Son of David

Matthew 12: 22-23. “Then was brought unto Him one possessed with a devil, blind, and dumb: and He healed him, insomuch that the blind and dumb both spake and saw. And all the people were amazed, and said, Is not this the Son of David?”

It would seem that Jesus had returned from withrawing Himself, and once again the Pharisees were observing His activities. Someone brought a man who was possessed of a demon, and he was both blind and mute. What a perfect picture of national Israel at this point. There were many among the people who believed Jesus was Who He said He was, but the religious establishment would not accept Him.

Once again, Jesus showed His Messianic power. He cast out the demon. Have you ever wondered what this must have looked like?  I found some really grotesque pictures of this. One had a hideous demon coming out of the man’s mouth. Another shows him completely surrounded by dark angels who are all snarling and gnashing their teeth.

I don’t think it was like that, at least not to the human watchers.  I believe they just saw this man, troubled by a demon, suddenly calm and able to see and to speak. Again, I imagine a solemn, quiet sense of awe as Jesus performed this miracle.  I don’t think anyone whistled or clapped or jumped up and down claiming high-fives from the others. To be in the presence of the Holy One is a solemn and awesome (in the truest sense of that misused word!) event. The people who were there, I am sure, never forgot what they had seen.

Is not this the Son of David?”  Notice that they did not say, “This IS the Son of David!”  The way the question was stated implies some shade of doubt. And what did they mean, anyway?

Those who knew the Old Testament prophecies knew that Messiah would come from the line of David.  Here’s a chart that shows how Jesus came from the line of David through both Mary and Joseph:

It’s a fascinating study to follow this lineage, which gives Jesus both the royal right and the  legal right to claim His place as Messiah. I’m sure there were Pharisees who knew full well what Jesus’ heritage was, and yet they refused to accept Him because He did not come as they hoped and expected He would.

Behold My Servant

Matthew 12:16-21. “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.”

As Jesus healed and taught the crowds, He told them not to spread word about Him. This was to fulfill Isaiah 42: 1-4, a prophecy of the life and ministry of Jesus.  To journey through these verses is truly an amazing thing.

My Servant. . .My Beloved:  This passage must have been a great comfort to Jesus, as His own people turned away from Him and accused Him.  He knew He was the only Son of the Father, chosen to do a work that no one else could do.

I will put My Spirit upon Him: The spirit of the Father rested upon the Son.  It was what gave Him strength, confidence, and utter peace.  With the Father’s approval, all was well.

Judgment to the Gentiles:  Some other translations state this as He will proclaim justice to the nations.  I believe the meaning is clear that salvation will be offered to all, Jew and Gentile alike. His mission would be successful.

He shall not strive nor cry: Jesus would not be a rebel, an anarchist, a rabblerouser. He had no need to fight. He was God’s Son, and He had all power.  He was not there to create civil war or an uprising against Rome.

Bruised reed. . .smoking flax: The gentleness of Jesus is so profound. He could have come as a might warrior (and one day He will!)  but that was not His mission for that time.  He was so gentle that He even a bruised reed of grass would not be harmed by His hand; even smoking flax would not be quenched by His power.

In His Name shall the Gentiles trust: Jesus is the hope of all the world.  The prophecy will be fulfilled completely at the Second Coming, but in this passage the Holy Spirit uses it in a different way. Because Israel rejected Him, now the Gentiles would hear of God’s gift of grace.

I heard a message on Sunday morning about how to understand unbelievers. One of the things the preacher stressed was that according to Romans 1: 19-25,  all people know at some level that there is indeed a god, some greater being that is worthy of worship. That is why men have, down through the ages, fashioned all sorts of idols. They are satisfying a need to worship One greater than themselves.

Jesus is The One. The only One.

He Withdrew Himself

Matthew 12: 14-15. “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.”

They look impressive, don’t they?  Rich, ostentatious clothing; snowy beards and  fancy prayer shawls.  On the outside, they were the picture of piety.

On the inside, they were full of themselves. They were malicious in their hatred of Jesus, Who had done them no harm. So what was their problem?  Simply put, they couldn’t respond to Him when He  asked them simple questions. And when they questioned Him, He always had a simple–and undebatable–response. He challenged their authority just by His existence.  They couldn’t stand it, and they began to conspire to destroy Him.

Sometimes I have imagined their conversation:

“So, my friends, what are we going to do about this crazy man who thinks he’s God?  Blasphemy!”

“Can’t we just accuse him of that, of blasphemy, and have him taken out and stoned?”

“We could, but it’s possible the rabble that follows him all over would turn on us! He has them hypnotized!  I think he has a demon, to have so much power.  Of course, the people are simple and know no better, but we certainly do!”

“Yes.  Yes, we’re going to have to use some caution and some cunning to get rid of this one.  Usually, when these prophets spring up out of nowhere, they burn out quickly. Not this one. This one’s going to take some special handling. But we’re up to it!”

When Jesus knew what the Pharisees were up to, and I think He knew it pretty quickly, we are told that He withdrew Himself. It wasn’t time yet for Him to go to the cross. He still had much to do, much to teach and preach, before that time came.

The multitudes continued to follow Him, and we are told He healed them all. No wonder there were times when He was weary, and needed to rest. Ministering to others is not a simple thing, and it drains one’s energy and emotions. There is a need for restoration.

If Jesus needed to rest, then so do we.

Stretch Forth Thine Hand

Matthew 12:13. “Then saith He to the man, Stretch forth thine hand.  And he stretched it forth: and it was restored whole, like as the other.”

This short verse describing yet another miracle of healing  sets the stage for the first time a council was called to determine what to do with Jesus. While He was in the process of still showing His Messianic powers, the religious leaders were whispering among themselves about how to get rid of Him.

But that’s for tomorrow.  Right now, I want to concentrate on this man with the withered hand. I found lots of pictures depicting this story.  Some were dramatic, others just simple–there are even coloring pages available for children.

I don’t think, though, that it was a simple thing for the afflicted man.  I think it was a thing of great wonder and rejoicing for him, although we’re not told a lot about him here.  Can you imagine looking into the face of God, seeing His eyes full of compassion and His face radiating kindness?  Can you imagine the awe and reverence the man must have felt in this very intimate meeting with Jesus?

Jesus knew every bone, joint, muscle and sinew of the hand He was about to heal.  He created it; He designed it, and He could have healed it with no more than a glance.  We are told that He made it clear that the healing power was His. He instructed the man to stretch out his hand so that all who were present would see the miracle take place.

Can you imagine this moment:  The man stretched out his arm, and the withered hand was whole and strong, just like the other one.  Imagine the voices of the people, quiet in their awe of the miracle.  Imagine the glances exchanged among the Pharisees who witnessed the healing and could find nothing at all to say.  That’s why they went aside to whisper among themselves.  How do you refute a miracle you just saw with your own eyes?

Of course, the whole incident made me think of a song I’ve posted before. As far as we know, Jesus did not touch this man; however, He touched many others. He has touched me, and every other person who has trusted Him for salvation. We are restored and made whole. He Touched Me.

And Now, In Conclusion. . . .

I think I’ve finished with the topic of domestic violence for now.  I just want to say a couple of things to wrap up this topic. One of them is this:  The abuser uses silence to protect himself from being exposed.

Remember, this man is often respected in his workplace and, especially, in his church. He doesn’t want you to blow his cover.  He keeps you quiet by threats of more violence, or by promises that it won’t happen again.  He plays on your sympathy by pointing out that he could lose his job, or his position as an elder, deacon, or pastor.  He may even threaten to harm your children if you tell anyone what is going on in your home.

Years ago, in 1983, there was a case in central Minnesota in which a pastor’s wife shot and killed her husband. The whole area was shocked. This type of violence was pretty unusual. As the case was investigated, it became clear that the woman had been victimized for years by her control-freak spouse. He was smart, though. He never marked her anywhere that would show. He never let her go to a doctor or a hospital, either.

Once, however, the wife was having a dress fitted and needed to remove her outer clothing. The dressmaker saw the bruises.  If my memory is correct (and forgive me, it was a long time ago) the dressmaker testified at the trial about what she had seen. The woman acknowledged that she was indeed a victim of years of physical abuse. She never denied that she had shot and killed her husband.  She was so depressed and miserable that she was willing to go to prison or even death row in order to escape the pain, fear, and humiliation.

The jury found her innocent.  Self-defense.  Praise the Lord!

I’ve had some inquiries from women who are in violent marriages. They want help, but don’t know where to go.  I’ve done my best to give them some advice.  The one piece of advice I’d like to leave with you tonight is this:

If you are being hurt physically, get out right now. Call your local police and ask for help in finding a shelter if you don’t know where to go.

If you are being hurt emotionally, mentally, verbally, or spiritually you still need to consider separating for a time while you get your mind clear and can figure out what to do.

Please, do NOT allow yourself to be caught in the “just pray, obey, and stay” trap that well-meaning but clueless church leaders can often suggest to you. They don’t really understand.  If they could see even one incident of what goes on in your home, they would help you find a way to leave. Usually, they just can’t believe that someone they know and possibly respect could actually be capable of what you’re describing.

Leaving is not equivalent with divorcing. You can still try to get your abuser into some kind of counseling help. You can work on your own issues that kept you in this awful situation for so long.

Above all, don’t just do nothing.  Get help. God does not require you to accept a life of misery in the name of wifely submission.

It is Lawful

Matthew 12:11-12. “And He said unto them, What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out? How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath.”

I love the way Jesus used simple, familiar illustrations to drive a point home quickly and  clearly.

“Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath days?” asked the Pharisees.

“Which of you, if you had one sheep and it fell into the ditch, would not lift it out on the Sabbath?”  answered Jesus.

Complete silence.  Of course they would all rescue an endangered animal. Their livelihood depended upon keeping their flocks in good health.  Not one of them would turn aside from saving that sheep.  So–they had nothing to say.

“Well,” Jesus continued, “Isn’t a man of more value than a sheep?”

His point, stated in the following verse, was that it is never wrong to do good on the Sabbath. That’s God-logic.  That’s a perfect picture of “My ways are higher than your ways, My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9).  Silly Pharisees, thinking they could outfox the Lord.  He was always ready for them, and knew their motives before they ever opened their mouths.

He knows us that well, too.

Is It Lawful. . . .?

Matthew 12:9-10. “And when He was departed thence, He went into their synagogue: And, behold, there was a man which had his hand withered. And they asked Him, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath days? that they might accuse Him.”

At this point, one might imagine that Jesus would wash His hands of the Jews and walk away.  Jesus, however, is always good; always patient; always loving. He did not abruptly turn from His people. Rather, He continued to give them opportunities to see the truth.

In this passage, Jesus entered a synagogue. Typically, He would teach and preach there. This time, however, there was a man with a “withered” hand.  Always curious, I wanted to know exactly what withered means in this verse.  Exactly what it says:  dried up, shriveled, dessicated.  We don’t know if he was born that way, or had an accident of some kind. In any event, the hand was useless to him.

When the Pharisees saw the man, and before Jesus made any move to heal him, they asked Jesus what they thought was a searching question because they wanted to entrap and accuse Him. “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”

This must have been a different group than the ones at the wheat field. Either that, or they were slow learners.  Jesus gave them, again, an answer they couldn’t refute.

It must have driven them crazy.

Mercy, Not Sacrifice

Matthew 12:7-8. “But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day.”

These are surely some of the most important and profound words Jesus spoke.  Mercy, not sacrifice. It’s humbling to consider that all the sacrifices we may make are not as sweet-smelling to God as is mercy.

The word know  in verse 7 is to know by experience or effort.  What Jesus was telling the Pharisees was that they had no knowledge of mercy by the way they lived their lives. They had no experience of extending mercy; they had made no effort to show mercy.  Their sacrifices (obeying the letter of the law?) were not comparable with mercy.

There is no answer from the Pharisees recorded.  I wonder why.

In their ignorance of mercy, they condemned those who were not guilty. They showed no mercy, gave no pardon. The LAW had been transgressed. No mercy.

Jesus then declared Himself to be Lord of the Sabbath. He is, after all, God in the flesh. He created the sabbath; therefore, He can set aside the sabbath if He chooses.  What He creates, He has the power to control.  No law interpolated into the Old Testament by the Jews had the authority to control Him.  The Pharisees themselves showed a growing resentment and rage as they monitored Jesus’ progress, because they could not control Him with all their high-sounding questions and pronouncements.

These verses have been very convicting to me as I’ve studied them for the past couple of days.  I believe in obeying the law.  I believe in doing the right thing. There is nothing wrong with that. The problem arises, though, when in my effort to be right I fail to show mercy.  It is not always profitable to win. Sometimes we just need to be merciful.

One Greater than the Temple

Matthew 12:5-6. “Or have ye not read in the law, how that on the sabbath days the priests in the temple profane the sabbath, and are blameless?  But I say unto you, That in this place is One greater than the temple.”

To profane something is to treat it as a common thing, something not holy or sacred. It was required in the Law that the priests, on the Sabbath day, bring two lambs of the first year, perfectly spotless, and two-tenths deals of flour for a meat offering, mingled with oil, and the drink offering (Numbers 28:9).  All this, of course required work, which was forbidden by the Pharisees’ interpretation of the Law. Yet, the priests were held blameless.  It seems that there were exceptions wherever exceptions were needed, doesn’t it?  Grace was fully typified in these sacrifices, and Grace at work is above the law and does away with the legal covenant.

Jesus then made the assertion that One was present among them Who was greater than the Temple!  How startled they must have been.  The Temple was held in great respect and reverence; for Jesus to claim to be greater was blasphemous to the ears of the Pharisees.

I believe Jesus was making it clear that the time when laws and ceremonials would find their end in Him, in His grace, was coming soon. Grace would end the rule of the Law.  Isn’t that an amazing and wonderful thing for Him to say?  His grace is greater than all our sin.

He came as the great High Priest; He came as the perfect sacrifice Whose blood would do more to cleanse sin than the blood of bull and goats and lambs could ever do. The blood of the animals covered sin.  The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from sin.

Domestic Violence: Profile of a Victim

Really?  There’s a profile that fits victims of domestic abuse?  Yes. Absolutely. I’m going to write tonight strictly from my heart and from my personal observations  during my years of working as a therapist.  You can probably find similar information if you google it. Nothing that I say here is backed up by longitudinal  or anecdotal studies that I have seen, but I’m pretty sure there are some studies out there. 

Here’s a list of characteristics as they occur to me:

1.  The victim has suffered some type of abuse at an earlier point in her life. 

2.  The victim has a very low opinion of her own worth and value. 

3.   She has a desire to please the people in her life. 

4.   She is comfortable with a strict regimen of rules to follow. 

5.   She carries a strong sense of guilt.  About everything. 

6.   She has trouble with confrontation.  She’d rather give in than fight. 

7.    She is not usually quick with words to defend herself. 

8.    In the beginning of their relationship, her abuser made her feel very special because        he  paid so much attention to her, demanded to know where she would be, who she          would be with, and so on.  All this in the name of “worrying for her safety.”

9.   Early on, her abuser may have told her he would kill himself if she ever left him. 

10.  The victim is willing to accept blame, almost always. 

11.  When asked why she stays, she typically responds that she loves him, and that when           things are good, it’s wonderful. 

12.  She often has no education beyond high school; she stays because she feels she can’t         support herself and the children on her own. 

13.  The abuser has successfully cut her off from family, friends, neighbors. Often she has        no transportation and must rely on him to drive her wherever she needs to go. 

14.  The abuser handles all the money, all the time.  He gives her a small allowance, for             which she is to express gratitude. 

15.   The victim has often been so browbeaten that she has lost all hope, feels she is not            worth rescuing.  She feels that if she just tries harder, he won’t have to abuse her  any more. 

16.    The victim tends to be very gentle in spirit, softhearted, and a sucker for tears of                apparent remorse. 

17.    The victim often has a strong belief in the inherent goodness of her abuser; if only                     he could stop drinking/doing drugs/having temper tantrums etc., then everything                     would be wonderful. 

18.   The victim worries about hurting her abuser’s feelings. “He’ll be so sad if I leave!”

19.    The victim may feel her abuser did her a favor by marrying her, rescuing her from                       the terrible household in which she grew up.

20.    The victim has given up everything that made her a unique individual. This can                              include dressing well, letting her hair grow very long, stopping the use of makeup                      and/or jewelry; it can include her giving up a loved hobby or talent because it “takes                  too much time away from him.”  She does all this because it’s what he wants. 

That’s not all, but it’s enough.  Quite a list, isn’t it?  The thing that amazes me is how many women fit every single one of these points, and yet do not realize, or admit, that they are living with an abuser. Often, if they get as far as seeing someone like me, they think it’s because they’re depressed, or have chronic fatigue, or need to learn how to be more submissive. 

It’s very tempting for me to take these women by their cheeks and say, “What is WRONG with you!” But I don’t. That would only pile on more guilt. I’m very gentle with them, and I try to show them from God’s Word that there is a Man Who loves them, and Who will never hurt them; I try to show them that there is hope. 

There is always hope.