6. The business of mission, 11:1-12:50

iv] Jesus' as the prophesied Servant


Jesus' disciples had been plucking heads of grain on the Sabbath and this had not gone down well with the religious authorities. Their anger was reinforced when Jesus announced that "the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath." Later, Jesus reinforces this defiance by healing on the Sabbath, a presumption which prompted the Pharisees to plot how they might kill him. Leaving the district, Jesus continues his healing ministry, telling those healed that "they should not make him known", AV. Matthew notes that Jesus' reluctance to engage with the Pharisees serves to fulfill scripture. Quoting from Isaiah 42 he reminds his readers that the long-promised messiah bears no resemblance to the Davidic warrior of public expectation.


"Jesus did not intend to fulfill the role of the Messiah of popular expectation, an earthly king and deliverer, but a humble servant who would save men from their sins", Argyle. In the mission of the church, the disciple / son of God, performs the same role.


i] Context: See 11:1-19.


ii] Structure: Jesus the prophesied Servant:

Setting, v15-16:

"he healed all who were ill";

he warned the people not to broadcast his miracles.

Fulfillment formula, v17:

"this was to fulfill ...."

Formula quotation, v18-21:

Isaiah 42:1-4.


The opening sentence notes Jesus' withdrawal from conflict with the Pharisees, v15a. The quotation, Isaiah 42:1-4, agreeing with neither the MT or the LXX, consists of four sentences, the first three formed using typical rhythmic parallelism, v18-21.


iii] Interpretation:

In the passage before us we witness Jesus' reluctance to engage with the Pharisees, his popularity with the people, and his determination to keep a low profile - he did not want it known that he "cured all." For Matthew, these facts fulfill Isaiah 42:1-4. "Jesus will take the lowly way, not quarreling with his opposition, not entering into brawls, verbal or otherwise........ God's servant does not bluster, but quietly proceeds on his chosen path, whatever the cost, until the eventual divine victory", Morris.

As already noted, Matthew's selection and arrangement of his received tradition in this second narrative section, chapters 11 and 12, serves to develop and apply the second discourse / teaching section - mission and martyrdom, 9:35-10:42. So, the passage before us serves as a paradigm for the mission of the church - as goes the master, so goes the disciple. Mission / gospel ministry / evangelism is to all nations without quarreling or brawling, an announcement that the time of judgment has come, but also a time of salvation for all who put their trust in Christ.


The messianic secret: We have in this passage an overt example of the messianic secret at work, cf. 8:4, 9:30, but here with a possible explanation for it in the form of a quote from Isaiah 42:1-4, Isaiah's first Servant Song, with particular reference to v19. Reason's for Jesus' down-playing of his messianic credentials range from a desire to not stir up the Roman authorities through an outbreak of public messianic fervor, to a desire to limit the incorporation of fare-weather disciples. Mark makes much more of the messianic secret than Matthew. For Matthew, the messianic secret is nothing more than "a trait in his [Jesus] character", McNeile, and that such fulfills prophecy - Jesus is God's servant, not his miracle worker.


iv] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

Text - 12:15

Jesus, the prophesied servant of the Lord, v15-21; i] The messianic secret, v15-16. Matthew heavily edits the tradition at this point, unlike Mark who preserves the tradition in greater detail, cf., Mk.3:7-12. None-the-less, Matthew provides us with the essential issues at hand. Jesus' healing ministry is stirring up popular enthusiasm and this prompts him to tell those healed that they should not speak of the miracle. Jesus is not the messiah of popular expectation; he is the Suffering Servant.

de "-" - but/and. Given the plot by the religious authorities to kill Jesus, v14, and the oJ de construction, the conjunction here is possibly adversative, "but", although it also indicates a step in the narrative, ie., transitional.

gnouV (ginwskw) aor. part. "aware of this" - [jesus] knowing, coming to know this. The participle is adverbial, either causal, or temporal; "when Jesus became aware of this", NRSV. The object is unstated in the Gk., "this" = the plot to kill him. "But Jesus, who knew what they were thinking (planning??)", Rieu.

anecwrhsen (anacwrew) aor. "withdrew [from that place]" - he withdrew, retired, departed, went away [from there]. Often with the sense of "withdraw from danger." Jesus worked out what the Pharisees were planning and so therefore he moved away from where the plotters were.

polloi adj. "many" - [and] many [crowds]. Nominative subject of the verb "to follow." "A large crowd" is obviously intended. A variant "crowd" actually exists, but is probably an addition.

hkolouqhsan (akolouqew) aor. "[many] followed / [a large crowd [followed]" - followed. Although the word is often used of "follow" as a disciple, it is likely that here they followed because of his healings.

autw/ dat. pro. "him" - Dative of direct object after the verb "to follow."

pantaV adj. "[he healed] all [their] sick" - [and he healed them] all. Accusative direct object of the verb "to heal. Obviously not everyone in the crowd was sick and so the literal reading "healed them all" is usually taken to mean "he healed all their sick", NIV, TEV, CEV, ... Lying behind the "all" is the idea that there "were no failures", Morris.


kai "-" - and. Here coordinative, Jesus "healed them all and warned them that ...."

epetimhsen (epitimaw) aor. "warning / he warned" - he warned / rebuked. "Rebuked" in the sense of "ordered"; "he warned sternly against", Zerwick.

autoiV dat. pro. "them" - Dative of direct object after the epi prefix verb "to rebuke." The antecedent is unclear, but presumably it was those Jesus had just healed.

iJna + subj. "[not] to" - that. Here introducing a dependent statement of indirect speech expressing what those who had been healed should not do. As noted above, the messianic secret takes the fore in this passage. It may well be that Jesus' desire to maintain the messianic secret simply reminds us that Jesus is no "triumphant Messiah." Carson suggests he "wants to separate himself from exclusively royal and militaristic interpretations of Messiah's role", but in the end it is not overly clear why Jesus acts as he does.

faneron adj. "tell [who he was] / tell others [about him]" - [they should not make him] known, plain, manifest. Accusative complement of the direct object "him" of the verb "to make" standing in a double accusative construction. It is unclear what Jesus is actually ordering them not to do. The NIV has Jesus ordering them "not to tell who is was", but this is far too general. Presumably Jesus is telling them not to publish abroad the overt miraculous elements of his ministry, cf. 8:4, 9:30; "Jesus seeks to avoid having his healings function like publicity stunts, intended for self promotion. Jesus insists here that those healed not become his publicists", Nolland. "He strictly ordered them not to surround him with publicity", Barclay.


ii] Matthew's typical fulfillment formula, cf. 1:22, 3:3, 4:14. Jesus' unwillingness to confront the Pharisees and their plots against him, prompts Matthew to quote a passage from Isaiah's Servant Song, Isaiah 42:1-4.

iJna + subj. "this was to [fulfill]" - that [might be fulfilled]. This construction may form a final clause expressing purpose and is often translated this way here, "in order that"; "all this happened that the statement made through the prophet Isaiah might come true", Barclay. Yet it seems more likely that a consecutive clause expressing consequence / result is the intended sense, "with the result that"; "so God's promise came true, just as the prophet Isaiah had said", CEV.

to rJhqen (eipon) aor. pas. part. "what was spoken" - the thing said. The participle serves as a substantive, subject of the verb "might be fulfilled"; "with the result that what was spoken ....... was fulfilled."

dia "through" - through, by means of [the prophet]. Instrumental, expressing agency.

legontoV (legw) gen. pres. part. "-" - saying. The participle, genitive in agreement with "the prophet Isaiah", is best taken as adjectival, attributive, limiting "the prophet Isaiah", "who said.


iii] Formula quotation, Isaiah 42:1-4, v18-21. This passage describes God's ideal servant. The quote may be a free form version of the original Hebrew or taken from an Aramaic Targum. Like the LXX, there is no mention of "Jacob" and "Israel". Matthew chooses not to quote the clause "he will not grow faint or be discouraged until he has established justice on the earth." The point of the quote is that the Lord's servant is gentle and humble. As for the role of the servant, he "is to announce to the nations that the time for the righteous judgment of God (ie., his salvation) has come", see below. The "servant" in Isaiah is Israel and it is through the bestowal of the Spirit that the nation would fulfill the Lord's intended purpose for humanity - a blessing upon all nations / people. Israel had failed in this task, and so now Jesus, as representative Israel, is set to complete the intended destiny of a paradise lost - "a new creation." Christ's gentle and humble mission sets the pattern for the church's mission.

idou (eidon) interjection. "here is" - behold. Matthew uses this interjection to prompt attention; "look, pay attention, take note of this, ...." It is not found in the text of Isaiah.

oJ paiV "[my] servant" - the servant, slave, son [of me]. Wallace classifies this noun as a nominative of exclamation. "Servant" rather than "son" is intended.

hJ/retisa (airetizw) aor. "I have chosen" - [whom] i chose. Heb. "whom I uphold." "Chosen" in the sense of selected to undertake a particular task.

oJ agaphtoV adj. "the one [I] love" - the beloved [of me]. Nominative, standing in apposition to "servant". Lit. "my beloved", AV, although more recent translations follow the NIV - a translation which sounds better to the modern ear.

eiV "in [whom]" - into [whom]. Probably adverbial here, expressing reference / respect, "with respect to whom."

hJ yuch (h) "I" - the soul [of me]. Nominative subject of the verb "to find." "Soul" in the sense of one's being, person; "in whom my soul has found delight", Barclay, or better, "in whom I take delight", REB.

eudokhsen (eudokew) aor. "delight" - was well pleased, enjoyed.

ep (epi) + acc. "[I will put my Spirit] on" - [i will put the spirit of me] upon, on, up to. A spacial sense is obviously intended, metaphorical; "I shall rest my soul on him", Cassirer. To the Western mind "I will fill him with my Spirit", TH, probably makes more sense.

krisin (iV ewV) "justice" - [and] judgment, decision. Accusative object of the verb "to proclaim." The noun here is often translated with the positive word "justice", but this deceptively misses the intended sense. The JB, opting for a positive slant, bravely goes for "the true faith" ("religion", Weymouth), although they backtrack to "judgment" with the NJB. The negative is obviously present and this can be brought out by the word "judgment"; "I will announce to the nations that the time of judgment has come", Barclay. The word "judgment" is best taken in the sense of the coming day of eschatological fulfillment when every human being / the nations / the Gentiles must stand in the dock to face the judgment seat of God. This is a far better translation than the word "justice", so Luz. The trouble is that the word "judgment" is usually viewed negatively. The righteous judgment of God entails the allocation of both blessings and cursings, and this on the ground of grace. So, the judgment is both positive and negative. The servant has been appointed to proclaim (and administer) the coming day of judgment, of the settling of accounts, of that day when the righteous are blessed and the unrighteous cursed. In short, the servant is authorized to proclaim the gospel - "the kingdom of God is at hand, repent and believe." Given the nature of the servant song, particularly v21 and its "language of hope", Nolland, a positive slant to the clause is best; "and he will proclaim the coming day of salvation."

toiV eqnesin (oV ouV) dat. "to the nations" - to the gentiles = non jews [he will proclaim]. The dative may well serve for a locative en, "judgment on, upon the nations" or it may be a dative of interest, advantage, "for the nations." The text, by implication, also applies to Israel, particularly the lost remnant of Israel. Under the Abrahamic covenant, the promise of salvation extends beyond Israel to the world. This inclusive promise is realized in the Servant's proclamation of the coming day of judgment - a day of salvation for the righteous by faith and a day of condemnation for the righteous by works - the unrighteous / unbelieving.


Nolland suggests that this verse, in particular (also v20), prompts Matthew's use of the text from Isaiah's Servant Song in order to explain why Jesus sought not to engage with the Pharisees. As God's appointed servant, Jesus "is not strident or disputatious; his approach is not aggressive or self-assertive", Nolland.

ouk erisei (erizw) fut. "he will not quarrel" - he will not strive, challenge, quarrel, wrangle, argue. The servant is not a loud-mouthed argumentative type who shoves his opinions down the throats of others.

oude ..... oude "or [cry out]; no [one ...]" - nor [shout] nor [will hear anyone in the streets the voice of him]. A negated correlative construction.

kraugasei (kraugazw) fut. "cry out" - [nor] cry out, shout, scream. The "shouting" is well expressed in the parallel clause, although the actual sense remains unclear. A literal sense, "he will not make loud speeches in public", probably overstates the descriptive nature of the language. "He will not be quarrelsome, a complainer, nor a rabble-rouser", Junkins.


suntetrimmenon (suntribw) perf. pas. part. "[a] bruised [reed]" - [a reed] having been crushed, bruised, broken [he will not break]. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "reed", a reed which has been bruised. The metaphor describes a weak and feeble thing, battered by circumstance. So, the reed may be bent / crushed, but the Servant will not break it off. Most translations stay with the image, but it probably doesn't impact on the modern mind. Peterson's "he won't walk over anyone's feelings", is a possibility, or better "he will be gentle to those who are weak", TH.

tufomenon (tufw) perf. pas. part. "[a] smoldering [wick]" - [and] having been smoking [linen = linen lamp wick he will not extinguish]. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "wick". Again, the metaphor images the gentle nature of the Servant. The lamp may be flickering, just staying alight, but the Servant won't snuff it out. Again, most translations stay with the metaphor. Peterson suggests "won't push you into a corner", but this is too limiting. Anyway, the point is that the Servant will "not deal harshly with (discard) those who are frail and weak", TH, and those who serve the Servant must do likewise, ie., the image illustrates the nature of Christian mission.

eJwV an + subj. "till [he leads]" - until [brings forth, leads]. This construction introduces an indefinite temporal clause which refers to a future time, as NIV.

thn krisin (iV ewV) "justice" - judgment, justice. Accusative direct object of the verb "to cast out" = "to lead", cf., v18. "Until he makes his judgment victorious", Barclay.

eiV + acc. "to [victory]" - Here expressing goal / end-view; "until salvation is triumphant."


In the end, the hope of salvation rests with God's Servant, a hope realized by trusting him.

tw/ onomati "in [his] name" - in the name [of him]. The dative is locative, metaphorical, as NIV. "Name" representing the whole person, so "in his person" = "in him", although often with the sense of "under his authority

elpiousin (elpizw) fut. "will put their hope" - [the gentiles] will hope. Israel's hope of salvation, of a kingdom, of the fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant, realized in and through the Jewish messiah / the Servant, is a hope which the nations / Gentiles are invited to entertain. Matthew uses the word "hope" because he is quoting scripture, but the sense leans toward a faith / trust; "and all people will put their trust in him / will place their confidence in him", trusting him for their eternal salvation.


Matthew Introduction



[Pumpkin Cottage]