Matthew 12:1-21 Part 5

Year after year, and decade after decade, the Church is diminishing in its ability to effect the dominion of Christ in American culture and society.  A great proportion of the people in the society look upon orthodox, Biblical Christianity as an aberration from the norm.  It is a strange group, indeed, who believe in such things as an infallible book and a Jewish prophet who got up and walked out of his grave and a universe that was created from nothing in a few days!  To our society this old religion is for “old” and unsophisticated people who need mythology to lean on and take their minds off their own problems.  And they feel somewhat “ashamed” and “put off” by it when the poor and ignorant Church ladies talk about Jesus and the Bible.  And a condescending attitude, and in some cases an antagonistic attitude, has developed toward Christianity.

I don’t want to expound on that.  We all know that the Church is fast becoming obsolete and anachronistic in American culture!  And we all know the reason for it is that the Church doesn’t know and preach Christ and the Word of His Kingdom, and it doesn’t know and practice Christ’s means of extending His Kingdom!  If that sounds simplistic, that’s because it is!

But the Church has entered into alliances with the world order; it has developed means of growing and extending itself which are utilitarian and practical, rather than commanded by Christ; and it has sought its own reward rather than anticipating the victory over the world in Christ’s Name!

But our passage this morning gives us a very special insight into the nature of the Christ and the means by which His victory is to be won!  It is very special!  And I think you’ll easily see the required course for the Church as opposed to its present direction.

When we left off last time a few things had been said about the two transitional verses – verses fourteen and fifteen.  You remember that Jesus had just confounded the Pharisees with respect to the Law of the Sabbath, and they were very angry at being left in an impotent state!  Their self-image as Israel’s Lawyer/shepherds had been injured when they were trying to trap Jesus theologically.  But, instead, they were the ones who were trapped – Jesus showing them, from the Scriptures, that they were withered, worthless shepherds who had left the sheep of Israel in a blind condition in a dark abyss!

And verse fourteen says that when they came out of the synagogue the Pharisees took counsel against Him that they would destroy Him.  Now, what Matthew doesn’t include here (and which is found in the Gospel of Mark) is the fact that the Pharisees took counsel with the Herodians to destroy Jesus!  The Herodians (the family of Herod) were an Edomite family, you may remember, which was given the rulership over Israel by Rome!  A non-Jew, a descendant of Esau, was appointed by the foreign conqueror Rome to rule over the one nation favored by God!

And the Pharisees did hate the Herodians!

As you know, the Pharisees and other leaders of Israel considered themselves the guardians of the public liberty, the shepherds of the sheep, the rulers of ecclesiastical purity, and self-proclaimed (and publicly acclaimed) spiritual fathers of the nation.  And the fact that there were Gentiles ruling over them was a scenario that was as distasteful to them, and as disgusting to them, and as revolting to them as can be imagined!  As I said, the Herodians and their ministers in the civil magistracy were a constant vexation to the Jews – especially the Pharisees – and they hated them.

And yet, in this case, their deep aversion to the Herodians is counter-acted by their hatred and fury against Christ – which makes them not only enter into a conspiracy with the foreigners, making an alliance with them, but it makes them insinuate themselves into their good graces – to cow tow to them! – a conduct which on most other occasions, would have been appalling!

Let’s take that one step further!  Ever since Esau sold his birthright to Jacob there had been this terrible antithesis between the elect Jacob – Israel – and Esau, who founded Edom.  And Esau, in the Edomites, was forever attempting to snatch the birthright back!  And here we have the Herodians, the descendants of Esau, forming an alliance with apostate Israel in order to cut off the Covenant Seed!

Let’s look at it from another view.  Esau was cut off from his birthright; then the nation of Israel was cut off from its birthright; and, now, the two of them were forming a pact, or a covenant, or an alliance, for the purpose of snatching the Kingdom from the second Jacob, who had arrived to claim the birthright!

Looking at it from one more angle, the nation of Israel (and remember what the Scriptures say – Jacob is Israel) but the nation of Israel was effectively disenfranchised when a descendant of Esau became king!  Paul, in the letter to Rome, quotes the prophecy of Malachi where God says, “Jacob have I loved and Esau have I hated.”  So when the descendant of Esau was appointed king of Israel by Rome, it was a sign that God had disinherited His Son Israel, and the nation had become illegitimate!  And the law says that illegitimate children were not allowed into the temple.  So the separation and abandonment of Israel had definitively taken place.  And Israel and Edom were now engaged together in a plot to kill the legitimate Son.

And when Matthew says, in verse fifteen, that Jesus understood it and went away, this is what he means.  Jesus understood all these things.  And He continued showing mercy, and healing the bruised and rejected sheep who followed Him.  He was their Good Shepherd (as apposed to the unfaithful shepherds).

Now.  Let me just make a couple of comments here about pacts and contracts and alliances.  And about “taking counsel” with the ungodly.  And about the act of insinuating oneself, or ingratiating oneself, into the good graces of another for the advantage of it – regardless of their standing before God.

Listen to Paul’s words from Second Corinthians six:


 “Be not unequally yoked together with unbelievers; for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness?  And what communion hath light with darkness?  And what concord hath Christ with Belial?  Or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?” 


And Paul also includes in his text the Law of separation (from the Old Testament text) –


“and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and you shall be my sons and daughters.”


We all know already that we shouldn’t make contracts with unbelievers in order to be partners with them (close friendships, marriages, etc.); and we know that it is opposed to God’s Law for us to seek counsel and wisdom from one who isn’t wise in the ways of God.  But, then, further than that, there is this thing we might call “deferring to those who are influential.”  Scripture warns us about seating the rich in a special place – or seating the poor in a special place because they’re poor.  But there is this overwhelming desire in the nature of man to defer to those who have power and influence! And to sidle up to them for their favor!

Well, that’s what the Jews did with the Herodians, and together they killed the Son of God!  I’m not suggesting that, if you sought favor from a rich man, you would get involved in something that serious; but if you accommodate yourself in a conciliatory manner to another because he has power or influence or fame – if you ingratiate yourself to him with flattering words to gain some favor – if you put yourself under to gain his recognition, then you’ve shifted your humility and obeisance from the King to a man for some temporary gain!

I fear that that’s what’s going on in many Churches today!  A good example of that is a minister who doesn’t preach all the words of God because he’ll injure the sensitivities of his wealthiest members.  Another example is the Churches and denominations that join organizations for the status (WCC and ACC) of recognition to the local Church.

Our government is no example of Godliness, but when it makes pacts and alliances with governments which have massacred millions and enslaved many other millions in an effort to exert their power and influence, then the government has made unholy alliances – and God hates that.  And when Churches attempt to make peace with the world order in order to gain status and recognition, or to accomplish their goals, then I’m afraid that infects and contaminates their position in the Kingdom!  Churches and denominations are making peace with the world in order to grow and display strength and size and status.  Individual Christians do it too! 

But the Church needs to return to the nature of Christ and, the means by which His Kingdom is to be won.  And the finishing verses in our text this morning is the ideal place for it to begin!  For here God describes the character of the Christ and the means by which His Kingdom is brought into its fullness.

You see in verse eighteen, God says,


“Lo, My child in Whom I did delight, My Beloved in Whom My soul was well-pleased.  I shall set My Spirit on Him, and He will declare justice (right) to the nations.” 


This is a quote right out of the beginning verses of Isaiah forty-two.  Previous to this God had been speaking of His Son Israel – the nation – and the fact that it would be disinherited; and now He’s speaking of the New Israel, His Only begotten Son, in whom He’s well-pleased, Whom He loves, and in Whom He delights.

Jesus delights the Father, He is beloved, and He is well-pleasing!  And by the Spirit, He will declare the “right” to the nations.  You’ll see that I’ve translated “He will declare justice to the nation.”  The word is exactly the same as “the right.”  And the meaning includes the entire salvific Word of God including the restoration of all things through His Holy Law-Word.

Now, you’ll notice that this beloved Child of God – our Lord Jesus Christ – is to engage Himself in declaring “the right” to the nations – the whole Word of the Kingdom.  Having satisfied the Father’s wrath against covenant breakers, Jesus immerses Himself in the declaration of the Gospel of God to the world!

In verses nineteen and twenty we have the means by which Christ does not extend the Kingdom, which we’ll see in a minute, and then, in verse twenty-one, we have the prophetic voice of victory.  Isaiah says,


 “…until He cast abroad the ‘right’ in victory, and nations shall hope in His Name.”


The “casting abroad” the right in verse twenty-one, and the “declaring” the right in eighteen, have almost precisely the same meaning.  So, by the Spirit, Jesus declares the Word of the Kingdom – the “Right” – to the nations.  And He casts it abroad in victory!  And those nations will hope, or anticipate, in His Name!  What will they anticipate?  Well, when the Word of the Kingdom is declared by Christ, the anticipation is for the Kingdom of Christ to come to pass in all of its fullness!  Certainly the hope of a believer is for his own personal salvation, but salvation isn’t just personal, is it?  It is cosmic in its scope, and the reign of Christ over all that’s been given to Him – for the glory of the Father – is the full-orbed anticipation of every believer!

But the point that I want to make here is that the means by which the victory is won – so anticipated by every believer – is by the Spirit and the Word!

In verses nineteen and twenty, as I said, we have the means which are not used for accomplishing the victory.  Let’s read them: 


“He shall not brawl nor cry out, nor shall anyone hear His voice in the streets.  He shall not break in two a reed which has been bruised, and He will not quench a smouldering flax.”


Now the key to this, which took me along time to discover, is that this whole passage of Scripture is about Christ and His character and His means of gaining dominion.  And the first indication of that occurs in verse sixteen, where it says that Jesus admonished the crowds lest they should make Him known.  On one or two other occasions we’ve investigated the reasons why Jesus would say something like that.  And there have been good reasons.  The answer which most people give is that Jesus was afraid the authorities would come and get Him too soon if it were known what He was doing.  But that’s completely untenable since He’s already performed numerous miracles while the Pharisees were watching; and He did some of them in their synagogues – such as healing the man with the withered hand!  And He had confronted them with the Words of God and left them impotent to say anything!  So the awareness of the Pharisees and other leaders of Israel as to Jesus’ deeds and His teaching is really a non-issue.  They were aware!  He was known!

In admonishing the crowds, the point here is that the character that Jesus has is a selfless devotion to His Father’s glory!  And calling attention to Himself, and becoming a celebrity, is not His way!  He had already humbled Himself to be born a man – and that in very humble circumstances – and he lived His entire life in those same humble surroundings.  And He had put Himself under, even to the extent of dying in the flesh and becoming sin!  So His whole life and purpose was for submission to His Father for His glory and honor!  So He admonishes the crowds sternly about trying to make Him a celebrity.  He was here for the purpose of making His Father a celebrity – world-wide!  And He did that in Human Flesh!!

Now, that’s His character!  But what about the process and the means? 


“He shall not brawl nor cry out, nor shall anyone hear His voice in the streets….” 


Personal, public recognition wasn’t included in His purpose.  And the process of submitting the Kingdom was therefore quiet and sober – without ceremony!

Jesus didn’t call attention to Himself; there was no clamor, no shouting, no ostentatious display; He did not raise up crowds in revolution, He didn’t whip the people into emotional frenzy; there were no brawls and confrontations in the streets; He did not bring a circus or party atmosphere; and He brought no agitation or turbulence.  The process is by quiet, sober declaration of the “right” – the Word of God.

Is the Church doing this?  Or is it catering to the lowest common denominator in its theology and using the latest marketing schemes to build its reputation and size?  Are they trying to make status in the world order?

One of the first things I think of when I consider Jesus’ process of the Kingdom is the means by which the Roman Catholic church keeps its people under control!  The man who is elevated to the status of God on His throne, is carried around by other men while he sits atop a movable mercy seat where he makes infallible statements and absolves guilt and sin!  There must be tens of thousands of dollars worth of gold and jewels and diamonds on his head and on his vestments!  A clamoring, ostentatious display such as isn’t found anywhere other than in the palaces of the divine and omnipotent kings of past monarchies!

And we have glass cathedrals and fifty million dollar tabernacles, and broadway shows, and theme parks, and thousands upon thousands of Churches, and nationwide television and radio spectaculars.  But at the same time, the nation is on a headlong spiritual decline!  Could it just be that the Church has departed from the process and the means that Jesus established, and that Matthew records here?  Could it be that the quiet, non-ostentatious declaration of the Gospel to all the nations is the right way after all?  The man-made display of religion surely isn’t working.

The figures in verse twenty are so descriptive of the character and means of our Lord Jesus; the bruised reed and the smoldering flax.  Bruised means broken, but not broken in two.  The smoldering means that time just before the light goes completely out.  Our Lord Jesus receives those who are in a desperate condition due to sin.  When the light is about to go out, and they’re broken and contrite in heart, they may flee to the refuge – the place of rest.  And Jesus Christ won’t turn them away.  He won’t step on the reed and break it in two, and He won’t quench the last of the fire in the lamp.  He receives all to come to Him in poverty of spirit and laboring under the great burden of our depravity.  This is the Gospel of God.

Where is the consistent declaration of this Gospel in the Churches?  Where are the people being broken in their sins by the Law of God?  Then, where do the people hear about the refuge – the place of rest?  Why do they hear the Gospel of positive thinking?  And man-made psychology?  And power living?  And magic faith? And big-band sound and Broadway shows?  How do those things compare to what Jesus says and does here?  How do the people find the place of rest?  The Church had better wake up and put away the ostentatious display of Pharisaical religion – and begin preaching the Word of the Kingdom – the declaration of the “right” – for people who are taught to “feel good” about themselves will never flee to the Sabbath Rest in Christ Jesus.

The Church is saying, “Find your life and live it to the fullest.”  Jesus says, “If you find yourself, you’ll lose it!”

The Church has made an alliance with the world order!  And it says, “God loves you – believe that and you’ll be saved!”  Jesus says, “All that are laboring and heavily burdened by the weight of your perversion and are being crushed by the wrath and anger of God, come to me and I’ll give you refuge.

The Church is leaving people in a dark abyss.  The shepherds have withered arms.  But Jesus is strong to save.  He is the Good Shepherd.

The Church is preaching personal liberty and individual freedom.  But Jesus preached conviction of sin and repentance as the way into the Kingdom. 

How can the people hear?  How can Christians solve their problems?

The Church says, “If you’re having troubles, find out who you are.  Discover the ‘real’ you inside, and then make the changes necessary to cut those problems off!  Be everything you want to be!”  Jesus says, “Your problem is personal sin and rebellion; and that He will not turn away a broken and contrite heart.”

Hear the Word of the Gospel!  There’s no uncertain sound of the trumpet here!  And you must listen to its clarity and not be confused!  Don’t make an alliance with the world order – its psychology doesn’t work!  What works is the character of Christ and the means by which men are submitted to Him.