Scripture: Jesus, aware of this, withdrew from there. And many followed him, and he healed them all and ordered them not to make him known. This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: “Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles. He will not quarrel or cry aloud, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets; a bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench, until he brings justice to victory; and in his name the Gentiles will hope.” Matthew 12:15-21 ESV
Observation: Having embarrassed the Pharisees by exposing their hypocrisy regarding the lawfulness of healing on the Sabbath (when they labor far more to tend their flocks), Jesus is fully aware that the Pharisees are now scheming to find grounds to execute him. Nevertheless, he continues his healing ministry with greater emphasis on keeping his Messianic identity confidential. Matthew then tells us that, once again, Jesus’ words and deeds righteously accord with the Suffering Servant Isaiah foretold (see Isaiah 21:1-4).
In doing so, Matthew contrasts the Pharisees’ hatred of Jesus (verse 14) with his gentleness (not quarreling or crying aloud; not bruising or snuffing out, verses 18-19 above) and alerts the reading audience that this divide will only widen as the time draws near for Jesus to fulfill his ministry. Indeed, when Christ strides toward Jerusalem the final time to “bring justice to victory,” he will speak boldly against the religious leaders for burdening God’s people with excessive interpretations of the law while relaxing those that resultantly gain them an advantage.
Takeaway: As mentioned in previous Daily Focus devotionals, Jesus is not playing cat and mouse about his identity with those he heals and the surrounding crowds. Rather, he must not disclose his whole identity until the time has come for his arrest and crucifixion. But given this Gospel’s dissemination thirty years later, Matthew is free to intermittently insert elements of Jesus’ Messianic mission beyond what his disciples and supplicants would have understood at that time. Indeed, citing Isaiah’s prophecy, Matthew reveals two aspects of Jesus’ purpose and scope:
- to bring justice to victory and
- hope in his name to the Gentiles.
As theologian Michael Wilkins nicely summarizes, “Matthew gives one of the clearest declarations of Jesus’ intent as Messiah: He is the gentle, Spirit-endowed, Suffering Servant, who advances a mission of justice to the nations” (NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, p.444). But justice demands an account for Jews and Gentiles alike because where the law succeeded in exposing our sins, it failed in guiding us to righteous living. Thus, Jesus enters the story and perfectly obeys the Father’s will, including “bringing justice to victory” in his substitutionary death and resurrection.
So what’s our takeaway? Live out our victory in Christ. In other words, where the law failed to rescue us from sin’s grip, Christ’s grace through our faith (which is also a gift) brings salvation (Ephesians 2:8). And his Holy Spirit continues the work of saving us from the power of sin so that we might draw near to Christ in whom we find rest for our weary souls. And here’s one last application point: the Messianic secret has expired; tell the world all about our good and gracious Savior and Lord.
Prayer: Father God, we thank you for your Son, our Suffering Servant, who has brought justice to the nations in his victory over sin’s stronghold. So would you please help us to live out our victory in Christ by faith through grace under the strength and guidance of your Holy Spirit and tell the world all about him? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling
Leave a Reply