Our Mediator — Jehovah’s Servant
“Then the Pharisees went out, and held a council against him, how they might destroy him. But when Jesus knew it, he withdrew himself from thence: and great multitudes followed him, and he healed them all; And charged them that they should not make him known: That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, Behold my servant, whom I have chosen; my beloved, in whom my soul is well pleased: I will put my spirit upon him, and he shall shew judgment to the Gentiles. He shall not strive, nor cry; neither shall any man hear his voice in the streets. A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he send forth judgment unto victory. And in his name shall the Gentiles trust.”
In the first part of this chapter our Lord Jesus demonstrated his eternal deity and his great dignity as God, both by declaring himself to be Lord even of the sabbath and by healing the man with a withered hand. In the passage now before us the Holy Spirit shows us our Savior’s great humiliation as Jehovah’s Servant, while at the same time demonstrating him to be himself Jehovah God and our great Savior. Matthew Henry wrote in his introduction to this paragraph…
“As in the midst of Christ’s greatest humiliations there were proofs of his dignity, so in the midst of his greatest honors, he gave proofs of his humility; and when the mighty works he did gave him an opportunity of making a figure (a name for himself), yet he made it appear that he emptied himself, and made himself of no reputation.
When the Lord God began to give his judgments (civil statutes) to Israel, by which he typified and portrayed redemption, grace, and salvation by Christ, the very first civil statute given to Israel was a blessed picture of redemption and grace by Christ in the law of the bond-slave (Ex. 21:1-6).
“Now these are the judgments which thou shalt set before them. If thou buy an Hebrew servant, six years he shall serve: and in the seventh he shall go out free for nothing. f he came in by himself, he shall go out by himself: if he were married, then his wife shall go out with him. If his master have given him a wife, and she have born him sons or daughters; the wife and her children shall be her master's, and he shall go out by himself. And if the servant shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free: Then his master shall bring him unto the judges; he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the door post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an awl; and he shall serve him for ever.”
The Servant spoken of in this passage of Scripture, by type and picture, is the Lord Jesus Christ our Savior. The Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, became the Servant of God, that he might redeem and save sinners chosen of God from the foundation of the world (Matt. 1:21). The text is not talking about men who became the servants of men among the ancient Israelites. Those men were but pictures of another man, the Man Christ Jesus. How blessed it is to see and know Christ in this relationship! The eye of faith sees the Servant and rejoices in all his work.
Though he is himself God Almighty, one with the Father and the Spirit in the Holy Trinity, in order to save us from our sins the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, voluntarily became the servant of God and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross, to do the will of God. In the passage before us God the Holy Spirit calls for us to behold our great Savior in his mediatorial office as Jehovah’s Servant as he was described by the prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 42:1-4.
This passage opens with the Pharisees holding a council. — “Then the Pharisees went out, and held a council against him, how they might destroy him” (v. 14). Religious councils throughout history have almost always proved to be “council against him.” The Spirit of God here calls our attention to the hatred of these religious hypocrites toward Christ because it is something that never changes.
These men pretended to have great reverence for the law and, particularly, for the sabbath day. Yet, they seem to have had no reluctance in gathering a religious council for the purpose of finding a way to murder One who lived among them in perfect righteousness, doing good to others. They had no qualms about pursuing a plot to murder the Lord of Glory on the sabbath day! Pharisees are always the same. They want everyone to admire their righteousness, piety, devotion, and spirituality. But they are unmasked by him who reads their hearts. He tells us that they shall receive the greater damnation (Matt. 23:14). And, it should be observed, their greater damnation is not because they behave in an outwardly reprehensible way, but because they, “going about to establish their own righteousness”, refuse to submit themselves to the righteousness of Christ (Rom. 9:31-10:4). And all who pretend that they are righteous are hypocrites. Therefore, our Savior warns us, “Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy” (Luke 12:1).
Self-righteousness is but a religious covering by which men attempt to hide their hatred of God. — “The carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject unto the law of God, neither indeed can be” (Rom. 8). The heart of man is not natural or indifferent toward God. All natural men, all unregenerate people, at the core of their beings, in their hearts hate God! When the Lord Jesus both claimed to be “Lord even of the sabbath day” and proved his power as God by miraculously healing the man with a withered hand, the Jews, the religious leaders of the day, were so enraged against him that they sought to destroy him. No Charge could be brought against his character. He was holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners. No charge could be leveled against his doctrine. He proved his teachings by the Scriptures, irrefutably. But it mattered not how perfectly he lived or how perfectly he taught. He was hated by those people who claimed most loudly that they loved God!
J. C. Ryle wrote, “This is human nature appearing in its true colors! The unconverted heart hates God!” This is the reason why God’s servants have been persecuted and martyred throughout the centuries. It must never surprise us when we meet with the same treatment that our Savior received in this world. — “Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you” (1 John 3:13). It is not our weaknesses, infirmities and faults, and our obedience that stir up the wrath of reprobate men, but our doctrine, the gospel of Christ (John 3:19-20; Gal. 5:11).
“But when Jesus knew it” (v. 14) — Here is another of the many, very casual assertions of our Savior’s divinity that are scattered throughout the gospel narratives. Matthew makes no attempt to prove what needed no proof to those who know and worship Christ. Knowing that he who redeemed us is God over all, we recognize and rejoice in our Savior’s divine omniscience. The omniscient God knew what the Pharisees were up to; and “when Jesus knew it, he withdrew himself from thence.”
Our Lord did not flee from the Jews and the synagogue in fear, but because his hour was not yet come. The time had not yet come when he must suffer and die as our Substitute. He had other work yet to do to glorify his Father. Therefore, he rightly and wisely left the synagogue. As he left, “great multitudes followed him.” Though some believe not, others will. The Pharisees and religious leaders in the synagogue hated him; but great multitudes followed him.
“And he healed them all.” — What a gracious word this is! As it was in Bethsaida, so it was here. When the multitudes followed him, “he received them, and spake unto them of the kingdom of God, and healed them that had need of healing” (Luke 9:11). Our Master came not to contend with carping religionists who (in their own opinion) needed nothing from him, but to bestow mercy upon needy souls. Happy is the preacher who, following the Master’s example, has learned to ignore carping critics and refuses to be deterred from the Master’s business, even momentarily, by them.
Our Master came to heal needy souls. While he was here in the flesh, he received all who came to him with bodily ailments, “and he healed them all.” And he has not changed. Great multitudes followed him from all parts of the country. And not one of those who followed him, even in this physical, carnal sense, lacked anything. When the multitudes were hungry, he fed them. If they were diseased, he healed them. If they were possessed by devils, he cast them out. “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.” Jesus Christ is merciful, gracious, and kind. Our Savior’s mercy is coupled with omnipotence. All who follow him find all they need in him. His promise is, “Him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out.”
Yes, this mighty, gracious, saving God-man still receives sinners and heals all who come to him. Because the Lord Jesus Christ, Jehovah’s Righteous Servant, has fully obeyed his Father’s will in putting away our sins by the sacrifice of himself, because he was made sin for us, because he bore our sins in his own body on the tree, because he paid all the debt for our sins and put them away completely and forever, he now assures sinners everywhere of this glorious truth by the gospel. — “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37-40).
Come to Christ, no matter who you are, no matter how vile your transgressions are, and he promises that he will receive you, just as you are, and that he will never cast you out, that he will give you eternal life, that you shall never perish. — “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:28-30).
“And charged them that they should not make him known” (v. 16). — The Son of God never courted the praises of men. He sought only to do the will of God. What a sermon that is! “To him,” Spurgeon asserted, “popularity became a hindrance.” Our Savior deliberately “made himself of no reputation” (Phil. 2:5-8). He had no desire for the approval and applause of men, but only for the glory of God.
This deliberate act of humiliation was “that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet” (v. 17). — The prophecy to which Matthew refers is found in Isaiah 42:1-4. Here the Spirit of God gives us an undeniable evidence of inspiration and the infallibility of Holy Scripture (2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:20-21). In all that our Lord Jesus performed on this earth as our Substitute, from his incarnation to his ascension, was in perfect accord with the prophesies of the Old Testament. When he finished his work, “the Scripture was fulfilled” (Mark 15:28).
Pastor Henry Mahan has often said, “The Old Testament Scriptures tailor a garment that will fit only one man, and that man is the Lord Jesus Christ.” Here are 38 of the Old Testament prophecies relating to the Messiah which were fulfilled by our Lord Jesus Christ, and can never be fulfilled by anyone else. To anyone, except those who are willfully ignorant, these are indisputable proofs that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ of God.
John Trapp wrote, “The Old Testament is the New Testament foretold. The New Testament is The Old Testament fulfilled.”
“Behold my servant, whom I have chosen; my beloved, in whom my soul is well pleased: I will put my spirit upon him, and he shall shew judgment to the Gentiles. He shall not strive, nor cry; neither shall any man hear his voice in the streets. A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he send forth judgment unto victory. And in his name shall the Gentiles trust” (vv. 18-21).
Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ and he is Jehovah’s Servant. Be sure you understand that this text, and all others relating to our Redeemer being the Servant of God, relate only to his humility and to his office capacity as our covenant Surety, Mediator, and Substitute. As such he was chosen by God the Father. He is beloved of God (John 10:16-18; Eph. 1:6). He is well-pleasing to him. He was equipped for his work by God, who said, “I will put my Spirit upon him.” He came to reveal the righteousness of God (the gospel) to the world, the Gentiles. — “He shall send judgment to the Gentiles. Our Redeemer’s servitude was a matter of voluntary submission (v. 19 - Isa. 50:5-7). And the Lord God says, “He shall not fail.” (Isa. 42:4).
Matthew was inspired to translate that as a declaration of the certain salvation of God’s elect throughout the world. He will “send forth judgment unto victory. And in his name shall the Gentiles trust.” Our Lord Jesus came into this world as Jehovah’s righteous servant for the purpose of saving his people from their sins, and to do so in a way that would make it manifest that he who is our God is “a just God and a Savior” (Isa. 45:20). And he did what he came to do. He brought in everlasting righteousness, and brought righteousness to victory in the accomplishment of our redemption by the sacrifice of himself (Col. 2:14-15). And, now, upon the ground of his finished work, he gives life and faith to all God’s elect among the nations of the world by omnipotent mercy and free grace (v. 21; Rom. 11:26)
“A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench.” — What sweet, consoling, encouraging words those are to poor, weak sinners! Mighty and great as our Savior is, “He despiseth not any” (Job 36:5). Even those in whom grace is ever so weak, faith is ever so small, and repentance is ever so feeble, he is mighty to save! Commenting on these words, J. C. Ryle wrote, “There is life in the infant as truly as in the grown-up man. There is fire in a spark as truly as in a burning flame. The least degree of grace is an everlasting possession. It comes down from heaven. It is precious in our Lord’s eyes. It shall never be over thrown.”
The bruised reed and the smoking flax have reference to young converts, newly awakened souls. Like a “bruised reed,” the newborn soul is bruised, broken, contrite, and tender in his soul because he is made to know his sin and vileness before God. Such souls, the Lord Jesus will never destroy. He binds up their broken hearts and heals their wounded spirits. The newborn soul is also compared to “smoking flax.” The wick in an old oil lantern, when it is first lit, smokes and appears ready to go out, because it has little fire. So the newborn soul often has but little light and knowledge, but little faith and confidence and much darkness; but our tender Savior will never quench the “smoking flax.” He will give it more oil, and fire, and light by the abiding influence and grace of his Holy Spirit, “till he sends forth judgment into victory.” The Apostle Paul says the very same thing in Philippians 1:6. — “He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.”
What sweet assurances of grace we have in the this call of our God. — “Behold my servant, whom I have chosen; my beloved, in whom my soul is well pleased.” God the Father here calls for us to behold his darling Son, commending him to us in his gracious office and work as the God-man Mediator and his faithful Servant, in whom his soul delights. Nothing can be more blessed than that which God the Father says of him here, when his redeemed are enabled by his grace to look upon the Lord Jesus with the same delight, trusting him as our Savior whom the Father trusted as his Servant.
The Lord God said, “I will put my spirit in him.” The believing sinner says, “I will put my whole life into his omnipotent hands of grace.” The Lord God says, “This is my Servant, whom I have chosen, my Beloved, in whom my soul is well-pleased.” The heaven born soul, looking on him says, “This is my Savior, who has chosen me, and he whom I have chosen, my Beloved, in whom my soul is well-pleased.” The God of Glory says, “He shall show judgment to the Gentiles.” And we who are called from among the Gentiles rejoice to declare, “He has shown both judgment and mercy to me and has recovered me from sin and destruction. He has sent forth judgment to victory for my soul; and in his name I trust!”
 Ever remember, the law of God, these civil statutes, ceremonial rites, and all the commandments were messianic. They were given to Israel alone and applied to Israel alone. The law of the Old Testament has absolutely nothing to do with Gentiles. It was never given to Gentiles. The law was messianic. It pointed to Christ, who is the fulfillment and the end of the law.