I’ve been thinking about the question: “How did Jesus handle conflict and confrontation?” I know for me personally, I could use a little work in this area. I don’t have the need to be right, I have the need for the other person to understand what is right. ;o)
As I was looking at Matthew 12, I saw quite a bit of confrontation going on, so I thought I’d take a look at it. Join me if you’d like.
Matthew 12 opens with the Pharisees pointing out something they feel is wrong, a violation of their Pharisaic rules for Sabbath. They are being down right tattle tails, telling Jesus his disciples are misbehaving. So how does Jesus handle this?
First, it looks like he reminds them of something which happened in the past. He uses a story and a person familiar to them. He doesn’t wait for them to reply, he just moves right into reminding them of a law and how the priest “broke” the law just by carrying out their duties of sacrificing animals, making showbread, and circumcising baby boys.
What I find interesting is how each was formed in the way of a question. I’m not sure if it was originally a question, but it seems all translations translated it as a question. And he formed it in a way in which they could not answer no, without implying they weren’t fit to hold the positions they held.
I also notice he did not give his own opinion on the matter. He simply stated examples from the past which they could not deny. Leaving them no real room for argument. Yet, their accusation was based in their opinion.
What we might miss in verses 6 and 7 is the way he puts the Pharisees in their place. He is basically telling them you don’t even understand what the Sabbath is all about. Ouch!
I like how verse 9 says, “moving on from there,” and “went into their synagogue.” Most commentaries indicate this was on a different day. But what I take from this is, move on. Dwelling on things isn’t helpful. Arguing about things isn’t helpful. He didn’t try to convince them they were wrong or he was right. He stated some facts, and moved on. Also, he wasn’t intimidated about entering “their” synagogue later. It didn’t bother him because he wasn’t emotional about the incident. He was confident in who he was, what he knew, and what he was about.
Next we see him dealing with some people questioning his actions trying to get him to admit he did something wrong. Not like any of us have ever had that happen huh?
So he answers the people with a question, asking them what they would do in a similar situation. Again, he forms the question in a way which really leads them to answer only one way.
It seems to me he was confident in what he was doing and knew it wasn’t wrong. He wasn’t going to let someone tell him it was. Maybe we need to make sure our actions are right before doing them. Then we too can be confident. It’s when we start doing things which aren’t right where we could get in trouble.
And look what he did in verse 15:
But being aware of this, Jesus went away from there. And many people [c]joined and accompanied Him, and He cured all of them,
How many times do we stay? How many times do we return to a fight? Jesus didn’t, he moved away from the fight. He moved away from the attack. He didn’t get caught up in whether they believed him or not. Whether they agreed with him or not. He didn’t get emotional about it. He knew what he knew, and he told them what he knew, and then moved on. And by doing so, people joined him and he cured them all. How many people are we withholding healing from because we refuse to move away from a confrontation? Now there is something to strike the heart. Oh boy!
Look at verse 19:
He will not strive or wrangle or cry out loudly; nor will anyone hear His voice in the streets; (AMP)
He wasn’t going to argue or quarrel. And he wasn’t going to take it to the streets, looking for public opinion. Wow! What if we just resolved to not do those two things? Now there’s some things to work on.
Looking at verse 20 as it is written and not understanding the picture being painted, the meaning could be missed. And quite honestly, it might be one we would all like to overlook. But a lass, it is too late as I’m sure you will read what I write next, and then you will be just as accountable as me.
Albert Barnes interprets verse 29 as such:
It means that he would not oppress the feeble and poor, as victorious warriors and conquerors did. It is also an expressive emblem of the soul broken and contrite on account of sin; weeping and mourning for transgression. He will not break it; that is, he will not be severe, unforgiving, and cruel. He will heal it, pardon it, and give it strength.
JFB puts it this way:
His it should be, with matchless tenderness, love, and skill, to lift up the meek, to strengthen the weak hands and confirm the feeble knees, to comfort all that mourn, to say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not.
How many times have we, I, kept at it, even unto a soul broken. How many times has there been unforgiveness nd cruelty? How many times have we been so quick to push at, prod at, shove in someone’s face their sin. Not saying we shouldn’t identify someone’s sin, or even hold them accountable. But do we really do it in a manner that would be considered tender or loving? Has it really been in a manner in which it would lift up? Strengthen weakened hands? Yeah, I don’t think you are answering this any better than I am. Dare we continue?
Now we see the Pharisees ticked at Jesus again. This time, they have added some false accusations with their condemnation. And what does Jesus do? He lays out some wisdom and knowledge on them. Once again, what he says is addressed in the form of a question, and is pretty much indisputable. He doesn’t give them 15 reasons they are wrong. In fact, he addresses their accusation directly, using it as part of his question. So if what they said was true, then this must be true also. He lets them ponder if what they said is true or false. Again, a question which can only be answered one way.
I never noticed the correlation between the fruit of the tree and what had just happened. So many times, we just use these good fruit, bad fruit verses independently. But if you look at it as one story, it’s interesting. He’s saying, I’m either good or bad. If I’m driving out a demon, and you think I’m bad, then I just drove out something that is just like me. Why would I do that?
In verse 34, Jesus seems to get a little aggressive. I don’t know about you, but I can just imagine if I called a group of people children of serpents. lol I don’t think it would go so well for me. Worst part is, this was not their first time being called this, John the Baptist said a similar thing to them (Matthew 3:7). Yet he is still asking them questions. He does appear to call them evil here, but it is almost in a subtle way. He’s still comparing how they see the situation with logic. And he is still letting them figure out for themselves where they sit.
How many times do we just tell people where we think they are. Come on now, you know, you would have just laid into them and told them what bad fruit they were. They wouldn’t know a good thing if it hit them upside the head. They would never be any good. Not Jesus, sure, he called them a name, but he never quite told them they were the bad fruit, he just told them what good fruit looked like and what bad fruit looked like, then let them figure out what they most resembled.
Now this same group of people try to get Jesus to do something for them. They want a sign from him. He tells them in no uncertain terms, No. It’s just not going to happen. This wasn’t God’s plan, so he wasn’t going to do it. He only did what God told him to do. I find this very strange since they had already confronted him BECAUSE he had performed a sign. Did they really miss that? What kind of confrontation would Jesus have brought on if he had let them goad him into performing a sign?
This next part always perplexed me. He seems to be very harsh with his family. I could maybe understand his brothers, as they didn’t really believe he was who he said he was. But his mother? What did she do to him? As I read it today, I noticed two things. First, it says in verse 49:
While Jesus was still speaking to the crowds, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him.
WHILE, STILL, so in the middle of this teaching, his family comes up and wants to speak to him? I wonder what they wanted to talk to him about that was so urgent they wanted to interrupt him? Did they notice he was getting loud and was a little more irritated than normal? It doesn’t really say, and we may never know, but I do think it’s interesting at any rate.
The other things is, if we read this with a different slant, I don’t think it really was a dig to his family, as much as a gesture to the people around him. He’s saying, anyone who is about my Father’s business, is my family.
Well, I think we’ve learned a lot from Jesus in this chapter. Those sandals are some hard sandals to walk in! If you read this and can’t find at least one thing to work on, well, I’d have to ask you, Do you think maybe you might have missed something?
If you read this and feel a little overwhelmed, don’t be, just take it one step at a time. Make a list, pick the one thing you think you can accomplish quickest, and start working on it. Jesus didn’t say, the people who are perfect are a part of my family, he said, “whoever does the will of My Father in heaven.” And as we can see by the people throughout scripture, sometimes they messed up, but if we are always trying to do God’s will, He will help us. And with Him helping us, how can we fail!
Now, what will I tackle first? Oy vey!