“Look at my Servant, whom I have chosen.
He is my Beloved, who pleases me.
I will put my Spirit upon him,
and he will proclaim justice to the nations.
He will not fight or shout
or raise his voice in public.
He will not crush the weakest reed
or put out a flickering candle.
Finally he will cause justice to be victorious.
And his name will be the hope
of all the world.” Matthew 11:18-21 (Isaiah 42:1-4)
These are not red letters, but they are words about Jesus, describing His character and His mission. They are words from the Old Testament prophet Isaiah recalled by Matthew in his gospel. They present the gentleness of Jesus — something we rarely see or talk about. It’s a prophetic observation about what the Messiah will be like. Had the Jewish leaders been more aware of prophesies like this about the Messiah instead of who and what they wanted Him to be, they would have recognized Jesus immediately.
This prophesy describes someone who is gentle and unassuming. He doesn’t fight. He doesn’t shout or even raise His voice in public. People will come to Him and hang on His every word. They will have to listen very carefully because He’s not going to have the benefit of a sound system. He wasn’t an electric personalty. He wasn’t flashy. He would not have had His own TV show.
And here is the beautiful part: “He will not crush the weakest reed or put out a flickering candle.” He will pick up on the slightest move by any one of us in His direction. He doesn’t ask for a lot. Do you already feel bruised and broken? He will not break you. He is sensitive to your vulnerability. And is your faith only a flickering candle? He will not blow out the candle of your heart. He will cup it with His hand. He will protect it from the wind so it has a chance to burn brighter and stronger.
And He was all about justice. Twice this prophesy speaks about justice. It says He will proclaim justice, and He will cause it to be victorious. Justice will prevail in the end. Jesus will see to it.
Jesus’ idea of justice was to equalize the unfair power structure in society that rewards the rich and the powerful and treads on the weak, and the poor. Jesus was and is, and will always be, the champion of the weak and the poor.
This is why Christianity and politics are such a bad mix. They do not belong together. Politics rewards the powerful, the wealthy and the influential; Jesus equalizes those things. Jesus is for the little people — the forgotten, the outcast — the people society tramples. The bruised reeds and the flickering candles are the ones Jesus champions. Who is that flickering candle? Is that you?
My friend, Arnold, is a weak reed, bruised and confined to bed, and yet as he nears the end of his life, he is a flickering candle growing stronger. You could say that his whole life has been a process of personal equalization. For years, he played to the powerful in media and in politics, but not to God. Now, there is a justice that has taken hold in his life. He understands that it is “not by might nor by power but by His spirit,” says the Lord, and in his weakness, he has found a flickering candle in his heart that will burn on and on. Indeed, it will never go out.
Bright sun tanned His weathered face
Dusty were the roads He traced
Spreading news of love and grace
Binding the broken heart
Soothing the sorrow-torn face
– from the song “Born to Die” by John Fischer