Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Devotional: The Most Important Question #1, Matthew 12:15-32

In this section Matthew shows us the main point of his Gospel. Jesus is the Servant of God (Isaiah 42) who brings in God’s kingdom. In the original context of Matthew’s quote, it is clear that the servant is Israel, but as Isaiah continues, the description of Israel as the servant seems to morph between the nation and an individual who would represent the nation. Matthew’s point is that Jesus is the one who ultimately fulfills this prophecy and will accomplish what God chose Israel to do. As the Messiah, he will fulfill David’s covenant and bring God’s righteous and just rule now and in the age to come. As the Servant, he will fulfill the promise to Abraham as his descendant who brings the blessing of God’s rest to Israel and to all the nations and families of the earth. But this is not just an academic theological statement. How we answer the question, “Who is Jesus?” determines our status in the final judgment and our current experience of peace, wholeness and victory over the forces of evil and chaos in our lives right now.

Matthew here continues his presentation of the conflict between Jesus and the religious scholars over who has the authority to interpret God’s revelation to the people. He has already shown that God brings healing and rest through Jesus on the Sabbath. He now provides more specific identification and proof for Jesus’ identity in 12:15-21. First, Jesus is able to heal ALL who come to him. Second, he withdrew from the fight with the Pharisees and ministered gently and humbly to the people. This fits the description of Isaiah’s servant. First, the miracles show his endowment by the Spirit. The Spirit is bringing the healing, rest, and blessing of the kingdom to Israel. Second, he had a servant ministry which did not seek political power or military victory, but came to humbly meet the needs of his suffering people. He would go to the cross and sacrifice himself to “bring justice to victory” and “hope to the Gentiles.” The evidence was there in front of their eyes. What would they do with it? What will you do with it?

In the next section, we see the importance of the question. (12:22-32) Jesus, amazingly and instantly, heals a demonized man who could neither see nor speak. This prompts the key question, “Can this be the Son of David?” Is Jesus the one who is bringing in God’s kingdom? The Pharisees respond by accusing Jesus of magic, that he is using the power of Satan. They cannot question the miracle so they question the source of the miracle. They were so hard-hearted that the very events God was using to reveal himself to them were seen as the work of Satan. Jesus wonders why they question him when they don’t question other Jewish exorcists. Even they knew that someone could not be working for Satan and Jesus at the same time. All they needed to do was look at the character of the ministry he was doing. People were not bring exploited. They were being freed from darkness, sin, and its effects. The Pharisees were in a very dangerous place. Though they claimed to uphold the Torah, they were taking council to murder a man in contradiction to the law they claimed to be protecting. (12:14) They were dangerously close, like pharaoh of old, to hardening their hearts beyond repentance.

Matthew has presented the evidence. Jesus is the Servant, endowed by the Spirit to bring in the kingdom, provide rest and blessing to his people, forgive sins, and break the chains by which the forces of darkness have imprisoned us. All he asks is that we trust him with our lives and follow him. What’s your answer today?

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