He withdrew from that place.
Jesus had nearly exhausted himself from traveling, preaching, and performing miracles. He had just healed a man on the Sabbath, and he discovered that, despite his growing popularity, some Pharisees were plotting to kill him. What would you do if you were in his position?
Matthew tells us that Jesus “withdrew” rather than engage in any more controversies. This isn’t the first time he avoided conflict, but Jesus also had no problem engaging with his critics, at times very directly. In fact, Jesus often provoked controversy with his teaching and signs. So how did he decide whether to engage or walk away?
We can’t be certain, but it’s safe to assume that Jesus based his decision on his central mission: doing his Father’s will. So he probably chose whichever approach would most help him accomplish that will. He knew that the time had not yet come for him to die, so he quietly walked away. He could have stayed to debate his enemies. He could have overpowered them with his own accusations against them. He could have done any number of things. But in the end, he chose to leave. He didn’t break the “bruised reed” of the misguided Pharisees or quench the “smoldering wick” of the excited but unclear crowd.
So often, we want to defend ourselves immediately, to push back against people who oppose us. We find it easy to accuse them or focus on their failings as a way of disarming their arguments. We take the bait in an argument, forget about our mission to love even our enemies, and respond in harsh judgment or condemnation.
When you catch yourself getting agitated, stop and discern! What’s your goal? Or, to be more precise, what is God’s goal in this situation? If you sense that it is better to forbear, then pull back, just as Jesus did. If you think that it’s appropriate to continue the conversation, ask the Spirit for compassion. Try to speak words that bring peace rather than animosity, words that build up rather than discourage.
Jesus always maintained an attitude of love, whether he withdrew or engaged. And with God’s help, so can you.
word among us