He will not fight or shout
or raise his voice in public.
He will not crush the weakest reed
or put out a flickering candle.
Finally he will cause justice to be victorious.
And his name will be the hope
of all the world.
Matthew 12:19-21 New Living Translation
In Matthew 12, we see the contrast between the gentle ways of the Kingdom of God and the harsh judgments of the ways of religion. We are brought through a series of encounters where Jesus finds himself at odds with the legalism of the Pharisees. First, they chide Jesus for not stopping His disciples from plucking off a few grains of wheat to eat while walking through a field on the Sabbath. Then He challenges their worldview by healing a man with a withered hand in the synagogue. They test Jesus by questioning the lawfulness of healing on the Sabbath but He responds by questioning their opinion that it would be unlawful to do good on the Sabbath. The Pharisees later accuse Jesus of casting out demons with the power of the devil, which is obviously ludicrous.
In the midst of these challenges, the Pharisees begin to plan how to kill Jesus. Instead of challenging the Pharisees at this moment He withdraws from the conflict and continues to minister to those who follow Him. He continues to heal people but does His best not to draw attention to attention to Himself in the process. Matthew saw Jesus’s actions as fulfillment of the prophecy in Isaiah 42 about the servant of the Lord. In contrast to the harsh judgments of the Pharisees, Jesus shows Himself as being gentle. so that He does not harm weak and fragile people. His concern is justice and restoration for those who have been weakened by injustice. If He responded violently to the plans of the Pharisees, He would have risked damaging the very ones He came to serve and save.
How we respond to different situations says a lot about the way in which the Spirit of God is working in our lives. If we respond with the harsh judgmentalism of the Pharisees we run the risk of damaging the tender faith of someone who is struggling. If we fight back against legalism in a harsh manner, we run the risk of doing the same thing. The way of Jesus is a way of humility and gentleness. It watches out for and protects the weakest among us. Jesus has shown us a great amount of gentleness in our weakness. We have the opportunity to do the same to the fragile among us.
Jesus, thank You that You protect the bruised reeds and smoldering wicks. Help us to demonstrate the same spirit to those around us who struggle and are weak.