This scene immediately follows Jesus drawing the wrath of the Pharisees for healing a man in the Sabbath (there’s rules against that, you know!). They didn’t like Jesus blatantly claiming His power over the Sabbath, and they really didn’t like His declaration “…”Which one of you who has a sheep, if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out? Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”” Matthew 12:11-12 ESV. Who was Jesus to tell them that they were getting their law wrong? After all, it was through their knowledge and strict following of the law that these Pharisees told themselves and everyone else how much more righteous they were than the rest. Jesus is challenging them directly on the basis they laid their entire identity on. No wonder “?..the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him.” Matthew 12:14 ESV
Jesus, aware of this, withdrew from there. And many followed him, and he healed them all and ordered them not to make him known. Knowing the Pharisees were fully plotting how to bring Him down, Jesus left the synagogue. He left the synagogue and went right about His business of healing the sick, even on the Sabbath. Interestingly, just as in other places earlier in the bible, Jesus tells those being healed NOT to spread His name, not to make Him known. It just was not time yet. Plus, as it continues in the passage, it fulfills the prophecy of Isaiah.
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. We hear that a couple of different times in the New Testament, don’t we? One is at Jesus’ baptism – “and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”” Matthew 3:17 ESV. We hear it again at the transfiguration, when Peter declares that we will worship Moses, Elijah and Jesus, and the Father responds immediately – “He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”” Matthew 17:5 ESV
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; There are Gentiles in the crowd here, being healed. Some of the “first fruits” among the non Jews to be reached by God. And He will not quarrel or cry aloud. That’s very interesting to me. When Isaiah wrote this centuries before, war and violence was all the people knew. Truth be told, it seems to be all we still know today. But we have had the non violent revelation from God through Jesus Christ, so we SHOULD know better. But for Isaiah to write that the Messiah would not quarrel or cry aloud was very counter cultural. And from God. Further evidence that Jesus had no intention of winning the kingdom of God through the methods of men. I am certain that this is one way we have failed miserably in spreading His gospel. For centuries now, we have used the methods of men – power, force, law and compulsion – to try to enforce the kingdom of God here on earth, and it has failed miserably.
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. Think about a reed – tall, slender, and sturdy river grass. But when it’s bruised, damaged, there are not many things more frail, more easy to break off. Anything more than the gentlest touch, it will be snapped in half.
We’ve all been that bruised reed in our lives, haven’t we? We’ve been bruised by harsh words. Bruised by anger. Bruised by betrayal. Bruised by failure. Bruised by loss. Bruised by religion. We were bruised, bent over just a little bit instead of standing tall like we once were. The world around us would just have snapped us in two if we would let it.
But the God we meet in Jesus won’t. He touches us gently, restores us to stand tall by the rivers edge. Instead of being snapped in two, we can now stand tall, even supporting the bruised reeds around us, helping them to stand with us.
How about the smoldering wicks out there? Many if us were once strong in our faith, but the world around us will try to blow us out. They will tell you to calm your passion. Tell you it’s great that you love Jesus, just don’t talk about that in here. Cool your jets. Snuff that flame. Maybe you’ve had the flame for your whole life. Maybe just for the last month. The winds are blowing to try to blow it out, shut your light.
But we have the hope. The hope for bruised reeds and smoldering wicks Isaiah was talking about. He already has the victory. The prophecy has already been proven true. The prophecy continues to be proven true. We have the choice, to acknowledge Jesus as Lord and give Him control. Or the choice to follow our own passions, our Lord being whatever it is we seek in place of Him. Come to the one whose gentle touch heals bruised reeds, or try to please the world who would simply break you in half.
“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