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# 51: 3-12-19 1

Matthew 12:15-21
The Servant of the LORD

Matthew recorded two occasions upon which the religious rulers accused Jesus about working on the
Sabbath. The first concerned the disciples of Jesus, who were plucking grain in a field and eating it on the
Sabbath. As Lord of the Sabbath, Jesus judged His disciples to be guiltless; they were free on the Sabbath
to partake of the provision God naturally made, as they ministered with Jesus.

In the next confrontation with the Pharisees, Jesus showed it was also permitted to heal on the Sabbath -
that the action of Love overruled any need to rest. And Jesus went still further - stating that it was lawful to
do good on the Sabbath, in general - any action of good, was permitted. This would have completely
violated the legal sensibilities of the Pharisees.

But this statement of Jesus had greater ramifications. The Pharisees were the self-appointed keepers of the
Law, and teachers of the Jews. The Law, and their interpretation of it, was the source of their influence,
with the people.

For Jesus to challenge their teaching was to undermine the authority of the Pharisees with the people -
which was a threat to their power over the people - and therefore to their lofty position, in Jewish society.

Following the confrontation over healing on the Sabbath, the Pharisees went out from their own synagogue
- for the authority of Jesus’ teaching on the subject was established by the miraculous healing. We’ll
continue in the passage now, starting back in verse 14, with the Pharisees.

[Matthew 12:14-21]

Last time, we discussed what Matthew might have meant, about the Pharisees destroying Jesus. Although
these local Pharisees would have had little civil power, they certainly could destroy the reputation of Jesus.

But then we read that when Jesus knew of what they were plotting, He withdrew from the region. This
suggests further that the Pharisees were actually contemplating taking the law into their own hands - to put
Jesus to death. Here is a glaring example of their religious hypocrisy - upholding the Law, when it suited
their purposes; ignoring the Law when it didn’t.

How interesting - that Jesus withdrew Himself. Was He avoiding this further confrontation with the
Pharisees? Yes - He definitely was. Why would that be? He just had two confrontations with them, but
now, He withdraws. What’s the difference? The difference would be in what the Father is directing Jesus
to do.

The Pharisees provoked the first two confrontations, and Jesus engaged them, laying out His argument
against their thinking - which brought God’s thinking to light, and revealed the Pharisee’s thinking to be
contrary to God - for the people to see.
But what about this new potential confrontation? The sense is that it would be, not a war of words, but a
physical confrontation - with the goal of the Pharisees being to put Jesus to death.

This was not the time - nor the place - nor the way - for the ministry of Jesus to come to its end. His hour
had not yet come. And until it came, Jesus would continue to follow the leading of His Father, in perfect
obedience - in order to fulfill all righteousness.
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You may remember that this withdrawing of Jesus - avoiding an unnecessary confrontation - was just what
He had taught His own disciples to do. Turn back to Matthew chapter 10. Jesus had been giving His
twelve apostles instructions before they went out to preach the gospel of the kingdom.

[Matthew 10:16] The instructions Jesus was giving pertained especially to when the apostles went out
preaching the gospel after the death of Jesus, and enmity began to rise up against their message.

The unbelieving Jews in particular would seek to destroy them. Therefore, they must be as wise as serpents
are - who flee from their enemies and hide, when they are pursued.

But also, the disciples must be as harmless as doves - not provoking the opponents of the gospel
unnecessarily, and avoiding direct confrontations, as they can - without compromising their message, of

[Return to Matthew 12]

This is exactly what we see Jesus doing, here; He is avoiding an unnecessary and dangerous confrontation
with the Pharisees. Then, notice in verse 15 that when Jesus withdrew, the crowds continued to follow
Him. So He continued His ministry of preaching, teaching and healing.

The way in which Matthew words this creates the sense of a division that has come, between the Pharisees
and Jesus - they went out, and He withdrew; and the people, at this time, follow Jesus.

So this crowd was following Jesus - and Jesus was healing all who are brought to Him. Yet as He did so,
Jesus warned them not to make Him known.

But Matthew has indicated earlier in His gospel that great multitudes were already following Jesus, from
Galilee, Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and beyond the Jordan - and that His fame went throughout all Syria
(Matt 4:24-25). It seems that Jesus was already very well known - and that was earlier than this point in
time. So what did Jesus mean, not to make Him known?

We have actually encountered similar instruction by Jesus twice before, in Matthew’s gospel; with the
healing of the leper (Matt 8:4) and of the two blind men (Mt 9:30). Yet people could not help but to see
that these men were all healed, and it would have been known that Jesus had done so, without the healed
men uttering even a word. What Jesus was instructing then, as now, was to not make Him known as the

But isn’t this just why Jesus came; to reveal Himself as the Messiah of Israel, their Savior? Yes; but that
revelation must be made, according to the Father’s perfect timing, and in His perfect way.

A sensational rise in the popularity of Jesus would provoke severe backlash on the part of the religious
rulers - exactly what Jesus was seeking to avoid here. Or it could even be viewed as an insurrectionist
threat by Rome - which would be sure to bring the government’s iron-fisted response. Only God could
orchestrate the delicate balance required, in time and place, in revealing Jesus to be Israel’s Messiah.

These trends of Jesus - to withdraw from confrontation, and to conceal His messianic identity - would have
been rather confusing to the Jews, in that day. Why is that? Because of the concept that the Jews
maintained, of the Messiah.
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Prophecies concerning Messiah are scattered throughout the psalms and the prophets - in addition to the
many pictures of Him in the ceremonial Law as well as the historical accounts. In them, Messiah can be
seen in two vastly different ways: as a vicariously suffering Servant, and as a conquering King.

The OT Scriptures did not reveal that this difference was due to the fact that Messiah would come twice to
the earth, with a different overall purpose each time. This is something that would not begin to become
evident until after the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus.

Jewish scholars had difficulty reconciling these two profiles of Messiah, in one person. And frankly, the
Jews didn’t like the concept of a Messiah who would suffer, on their behalf.

In fact, it is said they found it downright embarrassing - for what need had they of a suffering Messiah?
After all, they kept the Law - and when they didn’t, they just offered God some sacrifices - wasn’t that how
it was supposed to work?

So many of the Jewish rabbis began to apply the passages concerning the suffering Servant to the nation
Israel; for the nation is also sometimes mentioned by Isaiah to be the LORD’s servant.

By the time of Jesus, most of the Jews believed that only those prophecies from their Scriptures which
spoke of a conquering King referred to their Messiah. Messiah would come and deliver Israel from all of
their oppressors, who would then be judged by Him. In that day, Israel would be exalted as the head nation
over all the other nations, through their Messiah.

And those prophecies that spoke of the Servant who would suffer - on behalf of all mankind - were
categorically ignored, or applied to others - most often, to Israel themselves.

Of course, most of what the nation suffered was self-inflicted. It was due to their sin; to their unbelief in
the LORD; unbelief in the One whom He would send. The Servant of the LORD would be afflicted by others
- and not for His own sin - He had none - but for the sins of those He came to save.

Keep in mind that Matthew wrote his gospel at a time when all of the prophecies concerning the suffering
Servant of the LORD had come into their fulfillment - with the first coming of Jesus, to the earth, and His
death on behalf of both Jews and Gentiles.

But Matthew’s gospel was initially intended for a Jewish audience, many of whom were still under the
common misconception of Messiah in that day. The non-confrontational ministry of Jesus and His
avoidance of popular acclaim would not have fit with their concept of Messiah as the conquering King,
according to the OT prophecies they focused on.

Matthew knew by this time that Jesus would fulfill those prophecies in His second coming. But for now,
Matthew sought to convince His immediate audience that the conduct of Jesus very much fit OT prophecies
of Messiah - specifically as the Servant of the LORD.

Matthew turned to Isaiah’s prophecies to bring forth this proof. This is what we see in verses 18-21, which
Matthew took from Isaiah 42:1-4.

Isaiah was given four elaborate prophecies of the Messiah as Jehovah’s Servant. These are known as the
Servant Songs. I’m just going to list them out for you, here; it’s a great study you can do on your own.
They are Isaiah 42:1-7; 49:1-7, 50:4-11, 52:13-53:12.
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We’re going to take a look at this prophecy quoted by Matthew as it is found in Isaiah. But first, we’ll take
a quick look at three other passages about a different servant. This servant is Israel.

Turn to Isaiah chapter 41. This was a prophecy given to Isaiah about Cyrus the great of Persia, who would
conquer Babylon and permit the Jews to return from exile to Jerusalem. The LORD is addressing the
remnant of the nation who would believe the LORD to return to the land.

[Isaiah 41:8-10] As the prophecy continues, it is clear that it will also have a far-fulfillment in the last days,
when Jesus will return and deliver the believing remnant of Israel at the end of the Great Tribulation,
gathering them from the ends of the earth into the land promised to their forefather Abraham and his seed.

But the whole nation Israel was called to be the LORD’s servant; and that was so, from the very beginning.
Turn to Isaiah chapter 44.

[Isaiah 44:1-2] Israel was made by the LORD, formed from the womb for this purpose: to be the LORD’s
servant. How was Israel to serve Jehovah? By enlightening the other nations, that in their darkened
thinking had rejected the LORD, way back when they were mere families, on the plain of Shinar - at Babel
(Gen 11:1-9).

The purpose of Israel as the LORD’s servant was to hold out the light of truth to the Gentiles - concerning the
LORD, and the One He was sending to save mankind - the Holy One of Israel.

You may remember that Matthew had recorded Jesus as calling the Jews the light of the world, and the salt
of the earth (Matt 5:13-15). This is because the LORD had given Israel the Scriptures, the Word of God,
which enlightens men and preserves the truth.

But as a nation, Israel never believed the truth of their Scriptures for themselves; therefore the salt had lost
its saltiness; and the light was hidden under the darkened basket of religion. Time and again, Israel refused
to respond to the LORD’s calling.

The LORD foretold this through the prophet Isaiah - that generation after generation, Israel would fail to
fulfill their purpose as the LORD’s servant.

Turn to Isaiah chapter 42. This prophecy actually follows the one that Matthew had quoted, concerning
Jesus. It concerns Israel - as the LORD’s disobedient servant.

[Isaiah 42:18-25]

v. 18-20 In this prophecy, the LORD is speaking, describing a blind and deaf servant who was supposed to
serve as His messenger. This servant is commanded by the LORD to hear and to see, which might at first
seem unreasonable, to us. But then we read that this servant is perfect - the idea is perfectly able, for the
LORD has made sure that this servant is perfectly equipped.

His eyes and his ears work just fine. This servant refuses to see and hear. This is a description of Israel in
their unbelief; they are unwilling to see the LORD in the revelations He has made to them; they refuse to
hear His voice, to fulfill their role as His messenger to the Gentile nations.

v. 21 The idea here is that Israel’s unbelief will not in any respect thwart the LORD’s plans. As we will see
shortly, the LORD simply raised up another Servant to fulfill His purposes. Meanwhile, Isaiah prophesies of
the LORD’s judgment on the disobedient servant, Israel.
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v. 22-25 Isaiah prophesies of the LORD’s judgment that will come upon Israel at the hand of the Gentiles,
generation upon generation, for their unbelief.

But His purpose for Israel as His servant still stands, and it will be realized in the last days, when Israel is
finally willing to submit to the LORD, and receive their Messiah. Then Israel will be the LORD’s witnesses,
throughout the Kingdom Age (Is 43:10).

Meanwhile, the LORD appointed another Servant to reach the Gentiles - who would be both the messenger,
as well as the message. Let’s look now at the first prophecy of this chapter, starting in verse 1. This is the
prophecy we find Matthew quoting in chapter 12. As the prophecy begins, it is the LORD who is speaking.

[Isaiah 42:1-7]

v. 1 A servant is one who carries out the master’s will. This is a chosen servant - elect - not unlike Israel,
in that respect - chosen to accomplish a specific purpose of the LORD. But the LORD upholds this Servant,
and delights in Him, because this Servant will be obedient to the LORD.

We see that the LORD put His Spirit, not in Him, but what? Upon Him. This speaks of an anointing, for
ministry. What is that ministry? To bring forth justice to the Gentiles. The idea here is not of a
pronouncing of judgment, but a working out of the LORD’s good purpose.

And what would be that good purpose, for the Gentiles? Salvation; the same purpose that the LORD had, for
Israel. The idea is that His salvation extends to all mankind; to the ends of the earth.

Is there any question in your mind as to who the Servant is, in this prophecy? It’s Israel’s Messiah; and
Matthew recognized its fulfillment, in Jesus.

v. 2 the LORD is indicating that His Servant will be meek. Messiah will not raise His voice, contending for
Himself. Nor will He promote Himself or His own agenda, seeking popular support; clamoring for

The Servant would be utterly submitted to the will of the Father, seeking to fulfill only God’s purposes;
never His own. Matthew showed that the withdrawal of Jesus and avoidance of publicity perfectly fulfilled
this prophecy.

v. 3 Reeds were commonly used for measuring; but they are delicate, and easily broken. Once a reed was
bruised, or crushed, most people wouldn’t wait until it was broken; they would just replace it.

Smoking flax presents the image of an oil lamp, with its strip of linen, which is then lit as a wick to provide
light. If the wick is smoking, it is no longer wicking up the oil properly. Most people would extinguish the
lamp, and replace the wick.

So what do these two images suggest, here? They suggest men in the flesh - in their weakness and
inconstancy. Messiah has not been sent to crush them, but to restore them; not to destroy them, but to save
them. This speaks of the Servant’s compassionate, merciful character - which Matthew had shown in the
conduct of Jesus, with the people, to deliver them from their sin-sickness; to forgive them.

The Servant is the Messenger - that God desires that none should perish, but that all should come to
repentance. And the Servant is the message, itself - in Him is salvation.
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v. 4 “The coastlands” is another way of describing the Gentile nations. The Gentiles “waiting for His law”
alludes to the gradual spread of the gospel.

Here is where Matthew draws the idea of justice to victory. This Servant will not fail; He will persevere,
until He has established justice in the earth.

How will the Servant establish justice - that is, how will Messiah work out the LORD’s good purpose, for
men? Through His suffering on their behalf, on the cross; that’s where He obtains the victory. Matthew
has purposed his gospel to show that salvation is not just for the Jews, but for the Gentiles; to the ends of
the earth.

This is where Matthew finishes his quotation of Isaiah, but we are going to go a little further, since the
Servant song continues.

v. 5 This is speaking of God as the - what? As the Creator. The Creator has the say over His creation; and
His purposes for His creation are always accomplished.

It is the LORD as Creator, Elohim, who now addresses the Servant.

v. 6-7 The Servant Himself is being given as a covenant to the people; given, in death. Messiah is the
covenant itself; His blood would be shed, in order to bring forth the sons of God.

The author to the Hebrews wrote, “For it was fitting for Him - God - for whom are all things and by whom
are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through
sufferings” (Heb 2:10). This is how God would obtain His righteous, ever-living sons, from His creation of

Notice what the LORD is saying, of this Servant; He will be a light to the Gentiles, to open blind eyes. What
we see is this Servant - Messiah - taking up the mission of Israel - to share the light of truth with the

We see this in the ministry of Jesus, as well as later through the members of His Body - the church. Israel
will be set aside, in the role of the servant, until such time as they are ready to enter into their calling,
through faith.

This may be why this Servant prophecy is set before that of Israel - seemingly out of order, historically
speaking. The idea is that this Servant - Messiah - has been given the preeminence, by the LORD; and
rightly so!

v. 8-9 I am the LORD - that is My name; Jehovah. No one else can claim that name - Jehovah - the name of
the one true God; the I AM; the only God who really is. He is, and they’re not! Then at the end of verse 9,
the LORD is giving a kind of proof, of who He is; what He declares through His prophets always comes to

And that is what Matthew has shown, with this prophecy - it was fulfilled, through the coming of Jesus.
Let’s take these thoughts back to Matthew now.

[Return to Matthew 12]

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You may have noticed that Matthew’s quotation does not correspond word-for-word to the passage we read
in Isaiah - which was translated from the Hebrew Scriptures.

Loose quotations from the Scriptures were common, and considered completely acceptable - as long as the
original meaning was communicated, which certainly is true of what Matthew quotes here.

Now, Matthew often quotes from the Septuagint - the Greek translation of the OT - created in Alexandria
by Hellenist Jews during the third century BC - before the time Jesus came. A few of Matthew’s words and
phrases correspond to the Septuagint, here.

But there’s one thing that Matthew didn’t quote from the Septuagint. Those Hellenist Jews had changed the
first verse of Isaiah 42 to say, “Jacob is My servant, I will help him; Israel is My chosen, My soul has
accepted him”.

Jacob and Israel are not present in the original language; it would seem that the Jews added those words,
thinking this servant passage must be about Israel. This should show us just how resistant the Jews were to
the idea that their Messiah would suffer - especially on their behalf.

There is one small but very significant deviation from the passage in Isaiah 42; it’s one particular word.
Did you notice it? In verse 18, it’s the word “Beloved”. There is no reflection of this word in the Hebrew,
nor even in the Septuagint; yet it does not in any way violate the passage.

But why did Matthew - through the Spirit - choose to insert this word, here? It almost certainly was to take
His readers back to chapter 3, of his gospel. Let’s turn there, now. We’re looking again at the baptism of
Jesus, by John.

[Matthew 3:16-17] “I have put My Spirit upon Him”. Here was the anointing of Jesus - the beloved Son of
the Father - for His ministry, as the Sin-Bearer; the Servant of the LORD. He was well-pleasing to the
Father, in His perfect obedience to Him.

This is something that Paul commented upon, after Jesus completed His work of redemption. Turn to
Philippians chapter 2. Paul was encouraging the believers in Philippi to humbly put others before
themselves. He wrote of Jesus as the perfect illustration of this.

[Philippians 2:5-11]

v. 5-8 “Form” in the Greek is “essence”. The Son was and always was, in essence, God; Deity. He did not
consider it robbery to be equal with God, which means He did not use His being God to His own
advantage. Instead, the Son used His Deity for the advantage of others; for mankind.

To do this, the Son made Himself of no reputation, which from the Greek means He emptied Himself; He
set aside His divine attributes as God, in order to take the form - the essence - of a bondservant - one who
does the will of another. The Son subordinated Himself under His Father, in order to do the Father’s will
on the earth - as the Servant of the LORD.

The Servant came in the likeness of men; never ceasing to be God, yet veiled in mortal human flesh - in
order to die, in the stead of men.
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As a man, Jesus was obedient throughout His life - perfectly right with God and with man - in order to
become the perfect sacrifice for the sins of the world, on the cross - to put sin away, forever. The Servant of
the LORD had finished the work the Father gave Him to do. Mission accomplished.

v. 9-11 First Jesus was exalted out of death, through His resurrection, in a glorified body of spirit-life - by
which God vindicated His righteous Servant. Then Jesus was exalted back to His heavenly home, to the
highest place in the universe - the right hand of the throne of God.

And there, the Father gave Him the name which is above every name. What is that name? Not Jesus; that
name was given Him at His birth. Look for the name in verse 11. It’s Lord - Jehovah. This is the name of
the supreme sovereign of the universe - to whom every knee will, in the end, bow (Is 45:23).

The Servant Song declared, “I am the LORD [Jehovah], that is My name; and My glory I will not give to
another” (Is 42:8).

Yet God honored the glorified Jesus through this sharing of His name in a unique and personal way - shared
with His Servant, His Beloved Son, through whom all the Father’s purposes were accomplished - to His

Reading: Matthew 12:22-37; Mark 3:22-30; Lk 11:14-23; Isa 49:24-26