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The chosen servant

Gospel Reading: Mt 12:14-21
The Pharisees went out and took counsel against Jesus to put him to death. When Jesus realized this, he withdrew from that place. Many people followed him, and he cured them all, but he warned them not to make him known. This was to fulfill what had been spoken through Isaiah the prophet: Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved in whom I delight; I shall place my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles. He will not contend or cry out, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, a smoldering wick he will not quench, until he brings justice to victory. And in his name the Gentiles will hope.

The Gospel shows that Jesus is obedient to God’s will, not to any personal urge for combat or public approval. That point is made in this passage, which indicates that Jesus’ response to the deadly intrigue of the Pharisees is withdrawal from the confrontation while continuing the Kingdom work of healing. Moreover, this refusal to engage in pitched battle is taken by Matthew to be a fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. Matthew paraphrases Is 42:1-4 to assert that Jesus is God’s servant who lives in the power of the Holy Spirit (cf v 18). He does not seek an opportunity to “contend” or “cry out” (v 19), to engage in a public skirmish with the religious leaders (although he will not cower either, cf Mt 23), because his approach is compassion. “A bruised reed he will not break, a smoldering wick he will not quench” (v 20). Jesus’ intent – in sum, God’s will – is not to defeat Israel’s religious leadership.

It is, rather, to proclaim justice and give hope to all nations, including the Gentiles (cf vv 18, 21). It portrays the style of Jesus’ ministry: merciful, meek, and determined.

“God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ…and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation” (2 Cor 5:19).
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