A Gentle Savior
One of my favorite passages about Jesus in the gospels is Matthew 12:15–21:
But Jesus, aware of this, withdrew from there. Many followed Him, and He healed them all, and warned them not to tell who He was. This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: “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 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 BREAK OFF, AND A SMOLDERING WICK HE WILL NOT PUT OUT, UNTIL HE LEADS JUSTICE TO VICTORY. AND IN HIS NAME THE GENTILES WILL HOPE.”
As the capital letters indicate, this is a quotation from the Old Testament; Isaiah 42:1–3 in particular. Matthew’s gospel puts special emphasis on Jesus as the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy, and this passage shows how Jesus fulfilled the role of God’s servant. Indeed, Isaiah 42 is the first of four songs recorded by Isaiah, called “Servant Songs” by most commentators, since each song focuses on God’s servant. Let’s look more closely at this beautiful portrait of the Savior.
Jesus was the ultimate servant. As He explained in Matthew 20:28, He did not come to be served, but to serve by giving His life. Although Jesus “existed in the form of God” He “emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant” (Philippians 2:6–7). What a staggering thought! Even though Jesus was equal with God, He chose to lay aside the glories of heaven to come to earth to serve you and me.
God put His Spirit upon Jesus at the Lord’s baptism, pronouncing, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased” (Matthew 3:17). From that moment, Jesus spent Himself serving others, teaching, healing, comforting, and ultimately dying. His own baptism was in some ways a foreshadowing of His ultimate act of serving, His death, which He described as a baptism of suffering (Luke 12:50).
Jesus was a servant of all men. Twice in the prophecy Matthew quotes, he mentions Jesus’ connection with Gentiles. “He shall proclaim justice to the Gentiles,” and “in His name the Gentiles will hope.” It is often said that Matthew’s gospel is directed toward the Jews. This is essentially correct, but it is misleading to see this focus as exclusive. A major emphasis in this gospel is that while Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament, that same Scripture also said He would reach out to everyone. Throughout Matthew’s gospel there is mention made of Gentiles who followed the Lord (such as the centurion whose faith exceeded anyone in Israel—Matthew 3:5–13).
At the end of Matthew, Jesus commanded the disciples to “make disciples of all the nations” (28:19). And now it is up to us to carry on the legacy of our Savior and reach the whole world. There are social, political, and racial tensions in our world, just as in Christ’s. He let none of these superficial biases get in the way of service, and neither can we.
Jesus was a gentle servant. Unlike the Pharisees of His day who stood on street corners and sat in the chief seat to gain acclaim (Matthew 6:5; 23:6), Jesus did not “quarrel nor cry out.” In fact, on many occasions, such as here in Matthew 15:16, He did not permit people to spread the news about His miracles or identity.
Jesus’ humility also translated gentleness in terms of how He dealt with others. This sensitivity is beautifully pictured here: “A battered reed He will not break off, and a smoldering wick He will not put out.” Have you ever felt like a battered reed? Have you ever felt like your wick was just about burnt down to the nub? We have a gentle Savior who knows just how to deal with our weakness and pain.
As a gentle servant, the Lord will not coerce you into following Him. But knowing what kind of Savior He is, why would you refuse to follow Him?
Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light (Matthew 11:28–30).