Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Matthew 12:15–21

Matthew 12:15–21 (ESV): God’s Chosen Servant


Not much happens in this passage, in terms of “action.” The last passage left off with the Pharisees conspiring amongst themselves how to destroy Jesus, so in this passage he withdraws from the place where the Pharisees are. A lot of people follow him, so he heals them, but orders them not to make him known.

And we are told that this is to fulfil a prophecy in Isaiah.


Although Jesus specifically came to this world to die, so that he could pay for our sins and make possible a relationship between us and God, it doesn’t mean he was ready to die at any time. In fact, once in a while the Gospels will even say that people weren’t able to harm him because it wasn’t yet his time. Jesus would die when it was time, and not one minute before or after. As he said in the book of John:
“For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” (John 10:17–18 (ESV))
But the bulk of this passage is a quotation from Isaiah, the prophecy that Matthew says is being fulfilled. Here’s the passage from Matthew:

“Behold, my servant whom I have chosen,
   my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased.
I will put my Spirit upon him,
   and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles.
He will not quarrel or cry aloud,
   nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets;
a bruised reed he will not break,
   and a smoldering wick he will not quench,
until he brings justice to victory;
   and in his name the Gentiles will hope.”

(Matthew 12:18–21 (ESV))

And here’s the passage from Isaiah:

Behold my servant, whom I uphold,
   my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my Spirit upon him;
   he will bring forth justice to the nations.
He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice,
   or make it heard in the street;
a bruised reed he will not break,
   and a faintly burning wick he will not quench;
   he will faithfully bring forth justice.

(Isaiah 42:1–3 (ESV))

Not that there are some slight differences, but I’m guessing that this is because in Matthew’s day he would have probably been reading the Greek translation of the book of Isaiah, whereas the ESV translation of the passage is probably working more from the original Hebrew—while faithfully quoting the Matthew passage, which would have been written in Greek. (Since Matthew’s quotation is now part of Scripture, we can be assured that it faithfully brings out the intent of the Isaiah passage; there’s nothing that he “got wrong.”) The interesting difference I see is that the original Hebrew Isaiah is talking about the nations, whereas the Matthew passage is instead talking about the Gentiles. In both cases they’re talking about the same people—any people who aren’t Israelites/Jews—but the Matthew version seems more personal, while the Isaiah version seems more far-reaching.

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