Jesus and Justice

"Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight;
I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations."
Isaiah 42:1

The prophecy of Isaiah foretold of one who would be annointed to bring justice to the nations.  The Christian church recognizes the servant as Jesus of Nazareth who lived about 2000 years ago.

What is interesting to me in this text is not the "who" but the "what".  The servant's role is to bring justice.  The prophecy would go on to say that:

"he will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth."
Isaiah 42:4

According to these prophecies, Jesus is to establish justice globally.  This has led to people to question the accuracy of the prophecy or the legitimacy of Jesus, since we still experience wars, violence, and all varieties of injustice. 

I believe that Jesus has fulfilled this scripture brilliantly, but it may not be apparent.  There are a couple of things we must understand in order to see this scripture as predicting the ministry of Jesus.

1. Justice in this context means judgement or the correct application of just laws.  The world "misphat" implies a type of judgement due to the application of laws of God.  The KJV still reads "judgement" instead of justice to help clarify the confusion.

2. Jesus came to inaugerate the Kingdom of God (Mark 1:14-15) which represents the realm in which people are willingly subject to the reign of the righteous King.  The introduction of the kingdom is a type of judgement to the entire world, where people have the choice to submit to the Kingdom principles or reject them.  Interestingly, rejecting them does not exempt you from being responsible for them.

3. Cornel West said "Justice is what love looks like in public".  This definition allows for the broader understanding of justice as a loving application of the will of God.  The ways of God and the will of God extended through the whole world is enlargement of the Kingdom of God.

4. The people of God (properly understood as the Church) are the true body of Christ, representing the mission of Jesus.  The people of God are Christ's means for justice today.  We are to establish justice wherever God sends us.  In fact, the establishment of justice is an essential mark of the authentic church. 

5. The cross represents the intertwining of justice and mercy and accountability and forgiveness.  We must understand that we did not receive justice for our sins, but mercy.  We did not have to stand and justify each action, but have received forgiveness.  Jesus received justice and accountability for our sins, so that justice was complete.  Not only ours, but for all of humanity.  Thus, Jesus' death on the cross fulfilled justice through mercy and forgiveness. 

Our understanding of Justice is based upon the work of Jesus who undertook suffering on our behalf.  The work of the church is to continue his justice, join in his suffering to redeem a broken and hostile world.  We do this by sacrificial love, not overpowering might.  We follow him who gave his life for us in both style and substance.  Justice is the means to shalom or peache.

When you look around during this Holy Week, I pray that your eyes will be open to the injustice around you.  I pray that you join with Jesus in bringing justice with mercy, truth with forgiveness, accountability with grace to wherever and whoever is within your sphere of influence.

May God bless  you,

Pastor M Traylor