His words, his actions, his posture and even his look stirred the heart and challenged the mind of those who spent any significant amount of time with Him.
He was ticking some people off.
Rather than argue his point, defend his cause, speak with an even louder voice or rally the crowds to Himself and His position, Jesus chose an alternate path.
Honestly, His response is quite contradictory to what most people do when they desire to emphasize a particular point or express a particular view.
Jesus withdrew from the clamor and the controversy.
Check out Matthew’s recount:
Aware of this (the Pharisees’ outrage) Jesus withdrew from that place. A large crowd followed him, and he healed all who were ill. He warned them not to tell others about him. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah:
“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.
A bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out,
till he has brought justice through to victory.
In his name the nations will put their hope.”
New International Version, Matthew 12: 15 – 21
According to the New International Version, the first recorded ‘hope’ in the New Testament is found in Matthew 12.
This hope, the hope of Christ, is in reference to the prophecy of Isaiah who declared that the salvation for all of mankind would come. The Messiah would be Savior to not only the nation of Israel but to the Gentiles as well. To make this salvation promise as clear as possible, Jesus Christ was coming for the Jew and the non-Jew – that means the Jews and everyone else.
It’s the hope-filled implication for salvation “…and everyone else…” that the Pharisees choked.
The hope that Jesus Christ offered – offended the most religious order of the time.
This group read the Old Testament Law, respected, followed, and adhered to their religious traditions, set high standards for themselves, and denounced the ways of the world. They were considered the ‘greats’ of their time – those who carried the most weight and influence among their people. Yet, it was this group – too set in their own ways and too focused upon the Old Testament Law to provide a construct for earning salvation – that criticized, challenged, denounced, and ultimately sought to destroy the hope-filled ministry of Jesus Christ.
Can you just imagine?
Jesus offered His love, His mercy, His forgiveness, and His healing hand to all.
And that was the problem.
Jesus extended the hope of salvation to the marginalized people of his time. These were the outcast, the poor, the lost, the disabled, the homeless, the adulterers, the corrupt, the cheats, the murderers, the thieves, and the censured. There was no offense too great that could deny Jesus from offering His hand.
Can you just imagine?
The Pharisees could not. In fact, this law-and-order religious faction were so offended by this salvation-for-all construct of Jesus, that their criticism grew to loud crescendos as they attempted to crowd him from public view and silence his voice.
He withdrew from the noise, the criticism, and even the popular clamor of the crowds to places where there was no spectacle or spotlight.
Jesus understood His cause of hope and He would not be deterred from His mission. He continued forward in meekness, humility and love – reaching out to the common man, woman, and child – to save them (and ultimately us) from ourselves – regardless of the offense he would cause in the name of hope and redemption.
Friends, offenses abound these days. A moment doesn’t seem to pass when there isn’t someone who is upset, vexed, annoyed, or repulsed by someone else for any number of reasons. Many believe they stand on the high and right ground and make great effort to persuade, change and harness public opinion. Demands for uniformity of belief and position proliferate one part of the world to the other.
Where are the invitations to listen and understand?
In my High Trust Leadership class, Bill Thrall, one of the facilitators said, “Tomorrow’s relationships will often pay the price of yesterday’s unresolved issues and unmet expectations.”
Jesus chose not to take offense and be deterred from His mission on earth when others disagreed and challenged Him. He kept moving forward. And He did so with hope, with joy, with confidence and love in order to reconcile and save the world.
This is the hope He offered then and that He offers now. This is the hope of salvation we have in Jesus Christ!
Friends, we don’t want to lose sight of the offensive hope that Jesus shares with the world. He offers salvation to all – regardless of race, nationality, gender, belief, political view, economic position, and any particular success or failure – and to even those we most disagree with! Jesus walked this earth, shared His abounding and abiding love and passionate life with whoever would listen. The offensive, repulsive, vexing, and outrageous, life-giving hope that He extended to all ultimately brought reconciliation with God and redemption to all of mankind!
You see, nothing separates me from Christ when I place my trust in Him for my life and believe Him to be my Savior. And nothing separates anyone else who believes in Christ as well.
In a time, place, and world that demands performance and expects uniformity, that’s outrageous.
But it’s true:
What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:
“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
New International Version, Romans 8: 31 -38
This is the amazing and offensive hope I have in Christ.
It’s the hope I desire to share with others in love, with mercy, and with abounding grace.
This is the path of Jesus – He walked this way on earth – and it is how I wants me to walk today.