This periscope in Matthew happens the first time Jesus is in the Temple on the Sabbath. The disciples have also created a stir by harvesting the grain in the palm of their hands. Jesus has also just healed the man with the withered hand. This upsets the Pharisees so they began to plot on how to get rid of Jesus. This is unique to Matthew because Matthew squarely places the responsibility of Jesus’ death on the Pharisees. From this statement it is clear the Pharisees are also the enemy of Matthew’s community.
Jesus does not confuse recklessness with courage. First, Jesus withdraws from the crowds and Pharisees. Second, the present moment is not the appropriate time for Jesus to have a confrontation. Jesus has work to do before he takes up his cross. Third, he eschews any publicity and tells the by-standers to remain silent about his miracles. Matthew emphasizes this by quoting the prophet Isaiah. This is the lengthiest passage of the Old Testament in the New Testament. It is taken from the prophet Second Isaiah who spoke these words during the Babylonian Captivity.
Jesus will preach his Gospel of Justice, which will conquer with Love, not strife. Like Isaiah Jesus includes the Gentiles along with Israel as Isaiah did. Jesus’ preaching will strengthen Israel. He will encourage and give hope to the Gentiles. Like Isaiah his message is for the poor and the oppressed – “the smallest of all nations.” Jesus ministers with love, kindliness, compassion, caring and humility. Jesus is fortified for his mission by immersing his disciple and himself in prayer.
Just as Isaiah and Jesus give us examples of how to deal with conflict, Others have learned how this is done. Peter Trucker, the father of modern management, would say in dealing with conflict, “Be fair, Be firm, and Be friendly. The Mennonites Peace Center in Lombard, Illinois have encouraged when dealing with conflict: Don’t deny, Don’t withdraw, and Don’t Argue. Military Officers when it came to disagreeing on strategies offer this advice: #1. Keep focused on the issue, and #2. Don’t get personal. The scriptures are an end list source of encouragement and hope. The example of Jesus in the Scripture is an endless model for our daily life.
Fr. Ken O’Malley, C.P., is the formation director and local superior at Holy Name Passionist Community in Houston, Texas.