Let’s look together at Matthew chapter 12 in our Bibles. We’re going to continue in our study in Matthew. We really have come to a blessed passage as we’ve been working our way through this marvelous gospel. We’re going to be looking at verses 14 through 21. Let me read that to you as the setting for our message this morning.
Matthew 12 beginning at verse 14, “Then the Pharisees went out and held a council against Him, how they might destroy Him. But when Jesus knew, He withdrew Himself from there. And great multitudes followed Him, and He healed them all. And commanded them that they should not make Him publically known. In order that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying, ‘Behold My Servant whom I have chosen, My Beloved in whom My soul is well pleased. I will put My Spirit upon Him, and He will show right to the heathen. He shall not strive nor cry, neither shall any man hear His voice in the streets. A bruised reed shall He not break and smoking flax shall He not quench, till He send forth justice unto victory. And in His name shall the heathen hope.’”
The key to that passage is found in verse 18. It is a title, a title given of Christ by the Father. “Behold My Servant whom I have chosen, My Beloved in whom My soul is well pleased.” There are many titles in the Bible given to Jesus Christ, none more lovely than the title My Beloved Servant. That is specially a title used in Isaiah – this portion taken from Isaiah 42 – but from 42 right on to at least chapter 53, at various points we find the Messiah called the Servant of Jehovah. And here we see Him called My Beloved Servant by the Father. This introduces us to the very significance of this passage. It is a presentation of Jesus Christ in His wonder and His beauty and His majesty and His imminence. And it drops, as it were, like an oasis in the midst of the desert of chapters 11 and 12. For chapters 11 and 12 of Matthew chronicle for us the rejection of Jesus Christ.
As we’ve looked at chapters 11 and 12, we have noted the fact that there is sort of a progressing as the nation of Israel rejects Jesus Christ. Matthew gives us an illustration of doubt; that’s one way to treat Christ; then of criticism, that’s another way; then of indifference and finally of rejection, as we saw in our last passage. And then as you enter chapter 12, having been rejected, He is blasphemed and that which He does is ascribed to Satan. All of this is led by the Pharisees and the scribes, who are the supposed religious leaders of Jerusalem and Israel. And in contrast to their conclusion, right after the statement that they held a council how they might destroy Him, the Spirit of God drops this marvelous presentation of the beauty and the wonder of Christ. It is to say that God is saying the very opposite about Christ from what the world is saying. It is to set an indictment against Israel and against Israel’s leaders for having concluded the very antithesis of the truth about Him.
Now the statement that is made in verse 18 that He is Jehovah’s beloved servant is so rich. The word for servant here is a bit unusual. It is not the word normally associated with servant. It is the word pais, very frequently it is translated son. Sometimes it is translated servant. It is therefore a very fitting word for Christ, because He is the Son Servant. It appears in secular Greek to refer to an especially intimate and trusted servant. It is used in the Greek version of the Old Testament, the Septuagint, in Genesis 24 to speak of Abraham’s chief servant. It is used also in Genesis 41:10 to speak of a royal servant. And it is used in Job 4 to speak of angels who are supernatural servants.
And so summing it up, by using the word pais, the richness is expansive. He is saying, “This is My Servant, not just any servant, but My Son Servant, the trusted intimate one, the chief one, the royal one, the supernatural one.” And then He adds, “My Beloved.” The Beloved One. He uses the root agape, the deepest, richest, truest, highest kind of love, the most loved. In fact in Ephesians 1:6, He calls Him the Beloved One. In Colossians 1, He calls Him the dear Son. He is precious to the Father. The intimacy that they enjoy is described in John 1:1 in the statement that He was pros ton theon, face to face, in close reality with the Father. It is also indicated in the seventeenth chapter in that high priestly prayer, as He cries out to again enjoy the fullness of the intimacy He knew with the Father before He entered the world.
And so we are introduced to the Son by the Father, who says He is the Son and He is the Servant and He is the Beloved. In spite of what the nation concludes, in spite of what the leaders conclude, in spite of what the world says, God’s testimony is here. And may I submit to you, as Jesus said in John’s gospel, chapter 5, “There is no greater testimony than that of God the Father to the Son.” And this is His testimony, as recorded first by the prophet Isaiah and as interpreted to us from Isaiah by Matthew. And so it is a blistering indictment of the ungodliness of the leaders of Israel. Now as we look at the passage, we will face the fact that it presents to us a series of characteristics of Jesus Christ. With all these pastors here this week, I was hoping I could come up with three great points and a poem and be truly homiletic, but I’m going to deal with the passage the way the passage deals with itself. And in this passage is an unfolding of the characteristics of Christ as indicated in Isaiah and as interpreted by Matthew.
Now let’s look, to begin with, at verse 14, and we see the first characteristic of Christ. The beloved servant of God is, number one, condemned by false servants – condemned by false servants. In verse 14 it says, “They held a council against Him, how they might destroy Him.” Would you notice please that the only thing the council was to determine was how. That’s all. They would have destroyed Him on the spot if they could have, but they were intimidated by two things. They were intimidated by the fact that there was a very impressed synagogue crowd that had just heard Him and seen His incredible healing miracle, and they were afraid of the people. Additionally, they were afraid of the Roman government because the government had taken away from them the right of execution. And so they needed to plot a way that they could kill Him and bypass these rather intimidating realities.
And so the council was not to determine whether or not to kill Him, but how to kill Him. Even the rendering of the Greek in reference to holding a council indicates that they had already reached a conclusion and made a decision; it was only a question of how to do it. Luke adds that they were filled with rage or filled with fury, and of course it had finally culminated in His violation, flagrantly and openly, of their rabbinic traditions, which they applied to the Sabbath, which He shattered those to show them how important man-made rules were to Him.
Mark tells us that they were so bent on getting Him and killing Him that they enlisted the help of their arch-enemies, the Herodians. Now the Herodians were unholy, irreligious, worldly secularists. They were the absolute opposite of the Pharisees, more so than any other group. The Herodians were a group of people totally committed to the political security of the reign of Herod, and Herod was a Gentile. He was an Idumean, not a Jew. And so they were the ones who felt that Herod should have power. And you can imagine how desperate the Pharisees must have been to line up with them when they so despised and hated any Gentiles. But when it came to eliminating Jesus Christ, they would go to any extreme.
You see, these kinds of efforts make strange bedfellows, don’t they? The legalists and the antinomians, the religionists and the secularists can all agree that they would like to get rid of Jesus. The Pharisees, to secure their own power, and the Herodians, to secure the power of Herod, because they too were aware of the miraculous ability of this Jesus of Nazareth. And so they set out to plot His murder. At that point, somebody should have stood up in the meeting and read Psalm 2, “Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and you perish.” But he might have been thrown out if he had. And so they carry out their plot, and eventually they succeeded, and He is executed at the hands of the Roman soldiers.
We then find ourselves in chapter 12 of Matthew, verse 14, at an apex. The full and open rejection of Christ has occurred. Nine chapters have presented His majesty, the tenth chapter of sending out messengers, and then the eleventh and twelfth of cataloging the final rejection. Finally in chapter 12 it tells us they concluded the very opposite to the truth; they not only concluded that He wasn’t the Messiah, they concluded He was right out of hell. And no wonder He said they were so deep in the pit by that conclusion that salvation, for them, was an impossibility. And so the protectors, supposedly, of the Word of God, set out to murder the Servant Son of God.
But we are not surprised at that, because that has always been the legacy of God’s prophets. Jesus gave a parable in which He said that the Father had a vineyard, and He sent men to tend the vineyard, and every time He sent one, they did what? They killed him. And finally He sent His Son, and they killed Him too. You see, Satan’s system dominates the world, and it sets the false system against the true system, and there is always a warfare. Israel, through its history, slew the prophets, the true prophets of God. It is always so that the false servants attack the true, that the false shepherds attack the true, that the false prophets attack the true, that the false teachers attack the true. In fact you can usually tell where a man stands by who is against him. Ana as I look at this passage, I am saddened because this is a tragic point in history. Dr. Barnhouse said it is at this point in history that Israel’s clock stopped. And I would add that one of these days, very soon, when Jesus comes, it’s going to start ticking again. But it stopped. Rejection. The false shepherds threw their weight against the true Shepherd. Jesus expected that. For He even came into the world under the umbrella of the prophetic word of John 1:11, “He came unto His own and His own” – what? – “received Him not.”
And so the first thing we see, then, is that the beloved servant of God would be condemned by the false servants. And so His life was a life in which there was constant attack. Now since our Lord was fully aware of this bitter hatred, we read what happens in verses 15 and 16. “When Jesus knew” – literally the text says, “Jesus, aware of this” – omniscience. He knew everything. Didn’t have to say a word. Didn’t have to be at the meeting. He knew. And being aware of it, “He withdrew Himself from there.” That’s sad, isn’t it? I mean, that has not only physical implications, but that has terrifying spiritual implications. He left. And then in verse 16 it says, “And he commanded them that they should not make Him publicly known” – phaneros, manifest, public.
Now this brings me to the second characteristic of Christ: He was conformed to God’s plan. He was conformed to God’s plan. Jesus could have attacked the crowd. I mean after all, when the soldiers came in the Garden in John 18 and He said, “Whom seek ye?” and they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” And He said, “I am He,” they all fell down. And they weren’t clumsy, by the way. They were the crack troops of Fort Antonius. He knocked them over with His power. He said, “I could have called legions of angels,” and that’s enough to handle anybody, frankly, because one angel in the Old Testament slew 185,000 Assyrians. He had the power, at that point, to undo what His enemies had done, to obliterate them on the spot. But He was a servant and He was conformed to the plan, and the plan was the expression of the will of God, and it had a very defined ending and a very defined time-table. This was not the time and so He withdrew.
It could have been as far as two years away from the crucifixion, and He was getting used to this kind of treatment. Earlier we learned in Matthew, that they said He had a demon. Remember that? Either just before this or just after this, and it’s kind of hard to know which, John 5 records that the same thing had happened to Him in Jerusalem. He had done something that violated their tradition on the Sabbath, and they also plotted to kill Him. So it was getting to be a pretty routine thing, but what a sad day for Israel. After centuries of waiting for the Messiah, He began to withdraw. And you see, up until chapter 21 of Matthew, a constant cycle. It just keeps going over and over and over. He would go into an area and He would preach and teach and heal. And there would be a great response, and then there would be opposition. And then He would withdraw to a new area, and then He would start the cycle all over again: Preaching, teaching, healing; response; opposition; withdrawal. All through these years, same cycle, as the nation mounted in its animosity under the leadership of the false shepherds.
And He kept withdrawing. He kept moving away. He could have acted in any fashion He had wanted to act in His own defense, but that was not the plan nor the schedule. His revolution must not come by shedding Roman blood but His own blood. His rule must not come at the hands of a mob or a crowd but on a cross. And He was totally committed to the Father’s will, and that’s the essence of His servanthood. He said, “My food is to do the will of Him that sent Me.” He said, “I do nothing but that which My Father shows Me. I say nothing but that which I hear from the Father.” You see, that is the essence of the incarnation. He restricted all of those personal prerogatives and willingly submitted everything to the Father. Not only to the Father’s will but the Father’s timing. For many times, He said, “Mine hour is not yet come.” Now yet come. What a beautiful characteristic – totally submissive. That is the heart of a servant, and there was never a servant like this Servant, who thought it not something to hold on to to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation and took upon Him the form of a servant and was found in fashion as a man and humbled Himself and became obedient to death, even the death of the cross. Isaac, in a sense, is a picture of this. Isaac, beloved of his father, crawling up on the altar and prostrating himself as his father lifts the knife in the air. Only in Christ’s case, the hand was never stayed, and the sacrifice was made.
There’s another element to His submissiveness to the divine plan, and I see that in verse 16. He told the people who were healed not to tell anybody, not to make it known. And I suppose that has confused people for a long time because they assume that Jesus would have wanted to make it as known as possible, but that’s not the case. In fact, if you go back in the gospel of Matthew alone, to chapter 8 and verse 4, you find that just after Jesus had healed a leper, He told him not to tell anybody. And if you go back into chapter 9 verse 30, you find that He healed two blind men and He strictly commanded then, “See that no man knows about this.” Don’t tell anyone about it. And people always ask the question, “Why does Jesus say that?” Well I think there are several answers.
First of all, I believe that our Lord knew the problem of secondhand stories and how they get twisted and perverted and denied. And I believe that Jesus wanted to deal with men on a firsthand basis. He wanted them to be confronted with the evidence themselves, in their own presence, before they started making up verdicts about Him. That’s why when He healed the leper and He told the man to go and show himself to the priest. Because when he would go to the priest, as a person who claimed to have been healed from leprosy, he would have had to go through a sequence of checks and examinations and all of this to prove that he, who had had leprosy, had been totally delivered.
And they had an entire procedure that they would put these people through so that they could introduce them back into society.
And the point that Jesus wanted to make was, “You go, you let them make their full examination, and when they have concluded that you have been totally healed of leprosy, then tell them who did it, and they will be stuck with their own verdict.” Because He wanted firsthand conclusion when people were actually confronted with a reality. That’s why, when the disciples of John the Baptist came along and said “We want to ask you a question. Are you the Messiah or do we look for someone else?” He didn’t say, “Well listen, I’ve done a lot of miracles. They’ll tell you about them.” He said, “Stand there and watch,” and He instantaneously did a whole gang of miracles - personal, private miracles - just to show them who He was. “Now,” He said, “Do you get the message?”
There is a second reason that I think He wanted them not to spread this about, and that is the fact that He did not want to become strictly known as a miracle-worker. He didn’t want a distortion on the purpose for which He came. And that would be so easily the dominate feature, because people so deeply long for deliverance from physical problems. His person was the issue, not His miracles, and some might be attracted for the wrong causes and the wrong reasons.
Thirdly, He knew too well that a demonstration of that kind of power could easily fan the flame of enthusiasm about Him as a potential political deliverer from Rome. I mean, I think that’s what they had in mind when He fed them that day and made food enough to feed 5,000 men. And that’s got to mean at least 5,000 women and 25,000 kids. And He fed the whole multitude, creating the food, and immediately they wanted to make Him the king and they wanted to start the revolution, because they figured there would never be anybody with that kind of power. This had to be Him. But He did not want to be known as a miracle worker, because all that tended to do was to fan the flames of enthusiasm that pushed Him toward a political kind of revolution.
Fourthly, I think He did not want everyone to know about this, because all it did was heighten the rage of the scribes and Pharisees. And He was trying to keep that at a somewhat mitigated level because He didn’t want everything to explode and burst out before God’s perfect timing. You see? He was on a schedule. And fifthly, and I don’t know if you ever thought about this, but I don’t think there’s any other greater reason than this: Jesus didn’t want people to spread this abroad because this was not the time of His exaltation. This was the time of His humiliation. Exaltation would come later. He didn’t seek this kind of fame. And so in wonderful submission, He conformed to God’s plan. May I suggest that that was quite opposite the Pharisees, who were condemned by the true Servant of God, and who were utterly and totally conformed to their own selfish desires and had no clue what the will of God was. So much were they self-centered that they were ready to execute the Anointed of God.
That brings me to a third characteristic of the Beloved Servant. He was concerned for the needy. He was concerned for the needy. Look at verse 15 again, when He withdrew from there, “great multitudes followed Him and He healed them” – what? – “all.” He healed all of them. Do you realize that Jesus healed people that didn’t necessarily believe in Him? That’s right. I read in Luke 17 that He healed ten lepers. You remember that? How many came back? One. And to that one He said, “You are made whole.” And He wasn’t talking about the physical. That had already been done for the ten. He was talking about the spiritual. There were ten healed; there was one redeemed. He said, “I did miracles in Chorazin. I did the miracles in Bethsaida. I did the miracles in Capernaum. But it is obvious that you did not believe,” says chapter 11. “And you’ll have greater judgment than Tyre and Sidon and Sodom and Gomorrah for what you’ve seen and rejected.”
You say, well why this demonstration of healing everybody? I believe it manifests the heart of God. And I believe the heart of God is toward the hurting people. I believe the heart of God is toward those who have deep, great, profound need, the ones that are ignored by everybody else. The Pharisees weren’t interested in these people. The religious leaders weren’t interested in these outcast people, the sick and the crippled and the deaf and the dumb and the blind. They weren’t interested in the poor and the ones without resource. They were interested in the rich and the famous and the powerful, and all those who seek the high places seek such people. But Jesus sought the lowly.
Remember in the last incident, the Pharisees drug out this poor fellow who’s got a paralyzed hand? And the only thing he meant to them was that he could serve as a trap to catch Jesus. They didn’t care about him. In fact they ignored him until they thought they could use him to trap Jesus. And they say, “Is it lawful – is it lawful – is it lawful to heal that man?” You see, all they were concerned about was the legalism. And Jesus replied, “Is it kind? Is it good to heal that man?” That was the difference.
You see in chapter 9 verse 36, Jesus looked on the multitude and He saw them as faint, scattered, without shepherds. And the two Greek words there are most interesting. The word faint literally means skinned or flagellated – stripped of skin, ripped to shreds. And scattered means thrown down or left for dead. He looked at the people and He saw them as striped of their skin and thrown out for dead. And you know who had done that? The false shepherds, by binding incredible burdens, by devouring the poor, devouring the widows, despising the people, binding on them such burdens that they couldn’t bear, and then offering no help to assist them. They were wolves dressed up like shepherds, and instead of feeding the sheep, they destroyed the sheep. They were like the false shepherd of Zechariah chapter 11 who eats the sheep, even eating the hoofs. It says in there that he actually chews what little meat remains on the hoof; that is how consuming the desire to devour.
And the true Shepherd comes along, and He sees them, and He’s moved with compassion. And in chapter 4, we saw how He healed them of all their various diseases, reached out to the outcasts. We see Him later on in Matthew with the tax collectors and the prostitutes and the wretched people. We see Him reaching out in the Sermon on the Mount and saying, “Don’t take any thought about what to eat or drink or wear. I’ll take care of that. You just seek My kingdom and I’ll provide all of that.” We see Him at the end of chapter 11 saying tenderly, “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and you shall find rest for your souls. Because My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
Ans so we are not surprised to read that He healed them all, because that’s the heart of God. No one was left out. Peter knew the heart of God. He saw it in Christ. That’s why he said, “Cast all your care on Him, for He cares for you.” He knew that. Jesus exhibited this over and over and over and over. And ultimately in His glorious kingdom, disease will be totally controlled; the Son of Righteousness will arise with healing in His beams; and finally, in the new heaven and new earth, there will be no more sickness, no more sorrow, no more crying, no more tears and no more death, and God will eliminate all of it. And this is a little taste of what the kingdom will be like.
Christ feels the pain of the hurting people. He feels that. When it says He bears our infirmity and our sicknesses, it’s not talking about the cross; it’s talking about the sympathetic heart. He was submissive to God’s plan. At the same time, He was confirmed in His love for people. So we see the beloved servant of God, and we could say so much about these things, but we need to press on for time’s sake. Condemned by the false servants, concerned for the people, conformed to the plan. Now those first three might be cause for some to say, “This can’t be the Messiah. I mean, can this be the Messiah when He is despised by the religious leaders? Can this be the Messiah when He spends all of His time withdrawing and never gathers the army for the revolution? Can this be the Messiah who pays no attention to the up and inners, but is forever with the down and outers? How are we going to pull off a revolution with that riffraff and with Him retreating all the time and without the help of the leaders? Can this be the Messiah?”
And Matthew wants us to know that it is not only the Messiah, but it is the very Messiah prophesied by Isaiah. And so he says all this, verse 17, “In order that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet.” Isaiah said He would be like this, and the key is in verses 19 and 20. “He will not strive nor cry out. He will not hear Him in the streets. A bruised reed will He not break, and smoking flax will He not quench, till He send forth justice unto victory.” That’s the heart of what Isaiah wants to get as the defense of Christ in prophetic literature, but he also adds the beginning of verse 18 and the end of verse 21, so we take it all. One of the most strikingly beautiful descriptions of Jesus Christ anywhere in Scripture. It is taken from Isaiah 42:1-4, and if you check that passage you will notice that Matthew does not quote it verbatim, but he interprets it as he quotes it. It’s a marvelous act of the inspiration of the Spirit of God interpreting the passage as it is quoted in its fulfillment.
But it brings us to a fourth characteristic of Christ. He is commended by the Father – commended by the Father. Look at verse 18. This is what it says in Isaiah 42. “Behold My Servant whom I have chosen, My Beloved in whom My soul is well pleased!” Was the Father pleased with the Son? Yes, He was. What did He say at the Son’s baptism? “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am” – what? – “well pleased.” What did He say at the transfiguration? “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him.” And what did He do when Jesus died and rose again, but exalt Him and place Him at His right hand and put all authority under Him and gave to Him to send the Holy Spirit, which is the ultimate act of His commendation. He was commended by the Father. And doesn’t that show you how far off the religious leaders were? The One whom God was commending, they were condemning. The One whom God made alive, they killed.
“Behold My servant, whom I have chosen.” That phrase, I have chosen, is a marvelous phrase. It’s a word that’s only here in the Greek New Testament and appears nowhere else. But it indicates great firmness of choice. That seems to be the way it’s used. For example, it’s used in secular Greek to speak of adopting a child, really taking them in in a firm commitment. He has chosen the Son. You read Hebrews 1 and read all about how He chose the Son to fulfill this role. In Isaiah 49 it says the same thing in that wonderful first verse about how the Father has chosen the Son. Now so much was this a part of the Messianic identity that the Messiah became known as the Chosen One in the Jewish mind. And so when Isaiah says, “My servant, whom I have chosen,” he is designating a title for the Messiah that the Jews in Jesus’ time would know. And they would know that as Matthew is quoting this, he is quoting a Messianic passage. And they know he is saying Jesus is the Messiah, the Chosen One.
That can be illustrated in many ways, but just one example, in the 23 chapter of Luke and the thirty-fifth verse. The rulers are deriding Jesus at His crucifixion and they say, “He saved others, let Him save Himself if He be the Messiah, the Chosen of God.” And there’s that title; they were very familiar with that title. That is a Messianic title - the Chosen One of God. In 1 Peter 2:4 says that Christ is a living stone, chosen of God and precious. Christ is the Father’s elect, and then it tells us that He is well pleased with Him. Now that is the seal of approval from God. By the way, it’s not possible for men to be so well pleasing to the Father unless men are found to be in Christ. Right? Frankly, with us, the Father is not well pleased.
It says in Romans 8:8, “They that are in the flesh cannot” – you remember the verse? – “please God.” If anyone is to please God, it is to be in Christ, because He is well pleased with Christ. And if I am lost in Christ, He is well pleased with me. And so He is commended by the Father; He is pleasing to the Father; He is beloved to the Father, as chosen of the Father. Oh, how well pleasing He must have been because of the utter submissiveness of His service to God. Condemned by the false servants, conformed to God’s plan, concerned for the people, commended by the Father.
Fifthly, commissioned by the Spirit. It says there in verse 18, “I will put My Spirit upon Him.” That was a promise in Isaiah 42, that when the Messiah came, the Spirit would be upon Him. Now we know that that happened for certain in a unique way at His baptism, because it says the Spirit of God descended like a dove. We know that. But I don’t believe that’s when it started; I believe Jesus Christ was indwelt by the power of the Spirit of God from the time He was conceived. It says of John the Baptist in Luke 1 that he was filled with the Spirit from his mother’s womb. And if that was true of a human being, believe me, that must have been true of the God-Man. It also says in Matthew 1:20 that He was conceived of the Holy Spirit. Now what does this mean? I mean, if He’s already God, and the Father and the Son and the Spirit are already one in Him, what does it mean to have this special putting of the Spirit on Him?
The only way we can understand it is to see it in a twofold manner. First of all, it was a granting of power to His human nature. His divine nature didn’t need it, but His human did. You see, He was in every point tempted like as we are; He was truly human. He grew in wisdom and stature, in favor with God and man. Is that right? That’s what the text tells us. He was tempted. He was thirsty. He was hungry. He was tired. He felt pain. He wept. He had emotions. In the Garden, He said, “Father, if it’s possible, let this cup pass from Me.” That was His humanness speaking. His humanness needed the indwelling power of the Spirit of God in order for it to function in concert with His deity. And so He was granted that, and that’s why Acts 10:38 says, “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power.” It was for power in a unique and marvelous way.
But there was a second feature, and I believe that’s tied to His baptism, and I think that was the unique anointing of the Spirit at that point for His royal service. For 30 years up until that time, He had been in obscurity, for all intents and purposes, but when it came time to initiate His ministry, He was given a very special declaration by the Father; He was attended to uniquely with an anointing by the Holy Spirit. And I believe that, in a sense, fulfills Isaiah 61:1 which Jesus Himself quoted as being fulfilled by Himself, when He said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me because He has anointed Me to preach.” And so there was not only the Spirit of God from the very conception to empower His humanness, but there was that special anointing at the baptism for His royal service. He was granted the Spirit. And so He functioned in the Father’s plan and by the Spirit’s power. Because you see this – as a total servant, He submits Himself to the Father on the one hand and to the Spirit on the other hand. And He does that not only for the sake of the function but for the sake of the example to us that it is. So the Beloved Servant is condemned by the false servants, is totally confined to the plan of God, utterly concerned for people, commended by the Father, commissioned by the Spirit, and here’s another one – communicating the message.
The end of verse 18, “He will show justice” – or rightness – “to the heathen.” The Hebrew in Isaiah says, “He will bring out right.” He will bring out what is right. He’s going to give the right message. I mean, there’s a lot of wrong ones. Would you agree? I mean, the world is full of bad answers to good questions. But Jehovah’s beloved servant will bring the message of rightness, the right message, the real truth, the good news, the gospel, what is in harmony with God’s will, true religion. The Greek literally says the divine decree, as it were. Salvation, the gospel, and He will bring it to the world, to the heathen. And this tells us that all the way from the beginning, clear back as far as the prophets, He was prophesied to be the Savior of the world, not just Israel.
Listen, don’t ever believe for a minute that Christ came into the world to save Israel only. Israel was not a cul-de-sac, they were not a bucket; they were a thoroughfare and a channel. They were to be His agency to reach the world, but the world was always the goal. When God set them aside and their clock stopped ticking, He had to cut a new channel: The church. But always the world. The first woman to whom He revealed His Messiahship was a half-breed, non-Jewish Samaritan woman who was also a harlot. That ought to tell you something. Mark 3:8 said that He preached to the Gentiles in Idumea, Tyre, and Sidon. The Jews didn’t like to hear this, by the way, that the Messiah had come for the Gentiles. That was not a happy message for them.
There’s kind of an interesting incident that shows us how they hated the Gentiles, and it’s one of the reasons why they, I think, rejected Christ so openly when He would affirm that He was to save Gentiles. But in Acts 22:21, Paul is giving his testimony, defending himself, and there’s a mob around. And he’s telling them about himself and what the Lord has done in his life. He said, “The Lord said to me” – this is interesting – “‘Depart, for I will send thee far from here to the Gentiles.’” Now do you know what that word did to them, just the word Gentiles? You just had to say that word. The next verse tells you, “And they listened to him until this word.” What word? Gentiles. “And then they lifted up their voice” – and they began to scream and said – “Away with such a fellow from the earth, for it is not fit that he should live!” And they cried out and they threw off their clothes and they threw dirt in the air. I mean, you say, this is ridiculous. They’re ripping their clothes and throwing dirt in the air? And you say, why are you so upset? Did you hear that word He said? He said, “Gentiles.” Does that give you a little idea of how they felt; they weren’t real thrilled. They were about like Jonah. They may not have been quite as willing to take a short trip in a long fish as he was, but they had basically the same idea. But always, from the very beginning, His intention was to reach the world. He was given to communicating the right message to the world.
There’s a seventh principle – and this is where we come right to the heart of the passage. He was committed to meekness. Why did He withdraw and why did He spend His time in the quiet places and the quiet people? Because Isaiah said, “The Messiah will not strive” – and that’s the word wrangle or hassle or brawl or quarrel. “And He will not cry,” and that doesn’t mean that He wouldn’t ever cry out, because He does that many times in the New Testament. He cries out in His speech, but the word cry used here is the cry of a barking dog. It’s used to speak of a dog. Now a barking dog is just a barking dog. It doesn’t make any contribution to anything. It’s just a nuisance. I have never heard a barking dog that had a thing to say in which I was at all interested. It is also used to speak of a screeching raven. It is used to speak of the bawling, screaming, moaning of a drunk and of the uproar of an angry crowd. And what it is saying is that Jesus did not come into the world to hassle and fight and argue and wrangle and harangue in the streets. He had a marvelous quiet dignity. He spoke with dignity and with meekness.
Oh, what a contrast to the rabble-rousing, mauling, brawling, hassling Pharisees who constantly stirred up riots. Our Lord was never engaged in political harangue; He never tried to organize a mob to do anything; He never appealed to people on the basis of wild-haired emotions. He was not a rabble-rouser; He didn’t indulge in the raving of a fool. Ecclesiastes 9:17, even the wisdom of man knows better than that. It says, “The words of wise men are heard in quiet more than the cries of him that rules among of fools.” There was dignity. There was no riotous screaming; there was no nasty public wrangling; there were no boisterous fumings; there was a gentleness and a meekness and a lowliness. He never sought to secure His rightful place by political power, carnal force, insightful speech, rousing of a mob. He would not shout down His opposition; He would not turbulently agitate to get His cause across, like so many do who lead their causes. He is quiet and he is composed. They, the Pharisees, are furious.
And then eighth, He is characterized by comforting the weak. Verse 20 – beautiful statement – “A bruised reed shall He not break and smoking flax shall He not quench.” What does that mean? Reeds were used for a lot of things, and once a reed was bruised, it wouldn’t stay straight. I don’t know if you’ve ever had a straw like that. Once it gets soft somewhere, it just doesn’t straighten. You crunch it and throw it away and get a new one. Shepherds and people out in the fields used to like to pick reeds and make them into little flutes and play them. And after they played them for a while, of course, their fingers and their saliva and all would cause them to get soft in a place and they wouldn’t stay straight and they couldn’t be played right. And they’d just crush them and throw them away.
And then there was the smoking flax. They used to take flax and make a wick out of it. And it’s smoldering flax that you see here. In other words, the fire is just about out. It’s just kind of smoldering on the edge of the wick. What is this picture? This picture is the hurting people, the people everybody else steps on, discards, throws away; the bruised reeds that don’t play the tune anymore, the smoking flax that can’t give any light; they can’t illuminate the situation; their light is almost out. The weak, the powerless, the helpless, the ones destroyed by sin and suffering, the people who are bowed down with care, the unworthy, the ones with no spiritual resources, the whole world of trampled, despised, ignored people, suffering people, hurting people. The kind of people that human conquerors have no time for, the kind of people that the Pharisees just walked all over, the broken people. But those are the kind of people the Lord goes to; He doesn’t break those kind of bruised reeds and He doesn’t put out what’s left of the smoldering.
What this section is saying is the very opposite is true; He strengthens. He’ll pick up the bruised reed, and He’ll play a melody through it that has never been heard. He will fan the flame that’s smoldering on that wick, and it’ll brighten and light the room. He’ll pick up the sick and the tax collectors and the prostitutes and the sorrowing and the fearful and the doubters and the hungry and the sinners and meet their needs. That’s the kind of Savior He is, and He is the antithesis of the religious leaders around Him. And that is the indication of Isaiah, that He is indeed God with us, Emmanuel, because that is the heart of God. No wonder He is the Beloved Servant.
And finally, he is condemned by the false servants, concerned for the people, conformed to the plan, commended by the Father, commissioned by the Spirit, communicating the message, committed to meekness, comforting the weak, and at last, consummating the victory. The end of verse 20, the day will come when “He sends forth justice unto victory.” What that’s saying is simply that ultimately the right will win. In spite of all the persecution and in spite of all of the difficulty and in spite of all of the rejection, in the end, He will win the victory. At the great consummation, sin will be banished forever. And as Amos said, justice shall roll down like waters, and as Isaiah said, the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the ocean is full of its own water. Great promise – ultimately, He shall win the victory. He shall consummate the victory. Oh, what a Savior is mine.
One writer put it this way, “Down in the depths of the human heart, crushed by the tempter, feelings lie buried that grace can restore. Touched by a loving heart, wakened by kindness, cords that were broken will vibrate once more.” Jesus comes along and puts a new song, fans the fading flame, reaches out to those who suffered. Christ has come not to call the righteous, but – what? – sinners to repentance. Not to heal those who are well, but those who are sick and face it. How different He is from other religious leaders. He ought to be; He is God.
Let me close with this. Listen carefully – two applications. First, basically, we as members of the human race are destructive. Right? When you were a kid and you walking down a sidewalk and you saw a bunch of ants, what’d you do to them? Grind them into the concrete. You know, in ten minutes, you could literally cut a swath through God’s creation. You go a little further and what happens? There’s a little tree branch, and you jump up and snap the branch off and then off go the leaves. And you come along and there’s a lot of little flowers and off go the tops of the flowers. You say, where did you get this? I did this when I was little. And you go a little farther and there’s a bird on a fence and you pick up a little stone – see? I mean, we all know there’s something in us that’s just sort of destructive. We pluck a flower and pull its petals. In just ten minutes, we can create havoc in just a little part of God’s world. You know?
You see, that is a trait of human nature and that is a trait of fallenness and that is a trait of Satan. There is a damning, destroying character. But God is not like that. He doesn’t break the bruised reed and He doesn’t blow out the smoldering wick. He makes it live. God gives life; men kill. I think that what Jesus is saying to some of you in this passage is He’d like to give you life. He’s like to fan your smoldering wick, and He’s like to play a tune through your bruised reed. And if you’ll come to Jesus Christ, that’s exactly what He will do. But you have to make that choice. And you will choose today, because you will say yes or no, and that’s your choice.
Secondly, we have these pastors with us, and I don’t know what you’ve been thinking about, men, as you’ve been listening this morning, but all I could think about as I was going through these things was that Jesus Christ is not only this, as the beloved servant of God, but He demands that I follow in this same pattern. Right? If He is the Shepherd and I am an under-shepherd to Him, then I have to be like this too. And I should be characterized in the same way. I, as the shepherd of the sheep, should be also condemned by false shepherds, should I not? I ought to be known by my enemies, so strong to stand for the truth that I am attacked as He was. I, too, should be concerned to conform my life to God’s will and be totally and utterly submissive and obedient to that. I, too, should be concerned with people, the hurting people; they should be the concern of my heart, as I am answerable to God for them. I, too, should be commended by the Father. I, too, should so live and minister that the Father can say of me, “My soul with him is well pleased.” I, too, should be commissioned by the Spirit. Oh God, help me from functioning in the flesh. I, too, should be communicating the right message. I, too, should be committed to meekness, a gentle, humble, quiet spirit. I, too, should be comforting the weak, having a heart to lift up the fallen and bind the bruised and the broken and seek the poor and outcast. I, too, should consummate the victory in His power, seeing His kingdom advance. And so we have a direct message to those who don’t know Christ, to see Him for who He is, and a direct message to those of us who do, to follow His pattern.
Father, thank You for our time this morning. What a blessed morning it’s been, so full and so rich. We have shared together with each other and with You and thank You for that. And now, Lord, draw our hearts together to consider before You where we stand. Help us to make the right choices right now as to how we will treat Christ and how we will minister on His behalf. Father, bring those that You would have to come. Bless the retiring offering as we receive it as we leave. Bring us together again this afternoon as we look at the purity of the church, as we restore some folks to our fellowship, as we uphold the holiness that You have set as a standard. As we sing, as we take of Your Table, make it a great day for Christ’s sake. Amen.
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