Unlike other would-be messiah figures in His day, Yeshua did not preach revolution or political activism. He did not stir up civil unrest. Yeshua did not even want people to identify Him as “the Messiah” because of the political associations that the titled invoked. He wanted to steer clear of the contention and avoid starting a movement that could be construed as a political following. That’s one reason He tried to conceal His identity and keep His miracles secret. He wanted to be known as a preacher of repentance, not revolutionary. He argued for fulfilling the Torah and bringing the kingdom through love, not weapons.
The writer of the Gospel of Matthew saw a prophecy from the book of Isaiah fulfilled in the Master’s low-profile approach to the mission. Matthew quotes Isaiah 42:1-4.
He will not quarrel, nor cry out; nor will anyone hear His voice in the streets. A battered reed He will not break off, and a smoldering wick He will not put out, until he leads justice to victory. (Matthew 12:19-20)
Although the Messiah must conquer the nations and judge between peoples, the Servant of the LORD does not behave as a conqueror. Isaiah predicted that He will not raise his voice like a political leader trying to influence a crowd to support Him. Neither will He cause His voice to be heard in the streets like a Zealot leader raising a rebellion. He will not argue or fight to establish His way. He will not stir up insurrection or campaign against the state. He does not agitate against the establishment to accomplish His purposes.
Yeshua, the Servant of the LORD, fulfilled these prophecies with His conduct among men and by way of His everyday behavior. When the Pharisees conspired against our Master, He withdrew to avoid confrontation, so Matthew quotes the prophecy, “He will not quarrel, nor cry out.” When the Master attempted to curb the messianic zealotry building around Him, Matthew quoted the prophecy, “[He will not] cry out; nor will anyone hear His voice in the streets.” He was not a rabble-rouser. This is why He warned those He healed not to reveal the matter to others.
Rather than promoting Himself, boasting about Himself, or stirring up His followers into a powerful political force, He focused His attention on the poor and the lowly. He was gentle, showing mercy to the weak, the marginalized, and the vulnerable. When He showed compassion for the sick and infirm, Matthew quoted the prophecy, “A battered reed He will not break off, and a smoldering wick He will not put out.” A battered (bruised) reed no longer stands straight. It is bent low, vulnerable and fragile. The smoldering wick has only a spark of life left in it. Only a stub remains in the lamp, ready to be replaced.
Although the Servant of the LORD does not incite insurrection or raise an army of followers, He nevertheless “leads justice to victory.” That is to say that He establishes the kingdom by non-conventional means. He does not rely on the boot and the barrel of the gun to conquer the nations.
Many of Yeshua’s disciples today have failed to learn the manner of their Master. We are too quick to snuff out every smoldering wick with which we disagree or to break every bent reed which stands in our way. We are often ready to join a quarrel, raising our voice in the streets of religious and social discourse. We fight and divide over theology and dogma. We attach ourselves to political agendas and worldly ideologies in the guise of piety and godliness, misusing the name of God and the name our Master in the process. In our zeal to advance the kingdom, we tread upon the principles of the kingdom. Disciples of Yeshua should emulate the Master’s gentle nature, always standing firm for our convictions, but always in genuine love, gentle, lowly, and with the humility of the Servant of the LORD.