A Servant’s Justice

Isaiah 42:1-3 “Here is my servant, whom I uphold…He will not shout or 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. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice.”

Jesus lived and died as a servant. There are religious leaders, even founders of world religions, who live, lead, and teach as though everything revolves around their own happiness. Did you know that almost 85 percent of Americans and almost 70 percent of Christians believe that the highest goal of life is to enjoy it as much as possible? No wonder we fall so easily for religion that promises more for me.

Jesus is a servant. He lived and died as one. He served his Father, and he did so by serving us. That doesn’t mean he didn’t enjoy life, too, but that was not his priority. That’s not how he lived, led, and taught.

If serving us meant sacrificing himself, he did so without complaint. He tolerated the constant criticism and persecution from the establishment of his day. He suffered with dull disciples who came from sketchy backgrounds. He welcomed the miserable masses and their never ending demand for help and healing even if he had to skip meals and miss sleep and cut a vacation short to do so. He loved them, he loved them all, and so he served. He served until they were done with him, and they crucified him, and in death he offered the ultimate service to us all by dying for our crimes and paying the penalty our sins deserved. Here is God’s Servant. Here is your Servant.

His service accomplishes great things for us. “I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations. He will not shout or 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. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice…”

There is a word that repeats here. Do you see it? “He will bring justice…He will bring forth justice.” In all our experience, justice is something that comes with force, even violence. Someone commits a violent crime. Law enforcement hunts him down and brings him to justice. Four college students are murdered in Idaho. Police and the FBI track him down in Pennsylvania and bring him back to Idaho to stand trial. If convicted, he faces life in prison, or even death.

Outside of law enforcement there are people who agitate for “social justice.” Some minority or another suffers unequal treatment, and private citizens or organizations advocate to change this. This rarely happens quietly. They are loud and angry. It is not uncommon for the whole process to involve riots and destruction of property.

That wasn’t Jesus’ style. “He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets.” Jesus didn’t hunt down and arrest the sinners and the criminals. He called them to repentance. He invited them to a new and restored relationship in God’s family. Jesus didn’t attack the abusers of power like the Pharisees and priests and lead a popular rebellion. He taught them, or at least he tried. He accepted their invitations and attended their dinners. His successes with them were few, but he stuck to his quiet methods.

Jesus came to bring a different kind of justice, a whole new twist on the idea. “A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice.” Jesus didn’t bring people to justice by making them pay. He didn’t bring people to justice by forcing them to change. He brings justice by making people forgiven.  He brings them to justice by wooing them to faith.

The forgiven man or woman has no charges for which to answer anymore. That has all disappeared. They are “just.” The believing man or woman may not be good, wholesome, and fair in all they say or do. Like the reed that is bent and bruised, it may not be possible to make them completely whole, at least not in this life.

But Jesus doesn’t break them off as the enemy. He already counts them as his friends and family. By faith in him they are just. And then he goes to work healing and mending their spiritual wounds. More and more his love makes them look, act, and love like he does. That’s how justice works when Jesus is serving it.

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