Matthew 12:15-21 – What Kind Of Jesus Are You Making Him Out to Be?

Posted: December 17, 2015 in Gospel of Matthew

Matthew 12:15-21
Large Crowds Follow Jesus

Have you ever played the game of “Telephone” when you were a kid or when you are at a party? The idea of the game is for the first person to tell a second person something to remember and then that second person has to repeat what was said to the third person and the process is repeated with ever how many people that are in the room. The final person to receive the message then reveals to the whole crowd the message that they were given by the next to last person in the chain. Then, the person who started the chain reveals what the original message was. It is often quite hilarious how the message changed from the beginning to the end. It is more hilarious the greater the number of participants.

That is kind of like what the message of the Messiah had become for Israel. The prophet Isaiah had spoken many centuries before of what the Messiah would be. Yet, by the first century AD, after Israel had been conquered and occupied by kingdom after kingdom – the Assyrians, the Babylonians, The Greeks under Alexander and his successors, and finally the Romans – the Israelites had morphed the Messiah into something that was not found in Scripture. Sure, they believed He would be the chosen of God, but they had morphed the story into Him being a conquering king who would magically appear one day and wipe their oppressors of the land of Canaan and that the power and majesty of the kingdom of Israel under David and Solomon would be restored. They wanted freedom from the oppression and rule of foreign governments. They wanted a conquering hero. They longed for a day when the Messiah would bring back the good ol’ days when Israel was rich, powerful and its own nation and a leader among nations. But the prophecies of Old Testament Scripture never promised them a restoration of the nation of Israel as it once was. It just didn’t. It is funny sometimes how we can twist a message to make it fit our desires.

Today, when we look at Matthew 12:15-21, what is it that we can use today to grow closer to God and to understand His will for our lives. Let us read what this passage says,

15 Aware of this, Jesus withdrew from that place. A large crowd followed him, and he healed all who were ill. 16 He warned them not to tell others about him. 17 This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah:

18 “Here is my servant whom I have chosen,
the one I love, in whom I delight;
I will put my Spirit on him,
and he will proclaim justice to the nations.
19 He will not quarrel or cry out;
no one will hear his voice in the streets.
20 A bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out,
till he has brought justice through to victory.
21 In his name the nations will put their hope.”

There are two questions that we must ask and attempt to answer when reading this passage. First, why did Jesus not continue to confront Pharisees in this scene as He has done before? The second question is, why did Jesus ask people not to tell of his healings to others (and a side question off of that would by why did Matthew say this request for secrecy was to fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah 42:1-4). From the answers to these questions we learn what Jesus is trying to teach us here.

Why did Jesus not continue to confront the Pharisees at the synagogue? Why did He chose to withdraw from the synagogue? There are several things that I think that we could learn from this. Before this scene, Jesus had been aggressively confronting the hypocrisy of the Pharisees at every chance He could get. However, in this instance, He chooses to withdraw from them and move out into the world and heal those that needed healing. There are several lessons here. First, we learn that there are those who are going to reject the Messiah and focus on things that do not matter. For us in today’s church, these are the people that focus on what the pastor is doing wrong. They focus on things that don’t matter like whether the preacher or any of his staff did not choose them to be a leader of a ministry. They focus on the fact that the preacher did not speak to them that day at church. They focus on how loud the music is or what the preacher said in his sermon. They focus on the fact that the preacher did not come see them when they had the flu or when their great uncle was in the hospital. They focus on the color of the carpet. They focus on lights during the songs. In none of these things, do we hear of loving God and loving our neighbors and making disciples as the reason that we are here as congregation of believers. We are like Pharisees who focus on the rules that we have developed as part of religion rather than being the chosen people of God who are tell the world of saving grace of God. Jesus withdraw from that. There is a youtube video out there about a local television interview somewhere in Big City USA that interviews a person who lives in some low-income subsiding housing project and the crime spree that just happened at the complex. Her most famous line is “Ain’t nobody got time for that!” when complains about the crime. Jesus is basically saying the same thing here to the Pharisees by withdrawing. He ain’t got time for that. There was a world outside that needed healing. He needed to focus on what really matter. He needed focus on healing the sick and spreading the message of God’s love to a world that needed to hear it rather spending precious moments wasting time arguing with the Pharisees over rules violations – rules that were man-made not borne of God-breathed Scripture. His message is the same to us today. Focus on the right things. We often focus on the wrong things. We focus inwardly on what goes on within the church. We are not here to please ourselves. God brought us together at these churches today not to build buildings, clamor for internal positions, be completely wrapped up in the weekly worship services and how they are run. Our church buildings are to be bases of operations not the reason for the church. Our church building are to be places where we get our tanks filled. The real reason of the church is outside the church. We live in a hurting world that desperately needs Jesus. That should be our focus in everything we do. Everything should be measured by how it can be used to spread the gospel beyond our walls. Everything we do should be measured by how it makes disciples of Jesus Christ and how it grows them into mature Christ followers. Everything else is secondary to that. Jesus teaches us that in this passage. He withdraws from the arguments of things that do not save souls. He withdraws from petty arguments that are not based in Scripture. He withdraws from that which does not expand the kingdom of God.

Why did Jesus ask people not to mention his miracles and why does Matthew use the opportunity to reflect on Isaiah 42:1-4? It is again about Jesus not wanting the focus to be on the wrong thing. He knew if the focus was solely on His miracles that people would misunderstand the message. They would make Jesus into something that He did not come to be. Matthew understands this and reminds of the fact that Jesus did not come to be some conquering hero. He came to be prophesied Messiah. Matthew reminds his readers of exactly what that was. He was not coming to be some military hero that was going to vanquish the Romans. He was not coming to re-establish the Israel that once was. Jesus came to be the suffering servant who was to take on our sins and our iniquities and who would bear punishment for our sins. He was to be the one who was to be sacrificed for our benefit to make us right with God once again. That was why he came. He was to be a healer not a fighter. He was to teach us about the kingdom of God not establish an earthly kingdom. What does all this mean for us? What are we to learn from this reference to Isaiah and what are we learn from Jesus wanting to keep his healings quiet? What we learn is that we sometimes too make Jesus into something that He is not. We make church into something that it is not. We make Jesus into something of a vending machine that gives us what we want because we deserve it now that we are Christ followers. We make Jesus into the fulfiller of OUR desires. Jesus never promised us a rose garden. He never promised us that we would be successful and rich if we believe in Him. Often, he warned us it would be quite the opposite. We sometimes make Jesus is a battering ram of condemnation because we do not like the way that some people do things. We sometimes make Jesus into a flower child hippy who accepts anything we do and a Jesus who has no judgment in Him. We make him into this guy who allows us to live whatever way we desire as along as we pledge allegiance to Him. We all sometimes, believers and non-believers, make Jesus into something that is non-scripturally based simply to suit our needs or justify our position. That’s something we learn. The real Jesus is not a prosperity guru. He is not an anything goes Jesus. Jesus is the fulfillment of Scripture. He is Scripture. He is all of Scripture. He is the Son of God and He embodies Scripture. All of it. Not just the parts that you like and excluding the parts you dislike. Jesus is God and God abhors sin. The Bible tells us of what sin is and how to live a godly life. It tells us of our sin nature and why we need a Savior that is Jesus. Let us not make Jesus into something He is not. Let us not make church into something that it is not.

Let us focus on the right things. Let us focus on the real Jesus of Scripture. Let us focus on what He called us to do. Let us not focus on things that do not matter in eternity. Let us focus on winning souls to Christ and growing them into fully mature disciples of Christ who then in turn tell others of this Christ and make more disciples. Now that’s the Telephone Game that we need to be playing. Amen and Amen.

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