Jesus, the Servant of God – Matthew 12:15-21; Mark 3:7-12

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Pastor Scott L. Harris

Grace Bible Church, NY

November 3, 2013

Jesus, the Servant of God

Matthew 12:15-21; Mark 3:7-12


Ask people how they can achieve success in our society and among the answers will be “having power.” We live in a world in which having power is seen as being of the utmost importance. In business, in politics, and even in social clubs, having power is key to getting things changed to the way you want them. We should keep in mind that the push by certain groups for “their rights” is not about equality, but about gaining power.

Many people will do almost anything in the quest to attain power. In the business world there are many people that are more than happy to step upon their co-workers as they climb the corporate ladder of power. Some people have little problem in compromising their personal integrity in order to achieve the next higher level. In social circles, pandering is used in order to get close to those in power while gossip is used to strike down the competition and those who have power. Politics is filled with those who will say anything in order to get elected. All of us are aware of elections in which the victor was the one who could lie the loudest and the longest. The truth is unimportant to them in comparison to winning the seat of power.

When people of such low character do achieve the position of power they are after, the situation becomes even worse. They become self-important. They look down on those they have power over and they rant against their opponents.

Now there is nothing wrong with Christians rising to seats of power in any field as long as they use that power properly. However, there is great danger for Christians to gain and use that power according to the world’s example. The sad fact is that power can and often does have a corrupting influence even on Christians. History is filled with examples of people being mistreated and abused by those who claimed to be Christians. That is the opposite of the example the Lord Jesus left us. Jesus had all power available to him, yet His example is that of a gentle servant.

Turn to Matthew 12:15-21. Jesus is the example for every Christian to follow, in fact, to be a Christian is to be someone who is a disciple, a follower Christ. The term means to be a little Christ and it was first used of the disciples of Jesus in Antioch (Acts 11:26). In following Jesus’ example we find that attaining positions of worldly power does not define success for a Christian. Even when God does put a Christian in such a position, success is not determined by having the position and power but in being a faithful servant of the omnipotent God. Jesus never attained any position of worldly power and He never sought such a position. Jesus was God’s chosen servant who was merciful, gentle, meek, quiet, and sympathetic. He was also unlimited to whom He would minister to as God’s representative.

Follow along as I read our text. “But Jesus, aware of this, withdrew from there, And many followed Him, and He healed them all, and warned them not to make Him known, in order that what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet, might be fulfilled, saying, ‘BEHOLD, MY SERVANT WHO I HAVE CHOSEN; MY BELOVED IN WHOM MY SOUL IS WELL-PLEASED; I WILL PUT MY SPIRIT UPON HIM, AND HE SHALL PROCLAIM JUSTICE TO THE GENTILES. HE WILL NOT QUARREL, NOR CRY OUT; NOR WILL ANYONE HEAR HIS VOICE IN THE STREETS. A BATTERED REED HE WILL NOT PUT OUT, UNTIL HE LEADS JUSTICE TO VICTORY. AND IN HIS NAME THE GENTILES WILL HOPE.'”


Matthew 12:15 sets us back in the context of this passage. “But Jesus, aware of this, withdrew from there.” This refers to the plot that was being put together by the Pharisees and the Herodians to develop some plan by which they could destroy Jesus. At this point in Jesus’ ministry, a severe antagonism has arisen between Him and the Jewish religious leaders because Jesus refused to follow their legalistic traditions. They had developed a plethora of regulations that circumvented the Law of Moses and replaced it with their own rules. The word of man superseded the Word of God so that the rule of God was exchanged for the rule of man. Their Sabbath rules turned a holy day that was created for man’s benefit and refreshment in ceasing from weekly labor and focusing on the worship of God into a day burdened with regulations that made it difficult to carry out normal activities of life. Their rules also turned them into heartless people lacking even basic compassion.

Back in the beginning of Matthew 12, the Pharisees came criticizing Jesus because he had allowed His disciples to pick and eat some of the ripe grain that was in the fields through which they were walking. What the disciples did was in complete accord with the Mosaic Law (Deuteronomy 23:24-25), but it was against the traditions of the Rabbis. Jesus had admonished them that they were unjustly accusing the innocent of breaking the Sabbath, because not only should they have been aware from their history that history that the law could be breached, as in the example of David given in Matthew 12:3-4, but also that the law had exceptions, as seen in Matthew 12:5 which points out the duties of the priest. In addition, God’s desire and the very purpose of the law was compassion, not ritual (Matthew 12:7). Furthermore, Jesus said that He was the Lord of the Sabbath.

We need to keep in mind that legalism is a killer. It is a killer of God’s law, a killer of man’s spirit, and a killer of man being able to walk with God. Legalism is exchanging the rule of God for the rule of man and following man’s dictates rather than the Holy Spirit’s conviction. We still have it around today and it manifests itself in its hypocritical nature just as it did back then. It is man’s self-righteous nature that proclaims, “I am good because I do not go to movie theaters,” though that same person will purchase or rent the same movies watch on DVD. The legalist will proclaim, “I am righteous because I don’t drink,” yet does not think anything is amiss in taking other drugs to stay on an even keel and to sleep at night. The self righteous man says, “I am holy because I do not smoke,” yet he has such a strong addiction to caffeine that no one wants to be around him until after he gets his first cup of coffee. Still another may boast, “I am virtuous because I attend all the church meetings,” but he ignores most of what he has been taugh,t and his life apart from when he is at church reflects the world more than God. Legalism is dangerous!

Jesus would not bend to the legalism of His day. He proclaimed Himself Lord of the Sabbath which equated Himself with God and the Pharisees knew it. That point is crucial to emphasize in order to understand the contrast to it of Him choosing to be a servant. Jesus is God in human flesh and the conflict between Him and the Pharisees is as much about this as it is His breaking their Sabbath regulations. They were adamant that Jesus could not be a righteous person if He was breaking the Sabbath, and if was
not righteous, then His claims of deity would be false. They would not only be free to oppose Him, they would have to oppose Him as the religious leaders responsible for protecting the people from false teachers. However, they had one major problem. Jesus is God the Son and therefore equal with the Father and He kept proving it. We saw this already when He had a similar conflict with the Pharisees in Jerusalem after healing the lame man at Bethesda on a Sabbath. Jesus was clear in His proclamation that He was equal with God and only doing God’s work even on a Sabbath. In fact, Jesus made it clear that He was in complete submission to the Father and only did and only taught what the Father showed Him. Jesus backed up His claim of deity by citing four witnesses: John the Baptist, His miraculous works, the Father’s testimony and the Scriptures. They would not believe Jesus because they would not believe any of these.

The conflict here in Matthew 12 is in reality a continuation of the earlier conflict that had occurred in Jerusalem. In Matthew 12:9-13, Jesus proves His claim to be ruler over the Sabbath by purposely breaking their legalistic traditions which declared that healing was work and therefore breaking the Sabbath. Jesus rebuked them and proved that it was in keeping with the Mosaic Law to do good on the Sabbath which would include healing. He then demonstrated true compassion by healing the man with the withered hand. They should have filled with awe and rejoiced over the good thing done for this man. Instead, they were blinded by their legalism and became incensed that Jesus did it on the Sabbath in violation of their rules. Jesus would not submit Himself to the regulations of man that were against the Law of God. So instead of giving praise to God for the miracle performed and its proof that the promised Messiah was present with them, the Pharisees, the legalistic religious traditionalists, joined together with the irreligious Herodians, their normal enemies who followed the Greek / Roman culture and were political supporters of King Herod. Together they plotted how they might destroy Jesus.

Someone who was seeking after worldly power would have used the advantage just won in the rebuke of the Pharisees to rally the support of the people and put an end to them. Instead, we find that Jesus is aware of their plotting and withdraws from there. Jesus is not after the acclaim of the people and gaining the power the Pharisees held. He is interested in being the servant God called Him to be. The first characteristic we find in this passage of Jesus as a servant is that He is merciful.

A Merciful Servant

Matthew 12:15 continues, “And many followed Him, and He healed them all . . .”. Mercy is the one of the marks of godliness. As stated in Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy” (Matthew 5:7). Jesus was not seeking to a confrontation or escalating conflict if He could reasonably avoid it. Jesus had proclaimed the truth resulting in the Pharisees and Herodians plotting His destruction, and now it was time for Jesus to continue His ministry to the people. Those who recognized the compassion demonstrated in healing the man with the withered hand would come after Him. In this verse we find that Jesus’ compassion extended to all for “He healed them all.” Jesus made no demands of them and He healed all who came. If Jesus had been after earthly power, he would have extracted from them oaths of loyalty and organized them into an army that would proclaim Him throughout the land so that the Pharisees would be thoroughly discredited and no longer a threat. Instead, we find that Jesus was not only a merciful servant, He was also a meek servant.

A Meek Servant – Matthew 12:16-17

“. . . and warned them not to make Him known, in order that what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet, might be fulfilled, saying . . .”. Meekness is another characteristic of the truly righteous and is also expressed in the Beatitudes, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5). Meekness is not weakness, but power under control. A meek servant is one who strives only to please his master. Jesus’ interest was not His own glory for that will come in due time when God exalts Him. Jesus’ concern was doing God’s will just as He declared in John 6:38, “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.”

There were probably several reasons for Jesus not wanting the people to make Him known. Among them would be the fact that such a proclamation by the people would have distorted why He was here. Jesus came to save souls, not to dispense physical healing. The physical healing was both part of the attesting miracles that backed up His claim to be Messiah and the natural outworking of His compassion. In addition, such a proclamation at this point would have inflamed zealous enthusiasm and it was not yet the proper time of His exaltation. In John 6:15 an incident is recorded where the people were so enthusiastic that they wanted to come and take Him by force and make Him king, but Jesus did not come the first time to be the conquering king. Jesus had come to be the suffering servant that would take away our sins (Isaiah 53).

The stated reason that Jesus warned the people not to make Him known was so that He could fulfill the prophecy concerning Him given by Isaiah. Jesus did not just happen into human history. He came because He was sent by God the Father as a chosen servant.

A Chosen Servant – Matthew 12:18


This is an accurate paraphrase of Isaiah 42:1-4 in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament. The stress is on the nature and purpose of God’s chosen servant being sent to mankind. The first verse of the quote stresses the relationship of the servant and God. The word translated here as “servant” is not the usual term used but is pai:V / pais which is a more restricted term denoting an especially intimate servant who was trusted and loved as a son. In fact, it is often translated as “son.” In secular usage, it was used of a child adopted into a family as an heir that could never be disenfranchised. God the Father had chosen His beloved Son to be His divine servant who would redeem man. God the Father was pleased with Jesus and had filled Him with the Holy Spirit as was demonstrated at His baptism where the Holy Spirit descended as a dove upon Him and a voice from Heaven said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:16-17). That was repeated again at the Transfiguration (Matthew 17:5).

Some have questioned Jesus’ deity based on the idea of the Holy Spirit coming upon Him. They ask if Jesus is already God, why is the Holy Spirit coming upon Him? The reason is simple. Jesus was fully God, but He was also fully man. As a man, Jesus was tempted in all points as we are yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15). As a human child, Jesus grew in wisdom, stature, and in favor with God and man (Luke 2:52). Jesus had human feelings and emotions. He had times of hunger, thirst, fatigue, pain, and sorrow. Jesus’ humanity received the indwelling of the Holy Spirit so that His humanity would function in accordance with His deity.

Having the Holy Spirit upon Him was a mark of His Messiahship. It was prophesied in Isaiah 42 and 61 (which Jesus quoted this in Luke 4 as being fulfilled in Him) that God’s chosen servant would have the Spirit upon Him.

Among the purposes of His coming was to “proclaim justice to the Gentiles.” Jesus came to proclaim what is right and true and in accordance with God’s will to the Gent
iles as well as the Jews. This was another area that provoked the Jewish religious leaders of that day toward hatred of Christ. They were very ethno-centric and believed that God was for the Jews only. Only on rare occasions did any one of Israel fulfill God’s desire in taking the message of God’s interest in the Gentile nations to them. Jonah reluctantly did so, and even then his desire was that God would destroy Nineveh rather than reform Nineveh.

The manner in which Jesus would proclaim the justice to both the Jews and Gentiles would be as quiet servant.

A Quiet Servant – Matthew 12:19

“He will not quarrel, nor cry out; Nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets.” To “quarrel” ( erizw / erizô) denotes wrangling, hassling, disputing, arguing in strife. To “cry out” (kraugazw / kraugazô) means to shout or scream excitedly. The kind of noise that would occur in a drunk’s yelling or a dog’s barking. Jesus had many confrontations with the self- righteous religious leaders of that time, but he never entered into a shouting match or clamorous arguments. Jesus would debate with them, but since He was here to do the Father’s will and not His own, there was no anger except righteous indignation when God Himself was profaned by them such as when He drove the money changers out of the Temple (John 2:14-15). The indication would be that He rarely raised His voice.

What a lesson for us! How true Solomon’s words in Ecclesiastes 9:17, “The words of the wise heard in quietness are better than the shouting of a ruler among fools.” A crowd can be worked up for a short time by a railing man who works on their emotions, but long lasting change comes from ideas that sink into the mind and heart.

Jesus did not enter into emotionally charged debates and arguments with anyone, including His opponents. He simply presented the truth in a quiet and controlled manner and let the truth, not charged emotions, do the work. It is the same with us. Yes, I know that when you get into a discussion about the things of God with someone that your heart can beat a little faster, the adrenalin can start pumping, and your emotions can get involved. That is normal and fine as long as you do not let the emotions control you . Even when the other person gets emotionally charged because you are starting to step on their beliefs, you can still remain calm and answer them softly. The goal in Christian witnessing is not that the other person is going to give their life to Christ right then and there. If that happens, wonderful, but that is not the goal. The goal is to give accurate testimony to the truth and be faithful in presenting what God has done for mankind in the Lord Jesus Christ. You cannot save them. Their salvation is between them and the Holy Spirit. You can only be faithful in proclaiming the gospel to them. If they reject your message, it is not a personal matter with you. It is Christ they are struggling with. Does that mean that we become stoics who talk to others without care, concern, or emotion? Not at all. We never need get upset, but we certainly care and can be emotional. We follow Jesus’ example who as a sympathetic servant.

A Sympathetic Servant – Verse 20

“A battered reed He will not break off, and a smoldering wick He will not pull out, until He leads justice to victory.” This is figurative language describing the Messiah’s sympathetic nature.

A reed could be used for many purposes including making music. Shepherds would make a flute-like instrument with them and play soft music while watching the sheep. But once that reed became soft or cracked it was useless. A bent or battered reed would be broken up and thrown away.

When a lamp wick burned down to its end, it could not soak up enough oil to keep a flame going, yet it was still capable of keeping an ember smoldering. A smoldering wick did nothing of value and spread smoke, so it would be extinguished.

This figurative speech (specifically a litotes) conveys a positive truth by telling the negative of its opposite. The battered reed and smoldering wick represent the bruised, battered, broken, and worn out people, the outcasts of society. The people ignored by the Romans and despised by the Pharisees. Jesus came with genuine sympathy and tender concern for these people. He came to heal the sick (Matthew 12:15; etc.), seek and save tax-collectors and sinners (Matthew 9:9, 10), comfort mourners (Matthew 5:4), cheer the fearful (Matthew 14:13-21), reassure doubters (Matthew 11:2-6), feed the famished (Matthew 14:13-21), and pardon the sins of the repentant (Matthew 9:2). Jesus came to seek and to save that which was lost (Matthew 19:10).

We are to have genuine sympathy, tender compassion, and true concern for the lost. We weep over them and for them as Jesus did over Jerusalem (Matthew 23:37). We cry and weep in our pleading with them to come to the truth. There is a lot of emotion in that. But we are not to respond in anger or try to argue them into the kingdom, for that cannot be done. We present the truth lovingly, tenderly, compassionately, and sympathetically. We are to continue in this personally as long as we are alive. This ministry will continue by Christ’s church until Jesus’ triumphant return when He takes His wrath out on the ungodly, and sin and its consequences will be banished to Hell. That is when He will lead justice to victory.

The sympathetic ministry of God’s people is to be long-term and it is to include the outcasts of society along with everyone else. Jesus was also an unlimited servant.

An Unlimited Servant – Matthew 12:21

“And in His name the Gentiles will hope.” Jesus came as God the Father’s chosen servant who was filled with the Holy Spirit and He came with a message of hope for the Gentiles as well as the Jews. This concept of Jesus being a servant that would give hope is seen even more clearly by Jesus’ declaration about Himself in Mark 10:45, “even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” The word for serve there is diakonew / diakoneo. It has an emphasis on personal service being rendered to another and can even be strong enough to approximate the concept of service of love. Jesus did serve man in many ways as seen in the many miracles He performed for the benefit of people. His very personal miracles of casting out demons, physical healing and raising the dead are the most obvious. However, the ultimate way in which Jesus would glorify the Father by service to man was in giving His life as the ransom payment.

Because all humans are naturally disobedient to God, all humans deserve to die for those sins. Because God is just, it would be contrary to His own nature to absolve man of sin without justice being fulfilled. Jesus became a man so that He could be the needed, proper and sufficient sacrifice that would pay the price of sin and redeem man. Jesus willingly yielded His life as that sacrifice according to the perfect plan of God the Father. His resurrection from the dead on the third day proved the payment was accepted and His promises of granting forgiveness and eternal life to all that will believe in Him are true. That was Jesus’ greatest service to man and what Paul refers to in Philippians 2:8 about Jesus not only being found in the appearance of a man, but of also humbling Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. That is the hope of Jew and Gentile alike.

We who are here today are evidence that this message of hope did go out for there are only a few people in the room that are not Gentiles. The gospel message of hope in the Lord Jesus Christ has come to us, but is it getting out to others that need to hear it? It is wonderful to come to church and hear the gospel message over and over again, but it is the lost that need to hear it. Jesus ha
s given us the example of how to take that message to the lost, and it is your responsibility to do so. That is not the pastor’s job. It is the responsibility of every Christian and you can depend on the Holy Spirit to empower you as you faithfully tell others the glorious truth of the gospel. Though every human has sinned and therefore justly deserves eternity in Hell, sinners can be forgiven through faith in Jesus Christ and then be made righteous in Him before God and adopted into His family.

Jesus is God, yet He became a slave of the Father and a chosen servant to mankind. He was a merciful, meek, quiet, sympathetic and unlimited servant. If you claim to be a Christian, you are supposed to be a follower of Christ. Will you follow His example in being a slave to God and servant of mankind? Who will you tell the gospel message to this week? That begins by praying for the opportunity.


Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Write down all the verses mentioned in the sermon and look them up. 2) Count how many times “servant” is said. Talk with your parents about how you can serve God


Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others. Why is the quest for power so important in the secular world? What benefits are there if a Christian holds a position of authority? What danger is there to the Christian in that position? What is a Christian by definition? Why did Jesus withdraw from the Pharisees (Matthew 12:15)? Why were they in contention with Jesus? What is legalism and why is it so dangerous to living the Christian life? What claims did Jesus make about being equal with God? What evidence is there for His claims to be true? In what ways is Jesus a merciful servant? What does it mean to be meek? Why is that a good term to describe Jesus? Why didn’t Jesus want the people He healed to tell others? Matthew 12:18 quotes Isaiah 42:1-4, what does it mean that Jesus is God’s chosen servant? If Jesus is God, why did He need the Holy Spirit to come upon Him? What is the significance that Jesus would proclaim justice to the Gentiles? Why wouldn’t Jesus quarrel and cry out? (Matthew 12:19). How can you avoid emotionally charged debates? Why is Jesus tender and sympathetic? How did He demonstrate that sympathy toward man? Why will the Gentiles hope in Jesus’ name? Mark 10:45 – why did Jesus come to serve? Who was He serving and how did He accomplish that? How can you serve God? Be specific in what plans you are putting together to do that.

Sermon Notes – 11/3/2013

Jesus, the Servant of God – Matthew 12:15-21; Mark 3:7-12







A Merciful Servant – Matthew 12:15



A Meek Servant – Matthew 12:16-17



A Chosen Servant – Matthew 12:18



A Quiet Servant – Matthew 12:19



A Sympathetic Servant – Verse 20



An Unlimited Servant – Matthew 12:21

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