Many years ago, I heard a statement that caught my attention. “The first whale to surface gets harpooned.” Now, you might be wondering where this is going but I need you to hang in there. Another variation of this saying is, “The first whale to blow gets harpooned.” Now this might not make any sense to you, but it communicates keeping your focus in life, business and especially ministry and letting the fruit of your work bring you praise. What is refreshing in a world flooded with words is a life of substance. You should not be surprised that Jesus reminds His followers of the same truth.
It is easy to believe that if you do not promote your accomplishments then you will be buried in the noise of others. The point that Jesus addresses though His actions is that attention can actually make ministry more challenging. It would be better for His followers to quietly do what God has gifted and called them to do without drawing attention to themselves. Let’s dig into a section of chapter 12 of Matthew’s gospel where Jesus heals a man with a “withered hand.” Jesus challenges the Pharisees on their false understanding of the Sabbath. He argues that if they would rescue one of their animals on the Sabbath, how much more important it is to heal a human being. This public demonstration of ministry drew the opposition of the religious establishment. The point is that the Sabbath existed to provide an opportunity for man to rest and worship, allowing time to focus on our Creator. It was not that man existed to be a slave to the Sabbath.
But what stood out to me was Jesus’ priority for ministry and that of flying under the radar. It is a reminder for us to stay focused on ministering to others. “Jesus, aware of this, withdrew from there. And many followed him, and he healed them all and ordered them not to make him known.” (Matthew 12:15–16) I find two actions insightful here. One, that Jesus withdrew from the public eye. It is true that the public eye can bring recognition and popularity, but it also stirs opposition. The Lord’ s ministry was to touch people individually. His ministry can be described as, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45) Jesus did not come to be a rockstar but to transform the lives of individuals!
The second insight in Jesus’ avoiding public attention is that he encouraged those that He helped “not to make him known.” Matthew goes on to remind us that His low key style of ministry was an identifying characteristic of the Messiah’s style. “He will not quarrel or cry aloud, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets; a bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench, until he brings justice to victory;” (Matthew 12:19–20) Simply put, Jesus was about helping people. He was focused on letting “His works” be His words. He traded that public recognition that many seek, “nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets” but chose to focus on the needs of those that were hurting and struggling, “a bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench.” One commentator writes, “The battered reed and the smoldering wick represent people whose lives are broken and worn out, ready to be discarded and replaced by the world. Because they can no longer “make music” or “give light,” society casts off the weak and the helpless, the suffering and the burdened. Those were the kind of people the Romans ignored as useless and the Pharisees despised as worthless.” (John MacArthur, Matthew)
Jesus demonstrated for us the importance of having the right focus and letting God take care of the rest! This is necessary in a culture that is threatened by the message and person of Jesus! Let’s be those who speak through our ministry!
-Pastor Joe Parkinson