Matthew 12

Matthew 12: The Bruised Reed

Do you feel like a  bruised reed this morning?  Does your life seem like a flickering, smoldering candle – more smoke than flame or light? Do you have a loved one who is a bruised reed and/or a smoldering wick this morning?  Then we need what the old disciple John needed on the Isle of Patmos- we need to hear Jesus- we need to turn around and see the voice that is speaking to us, we need to see Jesus.

Let me for just a moment take you back to that small band of apostles named in the 10th chapter of Matthew. Let us go back to that fateful Sunday and observe them in the aftermath of the Lord’s crucifixion. John had been an eyewitness to the Lord’s suffering on the cross as he stood by Mary the Lord’s mother. John knew what he saw- Jesus died. He was dead.   Yet on Sunday morning, Mary Magdalene had gone out to the tomb and saw the stone had been rolled away from the entrance to His tomb. She ran to tell the disciples ‘ they have taken the Lord out of the tomb and I do not know where they have put Him.’ You know the story, Peter and John ran out to the tomb. Their discovery was an empty tomb and John writes of  what he saw. He saw the linen in which he had been wrapped. The ‘cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen. He saw and believed.’ What did John see? He saw burial clothes that were like an empty cocoon. Not unraveled and lying in disarray like the burial clothes they had unwrapped from Lazarus when he came forth from the grave.

Sunday night. Where were the disciples?  Thomas was missing, Judas was dead. Here we find the remaining ten disciples as John describes the scene in John 20: 19-20. “ On the evening of the first day ( Sunday) of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said, “ Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed, when they saw the Lord.”  Here they were- this small band of whom it would later be said- they turned the world upside down. They were like a frightened bunch of  children. Afraid at every sound and knock on the door, they were fearful the Jews were coming to arrest them and take them away to die. They were a bunch of bruised reeds, swaying in the breeze- the flame of their candles was flickering and smoldering. They needed to see and hear Jesus. Then there He was—all of a sudden in their midst. The door had not opened. Yet they heard him and turned to his voice and saw him.  Remember what Peter said that morning after he had fished all night?  The Lord said push out to the deep and drop your nets.  It was the last thing Peter wanted to do- he had fished all night and caught nothing. But watch what he said—‘nevertheless, at thy word,   I will let down the net.’ ( Luke 5)

Turn to his voice, his word and do what he says and you will see Jesus. You will see him at work.

Max Lucado has a writing style all his own. And in his book, Six Hours One

Friday,  he tells us in an unusual statement- exactly what Jesus had accomplished at the cross. “ Jesus beat the hell out of death!” Isn’t that a shocking , but wonderful truth.

Now as we look at the passages today in Matthew 12, I would remind you- God is love. And how is this love described?  “Love is patient. Love is kind. It does not envy. It does not boast. It is not proud. It is not rude. It is not self-seeking. It is not easily angered. It keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” ( I Cor. 13)

Now we have just read in Matthew 11, the Lord Jesus is calling us to come to him for rest, explains he is gentle and humble in heart. His yoke is easy and his burden is light.

This leads us into a discussion that will follow the Lords’ actions on this particular Sabbath. While his yoke is easy and the burden light, this is not so with the Pharisees who had put heavy loads of legalistic law- keeping on the peoples’ shoulders.  Now one might think, well the Lord  said we had to be perfect and holy as God is holy and that our righteousness must exceed the righteousness of the Pharisees.  Is that not even more difficult, in fact, impossible? You see the Lord let us know it is impossible to keep the law.  So he has kept it for us and “by grace through faith we are saved, and that not of ourselves, it is a gift of God , not of works lest any man should boast.” ( Ephesians 2: 8,9)   that is why the burden is light, because the Lord bore our sins for us at Calvary. And that is where for us- ‘ the burden of our hearts was rolled away.’

The only area the Pharisees could attack the Lord in as a lawbreaker was in their man-made laws about how to keep the Sabbath.  These men had designed over 600 laws- that defined what was considered work on the Sabbath day. It is here they attempt to accuse the Lord of breaking the law.  While passing through a grain field, the Lord and his disciples eat some of the grain because they were hungry.  Immediately the Pharisees launch their attack – you and your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath.

Jesus rebuts their arguments with Scripture that records what David and his companions did- when they ate the consecrated bread. And Jesus pointed out how the priests worked on the Sabbath, yet were innocent.  The Pharisees seemed to be left speechless.  Next in the synagogue, he heals a man with a withered hand. And again they tell him he is breaking their man-made laws regarding keeping the Sabbath.  Yet Jesus knows they can take an ox out of a ditch or a sheep out of pit on the Sabbath according to their laws and says how much more valuable is a man than a sheep?  In fact, it is unlawful not to do good on the Sabbath.  What is the reaction of the Pharisees?  They cannot win an argument based on truth. Therefore they will plot to kill the one- who is called – the Truth.

Jesus withdrew from that place and here is the text I want us to understand today:  “ Here is my servant whom I have chosen, the one I love, in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit in him and he will proclaim justice to the nations. He will not quarrel or cry out; no one will hear his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out, till he leads justice to victory. In his name the nations ( the Gentiles) will put their trust.”

The quote is from Isaiah and as Matthew correctly states the Lord’s actions were a fulfillment of prophecy. Who are the bruised reeds and the smoldering candles?  Well it is all who are weak and suffering and troubled.  Yes I would agree, but it is also directed toward the Pharisees, who were prideful, arrogant, self-seeking  and looking to build a record of the Lord’s wrongdoing according to their man-made laws. Yet, the Lord Jesus is long suffering with them. He has just soundly defeated them in their arguments. He has swept the floor with them- he has left them bruised and their lights dimmed- but he has not broken them off nor has he snuffed out their lights.

Why?  Because of his love. Because  He came the first time to seek and save the lost. Because the Father has waited not only patiently for the prodigal son to return, he has also gone out to the elder brother to invite him into the feast.  For Our Lord ,Our God would have both the prodigal son at the feast as well as the legalistic elder brother come to celebrate also.  Did not Jesus cry out upon coming to Jerusalem that last time- ‘O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets, how often I would have gathered you as a mother hen does her chicks, but you would not!’  Did you notice – he said ‘ how often.’ The Lord is long suffering. He is not willing that any should perish but all should come to repentance.

He comes to us individually.  In John 4, if we take note of the sequence of events- the Lord spent several hours one day- walking to Samaria.  Samaria, a place of half Jews,  a place which one of his disciples asked the Lord to call down fire upon it and destroy it. Yet Jesus spent most of the day with a woman, who was not a Jew but a Samaritan, married five times and living with a man who was not her husband. Or as our parents and grandparents would say- she was living in sin. We were all living is sin, weren’t we.  Here is Jesus who will end up spending two days in this village holding a revival among people , his own disciples were racially biased against.  No wonder the Gentiles trusted in him- he was gentle and humble in heart.

You see- whether the bruised reed is a self-righteous, pompous Pharisee or a person or persons we have a bias against, or sinners of such vile sins, we want to see them destroyed. We do not  see them as the Lord sees them- which is as bruised reeds and smoldering candles.  Yet Jesus told us to love our neighbors as  ourselves.  And when the lawyer asks Jesus who is our neighbor- Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan.  In fact , Jesus said to love your enemies- and pray for those who persecute you. When Jesus looked down from the cross- he saw mostly a crowd of people who hated him,  the Jewish leaders who wanted him dead, and the calloused, Roman soldiers who had beaten him, spat in his face and plucked his beard from his chin- yet what did he ask His Father to do:  “ Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”

When you see Jesus in the Scripture- when you turn to His voice, as John did on the Isle of Patmos, who do you see?  You see God in the flesh in the Gospels. He could have called down a legion of angels at any moment and done away with all of them who opposed Him.  But he did not. He was patient, kind, not easily angered. And He is the same today.

For now is the season of His patience. But be not deceived, His day of judgment is coming. Justice will be done.  Now He is gentle and lowly in heart.   He is exactly what the world of bruised reeds and smoldering candles need.  He is showing us what we need to be to the world of bruised reeds and smoldering candles.  Not judgmental, but loving and kind. Not keeping a record of wrongs. Not taking delight in evil, but in truth.

What we are seeing in the Gospels is the Savior’s forbearance. His patience, for love is patient, is kind. Look and see him standing patiently in line to be baptized by John the Baptist. If anyone had been standing next to him, he would have taken no notice of him. He did not barge ahead to the front of the line. And even after John the Baptist has confirmation, this is the Messiah. The Lord Jesus goes away for 40 days in the desert to be tempted by the devil.

If you had grown up in Nazareth- you would have known him as the ‘carpenter’s son.’ When he started his ministry and calling disciples, he called them one or two at a time. He started small- his miracles drew crowds, but he would just as quickly withdraw from the crowds- who would have him be there king.  You see he came the first time to die. To endure and save his creation, not enjoy it. The only crown that would be placed on his head was a crown of thorns. He was a man of sorrows.

Jesus came to save sinners. He died for our sins. Conversion is the mysterious work of the Holy Spirit. It is a life changed by the Spirit. “ Not by might or power, but by my Spirit says the Lord.” The Gentiles trusted him because he was gentle and humble. He did not win them with anything but his love- his love produced his longsuffering which kept him from breaking the bruised reed, whether it be the prodigal son, the woman caught in adultery, the Roman soldier or the proud, the arrogant, and the legalistic, elder brother Pharisees.

He does not snuff out the sinner – whose sins come up to him like a smoke that is a stench to his nostrils. He does not break the bruised reed of mankind born with a sinful nature. His judgment is coming, but now is the season of longsuffering. Justice will be done for God is Holy.

Here is what I see in today’s scriptures- Jesus did not break the Pharisees – for they were as bruised as the publicans and the prostitutes. He did not snuff out their lives. He had them on the ropes, but did not deliver the knockout punch.  He wanted them to come to Jesus. He wanted them to see who he was. He was there standing in front of them. His miracles were the signs he was who he said he was.

If Jesus was patient with his greatest enemies who sought to kill him, how much more will he be patient with us- who are just trying to figure out how to make sense out of this life.

Are you a backslider?  Has your candle that once burned bright, waned as you burned it at both ends? The Lord will not discard you. He will restore you.  Are you a bruised reed? Do you have a loved one who is a bruised reed?   A branch barely hanging onto the vine. Then know you are lovingly cared for by the vinedresser who wants to restore you to bear fruit. Even to the using of your suffering to help others who suffer in the same way.

Isn’t it interesting that every empire built on power and military might and force have passed away. But the empire of the Lord Jesus, the kingdom of heaven still lasts and will lasts forever.

When we get saved, when conversion takes place, Jesus says to us: ‘ you are mine- and I am yours.’When God called Abraham out of the Ur of Chaldees, He said, “I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse.” In other words God said He would be so identified with Abraham that He would consider the way others treated Abraham as treatment of Himself.

Remember what He said to Moses- I have heard the cries of my people. Remember what Jesus said to Saul of Tarsus- why do you persecute me.  We are His and He is ours! Whatever concerns us- concerns Him.

That Sunday night, the first day of the week, after the crucifixion, the disciples were as bruised as bruised could be.  The flame of their candles were smoldering. One of their own group, had been a traitor and had betrayed the Lord for money. Peter, their fearless leader- was so filled with fear, he cursed he knew the Lord, just as the  Lord was led out by his captives. Surely their discussion in hushed voices in that upper room was about what to do next. What happens now. How can we go on? What does this mean?

Then there He was in their midst. They could hear His voice. They recognized his voice- for his sheep know his voice. They saw him. They saw the scars. What did he say to them— exactly what they needed to hear, exactly what bruised reeds and smoldering candles need to hear. “ Peace be with you.”

That is what a bruised reed needs to hear in a storm. A bruised reed fears storms- for they can break off that fragile, bruised reed.  A smoldering candle fears the winds of the storm- they will surely snuff out the feeble spark that is left.

When you read a  novel, a story- do you not conjure up in the eye of your mind what the characters look like. My mother said when she read  Gone With the Wind and then went to see the movie.  All the characters were just like she had imagined when she read the book.

Read the greatest story ever told. Read about a God who is Love. Can you not visualize Him?  Can you not see those disciples in the upper room- sometimes crying and sobbing and wondering what will we do now?  Can you see Peter and John running to the empty tomb that early spring morning. The dew is on the ground, the air cold enough to see their breath. And then when they look- I believe John is realizing – He is alive. He is alive and my sins are forgiven. He’s alive and heaven’s gates are open wide!  The image of Lazarus’ grave clothes unwrapped in a frenzy of excitement lay in a pile of rags- this was not what he saw and what he saw made him believe.  Can you see the empty tomb? Oh God open the eyes our hearts so that we might see the hope to which we are called.

Listen to what He says. Turn to his voice, his word, as John did that day on the Isle of Patmos and you will see him in all his glory as John did.

Thomas, forever tagged with the name, Thomas the Doubter, said he would not believe unless he saw. And Jesus granted his request. Thomas saw and did not doubt any longer. A bruised reed was not broken.  A smoldering , flickering candle, did not go out but was re-ignited.  And Jesus said: “ Thomas, because you have seen me; you have believed; blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” ( John 20)

Are you a bruised reed this morning?  Do you have a loved one who is a bruised reed? Is your candle flickering and smoldering and it makes everything seem dimmer.   Then turn your eyes upon Jesus and look full in his wonderful face- and the things of this world will grow strangely dim in the light of his wonder and grace.

Do want to see Jesus?  Turn to his voice as John did.  Turn to his word and you will see Him.

Ask the Lord to open the eyes of your heart- for those are the eyes with which we will see him. Ask for wisdom.

Tell Him the desire of your heart is : You Want To See Jesus.  He will tell you where to look.  He will not break the bruised reed nor will He snuff out the smoldering wick.  Do not be afraid. He is perfect. His love is perfect. And guess what? Perfect love casts out fears- so cast your cares upon Him, the One who cares for you.

Copyright © 2010 Linda Benthal
Last modified: 08/12/14