The Bruised Reed-The Gentle Jesus.
January 24th, 1965 @ 7:30 PM
THE BRUISED REED-THE GENTLE JESUS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1-24-65 7:30 p.m.
Now in the Book let us turn to Matthew, the First Gospel; Matthew chapter 12, Matthew chapter 12. And the pastor is preaching tonight on The Bruised Reed-The Gentle Jesus. Matthew chapter 12, and we shall read together verses 14 through 21, and it is an exposition. The message is an exposition of this passage: Matthew chapter 12, from 14 to 21. And all of us sharing our Bible, we read it out loud together, verse 14:
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;
And charged them that they should not make Him known:
That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah 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 show 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.
You have here one of the most vivid and colorful and distinct of all of the contrasts you could find in the Word of the Lord; and I want to show it to you. The first verse that we read: “Then the Pharisees went out, and held a council against Him, how they might destroy Him” [Matthew 12:14]. Now, that is one.
Now look at the next verse, “And when Jesus knew it … great multitudes following Him, He healed them all … that it might be fulfilled” [Matthew 12:15-17]. And then it describes Him. “He will not strive, nor cry; nor lift up His voice. A bruised reed [shall] He not break, smoking flax [shall] not He quench. And in His name shall the people trust” [Matthew 12:19-21].
Look at it. Over yonder in that city, they are whispering together, and they are seeking to encompass the annihilation of the blessed Lord Jesus. They are going to destroy Him. They are going to kill Him. And that’s what they are doing over there. Who are those people, whispering? They are the leaders. They are the official mind and aggregate. They are the nation and the leaders of the nation.
And how did Jesus respond to them? “Well, I am going to quit. I am going to quit.” And it could have been written here in the Book, “Over there in that city, those Pharisees held a council together how they might destroy Jesus. And over here where the Lord was working, when Jesus found it out and learned that He had been rejected by the official mind, the Lord fell into a stubborn silence. And the hand that was raised in blessing lay paralyzed by His side. And the Lord Jesus fell into a great gloom; and He forgot about the needs of the people, and He quit.” Is that what it says?
Just the opposite! However they might reject Him, or encompass His death, or plot against Him, He went on with His ministry of healing the multitudes [Matthew 12:15].
“Ah! But, Lord, don’t You know they are whispering there? And don’t You know what they are saying? And don’t You know what they are saying means death? Don’t You know?” No matter. No matter. And He went about healing the sick, the great multitudes following Him, preaching the gospel [Matthew 12:15, 24-45]. Whatever the difficulty, or the rejection, or the ridicule, or the mockery, whatever, He just kept on His sweet and precious ministry of being an incomparable blessing.
Or it could have been like this. “And the Pharisees went out, and held a council against, how they might destroy Him” [Matthew 12:14]. And when Jesus knew it, and when Jesus knew it, He was filled with bitterness. And the Lord said, ‘I am going to fight hate with hate; and I am going to fight death with death. And I am going to fight bitterness with bitterness. For with Me, it is eye for an eye, and tooth for a tooth, and claw for a claw, and death for death.’” Well, He could have. He could have sought to retaliate, but He did not. He just went ahead with His precious ministries, and the great multitudes following Him, and He healed them all [Matthew 12:15]; just kept on doing those sweet and precious things that made the Lord Jesus Himself.
Isn’t that marvelous, how He was? How He reacted? No matter how things might be here below or around, the sky is just blue above us. It just is. It doesn’t try to be blue. Doesn’t try; it just is blue. It just is itself. The sky is blue, no matter what down here. Or the snow is white. It just is; doesn’t try to be white. It just is, as itself. It is white, no matter what down here. Or a flower is fragrant, no matter what. It is just, without any struggle or any effort, it is just fragrant. So with our blessed Lord, whatever they are saying, and whatever they are counseling, whatever they are whispering, and whatever their objections, He just kept on being sweet, and gracious, and gentle, and kind. As the prophet Isaiah said: “He shall not strive nor cry, neither shall any man hear Him lift up His voice” [Isaiah 42:2], either in anger or shouting, or retaliation, or bitterness, or hatred. You will not hear His voice raised in the streets against these.
Well, isn’t that marvelous? Oh! Blessed Lord, how do You be that way? Just kept on healing [Matthew 12:15]. And when at His trial somebody came and slapped Him with the back of their hand, slapped Him and said to Him, “Now, You say You are a prophet; what is my name? Who slapped You?” [Luke 22:64], and He did not respond at all, not at all. And when He was accused before Caiaphas and Annas and the Sanhedrin, He made no defense whatsoever [Matthew 26:62-63]. And when they nailed Him to a cross, He was without resistance [Acts 2:23].
I went to see, in a packing house, lambs slain. Over there the pigs were squealing. And over there the cattle were bellowing and lowing. But where the sheep are slaughtered, there is not a sound, just the clanking of the machinery. And that is the Lord Jesus, the Lamb of God [John 1:29]. And when on the cross they reviled Him and walked up and down and blasphemed His name [Matthew 27:39-43], He just bowed His head and prayed, “Lord Father, forgive them” [Luke 23:34].
“Ah! But I know what is going to happen. When He is raised from the dead, He will strike unmitigated terror in their hearts. He will annihilate His enemies! I know what He is going to do when He is raised from the dead. You just wait.”
So God raised Him from the dead [Matthew 28:5-7]. And all that comes from His gracious nail-pierced hands and from His lips that distill words of grace and mercy—all that came was the gospel of the grace of the Son of God [John 1:16]. Isn’t that a marvelous, incomparable thing? O Lord! O Lord!
And there are two analogies here to describe Him. Quoting from Isaiah again, the forty second chapter of Isaiah: “A bruised reed shall He not break, and smoking flax shall He not quench, and in His name shall the people trust” [Matthew 12:20-21; Isaiah 42:3]. Ah! Think of that for just a moment, the two analogies of our blessed Lord: a bruised reed, a bruised reed. Well, what is that? Well, it could be, under the heavy, heavy foot of a massive animal on the way to a watering place, unthinking, the great, heavy animal crushes a little bulrush. Or it could be that an unthinking man stepped on the little plant with an iron heel and left it to die a bruised reed. But the Lord saw it and was pitiful to it. And He picked it up, and He rejointed it, and He made nature tender to it. And there is a great wizardry of healing in Mother Nature. And the little plant came to life again, nurtured under the tender, loving, sweet, care of the Lord—a bruised reed. Could it be that?
Or maybe the bruised reed is the little flute, the little reed that belonged to a shepherd boy. In the Valley of Berachah one time, I saw a shepherd boy playing on a little hand-made flute, on a little reed, and he was leading his sheep and his goats, just a little flock. And I had the driver stop the car. And I gave that little boy a little piece of money; and I said, “I want you to stand there and play that little flute before your flock and let me take your picture.” And I have that sweet picture. Maybe the bruised reed was that little flute made out of a reed, and somebody stepped on it, somebody crushed it, and it lost its song, and it was bruised and broken, and he couldn’t sing anymore. And the Lord said, “Give it to Me. Give it to Me. I will repair it, and I will make it sing as beautifully, as melodically, as angelically, as sweetly, as ever before.” A bruised reed in the tender, sweet, loving, care of the great Healer and Keeper and Savior [Matthew 12:20]—ah! the touch of His precious hands.
Now this is an old poem, and you have heard it all your life, but sometimes the old things are the best things. And you know what I am going to do. I am going to read, I am going to read about a violin in the Master’s hands:
’Twas battered and scarred,
And the auctioneer thought it
Scarcely worth his while
To waste much time on the old violin,
But he held it up with a smile.
“What am I bidden, good folks?” he cried,
“Who will start the bidding for me?”
“A dollar. A dollar. Now two, only two?”
“Two dollars, and who will make it three?”
“Three dollars, once; three dollars twice;
Going for three”—But no,
From the room, far back, a gray-haired man
Came forward and picked up the bow.
Then wiping the dust from the old violin
And tightening up all the strings,
He played a melody, pure and sweet,
As sweet as an angel sings.
The music ceased and the auctioneer,
With a voice that was quiet and low,
Said, “What am I bid for the old violin?”
And he held it up with the bow.
“A thousand dollars? And who will make it three?”
“Three thousand once, three thousand twice,
And going and gone,” said he.
The people cheered, but some of them cried,
“We don’t quite understand
What changed its worth.” Swift came the reply:
“The touch of the masters hand.”
And many a man with life out of tune,
And tattered and torn with sin,
Is auctioned off to a worthless crowd
Much like the old violin.
A “mess of pottage,” a glass of wine;
A game—and he travels on.
And he is “going” once, and he is “going” twice;
He is “going” and he is almost “gone.”
But the Master comes,
And the foolish crowd can never quite understand
The worth of a soul and the change that is wrought
By the touch of the Master’s hand.
[“Touch of the Master’s Hand,” Myra Brooks Welch, 1921]
“Give it to Me,” says the Lord. “That bruised reed, I will put it back together again.” And if Christianity is any one thing above anything else, it is this: it is a chance to begin in the land of beginning again [2 Corinthians 5:17].
Then He used a second: “And smoking flax shall He not quench” [Matthew 12:20], talking about a little wick, and the candle has burned down. They did not have any candles. We need to be true to the figure. It is a lamp with oil in it, and it is almost gone. You can just see that flickering light, just almost gone, and the Lord takes it, and He nurtures it, and He cultivates it, and He pours oil of His Holy Spirit into it, and the light burns again, and the spark flames again, and the light shines again. What the blessed and precious Jesus can do with a flickering light that is almost out.
Whatever that analogy may mean—what I have said or something else—whatever that analogy may mean, it means this. Our Lord came to put us back together again, to enroll us in the family of God [Matthew 11:28-30], to save our souls [Luke 19:10], to bless our lives, to give us joy for our mourning, to give us salvation for our condemnation [1 Thessalonians 1:10], to give us heaven for our hell and damnation [Hebrews 10:4-14], to present us someday to God without fault and without blemish [Ephesians 5:27; Jude 14], and to be an incomparable blessing—precious, dear, sweet, abiding with us now.
He did not come to condemn the world.
He did not come to blame.
He did not only come to seek;
It was to save that He came.
And when we call Him Iēsous, Savior Jesus, we call Him by His name [Matthew 1:21]. “A bruised reed shall He not break, and smoking flax shall He not quench… And in His name shall the people trust” [Matthew 12:20-21].
Some of these days, I would to love to have him here. Last week, as you know, last week, I was preaching through the State Evangelistic Conference in Tennessee. And they closed their convocation with a vast and vastly attended service in the city municipal auditorium, a brand new and very spacious building. And before I spoke, they presented Jim Voss, who was the brains of the syndicate in Los Angeles, California, and the right-hand man of Mickey Cohen. They presented him for his testimony of the grace of God that had touched his life and converted his soul. Oh! I wish you could hear that. I just never—he is a very brilliant man. He was learned in electronics and reared in a Baptist preacher’s home, but fell into gross violence and a criminal career. He was sentenced ten years to the state penitentiary in San Quentin for armed robbery.
Then when he got out, he was taken into the army. And in the army, he was court marshaled and sentenced to years of hard labor because of misappropriation of government property and funds. But he was so able and so brilliant that after a year the president of the United States pardoned him and he went back to his assignment of inventing things whereby you can bug a conference, or listen through an infinitesimally small microphone to a conversation; and intrigue, and spying, and finding out what the enemy does.
So after the war was over, why, he was in the hire of the police of Los Angeles with his electronic wizardry, trying to find ways to trap and to run down criminals. So while he was in that work, why, Mickey Cohen called him, and he said, he said “You know, there is a microphone that the FBI has hidden in my house, and they hear every word I say, and they know every thought of my mind. And I cannot find it, nor can anyone find that hidden microphone in my house. Now, you come and find it, and I will pay you handsomely.”
So he said, “I went out to Mickey Cohen’s and I found the microphone, and he paid me handsomely. So he said, ‘Would you stay in my employ?’”
“Well,” said Jim Voss, “Yes.” So he worked for the Los Angeles Police Department and he worked for Mickey Cohen, too, both of them. But as time went on, time went on, Mickey Cohen paid him so much more that he just quit all of that business with the government and with the police department, and gave himself to Mickey Cohen.
And in that violent life of murder and bloodshed, he was in the heart of it and the intellectual genius back of it. And bless your heart, in those days—in those terrible days, days of money and affluence—but in those terrible days, God’s people remembered this preacher’s boy, this son of a Baptist preacher. God’s people remembered, “There is a spark somewhere. There is God somewhere! There is remembrance somewhere. This is the son of a Baptist preacher.” And they began praying, and they would not let go. And I haven’t time—maybe we will have him here. I’d love to have him here. We’ll let him tell us what happened. Why, it is like a chapter here in the Book of Acts. Well anyway, anyway, after he was saved, gloriously saved, he made his way to Mickey Cohen’s house to tell him that that preacher’s son had found the Lord and was going back home, and back to the Lord, and back to the service of Jesus. He’d been saved. The bruised reed, God had rejointed it again, and the smoking flax God had been pitiful to again. And it burned in his soul, the light of the love of Jesus.
So when he told Mickey Cohen, Mickey said, “I don’t understand. God doesn’t offer you anything. Jesus doesn’t offer you anything. And I offer you,” and he named the thousands and thousands of dollars.
“Ah!” said Jim Voss. “Maybe it is not anything like you think: money, and women, and jewels, and furs, and houses, and automobiles, and all of the things that a gangster adores and gives his life for. Maybe it is not that, but it is what God can give; peace in my soul, and joy in my heart, and quiet and rest in my life, and the blessings of God upon me.” Well, when he left the house, he left a Mickey that said, “It is a bad deal, you get nothing. You get nothing, and I’ve got everything.”
He closed his testimony with this. He said, “You know, last week, the president of the borough”—and I cannot remember; Queens’ Borough, or Brooklyn Borough, or Manhattan Borough—anyway, wherever he is working in New York, he said, “The president of the borough and I were eating lunch together. And while we were eating lunch, he said to me—he said, ‘Jim, by the way. What has become of that syndicate out there in Los Angeles? What has become of all of those fellows that you worked with in Los Angeles? What has become of them?’”
Jim said, “You know, I never had thought about it. I don’t know why, but I never had thought about it.” So he said, “I began to reminisce, and I began to think through all of those men.” And he called them by name.
And the first man he called, he said, “That man was shot in the door of my laboratory.” Then he named the second man. “That man,” he said, “was killed by the gang with a bullet in his back in a dark alley.” Then he named a third man, and he said, “He hanged himself. He hung himself. He hung himself in a jail cell.” And he went through the whole group, and he said, “You know, there are only two of us alive out of the syndicate. There are only two of us alive. One of them is Mickey Cohen. Mickey Cohen was sentenced to the Federal Penitentiary in Atlanta, Georgia. He had a room cellmate there who was criminally insane, and that fellow took a pipe and hit Mickey Cowen on the head in a brawl in the cell. And his right leg is paralyzed, his right arm is paralyzed, his right side is paralyzed, his right eye is paralyzed, and he lives the life of a languishing invalid now in Springfield, a government penitentiary hospital in Springfield, Missouri. And the only other one that is alive is I, Jim Voss. But Mickey said, ‘God doesn’t offer you anything. I’ve got it all.’” Ah, man! That preacher’s boy found the ultimate, and final, and true, and only worthwhile riches. He found God.
Why, man, I don’t even know why a fellow would hesitate before the decision. On this side with all that Satan could offer, the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them, if you had it, it is like dust in your hands. It is like sand in your mouth. The ultimate of anything the world can give, the ultimate of it is finally disastrous defeat and disappointment and despair. The age of life takes it away. And all of the fortunes of life finally dissolve it. And you see it withdrawing from your grasp, and out into the eternity you go and carry none of it with you, only the stain of it, and the wrong of it, and the guilt of it, and the judgment of it, and the wrong of it, and the sin of it, and the damnation of it, and the condemnation of it! There is nothing ultimately but despair and death.
That, and on the side of our Lord, in the hands of our blessed Savior, there is healing, and blessing, and happiness, and joy, and life, and light, and fellowship, and forgiveness, and mercy increasing in this present world [John 10:10]. And some glorious, incomparably precious, celestial and heavenly day, there is the marvelous inheritance the Lord prepares for those who love Him [1 Corinthians 2:9; 1 Peter 1:4].
Why, Jim Voss, why, man! When God saved you that day, and when God reached down and lifted you up that day, and when God was pitiful to you that day, that day was the greatest day in your life, the greatest day in your life!
And fellow, that simple decision of turning to Jesus is the greatest day in your life, anytime you make it, anywhere you avow it. And that’s our Lord. “A bruised reed, a smoking flax, and in His name shall His people trust” [Matthew 12:20-21]. Oh, fellow! Make that decision for you, tonight. Do it. Do it. “Here I come, preacher, and here I am [Ephesians 2:8]. I open my heart and my soul [Romans 10:9-10]. O God, come in. Come in. Come in. Come in. Live in my heart [1 Corinthians 6:19-20]. Guide and sustain and bless my life [John 15:5]. Do it, Lord. Do it. Enroll my name in the Book of Life [Revelation 20:12, 15, 21:27]. Hear my prayers [John 14:13]. O Lord, may Thy presence go before me [Matthew 28:20]. Bless me, Lord, too. Forgive my sins too [1 John 1:9]. Here I am. O blessed Savior, here I come” [Ephesians 2:8].
Somebody you, however God shall speak to your heart, make it tonight. A family you, the wife, the children; a couple you, I’ll be down here at the front. There is time and to spare. If you are in that topmost balcony, into that aisle, down to the front: “Here I am, preacher, and here I come. I make it now.” Do it. Come, while we stand and while we sing.