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Let's look together at Matthew 12. We're going to continue in our study of 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 Matthew 12:14-21. Let me read it to you as the setting for our message this morning.
"Then the Pharisees went out and plotted against Him, how they might destroy Him. But when Jesus knew it, He withdrew from there. And great multitudes followed Him, and He healed them all. Yet He warned them not to make Him known, 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 declare justice to the Gentiles. He will not quarrel nor cry out, nor will anyone hear His voice in the streets. A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax He will not quench, till He sends forth justice to victory; and in His name Gentiles will hope.'"
The key to that passage is in verse 18. It is a title given to 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 is from chapter 42, but from 42 up through chapter 53, at various points we find the Messiah called the Servant of Jehovah. 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, beauty, majesty, and imminence, and it drops, as it were, like an oasis in the midst of the desert of chapters 11-12. Those chapters chronicle for us the rejection of Jesus Christ. As we looked at them, we have noted the fact that there is a sort of 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, which is another way. Then we see indifference, and finally rejection, as we saw in our last passage. Then, as we enter chapter 12, having been rejected, He is blasphemed; that which He does is ascribed to Satan.
All of this is led by the Pharisees and scribes, who are the supposed religious leaders of Jerusalem and Israel. 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 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 and indictment against Israel and against Israel's leaders for having concluded the very antithesis of the truth about Him.
The statement 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, which is very frequently 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. It is used in Job 4 to speak of angels who are supernatural servants. 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." Then He adds, "My Beloved." He uses the root agape, the 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 they enjoy is described in John 1:1 in the statement that He was prostontheon, face to face, in close reality with the Father. It is also indicated in John 17, in His 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.
We are introduced to the Son by the Father, who says He is the Son, the Servant, 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. May I submit to you, as Jesus said in John 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. It is a blistering indictment of the ungodliness of the leaders of Israel.
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. In this passage is an unfolding of the characteristics of Christ as indicated in Isaiah and as interpreted by Matthew.
Let's begin by looking at verse 14. Here, we see the first characteristic of Christ. The beloved servant of God is condemned by false servants. In verse 14, it says they held a council against Him, how they might destroy Him. Would you please notice 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: 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. So they needed to plot a way that they could kill Him and bypass these rather intimidating realities.
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 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 fury, and of course it had finally culminated in His open and flagrant violation of their rabbinic traditions, which they applied to the Sabbath. 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.
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 he was a Gentile. He was an Idumean, not a Jew, and they were the ones who felt that Herod should have power. 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.
These kinds of efforts make strange bedfellows, don't they? The religionists 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. They set out to plot His murder, and at that point, someone should have stood up in the meeting and read Psalm 2, where it says, "Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and you perish." But that person might have been thrown out if he had, so they carried out their plot, and eventually succeeded, and He was executed at the hands of the Roman soldiers.
We then find ourselves in Matthew 12:14 at an apex; the full and open rejection of Christ has occurred. Nine chapaters have presented His majesty, the tenth chapter sent out messengers, and the eleventh and twelfth have cataloged the final rejection. Chapter 12 tells us that 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. No wonder He said they were so deep in the pit for that conclusion that salvation, for them, was an impossibility. The protectors of the Word of God, supposedly, set out to murder the Servant Son of God.
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. Every time He sent one, they killed him. Finally, He sent His Son, and they killed Him too. Satan's system dominates the world, and sets the false system against the true system, and there is always a warfare. Israel, through its history, slew 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. As I look at this passage, I am saddened because this is a tragic point in history. Dr. Barnhouse said that it is at this point in history that Israel's clock stopped. I would add that one of these days, very soon, when Jesus comes, it will 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 received Him not." The first thing we see, then, is that the beloved servant of God would be condemned by the false servants. His life was one in which there was constant attack.
Since our Lord was fully aware of this bitter hatred, we read what happens in verses 15-16. "When Jesus knew," and the text literally says, "Jesus, aware of this." It is omniscience; He knew everything - without saying a word, or being at the meeting, He knew. "But when Jesus knew it, He withdrew from there." That's sad, isn't it? That has not only physical implications, but terrifying spiritual implications. He left. In verse 16, it says, "He warned them not to make Him known publicly," phaneros, manifest, public.
This brings me to the second characteristic of Christ: He was conformed to God's plan. Jesus could have attacked the crowd. After all, when the soldiers came in the Garden in John 18, He said, "Who do you seek?" and they said, "Jesus of Nazareth." When He said, "I am He," they all fell down. 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 anyone, because one angel in the Old Testament killed 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 conformed to the plan, and the plan was the expression of the will of God, and it had a very defined ending and 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 in Matthew, we learned that they said He had a demon, remember that? Either just before or just after this, 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 had violated their Sabbath tradition, 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 withdraws.
Up until Matthew 21, you see a constant cycle: He would go into an area and preach and teach and heal, there would be a great response, then there would be opposition, He would withdraw to a new area and begin the cycle all over again. Preaching, teaching, healing, response, opposition, withdrawal. All through these years, it was the same cycle as the nation mounted in its animosity under the leadership of the false shepherds. He kept withdrawing, moving away.
He could have acted in any fashion in which 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. He was totally committed to the Father's will, and that is the essence of His servanthood. He said, "My food is to do the will of Him that sent Me. I do nothing but what My Father shows Me; I say nothing but that which I hear from the Father." That is the essence of the incarnation: He restricted all of those personal prerogatives and willingly submitted everything to the Father. He submitted not only to the Father's will, but the Father's timing, for many times, He said, "My hour is not 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 be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation and took on the form of a servant, and was found in fashion as a man and humbled Himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross. In a sense, Isaac 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 is another element to His submissiveness to the divine plan in verse 16. He told the people who were healed not to tell anyone or make it known. 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 to Matthew 8:4, you find that after Jesus had healed the leper, He told him not to tell anyone. In Matthew 9:30, you find that He healed two blind men and strictly commanded to tell no one about it.
People always ask the question, "Why does Jesus say that?" 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, perverted, and denied. 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, He told the man to go and show himself to the priest. 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 to prove that he, who had had leprosy, had been totally delivered. They had an entire procedure they would put these people through so that they could introduce them back into society.
The point that Jesus wanted to make was, "You go, 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." He wanted a firsthand conclusion when people were actually confronted with the reality. That's why, when the disciples of John the Baptist came along and asked the question, "Are you the Messiah, or do we look for someone else?" He didn't say, "I've done a lot of miracles, and they'll tell you about them." He said, "Stand there and watch," and instantaneously did a whole bunch of miracles - personal, private miracles - just to show them who He was. Then He said, "Now do you get the message?"
There is a second reason why I think He wanted them not to spread this about, and that is the fact that He didn't want to become known strictly as a miracle-worker. He didn't want to distort the purpose for which He came. 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 attractive for the wrong causes and 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 think that's what they had in mind when He fed them that day and made enough food to feed 5,000 men. That has to mean at least 5,000 women and 25,000 kids. He fed the whole multitude, and immediately they wanted to make Him king and start the revolution because they figured there would never be anyone else with that kind of power; it had to be Him. But He didn't want to be known as a miracle worker, because all that tended to do was fan the flames of enthusiasm that pushed Him toward a political kind of revolution.
Fourthly, I think He didn't want everyone to know about this because all it did was heighten the rage of the scribes and Pharisees. He was trying to keep that at a somewhat mitigated level because He didn't want everything to explode before God's perfect timing. He was on schedule.
Fifthly, and I don't know if you've ever thought about this, but I think there is no greater reason than this: Jesus didn't want people to tell because this was not the time of His exaltation, it was the time of His humiliation. Exaltation would come later; He didn't seek this kind of fame. In wonderful submission, He conformed to God's plan.
May I suggest that this was quite opposite the Pharisees? They were condemned by the true Servant of God. Utterly and totally conformed to their own selfish desires, they 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.
Look at verse 15. "He withdrew from there. And great multitudes followed Him, and He healed them all." He healed all of them! Do you realize that Jesus healed people who didn't necessarily believe in Him? In Luke 17, He healed 10 lepers. How many came back? One, and to him He said, "You are made whole," and He wasn't talking about the physical; that had already been done for the 10. He was talking about the spiritual. Ten were healed, one was redeemed. He said, "I did miracles in Chorazin, in Bethsaida, in Capernaum, but it is obvious that you did not believe," says chapter 11. "You will have greater judgment than Tyre and Sidon, Sodom and Gomorrah, for what you have seen and rejected."
Why the demonstration of healing everyone? I believe it manifests the heart of God toward hurting people and those with deep, profound need, the ones ignored by everyone else. The Pharisees and religious leaders weren't interested in these people: the outcasts, sick, crippled, deaf, dumb and blind. They weren't interested in the poor, the ones without resources. They were interested in the rich, famous, and powerful, and all those who seek the high places seek such people. Jesus sought the lowly.
In the last incident, remember how the Pharisees drug out the poor fellow with the paralyzed hand? The only thing he meant to them was to 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. They say, "Is it lawful to heal that man?" All they were concerned about was the legalism, and Jesus replied, "Is it kind and good to heal that man?" That was the difference.
In Matthew 9:36, Jesus looked on the multitude and saw them as faint, scattered, without shepherds. The two Greek words there are very interesting. The word 'faint' literally means 'skinned' or 'flagellated, stripped of skin, ripped to shreds.' 'Scattered' means 'thrown down, left for dead.' He looked at the people and saw them as striped of their skin and left for dead.
The false shepherds had done that by binding incredible burdens, devouring the poor and widows, despising the people, and binding on them such burdens that they couldnt' bear and offering no help to assist them. They were wolves dressed like shepherds and instead of feeding the sheep, they were destroying the sheep. They were like the false shepherd of Zechariah 11 who eats the sheep, even eating the hooves. It says that he actually chews what little meat remains on the hoof; that is how consuming is the desire to devour.
The true Shepherd comes along, sees them, and is moved with compassion. In chapter 4, we see how He healed them of all their various diseases, reached out to the outcasts. Later, we see Him with the tax collectors and prostitutes and wretched people. We see Him reaching out in the Sermon on the Mount and saying not to worry about what to eat or drink; "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 Matthew 11 saying tenderly, "Come unto Me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."
We are not surprised, then, to read that He healed them all, because that is 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 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, sorrow, crying, tears or death, and God will eliminate all of it. This is a little taste of what the Kingdom will be like.
Christ feels the pain of the hurting people. When it says, "He bears our infirmities and sicknesses," it isn't talking about the cross, it's talking about His sympathetic heart. He was submissive to God's plan; at the same time, He was confirmed in His love for people. We see the beloved servant of God, and we could say so much about these things, but we need to press on for the sake of time. He was condemned by the false servants, concerned for the people, conformed to the plan.
Those first three might be cause for some to say, "This can't be the Messiah. Can this be the Messiah when He is despised by the religious leaders, when He spends all of His time withdrawing and never gathers the army for the revolution? He pays no attention to the 'up and ins' but is forever with the 'down and outs.' 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?"
Matthew wants us to know that it is not only the Messiah, but the very Messiah prophesied by Isaiah. So he says, "All this in order that it might be fulfilled what was spoken by Isaiah the prophet." Isaiah said He would be like this, and the key is in verses 19-20. "He will not quarrel nor cry out, nor will anyone hear His voice in the streets. A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax He will not quench, till He sends forth justice to victory."
That's the heart of what Isaiah wants to say as the defense of Christ ins prophetic literature, but he also adds the beginning of verse 18 and the end of verse 21, so we take it all. It's one of the most strikingly beautiful descriptions of Jesus Christ in Scripture, taken from Isaiah 42:1-4. if you check that passage, you will notice that Matthew does not quote it verbatim but interprets it as he quotes it. It is a marvelous act of the inspiration of the Spirit of God interpreting the passage as it is quoted in its fulfillment.
It brings us to a fourth characteristic of Christ. He is commended by the Father. Verse 18 says, "Behold! My Servant whom I have chosen, My Beloved in whom My soul is well pleased!" Was the Father pleased with the Son? Yes. What did He say at the Son's baptism? "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." What about at the Transfiguration? "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!" What did He do when Jesus died and rose again but exalt Him, 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. 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." 'I have chosen' is a marvelous phrase; it's a word that is only here in the Greek New Testament and appears nowhere else. It indicates great firmness of choice. For example, it is used in secular Greek to speak of adopting a child, really taking them in in a firm commitment. He has chosen the Son. In Hebrews 1, it talks about how He chose the Son to fulfill this role. In Isaiah 49:1, it says the same thing in the wonderful verse about how the Father has chosen the Son. So much was this a part of the Messianic identity that the Messiah became known as 'the Chosen One' in the Jewish mind, 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. They would know that as Matthew is quoting this, he is quoting a Messianic passage; They know that he is saying that Jesus is the Messiah, the Chosen One.
That can be illustrated in many ways, but one example is in Luke 23:35. 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." There is that title; they were very familiar with that title. It is a Messianic title: the Chosen One of God. I Peter 2:4 says that Christ is a living stone, chosen of God and precious. Christ is the Father's elect, and then it says that He is well pleased with Him. That is God's seal of approval. By the way, it isn't possible for men to be so well pleasing to the Father unless they are found to be in Christ. Frankly, with us, the Father is not well pleased.
Romans 8:8 says, "They who are in the flesh cannot please God." If anyone is to please God, it is to be in Christ, because He is well pleased with Christ. If I am lost in Christ, He is well pleased with me. He is commended by the Father, He is pleasing to the Father, beloved to the Father as chosen of the Father. How well pleasing He must have been because of the utter submissiveness of His service to God. He was condemned by the false servants, conformed to God's plan, concerned for the people, commended by the Father.
Fifthly, He was commissioned by the Spirit. It says 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. We know that that happened for certain in a unique way at His baptism, because the Spirit of God descended like a dove. But I don't believe that is when it started; I believe that 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. If that was true of a human being, believe me, it must have been true of the God-Man. It also says in Matthew 1:20 that He was conceived of the Holy Spirit.
What does this mean? If He's already God, and the Father, Son and Spirit are already one, 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 nature did. He was in every point tempted like we are; He was truly human. He grew in wisdom and stature, in favor with God and man. That's what the text tells us. He was tempted, thirsty, hungry, tired, He felt pain, wept, had emotions. In the Garden, He said, "Father, if it is 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. 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.
There was a second feature, and I believe it was tied to His baptism, and I believe it 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, 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." So there was not only the Spirit of God from the very conception to empower His humanness, but also the special anointing at the baptism for His royal service; He was granted the Spirit. So He functioned within the Father's plan and by the Spirit's power.
As a total servant, He submits Himself to the Father on the one hand and to the Spirit on the other hand. He does that not only for the sake of the function but for the sake of the example to us that it is. 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 communicating the message.
Verse 18. "He will show justice [rightness] to the heathen." The Hebrew in Isaiah says, "He will bring out right, what is right." He is going to give the right message. There are a lot of wrong ones, don't you agree? 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. He will bring salvation, the Gospel, to the world, to the heathen. 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.
Don't ever believe for a minute that Christ came 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 He was always the world's. The first person to whom He revealed His Messiahship was a half-breed, non-Jewish Samaritan woman who was also a harlot; that should 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 is an interesting incident that shows us how they hated the Gentiles, and one of the reasons I think they rejected Christ so openly when He would affirm that He was to save Gentiles. In Acts 22:21, Paul is giving his testimony and defending himself. There is a mob around, and he's telling them about himself and what the Lord has done in his life. He said, "Then He said to me, 'Depart, for I will send you far from here to the Gentiles.'"
Do you know what that word did to them, just the word 'Gentiles'? He just had to say that one word, and the next verse says, "They listened to him until this word." What word? Gentiles. "And then they raised their voices and said, 'Away with such a fellow from the earth, for he is not fit to live!' Then, they cried out and tore off their clothes and threw dust into the air." This is ridiculous, ripping their clothes and throwing dirt in the air? Why are they so upset? It was because of the word he said, 'Gentiles.' That's an idea of how they felt; they were not really thrilled. They were like Jonah, but not quite as willing to take a short trip in a long fish as he was, but basically the same idea.
Always, from the very beginning, His intention was to reach the world. He was given to communicating the right message to the world. The seventh principle brings us right to the heart of the passage. He was committed to meekness. Why did He withdraw, and spend His time in the quiet places with the quiet people? Because Isaiah said, "The Messiah will not strive," and that's the word 'wrangle' or 'hassle' or 'brawl' or 'quarrel.' "He will not cry," and that doesn't mean that He won't cry out, because He does that many times in the New Testament in His speech, but the word 'cry' used here is the cry of a barking dog; it is used to speak of a dog.
A barking dog makes no contribution to anything, it is just a nuisance. I have never heard a barking dog say anything in which I was at all interested. It is also used to speak of a screeching raven, and he bawling, screaming, moaning of a drunk, or of the uproar of an angry crowd. It is saying that Jesus did not come into the world to hassle, fight, argue, wrangle, harangue in the streets; He had a marvelous, quiet dignity. He spoke with dignity and meekness.
What a contrast to the rabble-rousing, mauling, brawling, hassling Pharisees who constantly stirred up riots. Our Lord was never engaged in political harangue, never tried to organize a mob to do anything, never appealed to people on the basis of wild-haired emotions. He was not a rabble-rouser and never indulged in the ravings of a fool. In Ecclesiastes 9:17, even the words of a man knows better than that. It says, "Words of the wise, spoken quietly, should be heard rather than the shout of a ruler of fools." There was dignity; no riotous screaming, nasty public wrangling, no boisterous fumings, but a gentleness, meekness, and lowliness.
He never sought to secure His rightful place by political power, carnal force, insightful speech, or the rousing of a mob. He would not shout down His opposition or turbulently agitate to get His cause across, like so many do who lead their causes. He is quiet and composed. The Pharisees are furious. He is characterized by comforting the week. Verse 20. "A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax He will not quench."
What does that mean? Reeds were used for a lot of things, and once a reed was bruised, it wouldn't stand straight. I don't know if you've ever had a straw like that; once it gets soft somewhere, you crunch it, throw it away, and get a new one. Shepherds and people out in the fields used to like to pick reeds, make them into little flutes, and play them. After they had played them for a while, of course, their fingers and saliva would cause them to get soft in a spot, and they wouldn't stay straight. So they couldn't be played right, so they'd crush them and throw them away.
Then there was the smoking flax. They used to take flax and make a wick out of it. The flax here is smoldering; in other words, the fire is just about out, and just kind of smoldering on the edge of the wick. What is this picture? This is a picture of the hurting people, the ones everyone 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 to illuminate the situation. This is the weak, powerless, helpless, ones destroyed by sin and suffering, those bowed down with care, the unworthy, the ones without spiritual resources, the whole world of trampled, despised, ignored, suffering, hurting people. These are the kind of people that human conquerors have no time for, those that the Pharisees walked all over, the broken people. But those are the ones the Lord goes to; He doesn't break those kind of bruised reeds or put out what's left of the smoldering flax.
What this is saying is that the very opposite is true; He strengthens them. He picks up the reed and plays a melody through it that has never been heard. He will fan the flame that is smoldering on that wick so that it brightens and lights the room. He will pick up the sick and tax collectors and prostitutes and sorrowing and fearful and doubters and hungry and sinners, and meet their needs. That's the kind of Savior He is, and He is the antithesis of the religious leaders around Him. 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. 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. Verse 20 says, "The day will come when He sends forth justice unto victory."What that is saying is simply that ultimately, the right will win. In spite of all the persecution, difficulty, and rejection, in the end, He will win the victory. At the great consummation, sin will be banished forever. As Amos said, justice will roll down like waters, and as Isaiah said, the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the sea is full of its own water. That is a great promise; ultimately, He will win the victory and 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 hand, wakened by kindness, cords that are broken will vibrate once more." Jesus came along and put a new song, fanned the fading flame, reached out to those who suffered. Christ has come not to call the righteous, but 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 two applications. First, basically, we as members of the human race are destructive. When you were a kid, walking down a sidewalk, and saw a bunch of ants, what did you do? Grind them into the concrete. In ten minutes, you could literally cut a swath through God's creation. Go a little further, and see a little tree branch, and you jump up and snatch the branch off, and rip off all the leaves. Next, you see a little dandelion, and you blow, and off go the tops of those. I did this when I was little, I'm sure you did too. A little farther, you see a bird on a fence, so you pick up a stone and throw it at him. We all know there is something in us that is destructive. We pluck a flower and pull its petals, and in just ten minutes, we can wreak havoc in a little part of God's world.
That is a trait of human nature and fallenness and of Satan; there is a damning, destroying character. But God is not like that. He doesn't break the bruised reed or blow out the smoldering wick; He makes them live. God gives life, men kill. I think that what Jesus is saying to some of you in this passage is that He'd like to give you life, fan your smoldering wick, and play a tune through your bruised reed. If you will come to Jesus, that's exactly what He will do, but you have to make that choice. 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 is that Jesus Christ is not only this, as the beloved servant of God, but He demands that I follow in this same pattern. If He is the Shepherd and I am an under-shepherd to Him, then I have to be like this too.
I should be characterized in this same way; I, as the shepherd of the sheep, should also be condemned by false shepherds, should I not? I ought to be known by my enemies to stand so strong 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 to that. I, too, should be concerned with 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, and 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, committed to meekness, and 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 broken, and seek the poor and outcast. I, too, should consummate the victory in His power, seeing His Kingdom advance.
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, than You for our time this morning; what a blessed morning it has been - so full, so rich. We have shared with each other and with You, and we thank You for that. 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 minister in 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 and restore some to our fellowship and uphold the holiness that You have set as a standard. As we sing and take of Your Table, make it a great day for Christ's sake, Amen.