Summary: Jesus demonstrates the perfect balance of a "peaceful warrior" as predicted by Isaiah
The Prince of Peace Seeks Peace
Text: Matthew 12:9-21
Once upon a time the job of a soldier, the task of an army was clear-cut. We went, when our nation called us, to far away lands to defeat, destroy or drive out an enemy in order to achieve the security or political objectives of our national leadership.
I know one chaplain who has a sign on his wall that says "My job is to bring peace and love to an organization that exists to blow things up and kill people."
However many soldiers now look back upon those days of clear-cut definitions of defeat and victory as the good old days. Increasingly, our nation calls upon us to do missions with no such goal of defeating or driving out an enemy. In fact we’ve had to add a new phrase to our vocabulary to describe such missions, "Operations Other Than War," sometimes refered to as peace-keeping missions.
Now to those with a traditional view of soldiering and the purpose of armed forces, this has been a difficult transition. How can a force designed for war be used as an agent of peace? "Peaceful Warrior" seems like an oxymoron. And it is indeed a very difficult balance, one which all parties involved admit we haven’t been fully prepared for and we don’t really have a handle on even now. How do you train a force that might be called upon for war, but also might be called upon for peace?
It’s a dilemma all right, but we’re not the first ones to face this kind of dilemma. A few weeks ago I talked to you about how Jesus, the Prince of Peace, said that he came with a sword. Today the prophecy that Matthew quotes brings up to a similar issue, only this time the emphasis is not upon a Prince of Peace who brings conflict but instead upon a warrior, a conqueror who is gentle and peaceful. The point I’d like to make from this passage is that...
Proposition: Jesus is our perfect model of a Peaceful Warrior.
Interrogative: So what exactly does it mean to be a warrior with peaceful intentions? And what does it have to do with you and me?
Transition: I think the answer is found in the story we read today and also in the prophecy that Matthew uses to illuminate the significance of those events. As we consider Jesus as a peaceful warrior I believe we will also discover something about his expectations of us as we follow him as soldiers in the spiritual battle that we wage every day. There are two specific tensions that Jesus balances perfectly, the first is...
1. Declaration without Defiance
vv. 18-19 "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."
Look at the juxtaposition here. It says "he will proclaim" in one breath and in the very next breath "he will not quarrel or cry out." Jesus fulfills the prophecy that the Promised One will boldly proclaim the message, but he will not do it stridently. He’s not itching for a fight. A fight may come because the message doesn’t make everybody happy, but He’s not looking for it.
This is modeled in the story that immediately proceeds the prophecy in two ways. First when the Pharisees try to draw him into a fight about healing the man on the Sabbath He doesn’t say "You people would love to see me leave this man in misery because that’s just the sorry kind of folks you are" Instead he reasons with them, "Look, I’m only doing what’s right, wouldn’t you pull a sheep out of the well on the Sabbath? And isn’t a person more important than a sheep?
Now they still get mad, because their hearts were hard, but it wasn’t because Jesus had provoked them intentionally. He simply spoke the truth about the situation.
This is further illustrated when after healing people He warned them not to go telling others who He was--that is they shouldn’t go out proclaiming Him as Messiah. Why not? well first of all because it wasn’t yet time for this to escalate, but also I believe because He knew it would cause a controversy that wouldn’t be helpful to the message of good news. As the prophet said "He will not quarrel or cry out; no one will hear his voice in the streets." Declaration without Defiance.
And what does this say to us? That we should be bold in declaring the message of Christ, but we need not be defiant to do so.