Matthew 12:14-21

But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him. When Jesus became aware of this, he departed. Many crowds followed him, and he cured all of them, and he ordered them not to make him known. This was to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah:

“Here is 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 wrangle or cry aloud, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets. He will not break a bruised reed or quench a smoldering wick until he brings justice to victory. And in his name the Gentiles will hope.” Matthew 12:14-21

How do we make sense of Jesus?

We keep reading stories of Jesus in action. People follow him. He cures the sick. He offers encouraging words to the poor. He reminds the powerful that power comes with responsibility, not just privilege. And for all of this, he is constantly under attack by those who conspire to destroy him. How do we make sense of that?

He cures the crowds and then he tells them not to say anything to anyone about what they have seen him do. He doesn’t try to “build his brand.” He doesn’t say “LOOK AT ME!” He doesn’t “monetize his ministry.” There is nothing about Jesus that looks anything like our modern day idolatry of celebrities and the rich & famou$.” How do we make sense of that?

Matthew makes sense of Jesus by reaching back into the Jewish scriptures. He quotes from Isaiah. He sees Jesus in Isaiah’s promise of the suffering servant who has been chosen by God to reveal God’s will to the world. It is beautiful poetry but do we really listen to it? Do we notice it? Because, if we know anything at all about poetry, we know that the words were chosen with infinite care, never just slapped on the page because they may or may not rhyme.

Isaiah tells us that the servant has been chosen by God. The servant is evidence, not of the people’s readiness or eagerness to know God’s will, but evidence only of God’s choice to reveal God’s will through the life of the servant.

Isaiah tells us that the servant will bring his words, not to the synagogue or the temple or the palace but to the streets. This will be a public proclamation, not a private theological reflection. And the goal of the message is justice. Justice. Concern for the people, all of the people. Rich and poor. Insider and outsider. Concern for the quality of their lives. Concern for the basics of food, water, shelter, and peace.

The goal of such justice is healing the torn fabric of creation. It is creating human community that transcends tribe and space and time. It reaches all the way back to creation itself, to the promise to Abraham that all the peoples of the world will be blessed.

That’s how we make sense of Jesus. Everyone in favor of his goals will follow him. Everyone threatened by his goals will conspire to destroy him. No one will be able to stop him. And no one will be forced to follow him. That’s how love works and that’s how we make sense of Jesus.

Let us pray: Gracious Lord, your patience, your persistence, and your perseverance reaches down through the ages, still amazing to us. How you could continue to do nothing but good even in the face of active resistance and deadly opposition challenges us in our impatience and our fickleness. Help us see the breadth of your concern. Help us see the reach of your love, not just to the church but through the church into all that it means to be a human community rooted in justice. Keep us steadfast in our following. In Jesus’ name. Amen.


One Response to “Matthew 12:14-21”

  1. Kara Says:

    Inspired and challenging

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