Hope in Jesus: Matthew 12:15-21 (Sermon)



What do you want in life? Do you know the story of the Genie in the Bottle? You rub the lamp, and out pops a person who can give you three wishes. Wouldn’t you love that? If you were to have some wishes, what would they be? Now, you can’t ask for more, only three. Would you want money or better health? Would you like your kids to be walking with the Lord? We probably have similar desires. If we had more than three, we might start finding different ones. Maybe lower on our list would be a better job, an updated house, or an improved love life. Perhaps you want some respect, life direction, or time off. Wishes aside. What do you want from life? What gets you up in the morning? What motivates you? What do you look forward to? We all have “hopes,” simple and complex, small and large, unimportant and urgent. The text for us this morning takes us on a journey exploring our hopes and shows us that Jesus gives us something more than anyone else could ever provide.    


If you have your Bibles, we will continue our Matthew series. We will start in chapter 12, in verse 15. Would you please stand with me in honor of God’s Word? I am going to have E. J. read for us now. 

Jesus, aware of this, withdrew from there. And many followed him, and he healed them all and ordered them not to make him known. This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: 

“Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, 

      my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased. 

I will put my Spirit upon him, 

      and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles. 

He will not quarrel or cry aloud, 

      nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets; 

a bruised reed he will not break, 

      and a smoldering wick he will not quench, 

                  until he brings justice to victory; 

and in his name the Gentiles will hope.” (Matthew 12:15–21, ESV)


Let’s pray. Heavenly Father, we need you. Thank you for your justice, mercy, and hope. Thank you for your help in times of trouble. Help us now. Some here need a shake-up and wake-up. You are the one who deserves our attention. Some need comfort, feeling bruised, exhausted, and vulnerable. Others need direction. Please, grant us guidance. Some are doing great and want the tools, energy, and motivation to press on. All of us need to hear you. All of us need your grace. We pray for that in Jesus’s name, amen. You may be seated.


As I said, we are working through the book of Matthew, verse by verse, chapter by chapter. In the book, we discover that Jesus is the king God promised. The big idea is to follow this promised king into his kingdom. In Chapter 12, we read that religious leadership is following Jesus in the wrong sense; they are keeping tabs on him to silence and kill him. 


In the few verses that E. read, we have a familiar scenario. 

  • Jesus is on the move, 

  • People are following him, 

  • He heals, 

  • And he tells them to say nothing about it. 

In verses 17 through 21, we read that this policy of secrecy fulfills prophecy. 


Jesus is God’s servant, on a mission to announce and usher in justice and kindness in a hurting world. The result is a blessing for all who receive it. Matthew is passing this blessing on to us, his readers. I think God wants us from this passage to: 

Place your hope in Jesus 

Let me say that again. 

Place your hope in Jesus 

That seems to echo the heart of this text.


If you have your Bible, open to Matthew chapter 12, starting at verse 15, if you haven’t already. What does it say?  

“Jesus, aware of this, withdrew from there” (Matthew 12:15, ESV).

What was Matthew referring to? What was “This?” And where was “There?” Jesus was at a synagogue in verse 14. A synagogue is a gathering, teaching, training, and worship place. Many Jewish communities still have them today. They are like a church for the Jewish person. Jesus was Jewish. The Pharisees were Jewish. And there, they encountered each other. The Pharisees attempted to trap him with his words. How? Well, they asked him a question about healing on the Sabbath. They believed healing was a sin on the Sabbath, from Friday to Saturday evening. They knew Jesus didn’t share this conviction. So, how did he answer? Do you remember? He responded to their theological question with a cagey response and performed a miracle on that Sabbath, to their chagrin. This infuriated them. They were so upset that they began to plot his death. That is when we get to verse 15. Jesus, aware of this, withdrew from there. He got out of dodge. He left the synagogue. 

VERSE 15b 

We continue in verse 15, 

“And many followed him, and he healed them all and ordered them not to make him known” (Matthew 12:15, ESV). 

  • People followed Jesus throughout the book of Matthew. 

  • People followed him from Galilee. 

  • People followed him from the Decapolis or the Ten Cities. 

  • They followed him from Jerusalem, 

  • They followed him from Judea, 

  • And they followed him from beyond the Jordan River. 

  • Matthew, the author of this book, followed him, 

  • Fishermen followed him, 

  • As noted, Pharisees followed him, 

  • As well as the sick followed him. 


Jesus was a teacher and a healer unlike any other. He wasn’t calling attention to himself, except he did send out his disciples to proclaim the coming of his kingdom. People spread the word regardless of his desire for silence. He was massively popular, and we can see why. Who wouldn’t want to watch a miracle or be a recipient of one? If you were sick, there were no hospitals at the time of Jesus. There were old wives’ tales and home remedies but no pharmacy. Perhaps there was a witch doctor here or there. There was prayer. But people had little else to place their hope in when sick. Proverbs teaches that hope deferred makes the heart sick. But what about a satisfied hope and a body healed? That must make the heart ecstatic. Jesus was curing all their diseases. I am sure that many were happy. What a moment to witness. Unless you were a Pharisee, the keeper of the law, and Jesus was your enemy. His star was rising, and so was their anger.  


Why do you think he wanted people to be quiet? Why this modesty in the midst of the miraculous? Was it humility? He was humble. However, by the end of this short book, he will tell his followers to go into the world, declare his teaching, and make more disciples of him. One of his followers writes that at the end of the time, “At the name of Jesus, every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” (Philippians 2:10–11, ESV). Jesus was more than meets the eye. He was no mere mortal. He was the Lord and the Master of them all. Why, then, did he want people to be silent? I think it was because people’s chatter would accelerate the confrontation that culminated in his execution. It wasn’t time for him to die. There was another reason.


Look at verse 17. Matthew wrote, 

“This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah” (Matthew 12:17, ESV). 

Jesus’s quiet attitude fulfilled a prophecy of Isaiah. The subject of prophecy was something Matthew noted frequently. 


There are at least 300 prophecies concerning Jesus in the Old Testament. Statistically speaking, for Jesus to fulfill even eight, that would be the same probability of having two feet of silver dollars covering the state of Texas, marking one, and then randomly selecting that silver dollar. There is no chance that Jesus would have fulfilled the 300 prophecies unless God orchestrated it. God did. Jesus was more than a man, a teacher, and a miracle worker. He was the answer to what God had predicted hundreds of years before. He was the Messiah mentioned in Isaiah. He was the Lord. 


In verse 18, Matthew quoted the prophecy showing four descriptions of him. He wrote, 

“Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, 

      my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased” (Mathew 12:18, ESV).  

Note these four descriptors. 

  1. First, God described Jesus as his servant. That means he was an agent of the Creator of the Universe. Jesus worked God’s will. 

  2. Second, God chose him. He selected him and handpicked him to be his helper. 

  3. zThird, God loved him. Jesus was the object of his affection, the apple of his eye, his treasure. 

  4. And finally, God was pleased with him. He delighted him. Jesus was his joy. 

We will see announcements like this in chapters 3 and 17. In chapter 17 of Matthew, Jesus went to a mountainside with three disciples: Peter, James, and John. The prophets Moses and Elijah appeared. Jesus had some transformation where his disciples saw his glory. There, God the Father spoke in an audible voice,

“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him” (Matthew 17:5, ESV, italics mine).

Consider the uncaused cause, the first being who always existed, the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and End, the omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient God speaking of a servant he chose, loved and delighted in. Matthew tells us that Jesus is the savior of Israel, the promised son of David, and the descendant of Abraham. He fulfills Old Testament prophecies and is the shepherd of God’s sheep. He is God’s only Son, the Son of God and Son of Man. He was the Messiah and Lord. If God chose him, loved him, and delighted in him, how should we treat him? Matthew will show us that Jesus deserves our attention. He came to do more than heal a few people. He is the one we can truly put our hope in when things are good and bad. 


The prophecy of Isaiah 42 is coming true. God answered it in Matthew chapter 3. Turn there, Matthew chapter 3, starting at verse 13. We will go back to chapter 12 in a minute. But go back a few pages to chapter 3. If you don't have a Bible, I will have the words projected on the screen. What does Matthew 3 say?

Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:13–17, ESV)

Did you catch how Isaiah 42 came true in Matthew 3? God put his Spirit on Jesus. The Spirit of God was on him. Jump forward now to chapter 12, verse 18, 

“I will put my Spirit upon him” (Matthew 12:18, ESV).  

You see. We have the promise in Isaiah 42 and see its fulfillment in Matthew 3. The Spirit uniquely was on Jesus. This is a Trinitarian revelation, one of the many in the Bible. The Trinity is the truth that God is three persons and one God. It is a mystery and reality. And part of Isaiah’s prophecy that Jesus fulfills.


What did Isaiah say this servant would do and not do? Look at the rest of the verse 18: 

“And he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles. 

He will not quarrel or cry aloud, 

      nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets” (Matthew 12:18–19, ESV).  

Jesus would proclaim a message of justice. He wouldn’t fight or quarrel with those who sought to destroy him. We yearn for change after people have wronged, hurt, bullied, abused, or wounded us. No judge or jury can mediate a sentence appropriately fitting every crime. Scan the headlines and read the scams, the corruption, and the murders. How can there be justice with all the evil that exists? Where is there hope in this life? Revenge doesn’t satisfy for long. Legislation and politicians have limited results. None can bring the dead back. None can take the scars away. Only Jesus will bring justice to victory, or another way of saying it, “victorious justice.” Yet, before he does that, he doesn’t quarrel or cry aloud in the streets at his suffering. He bites his tongue and bides his time. He departs from there, and when people are excited, he tells them to keep it to themselves. Time was running out. His accusers were closing in. And even at his trial, he didn’t defend himself to stop his death. The prophecies had spoken. Jesus was the Messiah. He must die so that we can live forever through faith. 


Isaiah 53 predicted this, verse 7. You don’t have to turn there. I will have words on the screen. And if you want our weekly email, we send the manuscripts with quotes. Just put that you would like our weekly email on your connect card. What does Isaiah 53, verse 7, say?  

            He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, 

      yet he opened not his mouth; 

            like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, 

      and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, 

      so he opened not his mouth. 

            By oppression and judgment he was taken away; 

      and as for his generation, who considered 

             that he was cut off out of the land of the living, 

      stricken for the transgression of my people? 

            And they made his grave with the wicked 

      and with a rich man in his death, 

            although he had done no violence, 

      and there was no deceit in his mouth. (Isaiah 53:7–9, ESV)


His ministry was to the Jewish people, and for his people, he died. However, his heart extends to you and me. He will bring justice, mercy, and kindness to the Gentile. Justice will be victorious.  


Gentile in Matthew chapter 12 is the same word for nations, “ethnos.” The Gentiles were non-Jewish people. The Hebrew people separated themselves from the world or nations. God wanted them to be holy, set apart, and devoted to custom, theology, and relationships. Yet, from Genesis onward, God also had a heart for the nations. He wanted the Israelites to be a beacon to them. God cared and still cares about all. One example of this compassion is his promise to Abraham in Genesis chapter 12. He blessed him that he would be a blessing to all people. A descendant of Abraham would spread this blessing. Jesus was that descendant, offering hope for all who would believe. At the time of this healing, hope was in the air. Jesus was on the scene, and Matthew noted that victory was coming. 


Jesus didn’t use a bugle or a marketing scheme to get the word out. He plodded year after year, day after day. He began ministry at thirty. He submitted to the Spirit and his Father’s will. He pointed people to the reality that God was doing something never done before. His kingdom was on the move. Justice was on its way. 


Look at verse 20. 

 “A bruised reed he will not break, 

      and a smoldering wick he will not quench” (Matthew 12:20, ESV).  

Jesus was not the typical spiritual leader. He wasn’t building a followership, padding his pocket book, or ensuring everyone knew how great he was. He wasn’t about himself. Scholar R. T. France gives us insight into the reed and wick analogies: 

A reed was used for measuring and for support, so that once its straightness was lost by bending or cracking it was of no further use. A strip of linen cloth used as a lamp-wick, if it smokes, is no use for giving light and is simply a source of pollution; it is in danger of going out altogether. Common sense would demand that both be replaced, the reed being snapped and discarded or burned and the wick extinguished. The imagery thus describes an extraordinary willingness to encourage damaged or vulnerable people, giving them a further opportunity to succeed which a results-oriented society would deny them. The servant will not be quick to condemn and to discard, but will persevere until God’s purpose of “justice” has been achieved.

R. T. France, The Gospel of Matthew, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publication Co., 2007), 472–473.

Jesus was extraordinarily willing to encourage those who were damaged and vulnerable. That sounds like chapter 11, doesn’t it? In chapter 11, Jesus said he was gentle and lowly. He was compassionate and gracious. He was precisely what we people needed in their pain and suffering. He wasn’t rude, rough, or harsh in dealing with the bruised and dying. He wasn’t hypocritical, arrogant, or vain. He cared about the hurting, weak, and marginalized. That was good news then, and it is today. Do you long for someone who cares? Jesus cares. Have you suffered injustice? One day the injustice will cease. God will move in power and right all wrongs. He cares about the starving and the victim. He cares about the single parent trying to make ends meet. He cares about the disabled and the broken. He cares for people experiencing poverty and homelessness. He cares about those on the fringes of society, the simple and the bright and beautiful. The Bible tells us that God loves the world. He sent Jesus as a representative to the world in love. That whoever believes in him might have an everlasting life. Wherever you come from, God cares and invites you to himself today and forever. Place your hope in Jesus.


The verse goes on

“Until he brings justice to victory” (Matthew 12:20b, ESV).

Justice will arrive one day. There is an end in sight. God will judge the living and the dead. If you are on the side of the Pharisee, the cheat, the self-righteous, the hypocrite, turn before it is too late. You are not too far gone to turn away. Turn from rebellion. Turn from living lies and lust. Turn from gossip and slander. Turn from complaining and selfishness. Turn. Time is running out. We will all face judgment one day. There is mercy for those who cling to the hope of Jesus, but for those who reject him, there is justice in punishment. 


Look at the last word: 

     “In his name the Gentiles will hope” (Matthew 12:21, ESV).

This repeats the shocker of God’s heart for the world. Also, the name of Jesus lifts the spirit of those who are not God’s people. The Pharisees heard Jesus’s name and had hope, too, a hope that he would die. Others, I assume, heard his name and wanted a show, some entertainment, a salve to kill boredom. Others, who were hurting, wanted a fix. What do you want in life? Where is hope these days? What are you hoping for? This week, during my Bible reading plan, I read Psalm 146. It tells us where our hope should be: 

            Put not your trust in princes, 

      in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation. 

            When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; 

      on that very day his plans perish. 

            Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, 

      whose hope is in the LORD his God, 

            who made heaven and earth, 

      the sea, and all that is in them, 

                  who keeps faith forever; 

            who executes justice for the oppressed, 

      who gives food to the hungry. 

                  The LORD sets the prisoners free; 

            the LORD opens the eyes of the blind. 

                  The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down; 

      the LORD loves the righteous. 

            The LORD watches over the sojourners; 

      he upholds the widow and the fatherless, 

      but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin. 

            The LORD will reign forever (Psalm 146:3–10, ESV)


What goes through your heart and mind when you hear the name Jesus? Is his name a religious fact to you or, worse, slang? Or, like the Gentiles in verse 21, do you find hope in your heart for better days? Maybe another question for us is, “If he showed up this afternoon, would you run to him, ignore him, or run from him?” In Revelation, it concludes the Bible with a refrain, “Come, Lord Jesus, quickly come.” He is coming back. Hope is closer today than yesterday. When he comes, he will bring justice once and for all. 

  • For some, this justice is a scary thing or should be. Place your hope in Jesus before it is too late. The competing hopes of this world are fun in the short term but empty in the long term. Jesus wants us to orient our lives around him. Not to run off to a monastery but to nurture the spiritual reality that Jesus is the fulfillment of prophecy and our spiritual hope. Sunday is part of that orientation. But so is Monday and the rest of the week. Place your hope in Jesus. This means time, energy, and thoughts should bend in God’s direction. If you want to learn more about what that might look like, talk to any of us pastors or leaders at church. We live in the world but are not to be of the world. We are to pursue God and his ways in all things. We are to put our ultimate hope in Jesus.  

  • For others, you suffer and have no idea how to right the ship. Jesus brings you a message of hope through his ministry this morning. He is our hope. Place your hope in him. Things may not get better anytime soon, but take comfort. A bruised reed he will not break. A smoldering wick he will not quench. Come to him all who are weary and heavy laden, and he will give you rest. There is a heavenly hope that won’t perish, spoil, or fade. He is on your side, believer. Have hope in Jesus.  

  • Others, have your hope firmly fixed on Jesus. Excellent. You long for his return. Persevere. Don’t give up. Endure to the end. And help others do the same. This message of hope is for us to spread. Don’t hide your light; put it out there for all to see. That might mean inviting someone to church, lending a hand, offering an ear, praying with someone, or bringing a meal. Tangible acts of love, done in the name of Jesus, speak volumes about hope. Jesus is our hope. This week I was near Indianapolis chatting with the hotel attendant. I didn’t share the gospel with this person, but I listened. They seemed bored. I went on a run and prayed for the attendant. Later that morning, I gave this person a book about the gospel. God knows what will happen with this seed. I was trying to spread the hope of Jesus. Let’s help others place their hope in Jesus. 


That said, let’s conclude with a prayer. Dear God, thank you for sending your beloved, chosen servant Jesus. He is our hope. We long for him and the righting of wrongs. Minister to our souls today and this week. In Jesus’s name, amen. 

Benediction Romans 15:13

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