Aware of this, Jesus withdrew from that place. A large crowd followed him, and he healed all who were ill. He warned them not to tell others about him. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah:
“Here is my servant whom I have chosen,
the one I love, in whom I delight;
I will put my Spirit on 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 has brought justice through to victory.
In his name the nations will put their hope.”
This passage takes place immediately after the passage we discussed last time, Matthew 12:1-14, and it is a continuation of the action. Thus, the Pharisees wanted to kill Jesus after He outsmarted and outflanked them in the healing of the man’s hand, and Jesus withdrew, followed by crowds. He healed everyone in the crowd, still on the Sabbath mind you, and this brief discourse followed.
Considering the resumption of the previous narrative that begins in verse 22, this discourse can be looked at as a sort of interruption that reminds the reader of just who Jesus is, yet for me, it appears that Matthew isn’t using this as a literary device to remind us, even though I would imagine that the Holy Spirit was doing so in the way that events unfold in this chapter. In both cases however, we are pointed to the character and mission of the Christ in these verses.
So, knowing what the Pharisees were thinking, Jesus withdraws, heals many more people on the Sabbath, and tells the people not to tell others about Him. Looking at this, and the quotation that follows, it seems clear to me that Jesus is not asking them to keep quiet out of fear of the Pharisees and their plotting, but because of the very nature of His mission; Jesus never goes out of His way to draw attention to Himself, for He has no interest in becoming a celebrity, for His mission is to do the will of His Father, not to make a name for Himself. Personally, I think we can take a lesson from His example.
Matthew seeks to once again connect Jesus with Israel’s past by relating His simple request of the people to keep quiet about Him, to the prophecy of Isaiah 42:1-4. If you compare Isaiah to Matthew, you will notice some slight variation. Often New Testament authors quote the Septuagint in their Old Testament quotations, but that isn’t the case here. Either this is Matthew’s interpretation of the text, or it is his own translation from the original… or both. Whatever the case may be, he makes it clear that Jesus will be denounced by the Jewish leaders because He is God’s humble servant. Those very leaders see themselves as God’s servants, and this is what they should be, and to be fair to them, maybe they really were God’s servants.
Yet, in no way were they ever God’s humble servants, for in the end, their total lack of humility would be their downfall. I think we can learn much from the example of the Pharisees…