“A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoking wick he will not snuff out” Matthew 12:20 (NIV)
Our verse for today is found in the midst of a description of the Lord Jesus. It is a quote from Isaiah 42:3. In Isaiah God promised to send His Servant to bring justice to the Gentiles. This is a description of this Servant who we now know to be Jesus. It makes very clear that Jesus would be gentle and yet productive in this world.
Part of the description of Jesus has this imagery of a bruised reed and a smoking wick. I recall being a boy on the farm and having to use coal oil lamps as electricity had not come to us yet. At night when you went to bed you would turn down the wick so as to reduce the ability of the wick to get oxygen and the flame would flutter and then you easily blew it out. Before you let go of the small wheel that turned the wick down you would turn the wick back up so it was easy to light the next evening. Usually there would be one or two spots on the wick that glowed red. Just the smallest bit of life or combustion was still taking place. But it would soon go out.
What the Bible is talking about in our verse is the wick when the flame had been extinguished and a small amount of the wick still glowed and smoked. In other words it refers to the minimum amount of light or life that could exist. The statement is to the effect that Jesus does not kill the smallest amount of life He finds in anyone. Jesus did not come to extinguish the smallest flicker of life but rather to fan it into an open flame.
Jesus is the most gentle of people and the great encourager of the weak. It is especially in the Gospel of Luke that we see Jesus among the widows, children, outcasts of society, immoral people and so on. Luke is the Gospel of the social worker as social workers are occupied with helping people in pain.
As you read the life of Jesus in all the Gospels it becomes exceptionally clear that He is the most gentle of people. In 2 Corinthians 10:1 Paul refers to the gentleness and meekness of Jesus. Our Lord’s reputation for being kind and gentle with people is one of His chief characteristics.
When we read of those who came with questions designed to trap Him and to try to show Him to be evil, we see that Jesus answered the questions fully and did not simply dismiss the ones seeking to accuse Him. He did not quench the embers of life. Then He would go on from answering the question to add information designed to help the person forward to a better understanding of the truth.
Another way Jesus is portrayed as gentle was when little children were brought to Him. He ever so tenderly picked each one up in His arms and blessed them. His disciples tried to shoo the mothers and little ones away but Jesus rebuked them. It says in Mark 10:14 Jesus was indignant that little ones would be denied His presence. He then took them up in His arms and blessed them. The fact that Jesus took them up in His arms touching them goes beyond the idea of blessing and shows affection on His part for them.
Jesus even says to the rebuked disciples that the kingdom of God belonged to little ones like the children were.
Even when Judas comes into the Garden of Gethsemane to betray Jesus our Lord addresses him as friend. I cannot suggest Jesus was being sarcastic because of Judas’ betrayal of his benefactor Jesus. Rather I believe Jesus was trying to get Judas to see that, He, Jesus, would have continued to be Judas’ friend regardless of anything Judas had done or was doing. However the deed was done and Judas repented greatly although he did not have the depth of repentance that leads to eternal life. Rather he went from the presence of the Son of God and committed suicide.
Do you not marvel at how gentle Jesus is with all kinds of people in society? However broken you are by your circumstances today, you may be assured of a good reception if you come humbly to Jesus and seek His presence. You should feel at ease praying to Him. He has made it clear that He is interested in those whom the world ignores.
Come to Him and come now. He is waiting to hear from you.