Jesus’ Gentle Brand of Justice

smoldering wick

Isaiah 42:1-3 “I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations. He will not cry out, or raise his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.”

If Jesus has come to bring justice to the nations, that might leave us a little bit concerned. You know as well as I do what a messed up world we live in. It seems as though the Middle East, the part of the world Jesus called home, will never experience peace. We consider our own system of government the best available, and yet lately it seems that even American democracy has become a hopeless mess.

The context of Isaiah helps us to understand that Jesus did not come to establish the kind of justice maintained by earthly governments. He did not come to give us better laws or enforce them more consistently.

Rather, Jesus came to bring the gracious rule of God’s kingdom to earth. He came to bring God’s brand of justice to all nations, justice in which every human being is condemned to death as a sinner, but then pardoned and set free because Jesus himself has served their death sentence with his own death on the cross. He has come to establish the kind of rule and order in the hearts of those who believe this. It doesn’t work by scaring them into obedience. It changes them from within, and sets them free, so that they want to do what is right. This is not the way any earthly justice system operates.

Jesus did all this, he does all this, without making himself a celebrity in the crude sense of the word. “He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets.” This is not to say that he did not teach or preach in public. But he refrained from making a public spectacle of himself. Though he performed miracles, so often he worked in private and asked others not to tell anyone. Instead of attending rallies and getting involved in protests and marches, he went to church and taught. He walked along the seashore and taught. He sat down on the hillside and taught.

You see, his message, and our message, is not about hype and show and making political statements. It’s not bullying others into behaving themselves. It’s about patiently teaching people the self-sacrificing love that Jesus has demonstrated for them. That can win their hearts to faith and make a lasting change in their lives.

Jesus’ gentle approach is highlighted in the verse which follows. “A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.” It is not hard for us to understand who the bruised reed or who the smoldering wick is. These are the people whose faith is fading fast. Morally, their life is becoming a mess. Spiritually, they are almost gone.

I don’t believe I am speaking only for myself when I say that we are tempted to think of such people as irritants. Maybe we would even like to get rid of them. Sometimes we would like to just get rid of We have no time for all the half-committed and fake Christians, those who don’t seem to care about God’s Kingdom or his word, who have wrapped their lives up in worldly things.

But Jesus doesn’t want to get rid of them. He wants to win them. That doesn’t mean he will let them live in their sins. But once their sin is confronted and they repent, he will share the promise of forgiveness. That heals the bruised reed and turns the smoldering wick into a blazing light once again. And that is a comfort for each one of us personally, because our own lights aren’t always shining so brightly, either.

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