The amazing thing is that Jesus refrained Himself in spite of His tremendous power. Often the only response that out-of-control humans can express is an emotional outburst or a feeble physical display. Jesus, on the other hand, could have changed any circumstance that He did not like and could have annihilated any person who provoked Him. At His arrest, He queried, "Or do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels?" (Matthew 26:53). In the face of many and varied situations, Jesus chose self-control.
Jesus delivered two demon-possessed men who were so "violent that no one could pass" near them (Matthew 8:28). When the townspeople saw this remarkable transformation, "they implored Him to leave their region" (8:34). Jesus acquiesced to this incomprehensible rejection.
Jesus had shown incredible miraculous power and dependable truthfulness. When He came to minister to a girl who had died, He stated, "The girl has not died, but is asleep," and the attending crowd "began laughing at Him" (Matthew 9:24). Instead of berating the crowd, Jesus quietly went about His business of raising the child.
Jesus had power that no man possessed. When He cast a demon out of a mute man, who thereby became able to speak, the amazed crowds exclaimed, "Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel" (Matthew 9:33). This undeniably divine action was criticized by the Pharisees, who averred, "He casts out demons by the ruler of the demons" (9:34). They attacked Jesus at the deepest level of His integrity and character, but He did not use His divine power to negate their claim by destroying them. (Jesus was also accused of actually being the ruler of the demons (Matthew 10:25) and of personally possessing a demon (John 8:49).)
These same religious leaders accused Jesus of various vices, calling Him "a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners" (Matthew 11:19). Their intent was to completely discredit Him as unworthy to follow or listen to. In spite of this attempt to undermine His influence and destroy His ability to minister, Jesus did not allow Himself to become involved in mud-slinging or interminable verbal sparring.
When Jesus came to His hometown to teach, His townspeople were incredulous. They refused to believe that He was anyone special, declared Him to be common, and "took offense at Him" (Matthew 13:57). Even though Jesus was unable to "do many miracles there" (13:58), He did not bring retribution for the painful rejection by those who should most readily have accepted Him.
The Pharisees were a continual scourge to Jesus and His ministry. Time and again they opposed Him, derided Him, and "were offended" at His words (Matthew 15:12). In the face of this incessant attack, Jesus restrained Himself, telling His disciples, "Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit" (15:14). Rather than responding in kind, Jesus simply left them to their own inevitable end.
As Jesus revealed His impending death to His disciples, incredibly "Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him," refusing to accept Jesus' words, even though they fulfilled prophecy (Matthew 16:22). Jesus limited His response to a verbal rebuke that focused on the error of Peter's mortal focus.
At the transfiguration, Jesus was displayed in His glory as at no other time in His earthly ministry. Peter, not knowing what to say, suggested building three altars, one of which would be for Jesus. The Father responded from heaven, decisively directing the attention to the Son. Jesus' only response to Peter's unintended slight was to comfort and encourage His disciples.
The most striking and illuminating display of self-control came when Jesus was unfairly tried, abused, and crucified. When the high priest challenged Him, "Jesus kept silent" (Matthew 26:63). Jesus' accusers "spat in His face and beat Him with their fists; and others slapped Him," but He did not respond (26:67). "While He was being accused by the chief priests and elders, He did not answer" (27:12). Pilate tried to get Jesus to offer up a defense, but Jesus "did not answer him with regard to even a single charge" (27:14). The vicious crowds "stripped Him, . . . and after twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on His head, . . . and they knelt down before Him and mocked Him. . . . They spat on Him, and took the reed and began to beat Him on the head" (27:28-30). Jesus suffered quietly and without retribution. As Jesus hung on the cross, "those passing by were hurling abuse at Him," mocking Him, denying His deity, and belittling His power (27:39-43). Instead of using His divine power to free Himself or give the crowds what they deserved, Jesus freely suffered and willingly gave up His life.
Jesus received abuse in life and suffered a cruel death, not because He was powerless to avoid these maltreatments, but because He chose to keep Himself under control. He held Himself back from what He could have done in order to do what He was sent to do. No one else had to restrain Jesus; He voluntarily restrained His words and actions, demonstrating the ultimate example of self-control.