Sermon: Jesus, the Servant of God Matthew 12:15–21

Truth Taught- Jesus, God’s Servant will accomplish all things God has given Him to do.


In the Book of Isaiah we have what has become known as the four Servant Songs.  They are prophetic poetry explaining what the Servant of God or His Messiah will do and what He will be like.  

If we are to understand the text under consideration today, it’s vital that we see the overall picture Matthew is painting for us of Jesus, the Servant of God.
The first Servant Song is quoted in our text today.  

According to this song Isaiah 42:1-9, the Servant of the Lord is chosen by God, and God delights in Him. The Servant has the Spirit of God abiding on Him.

What event in the life of our Lord does this sound like?  His Baptism.  When Jesus was baptized in the River Jordan, the Spirit of God descended upon Him, and a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” This was a divine allusion to Isaiah 42. The clear teaching of the New Testament is that Jesus Christ is the Servant in the Servant Song prophecies.

Acts 3:13 (ESV) 

13 The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. 

Isaiah 49:1–13. This second of the four Servant Songs speaks of the Messiah’s work in the world and His success. The Servant’s statement that “before I was born the Lord called me” (verse 1) uses language similar to the call of the prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:5). The reference in Isaiah 49:2 to the mouth of the Servant of the LORD being “like a sharpened sword” is a prophetic image that pops up several times in the New Testament (Ephesians 6:17; Hebrews 4:12; Revelation 1:16; 2:12, 16; 19:15).

Revelation 1:16 (ESV) 

16 In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength. 

God’s salvation is brought to all people. Christ Jesus is “the light of the world” (Luke 2:30–32; John 8:12; 9:5) and the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecies. On their first missionary journey, Paul and Barnabas bring the gospel to the Gentiles in Antioch, and they quote Isaiah 49:6. 

Isaiah 49:6 (ESV) 

   he says: 

      “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant 

to raise up the tribes of Jacob 

and to bring back the preserved of Israel; 

       I will make you as a light for the nations, 

that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” 

The response of the Gentiles in Antioch is pure joy: “When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord” (Acts 13:48). In Christ both Jews and Gentiles are made one (Ephesians 2:11–18).

The Third Servant Song is found in Isaiah 50:4-11 

Starting in verse 4, the Servant responds to the instruction of God. He is not rebellious (verse 5), even when His obedience to God results in suffering:
“I offered my back to those who beat me,
my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard;
I did not hide my face
from mocking and spitting” (verse 6).
The Servant of the Lord expresses His confidence that God will help Him and that He will be found innocent (verses 7–9). In this confidence, the Messiah resolves to see His task to completion, no matter how difficult the road becomes (cf. Luke 9:51).
Some 800 years later, Jesus fulfilled this prophecy. Abuse and insults were heaped upon our Lord as He was thrown to the Roman soldiers. His back was beaten, His face was hit and beard plucked, and He was spit upon (see John 19:1–3; Matthew 27:30). The Lord Jesus was obedient unto death (Philippians 2:8), and the Father vindicated His Suffering Servant by resurrecting Him. “Because the Sovereign Lord helps me, I will not be disgraced” (Isaiah 52:7).

Isaiah 52:13—53:12. This climactic fourth Servant Song describes the suffering and triumph of the Servant of the LORD. It is also one of the most detailed passages in the Old Testament concerning the death and resurrection of the Messiah.
The song begins with a promise that the Servant will be exalted (Isaiah 52:13), but then immediately turns to a description of extreme violence:
“His appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being
and his form marred beyond human likeness” (Isaiah 52:14).
The Messiah will be “despised and rejected by mankind” (Isaiah 53:3). When He is brutally punished, people will see that He is being afflicted by God (verse 4). The fourth Servant Song makes it clear why He endures such persecution, He is afflicted by God for the payment of the sin of His people.
“He was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed” (verse 5).
It is our iniquity being placed on Him that explains His suffering (verse 6). Verse 7 predicts that the Messiah will be silent before His accusers (cf. Matthew 27:14). Verse 9 says that, although the Servant of the Lord is innocent, He will die with the wicked and be “with the rich in his death.”
Isaiah 53:10 tells us why the Servant dies:
“It was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
and…the Lord makes his life an offering for sin.”
This is the substitutionary atonement. His life for ours. The death of the Messiah accomplished the will of God concerning our salvation.
Immediately following the prophecy of the Servant’s death, Isaiah makes a startling prophecy of the Servant’s victory:
“[The Lord] will see his offspring and prolong his days,
and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.
After he has suffered,
he will see the light of life and be satisfied. . . .
Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,
and he will divide the spoils with the strong” (verses 10–12).
So, in the fourth Servant Song, death is not the end for the Servant. After He suffers, He will “see the light of life.” He will “divide the spoils.” His days will be prolonged. What we have here is a prophecy of the resurrection of Christ.

So, Matthew helps us understand why, in our passage today, Jesus withdrew and commanded the people not to tell anyone who He is.

Matthew 12:15–21 (ESV) 

15 Jesus, aware of this, withdrew from there. And many followed him, and he healed them all 16 and ordered them not to make him known. 17 This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: 

18    “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. 

19    He will not quarrel or cry aloud, 

nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets; 

20    a bruised reed he will not break, 

and a smoldering wick he will not quench, 

       until he brings justice to victory; 

21        and in his name the Gentiles will hope.” 

1.  The Servant’s Continual Quiet Ministry (12:15-16)

15 Jesus, aware of this, withdrew from there. And many followed him, and he healed them all 16 and ordered them not to make him known.

Here we have another example of the secrecy Jesus wants to maintain.  He’s not going to draw extra attention to Himself.  He does not stand and argue theology with the lost Pharisees.  They go out and seek how to kill Jesus and our Lord goes out and quietly continues His calling.  The passage tells us He withdrew and many followed Him.  When they followed and listened to His teaching the passage tells us He healed them all.  They were just like the man with the withered hand who needed help.  Our Lord does not let their suffering continue…it is, in fact, lawful to do good on the Sabbath.  

What is striking is that after they are healed, Jesus commands them not to tell anyone.  This is known as the secrecy of Jesus.  Matthew mentions this over and over again.

The Cleansed Leper…
Matthew 8:1–4 (ESV) 

When he came down from the mountain, great crowds followed him. And behold, a leper came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. And Jesus said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a proof to them.” 

The Two Healed Blind Men…

Matthew 9:27–31 (ESV) 

27 And as Jesus passed on from there, two blind men followed him, crying aloud, “Have mercy on us, Son of David.” 28 When he entered the house, the blind men came to him, and Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” They said to him, “Yes, Lord.” 29 Then he touched their eyes, saying, “According to your faith be it done to you.” 30 And their eyes were opened. And Jesus sternly warned them, “See that no one knows about it.” 31 But they went away and spread his fame through all that district. 

You may be asking the question, why doesn’t Jesus want anyone to know?  Why does He command those whom He has healed not to tell anyone?
I mean aren’t we commanded to tell others about Jesus?  The Great Commission is all about telling others about Jesus.  So, what’s going on here?

Jesus is showing that there is much more He came to do than to heal people physically.  In these cases mentioned His command not to tell is centered around the miracle of healing.  Don’t tell everyone who healed you.  Jesus did not want only to be known as the amazing healer.  He had so much more to do than just rid people of physical diseases; His mission was to heal them of the disease of sin.  

The faithfulness of God’s Servant would be perfect and continual no matter the threat or the consequences.  In other words, Jesus is faithful to His Father’s will even enduring death on the cross.  

2.  My Servant Will Be Given My Spirit (12:17-18)

 17 This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: 

18    “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. 

What’s as amazing is the complete confidence the Father has in Jesus, His Servant.  Even before our Lord’s ministry begins, God the Father declares His complete approval at His baptism.  He was marking Jesus with His Spirit and declaring His complete approval even before Jesus begins His ministry.  God has sovereign confidence in His Son, His beloved Servant.  If we really think through this text, what Matthew is telling us is that the Father had complete confidence in Jesus even centuries before when He told Isaiah about Him.  800years before Jesus’ birth God had already set things in motion and predicted it through Isaiah.  Even before that the Father had complete confidence in Jesus.

Do you see why God’s declaration at Jesus’ baptism is so important?  

Matthew 3:16–17 (ESV) 

16 And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; 17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

The Father identifies Jesus, His Servant and on that day declares His complete approval in all the Son will do.

Jesus, in the power of the Holy Spirit proclaims justice.  This is a very strange concept.  It is a little confusing until we learn that in Isaiah’s day, justice was connected to righteousness and the righteous King.  Jesus preached the Kingdom of God.  He proclaimed the day when the Kingdom of God will cover the entire earth and there will be perfect justice.  This justice is closely in line with justification.  Jesus will preach salvation to sinners.
Not only will Jesus proclaim justice but Isaiah’s prophecy is He will proclaim it to the Gentiles.  Gentile sinners will themselves be declared to be just and righteous by God, that sinners who were not right with God will, by divine decree, be declared now to be right with him and to be righteous and holy in his sight, even though they were unrighteous sinners.

Actually Scripture says that for someone to justify or declare a sinner to be righteous is an abomination: “He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous are both alike an abomination to the Lord” (Proverbs 17:15). But that is precisely what this Servant of the Lord will do. This is how he “shall proclaim justice to the Gentiles” (Matthew 12:18).

But in his case it will not be an abomination, precisely because this Servant will take the sins of the Gentile sinners upon himself (Isa. 53:6) and suffer their chastisement for them (Isa. 53:5). 

2 Corinthians 5:21 (ESV) 

21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 

In this way their sins will be atoned for by Jesus, whose sacrificial death on the cross as a sin offering will make atonement for all the sins of His people, thus enabling God now to do in all justice what Proverbs 17:15 says is an abomination, a miscarriage of justice, namely he will justify the ungodly, declaring them to be righteous.

Romans 4:5 (ESV) 

And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, 

18    “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. 

3.  The Servant’s Compassion

19    He will not quarrel or cry aloud, 

nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets; 

20    a bruised reed he will not break, 

and a smoldering wick he will not quench, 

       until he brings justice to victory; 

21        and in his name the Gentiles will hope.” 

What else does Isaiah tell us about the Servant of God, Jesus Christ?  
Our Lord’s ministry is not a ministry of debating and arguing.  Jesus does not go through the towns yelling and quarreling with others.  His is a quiet consistent ministry of the Servant of God.  Jesus is humble.  He has the attention of the people but not because He has made the attention about Him.  He continually preaches the Kingdom of God, the justice and righteousness God offers to repentant sinners. 

20    a bruised reed he will not break, 

and a smoldering wick he will not quench, 

Jesus cares for the weak and helpless.  He does not take advantage of the elderly or the sick but comes to their aid.  In this we see a clear contrast between Jesus, the Servant of God and the Pharisees who simply served themselves.  Jesus heals all the people while they plan His murder.  They are calloused and insensitive to the lame such as the man with the withered hand.  

Isaiah tells us that Jesus will do all these amazing things until the justice of God is
completely fulfilled.  until he brings justice to victory; 

The Servant’s ministry would continue through ferocious persecution.  No matter what takes place Jesus never stopped preaching, healing, and loving the people.  When He died on the cross, declaring it is finished fulfilling all God had sent Him to do, He was faithful to very end and justice was victorious.

Then Isaiah tells us something so important… in his name the Gentiles will hope

Gentiles will put their trust in Jesus, God’s Servant.  
Have you placed your trust in Jesus?  Is Isaiah right?  
Revelation 7:9–10 (ESV) 

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” 

*Resources Used:

Matthew by D A Carson in the Expositor’s Bible Commentary

A Theology of Matthew by Charles Quarles

A Gospel of Matthew by France

Matthew by Craig Bloomberg

Matthew by Doriani

Matthew by Charles Price

Matthew by Leon Morris

Click to access 609.pdf

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