Sunday, I had to opportunity to teach the church. Since we’re studying through the Book of Matthew, I taught on Matthew 12:15-21. Part of that passage reads as follows:
A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench until he brings justice to victory. (Matthew 12:20 ESV; a quotation from Isaiah 42:3)
The reed would be used for measurement or support. When the reed was bruised or damaged, it would not be good for measuring or supporting anymore. Therefore, it would be broken and tossed into the fire. When a wick in an oil lamp begins to smoke or smolder, the wick is about used up. The old wick is removed and replaced with a new wick.
But, when the Lord’s Servant comes, Isaiah says that he would not break a bruised reed, nor would he quench a smoldering wick. Instead, Isaiah promised that the Servant would bring justice to victory. Matthew applies this prophetic passage to Jesus. He is telling his readers – and us – that Jesus did not come to judge the damaged and used up people, but instead he was bringing them justice which would lead to victory.
I encouraged others to consider the damaged, bruised, broken, and used up people that they come across from day to day. Jesus desires to bring those people justice which leads to victory; he does not desire to bring judgment and condemnation; he does not desire to break them or throw them out. Our responsibility as followers and representatives of Jesus is to offer them love and mercy as God has offered it to us.
While this was only a small part of my teaching on this passage, it apparently struck a nerve. Several people shared about the damaged and broken people that God had brought into their lives.
One young lady shared about a cafe owner that she had met recently. She had intentionally spent time in this cafe to get to know this man and a woman who works there as well. It turns out that the man is from France. After my friend got to know him and shared the good news of Jesus Christ with him, he told her that he had had a hard time meeting people in this small Southern town. Many of the Christians would not talk to him because he served wine. Then, when they did talk to him, they simply asked him where he went to church and invited him to their church. He said he felt like they were trying to sell him something. After my friend explained the good news, the man said, “If only it could really be like that…”
A couple of other people told about young men and young women that God had brought into their lives. Some were dealing with marital issues, some were being abused, some were struggling with illnesses or poverty or addiction. In every case, my friends expressed a desire to demonstrate the love of God to these broken, bruised, and damaged people.
Then, a man shared a modern day parable with us. He said that a dog showed up on their front porch a couple of days earlier. The dog looked malnourished, so they decided to feed him, recognizing that the dog would probably stay if they started taking care of him. They have since bought the dog a collar (he didn’t have one) and gave him a bath. The dog probably belongs to someone who will show up one day to take him back home.
After sharing this story, my friend asked: Why is it so easy to take care of a dog that is in need, but so difficult to take care of a person who is in need. I think my friend’s simple story taught us much more about sharing the love of God than my teaching did. I thank God that my friend had the opportunity to speak to the church – even though he was not scheduled to teach or preach – and I thank God that my friend took advantage of that opportunity in order to edify us and to stir us all up toward love and good works.