified at the very hour the lambs were slaughtered in the temple. When he died the curtain of the temple was torn in two; there was no further need for sacrificial lambs. The Book of Revelation uses the expression so often we half expect to see an ovine animal there in front of the altar; and the Church has used that very image often, right down to the cakes we eat on Easter.
Isaiah is fascinated by the docility of the silent lamb. He complains neither when he is shorn nor when he is slaughtered. We heard no complaint out of Jesus when he was sacrificed. He might have said, "You've got the wrong man!" or "It's not my fault!" No one could blame him for doing so.
In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who will tell of his posterity? For his life is taken from the earth.We are astonished by the silence of the lamb, especially in the face of rank injustice. How could our system of justice be so wrong? Why would the leaders of the people permit an innocent man to be destroyed; why would the mob choose to destroy him? If it were possible to explain the calculations of politicians and to predict the insane cries of the mob the killing of Jesus would remain inexplicable.
The more I see of politics and economics and social developments the less I believe that there is any rationality to collective human behavior. Most individuals act reasonably most of the time, but large groups are driven by something else. Experts seem to believe there is some mechanical or organic predictability to human behavior. If "what goes up must come down" then the price of the dollar will rise and fall. Right? Maybe. maybe not.
I am more inclined to believe the Spirit of God impels human behavior in ways no one can predict. Jesus knew and obeyed the Spirit as it drove him to the Jordan River, into the wilderness and up to Jerusalem. But no one else could imagine why he did that.
To this day we don't know exactly what Jesus was accused of or why he was immediately executed. Jerusalem was in a paroxysm of violence and had to destroy a scapegoat; or, in this case, a pascal lamb.
As he traveled from Jerusalem to Gaza the Egyptian eunuch wondered what Isaiah's text was all about. Who was the sheep led to slaughter and the silent lamb being shorn. Philip, filled with the Holy Spirit, explained it to him. Touched by the same Spirit, the eunuch saw, understood and believed.