September 27th, 2015
Matthew 12:15-21 (see also Mark 3:7-12)
“Emmanuel: The Lord’s Servant”
Service Orientation: We can truly rest in Jesus when we realize His selfless, gentle, servant leadership through which He makes the ultimate sacrifice to bring salvation and justice to the earth.
Bible Memory Verse for the Week: For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost. — Luke 19:10
- The question which Matthew uses to sum up the work of Jesus is from Isa 42:1-4. In a sense it is a curious quotation, because in the first instance it referred to Cyrus, the Persian king (f. Isa 45:1). The original point of the quotation was this. Cyrus was sweeping onwards in his conquests; and the prophet saw those conquests as being within the deliberate and definite plan of God. Although he did not know it, Cyrus, the Persian, was the instrument of God. Further, the prophet saw Cyrus as the Gentile conqueror, as indeed he was. But although the original words referred to Cyrus, the complete fulfillment of the prophecy undoubtedly came in Jesus Christ. (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 38)
- Isa 42:1-4 is the first of four prophecies regarding “the Servant of Jehovah.” The others are Isa 49:1-9a; 50:4-9; and 52:13-53:12 (cf., however, also Isa 61:1 ff.). (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 520)
- This prophecy marvelously foretold the gentle character of the Lord Jesus. (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 231)
- Contrast the Pharisees and leaders and Jesus as leader.
- (v. 18) This is the longest OT quotation in Matthew. The words don’t match exactly any existing OT text from the time, indicating that Matthew may have paraphrased the words for emphasis. (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 239)
- (v. 18) Pais (Servant) is not the usual word for “servant” and is often translated “son.” In secular Greek it was used of an especially intimate servant who was trusted and loved like a son. (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 297)
- (v. 18) The Greek phrase translated I have chosen (from hairetizō) indicates a firm and determined decision and is used nowhere else in the NT. It was used in secular Greek of irrevocably adopting a child into the family as an heir who could never be disenfranchised. The Father had irrevocably chosen His beloved Son to be His divine Servant, the only One qualified for the task of redemption. (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 297)
- (v. 19) The word that is used for to cry aloud is the word that is used for the barking of a dog, the croaking of a raven, the uproar of a discontented audience in a theater. It means that Jesus would not get into any argument. We know all about the quarrels of conflicting parties, in which each tries to shout the other down. The hatred of theologians, the odium theologicum, is one of the tragedies of the Christian Church. We know all about the oppositions of politicians and of ideologies. In Jesus there is the quiet, strong serenity of one who seeks to conquer by love, and not by strife of words. (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 39)
- (v. 19) In view of this persistent influence of the “servant” ideology of Deutero-Isaiah, Matthew might have introduced a quotation of Isa 42:1-4 at almost any point in his account of Jesus’ ministry. Much of what these verses contain (the servant as God’s chosen, his endowment with the spirit, his mission of justice, and the hope of the nations) echoes themes which apply broadly throughout the gospel. But this portrait also contains (in vv. 19-20) a less triumphant note: a gentle, nonconfrontational attitude, and avoidance of publicity, and a patient ministry of encouragement rather than denunciation. It is this aspect of the quotation for which Matthew has prepared in his brief précis of Mark’s summary: Jesus has withdrawn in the face of hostility and is anxious to prevent people from forcing the issue of his Messiahship by inappropriate publicity. Controversies will continue in vv. 22-45, and the atmosphere will become even more highly charged, but by inserting this quotation here Matthew helps his readers to put the confrontation in context: it is not of the Messiah’s choosing. (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 468-9)
- (v. 20) In the ancient world, people used reeds to make flutes, pens, and a host of other things. Oftentimes, when someone would gather reeds for one of these uses, as he began to inspect the reeds more closely, he would find some that were bruised and imperfect. In such a case, he would simply snap the reed in two and pick up another one. Reeds cost far less than a dime a dozen. (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 372)
The question to be answered is . . . Why does Matthew take time out in the midst of revealing that Jesus is our Sabbath rest to say Jesus is the fulfillment of Isaiah 42:1-4?
Answer: Because Jesus is so unlike any other leaders that his audience had ever experienced that Matthew needs to demonstrate that this is the sacrificial, servant leadership that God had said would distinguish the Messiah and those who are His disciples.
The essence of Jesus’ life, His very food, was to do His Father’s will and “to accomplish His work” (Jn 4:34). Jesus had the true heart of a servant, and He was submissive to His Father and wholly given to redeeming a lost world. (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 294)
Despite all Matthew has done to show Jesus to be the messianic Son of David and unique Son of God, he wants to separate himself from exclusively royal and militaristic interpretations of Messiah’s role. He knows that the ministry of Jesus Messiah must also be understood as the fulfillment of the prophecies of the Suffering Servant. (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 8, 285)
The Word for the Day is . . . Servant
I- Jesus is the Lord’s Servant to insure justice is brought to the earth. (12:15-18; see also: Isa 42:1, 3-4; 52:13-53:12; Amos 5:24)
What is pictured is a ministry so gentle and compassionate that the weak are not trampled on and crushed till justice, the full righteousness of God triumphs. (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 8, 287)
The truth is that Jesus came to bring justice to nobodies who could find it nowhere else, a justice that will come finally, ultimately, eschatologically with the final judgment. (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 324)
God is a God of Justice. This means He will make anything that is wrong right. (Joyce Meyer message, “The Character of God”
If a brother in Christ, according to ecclesiastical standing, may say to me, “You must love me with all your heart,” I am entitled to say in reply, “I acknowledge the obligation in the abstract, but I demand of you in turn that you shall be such that I can love you as a Christian, however weak and imperfect; and I feel it to be both my right and my duty to do all I can to make you worthy of such brotherly regard, by plain dealing with you and your offences. I am willing to love you, but I cannot, I dare not, be on friendly terms with your sins; and if you refuse to part with these, and virtually require me to be a partaker in them by connivance, then our brotherhood is at an end, and I am free from my obligations.” (A. B. Bruce; The Training of the Twelve, 211)
A biblical view of law is one that plays no favorites and shows no partiality. In Dt 16:19, God tells the ancient Israelites: “You shall not pervert justice; you shall not show partiality.”
This biblical ideal is what undergirds the rule of law, where the law applies to everyone equally. James Madison wrote that the great aim of government is to be “neutral between different parts of the Society”–so that the law neither privileges nor penalizes any particular group. (Charles Colson, A Dangerous Grace, 298)
Christianity tells people to repent and promises them forgiveness. It therefore has nothing (as far as I know) to say to people who do not know that they need any forgiveness. It is after you have realized that there is a real Moral Law, and a Power behind the law, and that you have broken that law and put yourself wrong with that Power–it is after all this and not a moment sooner, that Christianity begins to talk. When you are sick, you will listen to the doctor. (C. S. Lewis; Mere Christianity, 38-9).
II- Jesus is the Lord’s Servant humbly doing God’s work without self-promotion. (12:19; see also: Eccl 9:17; Isa 42:2; 53:7; Zech 9:9; Mk 3:7-12; Jn 5:31-32, 36-37; Phil 2:1-11; 1 Pt 5:4-7)
The servant “will not quarrel or cry out” or raise his voice in the streets (v. 19). The picture is not one of utter silence (else how could he “proclaim” justice [v. 18]? cf. Jn 7:37) but of gentleness and humility (11:29), of quiet withdrawal (vv. 15-17) and a presentation of his messiahship that is neither arrogant nor brash. (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 8, 286)
Jesus was not seeking fame. He did not wish to stand out as a worker of miracles. Vain display, earthly glory, matters such as these did not constitute the reason for his incarnation and sojourn among men. They were completely out of harmony with the humble “Servant of Jehovah” of Isaiah’s prophecies. (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 519)
“The place of suffering in service and of passion in mission is hardly ever taught today. But the greatest single secret of evangelistic or missionary effectiveness is the willingness to suffer and die. It may be a death to popularity (by faithfully preaching the unpopular biblical gospel), or to pride (by the use of modest methods in reliance on the Holy Spirit), or to racial and national prejudice (by identification with another culture), or to material comfort (by adopting a simple lifestyle). But the servant must suffer if he is to bring light to the nations, and the seed must die it if is to multiply.” (John R. W. Stott; The Cross of Christ, 322).
We all like to be called servants until we are treated like one. (Pastor Mark Devers message, “5 Keys to Spiritual Growth”)
You will generally find that a man’s condemnation of other people is meant to be a recommendation of himself. Study this law of social penalties, and you will be amazed, I think, to find how constantly it operates in this direction. A man severely condemns this or that offense on the part of his fellow-creatures. Is it a really honest judgment upon the offense of the sin? Is it not oftentimes a backhanded compliment to himself, as who should say, “What a virtuous man I am; how my indignation burns like an oven against such offenses. Trust me, I am judge and purist and honorable man”? (Joseph Parker, Servant of All, Studies in Matthew 8-16, 163)
The Hebrew uses two verbs as virtual synonyms for “shout” (the second being “lift” with “his voice” in the following clause as the understood object). By using erizō, “quarrel” or “wrangle,” for the first verb Matthew makes clear how this text applies to Jesus, who has just withdrawn to avoid a further “shouting match” with the Pharisees. In Jerusalem in chs. 21-23 Jesus will not be reluctant to provoke argument and opposition as he lays down his final challenge to the authorities there, but here in Galilee his style is different. This is a time for discretion and secrecy; when controversy comes in Galilee, it will not be Jesus who initiates it. When the confrontation reaches its climax in Jerusalem, we will again be reminded of Jesus’ nonviolence and silence in the face of official hostility (26:52-56, 62-63; 27:12-14). (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 472)
Matthew records five occasions on which Jesus commanded silence (8:4; 9:30; 12:16; 16:20; 17:9). It may have been that he wanted to avoid further trouble with the Pharisees. No sense in antagonizing those who are already bent on doing you in. Some have felt that Jesus wanted to direct attention away from himself and to his message. Phillips translates, “that they should not make him conspicuous by their talk.” Many have explained the injunctions to silence as a way of discouraging a following based on misguided messianic enthusiasm. He came as Messiah but not the kind of nationalistic messiah they had chosen to expect. (Robert H. Mounce, New International Biblical Commentary: Matthew, 115)
First, for the time being, he withdrew. The time for the head-on clash had not yet come. He had work to do before the cross took him to its arms. Second, he forbade those who followed him to surround him with publicity. He knew only too well how many false Messiahs had arisen; he knew only too well how inflammable the people were. If the idea got around that someone with marvelous powers had emerged, then certainly a political rebellion would have arisen and lives would have been needlessly lost. He had to teach people that Messiahship meant not crushing power but sacrificial service, not a throne but a cross, before they could spread the word about him. (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 38)
It rather resembles the raving of “a ruler among fools,” as contrasted with “the words of the wise” spoken and received in an atmosphere of blessed quietness (Eccl 9:17). It is like the riotous screaming which by popular belief was ascribed to the satyr (Isa 34:14). It is, as the passage (Mt 12:19) clearly shows, the kind of shouting that is associated with quarreling. (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 521)
Small things are the genuinely big things in the kingdom of God. It is here we truly face the issues of obedience. It is not hard to be a model disciple amid camera lights and press releases. But in the small corners of life, in those areas of service that will never be news worthy or gain us any recognition, we must hammer out the meaning of obedience. —Richard Foster
Of all the classical Spiritual Disciplines, service is the most conducive to the growth of humility. When we set out on a consciously chosen course of action that accents the good of others and is, for the most part, a hidden work, a deep change occurs in our spirits.
Nothing disciplines the inordinate desires of the flesh like service, and nothing transforms the desires of the flesh like serving in hiddenness. The flesh whines against service but screams against hidden service. It strains and pulls for honor and recognition. It will devise subtle, religiously acceptable means to call attention to the service rendered. If we stoutly refuse to give in to this lust of the flesh, we crucify it. Every time we crucify the flesh, we crucify our pride and arrogance.
. . . The apostle John writes, “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, is not of the Father but is of the world” (1 Jn 2:16). We fail to understand the force of this passage because of our tendency to relegate it all to sexual sin. The “lust of the flesh” refers to the failure to discipline the natural human passions. C. H. Dodd says that the “lust of the eyes” refers to “the tendency to be captivated by outward show.” He defines the “pride of life” as “pretentious egoism.” In each case the same thing is seen: infatuation with natural human powers and abilities without any dependence upon God. That is the flesh in operation, and the flesh is the deadly enemy of humility.
The strictest daily discipline is necessary to hold these passions in check. The flesh must learn the painful lesson that it has no rights of its own. It is the work of hidden service that will accomplish this self-abasement. (Richard J. Foster, Celebration of Discipline, 130-31)
At first thought it would seem that hidden service is only for the sake of the person served. Such is not the case. Hidden, anonymous ministries affect even people who know nothing of them. They sense a deeper love and compassion among people though they cannot account for the feeling. If a secret service is done on their behalf, they are inspired to deeper devotion, for they know that the well of service is far deeper than they can see. It is a ministry that can be engaged in frequently by all people. It sends ripples of joy and celebration through any community of people. (Richard J. Foster, Celebration of Discipline, 134)
III- Jesus is the Lord’s gentle Servant doing God’s work encouraging the broken and discarded and building up the weak and insecure. (12:20; see also: Isa 40:11; 42:3; 57:15; 61:1; Mt 9:36; 11:28; Lk 4:18-21; 2 Cor 4:7-12; 12:1-12; Heb 5:2)
I discovered an astonishing truth: God is attracted to weakness. He can’t resist those who humbly and honestly admit how desperately they need him. (Jim Cymbala, Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire, 19)
We make a great mistake if we do not encourage the very first movements of a soul towards Christ. Let the ignorant world scoff and mock, if it wants to; we may be sure that “bruised reeds” and “smoldering wicks” are very precious in our Lord’s eyes. (J.C. Ryle, The Crossway Classic Commentaries: Matthew, 94)
Lord, what do I really know about drawing upon your strength? I, with the shallow mind, the weak spirit, the minimal discipline. What is there of me that you could use? I have talents, but others have more and use them better. I have experience, but others have greater and have profited deeper. So what is there?
Perhaps the answer lies somewhere in Hudson Taylor’s comment: “God uses men who are weak and feeble enough to lean on him.” But, Lord, I worry that while I may be weak enough, will I be smart enough to know from whence comes my help? (Gordon MacDonald; Ordering Your Private World, 134)
Is your faith weak? If so, be encouraged. Jesus did not come to snuff out anything that is weak but instead to fan the smoldering wick into a flame and to straighten and strengthen the bent rod. (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1, 209)
There are some in every congregation hearing the Gospel who are ready to despair of their own salvation because their strength seems so small. They are full of fears and despondency because their knowledge, faith, hope and love appear so dwarfish and diminutive. Let them drink comfort out of this text; let them know that weak faith gives a man as real and true an interest in Christ as strong faith, though it may not give him the same joy. There is life in an infant as truly as in an adult; there is fire in a spark as truly as in a burning flame. The least degree of grace is an everlasting possession. It comes down from heaven; it is precious in our Lord’s eyes. It will never be overthrown. (J.C. Ryle, The Crossway Classic Commentaries: Matthew, 94)
Our witness may be shaky and weak; the light of our lives may be but a flicker and not a flame; but Jesus came not to discourage but to encourage. He came to treat the weak not with contempt but with understanding; he came not to extinguish the weak flame but to nurse it back to a clearer and a stronger light. The most precious thing about Jesus is the fact that he is not the great discourager but the great encourager. (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 39)
Jesus did not come to crush or discourage, but to encourage and strengthen. He sees glorious possibilities in lives over which we would despair. (J. Oswald Sanders, Bible Studies in Matthew’s Gospel, 69)
He will impart strength to the weak, to all who while pining away ask him for help. He will heal the sick (4:23-25; 9;34; 11:5; 12:15), seek and save tax-collectors and sinners (9:9, 10), comfort mourners (5:4), cheer the fearful (14:13-21), reassure doubters (11:2-6), feed the famished (14:13-21), and grant pardon to those who repent of their sins (9:2). He is the true Immanuel. (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 522)
The servant will serve people who look like they are about to be snapped off or snuffed out–the “good for nothing,” we might call them, “the losers,” “the marginalized.” To those sorts of people from among the “nations” or “Gentiles” (non-religious elite Jews–shall I put it that way?) and from those who keep breaking pharisaical Sabbath laws (because such laws are too heavy, too burdensome). (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 323)
We creatures, we jolly beggars, give glory to God by our dependence. Our wounds and defects are the very fissures through which grace might pass. It is our human destiny on earth to be imperfect, incomplete, weak, and mortal, and only by accepting that destiny can we escape the force of gravity and receive grace. Only then can we grow close to God.
Strangely, God is closer to sinners than to “saints.” (By saints I mean those people renowned for their piety—true saints never lose sight of their sinfulness.) As one lecturer in spirituality explains it, “God in heaven holds each person by a string. When you sin, you cut the string. Then God ties it up again, making a knot—and thereby bringing you a little closer to him. Again and again your sins cut the string—and with each further knot God keeps drawing you closer and closer.” (Philip Yancey ; What’s so Amazing About Grace?, 273)
Many of us pray, Lord make me stronger and stronger so I can become more patient and less vulnerable to sin. When in reality we need to ask the Lord to make us weaker and weaker. It is US that is the problem. Why in the world would we want to make US stronger. We should instead want to kill the sinful nature in us. Think about when you are least likely to think lustful, sinful thoughts. It is not when you are strong and life is going well. It is when you are fasting or when you are sick with pneumonia, mono or some other terrible disease that weakens us. It is when we are weak that helps to kill the sexual, sinful desires in you. We should therefore be concerned with asking the Lord to make us weaker and weaker, not stronger and stronger. —Pastor Keith
The hand of Christ is strong enough to uphold the heavens, and gentle enough to wipe away our tears. —William Barclay (Matt Redman, The Unquenchable Worshiper, 67)
In diseased bodies, if all ill humors be purged out, you shall purge life and all away. Therefore, though God says that he will ‘refine them as silver is refined’ (Zech 13:9), yet he said he had ‘refined thee, but not with silver’ (Isa 48:10), that is, not so exactly as that no dross remains, for he has respect to our weakness. Perfect refining is for another world, for the world of the souls of perfect men. (Richard Sibbes, The Bruised Reed, 25)
This is a picture of a gentle Servant Messiah, who will not brazenly demand allegiance with his proclamation of justice but will gently and humbly invite those who are the most in need (11:28-30). The double metaphor of a bruised reed and smoldering wick emphasizes that the Servant will expire because of misuse–pictures that find relevance in the harassed and helpless (9:36) and the wary and burdened (12:28) who are being oppressed not only by the foreign invading forces of Rome but also by the legalistic burdens from Israel’s religious establishment. (Michael J. Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, 445)
A reed was used for measuring and for support, so that once its straightness was lost by bending or cracking it was of no further use. A strip of linen cloth used as a lamp wick, if it smokes, is of no use for giving light and is simply a source of pollution; it is in danger of going out altogether. Common sense would demand that both be replaced, the reed being snapped and discarded or burned and the wick extinguished. The imagery thus describes an extraordinary willingness to encourage damaged or vulnerable people, giving them a further opportunity to succeed which a results-oriented society would deny them. The servant will not be quick to condemn and to discard, but will persevere until God’s purpose of “justice” has been achieved. (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 472-3)
Smoking flax represents something that has lost its usefulness. In Bible times flax was used for wicks in shallow earthen oil lamps; flax allowed light to shine. But when it smoldered instead, it produced fumes that caused eyes to smart. (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 231)
Gentleness is meaningful when it is exhibited by one who is powerful and strong. —Pastor Keith
IV- Jesus is the Lord’s Servant doing God’s work bringing salvation to the whole world. (12:21; see also: Isa 42:4; Mt 28:19-20; Lk 19:10; Jn 3:16; 1 Tim 1:15)
Self-righteous service picks and chooses whom to serve. Sometimes the high and powerful are served because that will ensure a certain advantage. Sometimes the low and defenseless are served because that will ensure a humble image. True service is indiscriminate in its ministry. It has heard the command of Jesus to be the “servant of all” (Mk 9:35). Brother Francis of Assisi notes in a letter, “Being the servant of all, I am bound to serve all and to administer the balm-bearing words of my lord.”
Self-righteous service is affected by moods and whims. It can serve only when there is a “feeling” to serve (“moved by the Spirit” as we say). Ill health or inadequate sleep controls the desire to serve. True service ministers simply and faithfully because there is a need. It knows that the “feeling to serve” can often be a hindrance to true service. The service disciplines the feelings rather than allowing the feeling to control the service. (Richard J. Foster, Celebration of Discipline, 129)
Jesus cares a lot about people who don’t have a Ph.D., don’t own golf clubs, and don’t drive a late model car. Jesus cares about the boring people in your town, the sick and the mentally retarded, and the people on welfare. Because he cares about them, they–and not merely the upwardly mobile types–are the truly important people of this world. (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 241)
A Christian is the most free lord of all, and subject to none; a Christian man is the most dutiful servant of all, and subject to everyone. — Martin Luther
Worship Point: The reason why our worship is pathetic in the West is because we are clueless as to what the world would be like without Jesus’ influence. Just wait a little longer. You’ll get your chance.
Gospel Application: Jesus paid it all. All to Him I owe. Sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow.
Did you ever think that when you became a Christian you made an announcement to the world that you are screwed up, desperately needy and weak, and horribly sinful? Jesus didn’t come for well people . . . He is only the Great Physician for really sick people. That’s why we ran to him. And Luther said that the definition of sanctification is “getting used to being forgiven.” (Steve Brown; July 2007 Key Life Newsletter)
It is not possible for men to be well-pleasing to God unless they come to Him through His Son, with whom He is well-pleased. (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 297)
Perhaps the most difficult task for us to perform is to rely on God’s grace and God’s grace alone for our salvation. It is difficult for our pride to rest on grace. Grace is for other people—for beggars. We don’t want to live by a heavenly welfare system. We want to earn our own way and atone for our own sins. We like to think that we will go to heaven because we deserve to be there. (R.C. Sproul “Suffering and Merit” Tabletalk, Vol. 13, No. 1; February 1989, 5)
Spiritual Challenge: Look to Jesus. Get to know Jesus. Be a servant like Jesus. Change the world like Jesus did.
Jesus called his followers to live the cross-life. “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mk 8:34). He flatly told his disciples, “If any one would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all” (Mk 9:35). When Jesus immortalized the principle of the cross-life by washing the disciples’ feet, he added, “I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you” (Jn 13:15). The cross-life is the life of voluntary submission. The cross-life is the life of freely accepted servanthood. (Richard J. Foster, Celebration of Discipline, 116)
The true servant of the people is the man who preaches realizable ideals; and who then practices what he has preached. (Theodore Roosevelt, Fear God and Take Your Own Part, 24)
“The Son of Man has come unto the world to take upon Himself the sins of the world. If you want to follow Him you must be willing to do the same.” (Jesus of Nazareth movie).