The Servant-King

Posted: April 23, 2012 in Matthew

Matthew 12:15-21, “The Servant-King”

What do you do when you want to make a splash?  Some people engage in all sorts of crazy stunts to draw attention to themselves when they want to make an impression.  We might recall the “balloon boy hoax” from 2009 when a family sent up a hot air balloon & claimed their six year old son had been stuck in it.  Apparently they did it to call attention to themselves in order to get on a reality show.  They certainly received attention – and jail-time after pleading guilty to the hoax.  Yet what this family did is what many people want for themselves: they crave attention & will do virtually anything to get it.

So here comes Jesus with His miracles, proving that not only does He teach with authority, He has the power to back it up.  He’s got the attention of the Pharisees and the multitudes are following Him.  What does He do to make a splash?  He backs away.  The Pharisees are itching for a fight, but Jesus doesn’t give it to them (yet).  The people are clamoring for a hero, and Jesus tells them not to tell others about Him.  Jesus didn’t need to draw attention to Himself; He needed to fulfill the will of God.  God would take care of the rest.

The fact that Jesus was quiet about His ministry turns out to be a fulfillment of prophecy, which Matthew points out in Ch 12.  Jesus is the Anointed Messiah – the chosen of God to rule over Israel & the rest of the nations…yet He is meek and gentle, who lovingly reaches out to the world.  This is the promised Messiah: both the anointed King & the humble Servant-Son of God.

Matthew 12:15–21 (NKJV)
15 But when Jesus knew it, He withdrew from there. And great multitudes followed Him, and He healed them all.

  1. Knew what?  Withdrew from where?  Context: The Pharisees had attempted to trap Jesus by setting up a situation in which they knew that Jesus would miraculously heal a man on the Sabbath. (Amazing!  That they would understand Jesus’ power & authority, and yet STILL deny Him & attempt to destroy Him!)  Jesus did the healing, showing His full authority to rightly interpret the Law (including the law regarding the Sabbath), and ultimately showing Himself to be Lord over the Sabbath itself – something which would have been reserved only for God.  The Pharisees were furious and plotted to destroy Jesus.  So Jesus withdrew from that area with all the troubles & went elsewhere.
  2. Why would Jesus withdraw?  Was He scared of the Pharisee’s plot?  Certainly not!  Jesus did not fear them in the slightest.  This wasn’t fear; this was faithfulness to God’s plan.  The Pharisees couldn’t kill Jesus outside of the timing of God.  Even when they frequently picked up stones to kill Jesus, Jesus simply slipped out of their sight.  [“Before Abraham was, “I AM” – John 8:58-59]  Don’t miss this point.  The Jews did plot against Jesus.  Jesus WAS going to die.  He was NOT going to die according to the plotting of men, but according to the perfect plan of God.  It wasn’t the craftiness of the Jewish Pharisees, nor even the craftiness of Satan that sent Jesus to the cross; it was the plan of God. 
    1. God is absolutely sovereign.  His plan of salvation had been put into place prior to man’s fall in the Garden of Eden.  Before God even breathed life into Adam’s body, God had known Adam would sin & God had already provided for man’s salvation – Jesus had been slain before the foundation of the world.  The cross may have appeared to be chaos; it was anything but…it was the perfect plan and timing of God.
  3. Notice what Jesus kept doing even in His withdrawal: He healed people.  The Pharisees had burned with rage because Jesus had healed a man on the Sabbath and claimed to have authority to interpret the Law regarding the Sabbath (which He DOES!).  The Pharisees could threaten Jesus all they wanted, but it didn’t stop Him from ministering to people and healing them.
  4. Notice also who Jesus healed: “all.”  Anyone within the multitudes following Jesus who needed healing came to Jesus & were healed.  Although other times we have examples of who & what Jesus healed (even in general categories, such as casting out demons & cleansing lepers), here it’s completely open-ended.  The only thing we’re told is that those who were healed were following Jesus at the time. 

16 Yet He warned them not to make Him known, 17 that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, …

  1. It’s always interesting that Jesus told some people not to spread the news, yet it wasn’t an uncommon command.  (Matthew already showed one instance of this back in Ch 8 with the leper that was cleansed.)  Conventional wisdom would dictate the opposite.  After all, shouldn’t have Jesus let everyone promote His identity around Judea?  Actually, Jesus often goes against the grain when it comes to the conventional wisdom in evangelism or church growth.  We’re told today to be careful never to offend anyone in church; Jesus didn’t hesitate to call the Pharisees “white-washed tombs” & other names to convict them of their sin.  We’re told today not to make anyone uncomfortable; Jesus undoubtedly made the Samaritan woman at the well very uncomfortable when He confronted her about her 5 past husbands & her current live-in boyfriend.  We’re told to make everyone feel good about their giving & ministry-growth strategists often suggest special ways of reaching the rich; Jesus flat-out told those who bragged about their giving that a poor widow gave more than all of them, and allowed a rich young man to go away sad because he wasn’t willing to give all to Christ.  Some people today would likely have dropped their mouths & said, “Jesus – what do you think you’re doing?!  Don’t you know what that young man could have done for you?!”  Jesus wasn’t interested in superficial church-growth strategies.  He is always more interested in maturity, rather than growth.  “Growth” in itself is never really a problem.  Fungus can grow, but it can never be spiritually mature. 
    1. How are you doing in this area?  Are we men, or are we mold? J  Many Christians can check off the various areas of “growth” without actually gaining Christian maturity.  We’ve got our theology down – we’ve got our Scripture memorized – we go to Bible studies & small groups – our calendar is filled with Christian events & our radios are tuned to Christian stations…yet we’re still babes in Christ when it comes to areas such as sacrificial service, or things that lead to suffering for the Lord. May God help us grow in maturity!
  2. Here, Jesus told some people specifically not to tell others about Him.  What could possibly be gained by this?  Matthew actually gives us the specific reason: it was in fulfillment of prophecy.  The prophecy of God needed more time to come to fruition, thus Jesus told people “not to make Him known.”  Jesus came to seek and to save the lost; not to stir up a national religious debate regarding His authority.  The prophecy of Isaiah speaks of the meekness of the Messiah, how He was willing to stay quiet as He remained submitted unto God.  Jesus was not about to be distracted from His mission by the demands of the Pharisees, nor by the uproar of the people. 
  3. Interestingly enough, the prophecy in Isaiah refers more to Gentiles than to Jews – yet it was the Jews to whom Jesus was given & Jews whom Jesus warned to stay quiet.  It needed to be that way in order for the Scripture to be fulfilled.  Jesus had to first be rejected by the Jews before He would be sent to the rest of the nations.

…saying: 18 “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.

  1. Original prophecy was given in Isaiah 42:1-4.  The full context is of the introduction of the Suffering Servant in Isaiah.  Israel had been written about being in a state of despair & helplessness & God prophesies that He would send His beloved Servant who would ultimately open blind eyes, bring out prisoners from prison, and receive praise from the ends of the earth.  The theme continues in Isaiah off & on, alternately showing a mild Servant who suffers for the Lord on behalf of the people, and a victorious reigning King.  So many people were confused by this, they thought that perhaps God would send two Messiahs: (1) Messiah ben Joseph, who would suffer and be killed, and (2) Messiah ben David, who would rule from the throne of Jerusalem over all the earth.  They got it wrong.  It wasn’t to be two Messiahs; it was one Messiah that was coming twice.
  2. The Messiah is a Servant of God.  Jesus is the Son of God, yet the Son is still a servant.  He is equal with God because He IS God, yet He still willingly submits Himself to God the Father and serves Him, even as a slave.  The word used here is interesting, in that it’s not the normal word for slave (“doulos”), but a specific word designating a boy servant (“pais”), sometimes used of a slave – sometimes used to refer to someone’s own son.  The original Hebrew from Isaiah makes it clear that the original context is of a servant/slave; the inspiration of Matthew by the Holy Spirit brings in the aspect of Son-ship.  There could hardly be a better word to describe the role of the willingly submitted Son of God in His relationship to God the Father! 
    1. For those that have a tough time thinking of the Son of God as a servant to God, the Bible readily affirms this role of Jesus.  Paul writes: Philippians 2:5–8, "(5) Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, (6) who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, (7) but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. (8) And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross." []  Jesus is equal with God, yet still made Himself to be the willing slave of God.  He humbled Himself to serve in the role that God the Father had given Him, in order that He would take the form of a man, suffer the wrath of God upon the cross & die for the sins of mankind.  Paul’s point is that Jesus’ humility (His willing submission unto God) is an example for all of us to follow.  If God the Son could humble Himself, surely we can do the same.  We do not have to seek to press our own advantage, or try to find out what is going to benefit us the most, but rather we submit to God in our service of Him, gladly accepting what it is He has given us.
  3. The Messiah is chosen of God.  This is one of the main implications of the word “Messiah/Christ.”  We tend to think of the word as name, but it’s really a title in Hebrew (“Christ” being the Greek variant), that simply means “Anointed One.”  Priests and kings were physically anointed with oil (had it poured over their heads) demonstrating that they had been chosen by God, set apart for His purposes, and had the Holy Spirit come upon them for service.  To be “anointed” was to be “chosen,” by definition.  Jesus, as the Messiah, was chosen by God for a specific purpose.  The Messiah was chosen to fulfill all the promises made to Abraham, how God would bless the entire world through his line.  The Messiah was chosen to fulfill all the promises made to Moses, showing how God would speak to His people, and instruct them in the way to live.  The Messiah was chosen to fulfill all the promises made to David, to rule as the ever-reigning King of Israel, whose reign extends over the entire world.  God the Father specifically chose Jesus the Son for these things (and much more).  Everything about Jesus was done according to the plan and purposes of God.
    1. What a great assurance this is about the cross!  Nothing that happened regarding Jesus happened according to chance.  Sometimes people get the idea that perhaps God lost control over what was going on, and Satan almost won when Jesus hung upon the cross.  That’s exactly the opposite of what was going on!  God never lost control, because Jesus hung there exactly according to the will of God.  God had chosen Jesus for that purpose & chose the method in how it would happen.  Scripture tells us that it pleased the Lord to bruise Him (Isa 53:10).  This was not happenstance; this was the choice and plan of God.
    2. How glad we can be that God chose Jesus!  Truly there was no other choice, if salvation was to be offered to man.  Think about it: because of our sin, we were utterly lost & without hope.  Sure, we could try to clean ourselves up, but no work we do can ever clean us of our past.  No good deed we accomplish can ever wash the stained soul in us.  Even as born-again Christians, we still fight against our sinful flesh…and that is with the Holy Spirit dwelling inside us!  What hope did we possibly have without the grace of God?  None!  Yet God chose Jesus to make grace possible.  Without Jesus, the grace of God would have been absolutely impossible.  The forgiveness of sin requires the shedding of blood (per the Hebrew sacrificial system), yet that blood could never truly forgive sin – it could only postpone the results of the inevitable wrath of God.  God’s perfect righteousness demands that appropriate punishment be dealt out for the crime of treason and rebellion against Him (which is what “sin” is).  If the blood of bulls & goats can’t do it, then we must do it – but that means an eternity of punishment because we’ve sinned against an infinite God.  If God had not chosen Jesus, then we would be utterly lost.  But God DID choose Jesus!  And Jesus DID come, and served as the substitute in your place.  And grace is not only possible, it’s extended.  Grab hold of that grace by faith!
  4. The Messiah is beloved of God.  God the Father loves God the Son – pure & simple.  We quote John 3:16 in speaking of God’s love for the world, and we’re right to do so.  John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." []  The Bible makes it absolutely clear that God loves us, and demonstrated that love for us when He sent Jesus to the cross, while we were yet sinners against Him (Rom 5:8).  Yet with all that in mind, never forget that God the Father loves Jesus, too.  God loved the world, yes…how much?  So much that “He gave His only begotten Son.”  That statement speaks as much of God’s love for His Son as it does for His love for the world.  The fact that God was willing to allow His only Son to die on behalf of sinful man defines the scope of the love of God.  Parents, how much do you love your children?  Yet none of us would dare even consider allowing them to die for someone else that they might be saved, much less allowing them to die for someone we’d consider to be an enemy.  Where do you think your love for your children came from?  What do you believe your love for your child is modeled upon?  We are made in the image of God.  If we love our children that much, how much MORE do we think God loves Jesus?  God the Son is eternally begotten from God the Father – there had never been a moment in time in which they had been separated.  They enjoyed perfect fellowship and glory together.  And yet there would come an instant in time in which the infinite fullness of the wrath of God would have to fall upon Jesus.  THAT’s the sacrifice Jesus endured for you.  THAT’s the sacrifice the Father was willing to allow & personally endure as He had to turn His wrath upon His Son for you.  What love! 
  5. The Messiah is pleasing to God.  God the Father delights in God the Son.  Jesus is perfectly obedient to the Father & did nothing outside of His will.  It’s difficult to imagine a perfect person that never sins, and is 100% pleasing to God, yet that’s exactly who Jesus is.  Whereas Adam sinned given the opportunity, Jesus was tempted in all ways as we are, yet is absolutely without sin.  Just as any parent is delighted when his/her children obey, so is God the Father delighted with Jesus.  As the Father affirmed at Jesus’ baptism & transfiguration, this is His beloved Son, with whom He is well-pleased!
  6. The Messiah is empowered by the Holy Spirit of God.  This is what the anointing with oil would symbolize – that the Holy Spirit came upon a person, empowering them for the work God had called them to do.  Jesus as God the Son was certainly empowered by God the Spirit.  The Triune God worked perfectly together throughout Jesus’ earthly ministry in order to accomplish the plan of salvation.  We may not understand how it all worked out, but the idea is plain that the Holy Spirit came upon Jesus for His earthly ministry.  The Spirit came upon Mary to conceive the baby Jesus in her womb (Mt 1:18), the Spirit led Him into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil (Lk 4:2), the Spirit gave Him power to return from the wilderness into Galilee (Lk 4:14), the Spirit came upon Jesus to anoint Him to preach the gospel to the poor (Lk 4:18), the Spirit was at work to raise Jesus from the dead (Rom 8:11), and likely much more in ways we’re never told.
    1. Just as Jesus was empowered by the Holy Spirit for the work of the ministry, so can we be empowered by the Spirit, in much the same way…that’s the promise of Pentecost.  The disciples already had the Spirit indwelling them after Jesus’ resurrection (Jn 20:22), yet it was at Pentecost when the Spirit came upon them, giving them power for the work of witnessing – just as Jesus had promised would happen (Acts 1:8).  We need the power of God to do the work of God, and the Bible not only declares that power available to every believer in Christ Jesus, it gives a command to be continually filled with the Spirit for that power (Eph 5:18).
  7. The Messiah will declare the justice of God.  There are two ideas here closely related.  (1) The Messiah will render the judgment of God upon the nations of the world, and (2) the Messiah will share/proclaim the judgments of God with the rest of the world.  In the first idea, the Messiah sits as the judge; in the 2nd the Messiah acts as a teacher.  Both are absolutely true.  The Lord Jesus certainly will judge the nations.  Every single human throughout all history will stand before God at His great white throne & if their name is not found written in the Lamb’s book of life, they will be judged according to their works & cast into the lake of fire (Rev 20:15).  At the same time, the Lord Jesus declares the righteous judgment of God to the entire world as He preached the gospel in His earthly ministry, and works through the Scripture & the Church to declare the good news to the rest of the world in the centuries that followed.  Either way, the judgment of God is made known.  He will both sit in judgment, and He’s taught how that judgment can be met in Himself.

19 He will not quarrel nor cry out, Nor will anyone hear His voice in the streets.

  1. The Messiah is at peace. The Pharisees were looking to pick a fight – they were seething with rage and looking for any excuse to kill Jesus.  The Messiah wasn’t willing to quarrel with them.  Certainly He didn’t hold back on His condemnation of them (just wait until Ch 23!), but He wasn’t going to engage in any petty arguments with them.  After Jesus’ arrest, King Herod tried to get Jesus to do miracles-upon-command, as if the Son of God was a trained monkey just waiting to perform tricks.  (Just to be clear: God does not TAKE orders from anyone.  He’s GOD.)  Herod got upset because Jesus remained silent.  Jesus wasn’t going to argue with a fool – neither would He argue with the Pharisees.  It wasn’t worth it & it wouldn’t accomplish anything.
    1. Quarrelling rarely accomplishes anything for us either, except increasing our blood pressure.  The Bible tells us “a soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger,” (Pr 15:1).  Likewise, “scoffers set a city aflame, but wise men turn away wrath,” (Pr 29:8).  When people attempt to start an argument, wisdom would have us turn away from engaging in it.  Far better to work to solve a problem than to just make it worse with a bunch of hastily spoken words.
    2. Why could Jesus act in such peace?  Because He was submitted to the will of God.  It didn’t matter what people said about Him or did around Him because He was doing exactly what God had given Him to do.  Likewise for us.  When we know we’re in the will of God, it doesn’t matter what others might do or say to us.  Why get upset & argumentative?  If we’re doing the will of God, we ought to be at peace with what God has allowed us to experience.
  2. The Messiah is discreet.  It’s interesting that there’s such a large contrast with John the Baptist here.  John the Baptist was the voice crying out in the wilderness, “Prepare the way for the Lord!”  Jesus would not cry out & people would not hear His voice.  Obviously there’s a bit of poetic license here.  People did hear His voice (otherwise, how could He preach to 5000 people & feed them the loaves & fish?); the idea here is that He would not purposefully call a lot of attention to Himself.  The common expectation for the Messiah as the Son of David would be that the Messiah King would come as a conquering hero, rallying the people to His side & driving out the Romans.  Yet that’s not what Jesus did at all in His 1st coming.  People certainly heard about Him, but they didn’t hear about Him in the way they might have expected.  Jesus quietly went about the work of God & did not exalt Himself, but let God be the One to exalt Him instead.

20 A bruised reed He will not break, And smoking flax He will not quench, Till He sends forth justice to victory;

  1. The Messiah is meek.  People tend to confuse meekness with weakness, but they are not at all the same thing.  Meekness has often been described as “strength under control,” and that is very fitting, especially in regards to Christ.  He is (after all), God – the strongest Being in the entire universe.  Jesus wasn’t merely present at Creation, Jesus was actively involved in that all things were created through Him & nothing was made that is made.  God spoke the universe into existence, and it simply existed.  THAT’s power!  BTW – not only did Jesus create the world, but the very reason the world still exists is because Jesus wills it to be so.  Every single atom in every bit of matter throughout the universe is held together by the will and desire of God.  The extent of Jesus’ power is simply unfathomable.  And yet, Jesus didn’t wipe out the Pharisees with a thought.  He didn’t blink Satan out of existence.  That’s not weakness; that is chosen restraint…that is meekness.  Isaiah prophesied that the Messiah wouldn’t break a bruised reed, or quench out a lamp that is almost completely gone.  In the original context, that seems to be a reference to the nation of Israel, completely weakened & in a state of captivity (historically speaking) or at a point of utter weakness (prophetically speaking).  The slightest act could bring total destruction, and yet the Messiah takes utmost care to ensure that the reed remains whole & that the lamp is not put out.  Gentle restraint exercised with the utmost caution.  Thus a remnant of Israel is left until the day that God heals them of their spiritual blindness & they see our Messiah for who He is.  The meekness of Jesus paves the way for Israel to know the power of the grace of God.
    1. Aren’t you glad that your Savior is gentle & meek?  Were it not so, there would be no way we could ever approach God.  He’s too mighty & awesome & terrible (in the proper sense of the word).  He’s far too holy & we’re far too sinful to even conceive of such a thing.  In our sinful state, just to gaze upon the glory of God would spell out certain doom.  And yet…because we cannot approach God, God approaches us.  Because we cannot stand in His sight, God restrains His power & lifts us up in gentleness and love.  That’s grace.
  2. The Messiah is victorious.  Jesus may be meek, but He can certainly never be defeated.  What a glorious contrast!  Jesus will not break the bruised reed, but He will crush the head of the serpent.  He will not quench the smoking flax, but with the sword that comes out of His mouth, He will utterly defeat the armies of Antichrist.  He is gentle & lowly at heart, yet He takes the sting out of death & the victory away from the grave.  Our Messiah is victorious!

21 And in His name Gentiles will trust.”

  1. The Messiah is Savior for the entire world.  Does Jesus proclaim judgment?  Yes.  But judgment is not the only thing Jesus offers.  He offers grace & salvation.  So much so, that even the Gentile nations around the world can place their trust in the Jewish Messiah and receive the same promises & blessings as the nation of Israel.  We too can be brought into covenant relationship with God.  We too can have our sins forgiven.  We too can be made the sons & daughters of God, be indwelt with the Holy Spirit, receive power for living this life today, receive the promise of eternal life in the future, and much more!  Isaiah prophesied that all the nations would trust the name of the Messiah – that all the world would see Him as the King & recognize Him as such. 
  2. How true that is!  One day every knee will bow & every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.  It WILL happen for every person.  The question of WHEN it will happen is determined by whether or not our faith is in Christ in this life.  ALL the Gentiles will know Jesus as Lord eventually – do YOU know Him as Lord today?

What a glorious description of our Savior!  Our Jesus is the long-awaited Messiah of Israel: the Beloved Son chosen by God the Father, empowered by God the Spirit, declaring the word of God in the gentle meekness today, with the promise of a victorious kingdom in the future.  We see Jesus described in His first coming, and promised in His second – both the Suffering Servant and the Victorious King.  This is the Savior who has been given unto the world, the One in whom all peoples can trust in order to be received into the kingdom of God.

Is this who Jesus is to you?  To the Pharisees who plotted against Him, Jesus was a cause of contention – an obstacle that had to be removed, despite all of the proofs of His power.  To the multitudes that followed Him, Jesus brought healing that could come no other way.  Yet surely there were even some among the multitudes that would eventually fall away.  Many people followed Jesus for a time, glad for the miracles, but hesitant to bend their knee in worship and service to the King of kings.  But those who truly see Jesus as the true Messiah of God see Him as the Loving King – the Lord of all the Universe worthy of our worship, and still extending gentle grace to all who receive Him.

If you belong to Christ today, look upon your Savior anew.  See Him in the light of the love of His Father, the meekness of His person, and the victory of His future.  How easy it is to lose sight of our glorious Lord Jesus!  We get so hung up on the day-to-day grind that our walks with our Lord become routine & we take so much for granted.  We wake up & eventually get to our Bible reading (yawn!) – we mutter a prayer at the breakfast table (ho-hum!) – we go about our day hardly giving Jesus a 2nd thought until it’s time to eat again, etc.  God forbid that we take our blessed Lord for granted in this way!  May we always be in awe of the Messiah, forever grateful of the privilege to even know Him at all, much less be brought into forever relationship with Him by His blood.


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