Jesus, aware of this, withdrew from there. And many followed him, and he healed them all and ordered them not to make him known. This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: “Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles. He will not quarrel or cry aloud, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets; a bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench, until he brings justice to victory; and in his name the Gentiles will hope.”
(Matthew 12:15-21 ESV)
Yesterday’s passage ended with the Pharisees’ plotting to kill Jesus. Despite the compassion He showed for people, the leaders of the day wanted to rid their culture of Jesus’ presence. Sounds very much like today, doesn’t it? Our leaders misunderstand Jesus. But more importantly, they misunderstand themselves, just as the Pharisees did.
Both groups of leaders think more of themselves than they should. They want to be in control. They want to be obeyed. So they do all they can to dissuade the population from following Jesus. Two-thousand years ago this took form of nailing Jesus to a cross. Today our leaders suppress public expression of faith in Christ. But in today’s passage we see that Jesus is in no way threatening.
Despite being aware of the Pharisees thoughts, Jesus did not confront them. Instead He withdrew. This is consistent with the advice He gave His disciples a while back in which He told them to simply move on if someone was not open to receiving His message [Matthew 10:14].
But notice that as Jesus moved on many followed Him. The Pharisees were losing their following to Jesus. Jesus was repeatedly exposing them as aloof, self-absorbed hypocrites while He continued to show compassion for people by healing them all.
He also showed compassion when He told them not to make Him known. Jesus did not want a groundswell of support because the people may have tried to raise Him up as their official leader. And that would have upset the Pharisees and the Romans, putting the people in danger.
Jesus’ non-confrontational manner was exactly the behavior God had foretold of the Messiah through the prophet Isaiah 700 years before. As we learned in our introduction to Matthew’s gospel, Matthew’s goal is to demonstrate that Jesus fulfilled the prophecies about the Messiah perfectly.
Jesus did not quarrel or cry aloud. No one heard His voice in the streets – meaning that He didn’t call attention to Himself. Instead He let Himself be lead by the Spirit of God which had been placed upon Him when He was baptized [Matthew 3:13-17].
The truth is Jesus (who was God in a human body) is gentle with us. He is not to be feared. Everything about Him exists for our benefit. This includes His commands, as we learned yesterday.
This world is filled with bruised people. Yet Jesus will not break them. The world is filled with struggling people (smoldering wick). Yet Jesus will not put them out (quench). God is not trying to make our life harder. He’s trying to make it better. The way to do that is to follow Him, not eliminate Him.
We have no reason to fear Jesus. He is gentle with us, knowing how fragile we are. He brings hope and justice not condemnation [John 3:17]. He is on our side [Psalm 118:6; Isaiah 41:10; Romans 8:31 et. al].
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