The Attitude that can Change the World
Love, compassion, Jesus, Matthew
What a person does in various situations tells you a great deal about who they are.
- The husband who professes love but engages in an extramarital relationship invalidates His words.
- The worker who is diligent and makes sure the job is done right tells you they are a person you can rely on.
- The child who listens to their parents and does what they say shows that they honor their mother and father.
- The person who is a financial planner but takes bankruptcy in their own finances probably isn’t the person you want to turn to for financial counsel.
- The person who talks about the love and goodness of God with anger and an accusing finger will push more people away from the gospel than they draw to it.
This morning we are going to look at a passage that is easy to skip over. I will admit that I tended to skip over it for years. It contains the longest Old Testament quote in the Gospel of Matthew; a quote from Isaiah 42:1-4. From this text we will not only learn some things about Jesus, we will learn some things about how the Lord would have us conduct ourselves in the world. Let’s turn to the text.
15 But Jesus knew what they were planning. So he left that area, and many people followed him. He healed all the sick among them, 16 but he warned them not to reveal who he was. 17 This fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah concerning him:
18 “Look at my Servant, whom I have chosen.
He is my Beloved, who pleases me.
I will put my Spirit upon him,
and he will proclaim justice to the nations.
19 He will not fight or shout
or raise his voice in public.
20 He will not crush the weakest reed
or put out a flickering candle.
Finally he will cause justice to be victorious.
21 And his name will be the hope
of all the world.”
This passage comes as a conclusion and is in stark contrast to the text we looked at last week. Last week Jesus was criticized for doing good on the Sabbath. The Pharisees were furious with Him for what they considered to be a violation of the Sabbath. Verse 14 says, “Then the Pharisees called a meeting to plot how to kill Jesus.” What we will see this morning is a contrast in methodologies between the Pharisees who went forward with force and coercion and Jesus who did just the opposite. We read Jesus left the area to diffuse the situation with the Pharisees. It wasn’t that He was scared (when the time was right He faced His enemies without flinching), it was just not time yet. There was more work to do. Many people followed Jesus. He was a man who had extraordinary power and preached with an authority and wisdom never seen before (or since). Needy people and spiritually hungry people followed Him. They knew instinctively that Jesus was the One they needed. It seems strange doesn’t it, that Jesus told people not to “reveal who he was”? They were not supposed to share how they were healed. We all know that was an impossible request for these people. They were naturally going to tell their story! Jesus was simply trying to downplay His position as miracle-worker. He didn’t want people going around telling everyone that he was the Messiah because they didn’t understand what the Messiah had come to do. The people believed the Messiah would come to rescue Israel from their political bondage. They thought Jesus would throw off the authority of the Romans and Israel would once again live as a powerhouse nation as in the days of King David. Jesus however, came to establish the Kingdom of God which was largely spiritual! Jesus did not come to free the people from Rome, He came to free them from the power of sin and the condemnation of the Devil! Jesus told the people not to talk about who He was, to keep from creating wrong expectations. He also wanted them to downplay things to cool some of the anger of the religious leaders. Matthew saw Jesus as the fulfillment of the prophecy in Isaiah 42 which he quotes.
He is the Chosen One
At the Baptism of Jesus and at the Transfiguration of Jesus (when Jesus visited with Moses and Elijah on a mountain) the same words came from Heaven, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” This is what Isaiah says would be said of this One to come. God told Isaiah the Father would put His Spirit on this one to come. At the Baptism of Jesus the Father not only spoke, the Holy Spirit descended on Him like a dove. He would be a servant of God. That is in contrast to those who serve themselves or who play to the crowd. Jesus was the Son of God, serving the Father, with the help of the Holy Spirit. We are told He would proclaim or bring justice. Jesus announced to the world that He had come to right the wrongs, comfort the afflicted, and heal the broken. Jesus also satisfied the demands of justice when it came to sin. William Barclay wrote,
The Greeks defined justice as giving to God and to men that which is their due. Jesus showed men how to live in such a way that both God and men receive their proper place in our lives. He showed us how to behave both towards God and towards men.
Jesus Came with Compassion
There is a stark contrast with the Pharisees in the next words,
He will not fight or shout
or raise his voice in public.
He will not crush the weakest reed
or put out a flickering candle.
Jesus did not come as a bully. His approach was soft, not harsh. He came with love not aggression. He didn’t shout, he talked in a voice that helped people drop their guard. He did not come threatening, but instead came calling people into a relationship with God. R.C. Sproul observes,
When Isaiah says, “He will not quarrel nor cry out, nor will anyone hear His voice in the streets,” he is talking about argumentation. Disagreements and arguments are a fact of human existence. Often when we find ourselves in contentious circumstances, we grow angry or impatient, and we raise our voices. Jesus debated the Pharisees all the time, and sometimes He was strongly provoked. However, He never let Himself get heated.
Are you beginning to see how this points us to practical living? We are not going to accomplish anything by arguing and hurling insults at other people. Heated arguments are a waste of time because they lead people to erect barriers rather than open doors. It closes minds, it does not open them. We should engage our culture, our unbelieving friends, and the false teachers of the day, but we are to do it with the wisdom and control of Jesus. We do this with discussions rather than arguments. We do it respectfully rather than with hostility. Not only does this help people see that we belong to Jesus, it is also the most effective way to accomplish our goal! He came compassionately. The image of a bruised reed and flickering candle may be lost on us. These images convey the kindness and compassion of Jesus. People would collect reeds for a number of projects. If the reeds were bruised or scarred they would be broken and tossed aside. Jesus was not going to do that. He would not toss people aside simply because they were bruised or scarred. William Barclay wrote,
Jesus did not come to discourage, but to encourage. He did not come to treat the weak with contempt, but with understanding; he did not come to extinguish the weak flame, but to nurse it back to a clearer and a stronger light. The most precious thing about Jesus is the fact that he is not the great discourager, but the great encourager.
Have you met people who seem to be “mad at the world?” These are people from whom you generally stay away. You would rather not have them on committees or in positions where they must deal with the public. Why? Because they take offense easily and respond aggressively. They push people away. They may tell you that they are only speaking the truth. And that may be so. But they are doing so in a way that keeps people from hearing that truth! When someone feels attacked or threatened they take cover.
Jesus brought people together
Finally he will cause justice to be victorious.
21 And his name will be the hope of all the world.”
Jesus came to right wrong. His goal was to bring people together. He showed dignity to the poor, the dismissed, the women, the servants, and even the Gentiles. His work was revolutionary. Jesus was on the front line standing with those who had been taken advantage of by others. He saw the people who were invisible (think of the lepers, the woman who touched His garment, the demon-possessed who were often locked away). Jesus did not look past these people so He could find the celebrities and the powerful. Jesus looked for the very people the world did not see. There are some who say the best way to grow a church is to make sure that all the people of your congregation are similarly minded. You are supposed to set a target audience (young professionals, students, families with children etc.) and go after those people. But that is not the way of Christ! Jesus did not put people in categories! He did not dismiss those who did not fit his demographic! He did not see color, status, gender, social standing, or reputation. He saw people as children of God. He did not look at people in terms of what they could do for the church (as we sometimes do) but He focused on what He (or in our case, the church) could do for them! A good church should be a cross section of the community. This is because our doors should be open to everyone and anyone. We must be people who don’t see labels, but see only people who are in need of a Savior! That is not the way we have been trained! We have been trained to put people into categories; to rank and to rate them. If we are going to follow Jesus, we must fight that training!
Patrick Morely tells of a particularly Christian woman.
She taught the city’s children of privilege in a wealthy manicured neighborhood that stood in sharp contrast to an adjacent slum area. She kept to herself and tried not to venture out into neighboring areas.
One evening as she walked down the street, she heard a woman crying out for help. Just then a dying woman fell into her arms. Seeing that her condition was critical, she rushed her to the hospital. When the staff observed that the ill woman was poor, they were told to take a seat an wait. She sensed this woman was going to die without immediate medical attention, so she left and went to another hospital. Again, they were told to wait.
After the nurses and doctors still didn’t come, she took the dying woman to her own home where, later that night, she died in the school-teacher’s arms.
This young teacher decided that would never happen again to anyone if she could help it. She decided to devote the rest of her life to easing the pain of those around her so they could live, or die, in dignity.
The city was Calcutta. The woman was Teresa. It was for her a defining moment.
Mother Teresa spoke powerfully through her compassion. Her love and gentleness impacted the entire world! Why do you think it is that so often as we mature in faith and more clearly define our beliefs, we also seem to lose our sense of compassion? Why is it that Evangelical Christianity (people who believe we are saved by a personal relationship with Jesus) is so often caricatured as mean and judgmental? Is it because we develop a hierarchy of sin? We, for some reason, feel the need to save the world by condemning people who commit certain acts or experience particular struggles,
- Have an abortion
- Confess to same sex attractions
- Struggle with Addiction
- Fall into sexual sin that destroys a marriage
- Have a different political outlook than we do
- Are convicted of a felony
- Get pregnant outside of wedlock
- Go through a divorce
How quickly we forget that Jesus came to call sinners to repentance. Thankfully, He did not dismiss us because of our sins. He invited us to experience forgiveness and new life. He made us a part of His family before He started to work on our vices. Changing people is His business, not ours. What if Jesus withheld His love, grace, and mercy from those who
- Were guilty of idolatry by putting other things before the Lord in life?
- Lacked compassion?
- Were judgmental (playing God)?
- Said hurtful things?
- Were arrogant?
- Struggled with gluttony or were discontent?
You know what would happen. We would be on the outside, looking in. We must never forget the grace that was extended to us. Learning compassion is best learned from following the ways of Jesus. Don’t misunderstand what I am saying. It is not that we say sin is acceptable or that it is not sin anymore. It is not that we should stop debating the issues of our day. What we must stop is the wicked manner with which we sometimes do these things. We must stop beating people up and begin to talk with them! We must stop trying to hurry people to holiness while at the same time moving at a snails’ pace in our own lives. We must start with our arms open, rather than with our arms. Only then will we truly be like Jesus. I love the quote: “There is more mercy in [Him] than sin in [you].” This is the message we are to deliver to the world: God is merciful. No matter where you have been there is grace enough for you. We are to share this message not as one who is superior sharing with those who are inferior; we are to share as one who understands, one who cares, one who has also needed and benefitted from the undeserved grace of God.  William Barclay, ed., The Gospel of Matthew, vol. 2, The Daily Study Bible (Philadelphia, PA: The Westminster John Knox Press, 1976), 33. R.C. Sproul Gospel of Matthew Kindle: Loc 5536  Barclay p. 34  Patrick Morley, the Seven Seasons of a Man’s Life (Nashville: Thomas Nelson 1995) p. 160