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Saturday, March 8, 2014

Jesus, The Suffering Servant


Jesus, the Suffering Servant

More of Matthew 12


It wasn’t fair!  Jesus traveled around Israel causing the lame to walk and the blind to see while healing thousands of people and still the religious leaders did not recognize Him as the Son of God and instead they hassled Him every step of the way.  No matter what He did these Pharisees and priests criticized Jesus continually and schemed to put Him to death.  


Instead of facing the religious leaders and getting into more trouble, Jesus would leave the towns where they were angry with Him and quietly slip away and go some place else.  And He would tell the people He healed not to tell anyone that they had been healed by Him so that the religious leaders would not get even angrier. Jesus was gracious and unpretentious throughout His ministry while suffering terrible prejudice and persecution from the religious establishment.  But why did Jesus put up with all of this since He is the Son of God? Why didn’t He use His power and might to stop these evil men and punish them for persecuting Him?


Seven hundred years before Jesus came to earth, the prophet Isaiah foretold that Jesus would be a gentle servant the first time He came.  The Bible records Isaiah’s words, given to him by God:  “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.  He will not quarrel nor cry out.  Nor will anyone hear His voice in the streets.  A bruised reed He will not break.  And a smoking flax He will not quench.  Till He sends forth justice to victory.  And in His Name Gentiles will trust.”  (Isaiah 42:1-4) 


Matthew quotes these verses from Isaiah as one more prophecy in the Bible that points to Jesus as being the “chosen One sent from God to declare justice to the Gentiles.  And in whom the Gentiles will trust.”  Jesus was indeed proclaimed to the Gentiles (as Isaiah’s prophecy foretold) and billions of Gentiles down through the ages have learned to trust in His Name.  And Christianity has spread around the world.


 From studying the Scriptures, the Jewish people believed that God would send a Messiah or a Savior someday and they were waiting and watching for Him to appear. The Jewish people had probably pictured their promised Messiah as coming from a wealthy family and growing up surrounding himself with important people. He would show up and astound the people as a mighty warrior on a strong showy horse waving a flashing sword, and he would have a large army with him.  They would march through the streets parading their strength and prowess and making an impact on all the people.  Then this future Messiah and his army would go out and slaughter the Romans in a bloody war and save the Jewish people from Roman rule.  And he would be their hero!  Yes, they would recognize their Messiah when he came! 


Even though Scripture mentioned that the coming Messiah would be a suffering servant, the Jewish people tried to forget that detail since it didn’t make sense to them.  So when Jesus was born in a manger and grew up to become a poor traveling preacher who hung out with publicans and prostitutes and sinners, the Jewish religious leaders did not recognize Him as their promised Messiah.  And when Jesus went about quietly serving and healing people and asking those who were healed not to tell anyone that He had healed them, the Jewish people still did not identify Him as their Savior.


They were looking for a proud imposing man of wealth to be their Messiah – a leader who could amaze them and win battles for them and save them from Rome.  A shock and awe Messiah!  And when their gentle Jesus arrived on the scene and did not even demand his own rights when the Pharisees were treating him so badly, the crowds gave up on Him as possibly being their Messiah.   He did not fit the picture of what they were looking for.   . 


 If Jesus came today most likely we would not recognize Him either!  He might not drive an expensive car or dress in designer clothes or hang out with the important people.  He probably would not do all the things one needs to do to get out and make the right impression.  After all Isaiah prophesied that He would not: “quarrel or cry out and no one would hear His voice in the streets,”  (Isaiah 42:1-4)  If He came today as a suffering servant and hid out with the homeless in a bad area of town healing folks and casting out demons, would we walk  right by and miss Him?    


The prophecy in Isaiah describes the Messiah as “Beloved” and as a “Servant”.  So the future Messiah was described as being gentle and humble.  Wouldn’t you guess that when the Jewish people were picturing what their Messiah might be like they forgot those descriptions?  And then Isaiah continues with: “A bruised reed He will not break and a smoking flax He will not quench.” (Isaiah 42:1-4)  What does that mean anyway? 


I can only guess that when Isaiah describes Jesus as the One who will not break a bruised reed or quench a smoking flax, that he is in part saying that Jesus will be gentle with people who are bruised and broken.- people who are depressed and discouraged and have no place to turn.  A smoking flax is an oil lamp that is almost out of oil.  So when Jesus deals with a person who is almost out of resources, a person who is desperate for help, Jesus will give this person the oil of gladness in exchange for their heaviness.  And instead of condemning the person caught up in a sin, Jesus will take away their sins and cover them with eternal life.  And in the end “justice will be victorious” according to the Isaiah scripture.  (Isaiah 42:1-4)


For some reason Jesus came to earth as a humble Servant, loving people and preaching the good news.  He put others first and did not try to make Himself important.  And He calls us to follow in His footsteps.  We are to take up our cross and follow Him.  We are to be clothed in His Spirit – a humble gentle Spirit.  We are to deal with the people in our lives the way Jesus dealt with the people in His life.  We are not to “break a bruised reed or quench a smoking flax.” (Isaiah 42:1-4)  Just like Jesus, we are to be gentle with people who are bruised and broken.  And we are to reach out and give help to the people who are almost out of resources and in need.  Scripture tells us that if we do something good for “the least of these, it is the same as doing something good for Jesus. (Matthew 25:40)” 


It is all important that we put on His Spirit of humility and gentleness because without it we can easily” break some bruised reeds and quench some smoking flaxes.”   Or in other words we can easily step on some of the invisible hurting people that Jesus cares about. Without a spirit of humility we can not even see them!


Are we able to follow Jesus down this humble road that He has called us to?  It’s a glorious road, but there are steep stretches and deep pot holes in it.  Can our self esteem take it when things get rough? We are not playing the world’s ego game and we will eventually be persecuted because we are not in step.  And since we try to be gentle and not rude and pushy, we will eventually be walked on. Will we turn back then?  Can we deal with the slings and slights of life and keep on going?  If we are walking with Jesus, you know something - We can!  Hallelujah!     




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