Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Withdraw - is it an option?

Christ in the Synagogue - Gustave Dore
Christ in the synagogue - Gustave Dore
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Matthew 12:15-32

TO CHEW ON: "Then the Pharisees went out and plotted against Him, how they might destroy Him. But when Jesus knew it, He withdrew from there." Matthew 12:14-15

Here we see Jesus making a point of avoiding confrontation. When He discovered the Pharisees were plotting to take His life, He slipped away.

While we moderns often thrive on the controversy that confrontation brings, using the notoriety to further our cause (whether that is selling books, songs or the latest movie, pushing greenness, bike lanes, or racial equality), Jesus quietly left the area. Mind you, the Pharisees here were plotting to take His life. But you'd think that as Lord of the universe He could easily have foiled that while utilizing the showdown to draw attention to Himself and what He taught. But that wasn't His way.

Matthew interprets His actions as Jesus embodying the fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy (Isaiah 42:1-4):
"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..."

Instead of quarreling and crying out, the Isaiah Servant is characterized by the care He shows the hurting:

"A bruised reed He will not break
And smoking flax He will not quench."

That's exactly what we've just seen Jesus do. He demonstrated that His first concern was with the person that was in trouble and needed help.
  • Matthew 12:3-4: He defended famished David and his men for eating the sacred showbread (1 Samuel 21:6).
  • Matthew 12:5: He defended the priests, who needed to work (prepare sacrifices and offerings - Numbers 28:9) on the Sabbath.
  • Matthew 12:7: He quoted the prophets (Hosea 6:6; Micah 6:6-8) to show that preferring mercy over strict legalism was God's long-established principle.

And then to prove it, Jesus healed the man with the withered hand, right in front of their eyes ON THE SABBATH! Which, of course, led to the threats quoted at the beginning of this meditation.

What do we do when we are certain we have the right approach, have done the right thing and are challenged, even threatened for it? Might that be the time to take a page out of Jesus' book and "withdraw" from there. Not back down on principle, but refrain from defending ourselves and our position? What do you think?

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, thank You for Your example of humility and gentleness. Your unpretentious ways are a challenge to me to be less strident in defending myself, more trusting that God will come to my defense in the right time and way. Amen.


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Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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