Jesus Cures Many by the Sea of Galilee (Matthew 12:15-21; Mark 3:7-11)

With his disciples, Jesus departed for the area around the Sea of Galilee, where his safety would not have been imperiled by the plotting of his enemies. Many from Galilee followed him. News about his activity had spread extensively, and multitudes also came to him from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumaea (bordering Judea on the south), the region on the east side of the Jordan, and the area around Tyre and Sidon (major cities north of Galilee). (Matthew 12:15; Mark 3:7, 8)

To avoid having the crowds crush him, Jesus requested that his disciples have a boat ready for him. This likely would have been Peter’s boat. (Mark 3:9) From the boat, Jesus could address the crowds. The availability of the boat also facilitated his being able to travel to other areas along the seashore.

Jesus had healed many people. So those afflicted with diseases would press upon him, seeking to touch him. Under the control of unclean spirits, persons would shout, “You are the Son of God.” Often Jesus would rebuke them, not allowing them to continue calling attention to his identity. (Mark 3:10-12) In this way, he made it clear that he had nothing in common with the demons and did not want their testimony. To the extent possible, Jesus sought to prevent situations that could lead to his being misrepresented.

He instructed those whom he healed not to spread the word about their cures. Jesus wanted to prevent stirring up needless excitement and the gathering of huge crowds. The way in which he handled matters fulfilled the words of Isaiah 42:1-4. According to Matthew 12:18-21, the prophecy says, “Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved in whom my soul has taken delight. I will put my spirit upon him, and he will announce judgment to the nations. He will not quarrel nor cry out, nor will anyone hear his voice in the squares. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering [wick of] flax he will not extinguish, until he has brought judgment to victory, and in his name nations will hope.”

Jesus proved to be the Messianic “servant,” whom his Father had chosen to do his will. This involved laying down his life in sacrifice to make it possible for humans to be forgiven of their sins and to be reconciled to the Father. At the time of Jesus’ baptism, his Father acknowledged him as his beloved with whom he was pleased. (Matthew 3:17; compare Hebrews 9:11-14; 10:5-13.) He was then anointed with holy spirit and thereafter began a proclamation of judgment. The message revealed divine justice and how to gain a right relationship with God and also made it clear that serious loss would result from failure to respond in faith. Whereas Jesus primarily focused on the lost sheep of the house of Israel, he later did “announce judgment to the nations” through his disciples.

The Son of God did not engage in noisy public debating. He refused to be like those who called attention to themselves, were intent on having the masses hear them, and made loud pronouncements in areas where large numbers of people would customarily gather. The lowly or humble and the afflicted among the people resembled bruised reeds and lamp wicks about to go out. They had little from their hard toil and experienced oppression. Among them were many who suffered from diseases and infirmities. Unlike those who made the lot of the lowly more difficult, Jesus compassionately and lovingly brought relief to those who looked to his Father for help. He provided them with comfort and hope, healed many afflicted ones, and infused the lowly and those in distress with new life. Through his activity, he brought what is just or right to victory or accomplished his Father’s will respecting justice. To people of the nations, he (the one bearing the name) came to be the one on whom they could set their hope and, through him, come to be approved children of God. (For additional comments on the quotation from Isaiah 42:1-4, see the Notes section.)


The quotation of Isaiah 42:1-4 in Matthew 12:18-21 largely follows the reading of the Masoretic Text and the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah. A major difference is in Isaiah 42:4, where the Hebrew text says, “He will not grow faint and not be crushed until he has set judgment in the earth, and for his law the islands [or, coastlands] shall wait.”

This could be understood to mean that YHWH’s servant, the Messiah, would not tire out or become discouraged on account of the unresponsiveness he would be facing, but he would succeed in accomplishing his mission respecting judgment or justice. He would reveal what is right or just. In this case, “law” would mean Messiah’s authoritative teaching. Nations other than Israel would wait for it, indicating that non-Israelites would desire to receive this teaching or law. The Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah says that the isles or coastlands would “inherit” the law, suggesting that they would accept the authoritative teaching and make it their own, faithfully submitting to it.

The extant Septuagint text differs in numerous respects from the quotation in Matthew and the Hebrew text. It reads, “Jacob [is] my servant. I will support him. Israel [is] my chosen one. My soul has welcomed him. I have put my spirit upon him. Judgment he will bring forth to the nations. He will not cry out or let loose [his voice] nor will his voice be heard outside. A bruised reed he will not crush, and a smoking [wick of] flax he will not extinguish, but in truth he will bring forth judgment. He will shine forth and not be broken until he has set judgment upon the earth, and upon his name nations will hope.” There is a possibility that this translation is an interpretive rendering, identifying the servant as the people of Israel rather than the Messiah.

In Matthew 12:21, the point about the hoping of the nations in the name agrees with the reading of the Septuagint but differs from the wording of the Masoretic Text and the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah.