Jesus the prophesied servant, 12:15-21


Jesus has just healed a person on the Sabbath and this has not gone down well with the religious authorities. Their anger is reinforced when Jesus announces that "the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath", for which presumption "the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill" him. Leaving the district, Jesus continues his healing ministry, but of those healed he asks that "they should not make him known", AV. Matthew notes that Jesus' reluctance to engage with the Pharisees serves to fulfill scripture. Quoting from Isaiah 42 he reminds his readers that the long-promised messiah bears no resemblance to the Davidic warrior of public expectation; God's messiah is a gentle servant.

The passage

v15. Jesus, realizing that the Pharisees are plotting to kill him, defuses any possible confrontation by leaving that part of Galilee. Given that Jesus is now recognized as a great miracle-worker, many people go with him while he continues his healing ministry.

v16. As Jesus often does, he tells those he heals not to broadcast his miracles. Jesus doesn't want people to think he is just a miracle-worker, particularly the type who might lead a revolt against Rome.

v17. Jesus' unwillingness to confront the Pharisees and their plots against him, prompts Matthew to quote a passage from Isaiah's Servant Song, Isaiah 42:1-4. The quote is a free-form version of the original Hebrew.

v18. Isaiah proclaims God's words concerning his messiah, the suffering servant. The words, of course, apply to Jesus. The Servant is beloved of God the Father; he fills him with delight. The Father has appointed him to administer his righteous judgment upon all humanity. The word "judgment" always has a negative ring, but the Servant proclaims both good news and bad news; he administers the coming day of judgment (not "justice") - a day of salvation for the righteous by faith, but a day of condemnation for those who reject God's messiah.

v19-20. The qualities exhibited by the Servant explain why Jesus is unwilling to bring on a confrontation with the Pharisees. The Servant of the Lord is not strident or disputatious; his approach is not aggressive or self-assertive.

v21. In the end, the hope of salvation rests with God's Servant, a hope realized by trusting him.

Gentle Jesus meek and mild

I was watching a political debate on television and one of the commentators became quite aggressive in his criticism of the Christian Church. His main focus was on the Roman Catholic Church which, due to the failures of some of its priests, has become a target for the more strident secular critics. Such criticisms are viewed as politically correct these days and so they are very rarely challenged. Yet, on this occasion they were challenged. One of the other members of the forum, by no means an apologist for Christianity, noted that the criticisms were somewhat one-sided and that maybe he should consider putting the boot into Islam as well - the government would surly provide security protection and with a bit of luck he may live to old age!!!!

How nice it is to think that at least someone in the media takes the view that the Christian Church is not strident and disputatious, aggressive or self-assertive. How nice it is that at least someone has noted that we resemble our Lord - or should I say, at time we resemble our Lord. Jesus avoided confrontation with the Pharisees and in so doing fulfilled scripture. Isaiah said of the coming Servant of the Lord, "He will not be quarrelsome, a complainer, nor a rabble-rouser. He is so gentle that He would neither walk over anyone's feelings, nor push anyone into a corner", Matt.12:19-20, cf. Bill Junkins and Eugene Peterson.

Of course, we are constantly tempted to take on a role that bears little resemblance to the gentle Jesus, meek and mild of the New Testament. There have been many occasions throughout history when the church has been strident, disputatious, aggressive, and self-assertive, and we can be sure that we will be tempted again to stand up for our rights.

Jesus was no door-mat, but he did take on the role of a servant, and so if we would be like Jesus then let us encourage each other to take on that same servanthood. Nothing is gained through self-assertive confrontation.


1. Why did Jesus tell people not to broadcast his miracles?

2. What does the quote from Isaiah say about Jesus' ministry style?

3. Pose a confrontation situation which may be faced by a local congregation, and suggest ways of handling the situation which reflect Jesus' servanthood style.

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