A Bruised Reed and a Smoldering Wick

Rhonda Maydwell

I love digging into the nitty-gritty of the Bible, because, more often than not, I find a little nugget that is packed with hope and encouragement. Recently, while researching Mathew 12, I came across just such a nugget — verse 20, which reads, "A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out" (NIV). This verse does more than merely describe the prophesied Jesus, it gives us deep insight into the person of Jesus and a stark contrast between the Savior and the Pharisees. This verse promises to be an encouragement to you and me. So let's dig in!

Mathew develops two main points throughout his writing of chapter 12 (although the books were not originally divided into chapters by the original authors). The first demonstrates the differences between the Pharisees and Jesus (and if we are honest, all of us sinners and Jesus), and the second displays Jesus as the prophesied Messiah of the Old Testament. The simple fact was that the Pharisees were looking directly at the Promised One, but He didn't look like their expectations, so they completely missed Him. That is so sad to me, yet I know that I sometimes miss His presence in my life too, because I am too busy or too stubborn to notice it.

The differences between the Pharisees and Jesus were numerous. The Pharisees cared only about externals — rules and appearances. Jesus cares about internals — the heart. The Pharisees were public and wanted attention for their deeds. Jesus retreats, heals, and tells people to keep quiet. The Pharisees were merciless, and created extra laws for people. Jesus is merciful and offers rest for the soul. The Pharisees' yoke (the Law plus some) is heavy, burdensome, and impossible to carry. Jesus' yoke is easy and light. The Pharisees conspired to kill; Jesus comes to save. The Pharisees plotted to bring human justice; Jesus is bringing godly justice. The Pharisees expected a warrior-king — maybe one like David, and this Jesus guy was just not fitting the bill. When He quotes the Prophet Isaiah, Jesus tries to remind them what these learned men of the Law would have known very well — just who and what the Messiah was really going to be — God's chosen servant.

Jesus quotes from Isaiah 42:1-4 in Mathew 12 describing Himself in God's own words (I think that is cool and goose-bump- inspiring):
Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him he will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not grow faint or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his law. (ESV)
This does not sound like a conqueror who comes in, destroys everything, and asks questions later. This is a Savior who seeks justice; not in the way you and I see it, but in God's economy. But Jesus' words are lost on these same Pharisees who previously had called for the stoning of a woman caught in adultery — the same repentant woman who Jesus forgave and saved her soul for eternity (John 8:1-11).

What do a bruised reed and a smoldering wick have in common? They are weak and vulnerable to death. A bruised reed might die if not carefully tended and nourished, and a smoldering wick (made so by an oil lamp that has run out of oil) will completely extinguish on its own if oil is not added to the vessel. The Pharisees desired for the weak and vulnerable — the sinners — to die. Jesus, like his Father, desires all to know salvation and have eternal life (1 Timothy 2:4). Jesus did not come to destroy sinners, but to save them. Thus, it would never be in his nature to break a reed already bruised, but to offer it healing through care and provision. He would not extinguish a smoldering wick, instead He would replenish it with the oil of forgiveness and salvation and fan that smoldering wick into a flame for God! Although Jesus was without sin, He did not cast a stone at the sinning woman, instead he soothed her soul with forgiveness and the grace to repent. Her flame was nearly snuffed out if the Pharisees had their way, but instead she walked away forgiven, saved, and a new woman in Christ on fire for God.

I don't know about you, but I am so thankful I serve a God who wants what is best for me even when I fail miserably. I can tell you that it has been more than once that I was that bruised reed or smoldering wick, but Jesus Christ saved me from that dying existence — one that would lead to permanent death. Today I am healed, alive, and on fire to serve the Lord who restored me. It is my greatest prayer today that you also know that saving grace. If so, I encourage you to follow the lead of our Jesus and bring healing to the bruised around you, pour grace into empty vessels, and to fan fading wicks into a flame that loves God. If not, I invite you to pray to God right now:
"Lord, I am a bruised reed and smoldering wick who has sinned against you. I am wounded and nearly extinguished. While it may seem right to many that I should die for my transgressions, I reach out to You to ask for your healing touch and the oil of salvation for my life. Have mercy on me, for I am in need of a Savior, and I commit to living for You. Thank you for saving me. In Jesus' name. Amen."
If you prayed that prayer for the first time today, Congratulations! Let me be the first sister in your new Family to say Welcome! Please let us know you made a decision today, and we will send you some helpful information to get you started on this exciting journey.

I hope this verse proved as encouraging for you as it was for me. Even those of us who have been Christians for many years are enlightened anew at the face of the real Jesus. We serve a gentle, quiet, and loving God who only wants good for us. I want to be like Jesus who seeks out the bruised and the fading and lead them to the One who will breathe life into their soul. Look around you today — do you see the wounded? Might you reach out to someone who is hurting today?

Image Credit: myfriso; untitled; Creative Commons

TagsBiblical-Truth  | Jesus-Christ  | Witnessing-Evangelism

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Published 3-27-17