But when Jesus knew it, He withdrew from there. And great multitudes followed Him, and He healed them all. Yet He warned them not to make Him known, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying:
"Behold! My Servant whom I have chosen,- Matthew 12:15-21
My Beloved in whom My soul is well pleased!
I will put My Spirit upon Him,
And He will declare justice to the Gentiles.
He will not quarrel nor cry out,
Nor will anyone hear His voice in the streets.
A bruised reed He will not break,
And smoking flax He will not quench,
Till He sends forth justice to victory;
And in His name Gentiles will trust."
Yesterday we read that Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. And His disciples were hungry, and began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to Him, "Look, Your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath!" But He said to them, "Have you not read what David did when he was hungry and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and ate the showbread which was not lawful for him to eat, nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? Or have you not read in the law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath, and are blameless? Yet I say to you that in this place there is One greater than the temple. But if you had known what this means, 'I desire mercy and not sacrifice,' you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath." Now when He had departed from there, He went into their synagogue. And behold, there was a man who had a withered hand. And they asked Him, saying, "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?" -- that they might accuse Him. Then He said to them, "What man is there among you who has one sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not lay hold of it and lift it out? Of how much more value then is a man than a sheep? Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath." Then He said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." And he stretched it out, and it was restored as whole as the other. Then the Pharisees went out and plotted against Him, how they might destroy Him.
But when Jesus knew it, He withdrew from there. And great multitudes followed Him, and He healed them all. Yet He warned them not to make Him known, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying: "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 will declare justice to the Gentiles. He will not quarrel nor cry out, nor will anyone hear His voice in the streets. A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax He will not quench, till He sends forth justice to victory; And in His name Gentiles will trust." My study bible points out that our Lord's refusal to fully disclose His identity as Messiah is foreseen by Isaiah (Isaiah 42:1-4). The reasons for secrecy include: (1) the growing hostility of the Jewish leaders, as we read in yesterday's reading, above; (2) the people's conception of the Messiah as an earthly, political leader, which is a mistaken understanding; (3) Christ's desire to evoke a genuine faith that is not based solely on marvelous signs. The Servant of Isaiah refers first to Christ, and by extension to all those who follow Him. In these verses, Isaiah clearly foresees the mission to the Gentiles after Pentecost (see 42:4, Septuagint).
We've clearly reached a turning point in the Gospel story of Jesus' mission, and Jesus knows it. The hostility of the leadership is setting the course for what is to happen. His lament in Wednesday's reading, "Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! . . . And you, Capernaum . . .," makes it clear what He is witnessing as these have failed to grasp His message and to turn in repentance. The mission will go to the Gentiles, as foreseen in Isaiah's prophecy. We can't really imagine the disappointment in Jesus, but we can understand how His mind works: His mission is the will of the Father. He accepts what He needs to accept, even rejection by those He's come to in His mission of salvation. Going forward, He knows that the leadership is plotting against Him. While we can't put ourselves in the place of the Messiah, we can understand His example. He doesn't work through coercion; this isn't a mission in which He will force the world to choose His way -- even if He knows they risk their own true loss for doing so. But it seems to me that where He does set an incredible example for us is in acceptance. The "Serenity Prayer" written by theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, and now widely used in twelve-step programs, asks, "God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference." I find that it is hard work to "accept the things I cannot change," and in this Jesus sets us His great example. Prayer is certainly always the 'punctuation,' we might say, of His ministry. It's His 'go to' place in which He seeks direction at every turn. One cannot help but believe that prayer is also the means by which acceptance comes, in order to chart the course of life. We observe Jesus: He teaches, He tells the truth, He heals and helps those who come to Him. He brings a Kingdom into the world for those who will accept it. But even Jesus doesn't 'fix' people, unless they want His help. And even then, there are those who turn away because they cannot accept, even with the best of intentions, what He has to teach them. See, for example, the story of the rich young ruler, whom Jesus loved, as Mark's Gospel teaches. It is Jesus' love that forms and shapes and helps to make us into the creatures we're created to be, made in God's image. But we have to accept that love, and Jesus does not force anyone to do so. He must accept rejection, and follow where the Father's injunctions lead Him in His mission of salvation. In this, our lives would be best shaped by Him and His example, as part of His Way for us, as His disciples. It is part of the way in which we each must bear our own crosses, like Him, and the wisdom that He reveals to us. We, too, turn in prayer for the way beyond, and perhaps to a "new life" we're led toward that we could not expect, when we must accept the things we cannot change. He is Servant, and so must we learn what that is for each of us.