[Isaiah 42:1-3] Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. 2 He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; 3 a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice…
[Matthew 3:16-17] … And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him;17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
“He will bring forth justice to the nations.” Both our readings point to Jesus as the one upon whom God has set His Holy Spirit. Both point to Jesus as the one with whom God is well pleased. And Jesus is the one though whom God will bring justice to all the nations. But what justice?
In the past year, we have heard a lot of loud voices shouting for justice – loud shouts for justice coming at us from the left hand and from the right. Do either of these shouts for justice reflect the justice brought by our Lord, and do these shouts reflect the Lord’s way of bringing justice? Do any of these shouts for justice belong in our mouths?
The two shouts for justice we’ve heard this past year can be summarized in two well known phrases: “Black Lives Matter, inc.” and “Make America Great Again”. Brothers and sisters, are either of these loud shouts meant for our mouths? Or were your minds and mouths Baptized for something more? Something more important for your neighbor to hear?
Upon Jesus was set the Holy Spirit of God, and with Jesus God is well pleased. What message is in His mouth? What justice did He bring? What message has He commissioned you to bring to your nation?
I’m going to give you a quick, “On the one hand…”, “but, on the other hand…”
On the one hand, you are called to love your neighbor as your self. Politics affect your welfare. Politics affect the welfare, the wellbeing, of your neighbor. Therefore, there is a place on the shelf of your life for politics. Just as it’s a command of God to care for your neighbor, so you ought to use the civic responsibility and freedom you have for your and your neighbor’s sake. Within the limits of the law, this is a God pleasing thing to do.
On the other hand, brothers and sisters, isn’t there something you have – something you’ve been given – that your neighbor needs more than anything else? (The “one thing needed” – Luke 10:42) Isn’t there a message that’s been given to your mouth that matters eternally? And, if you don’t give it to them, who will?
But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); 9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved…. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
But, “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?” [Romans 10:8-17]
The message of faith in Christ that saves, how will they know it – how will they hear it – if your mouths in which that message dwells are so preoccupied with these other messages of the world?
Brothers and sisters, I can guarantee that if you never speak politics again – if never another syllable about the state of our nation escapes from your mouth – there will still be plenty of people talking about Antifa, and elections, and Making America Great. But if the Gospel of Jesus isn’t being spoken from your lips, then who else will speak it?
“How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news (the Gospel)!” [Rom. 10:15]. Think of what occupies your mouths. How many of your kids or grandkids, or family or friends, or neighbors or coworkers, at the end of your days or theirs, will have heard (how many) hours of your talk about the economy or about Washington D.C. or about liberty and rights – or about morality and a moral nation – but will still die in their sins and be abandoned to hell having heard ever so little about their need of salvation through Jesus Christ?
“But who will fix our nation?” The Pharisees of Jesus’ day knew how to build an outwardly moral society and how to protest against an ungodly government (the Romans). But only the disciples of Jesus were entrusted with the message of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.
There are many voices in this world – many which are right about some important stuff. But only you have been entrusted with the message that saves and gives freedom eternally. If you are so occupied with political and moral nation building, which even unbelievers and Pharisees can do, then where will the Gospel be in this world? Where will, not just morality, but faith in Christ be found? Because “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” [Rom 10:17]
What is the unique message that we speak? “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” [1 Corinthians 15:3-4].
That the Law of God does not make us moral or truly righteous, but instead “by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin” [Romans 3:20]; that “None is righteous, no not one” [Romans 3:10]; “the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe” [Galatians 3:22].
And that Jesus is “the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world” [John 1:29]. That “Jesus is the propitiation – the God-pleasing sacrifice – for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world” [1 John 2:2], “whom God has put forward, to be received by faith” [Romans 3:25]; that God has loved the immoral person and has “sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins” [1 John 4:10].
What justice? This message is the justice that God has sent forth to the nations – that He has made justice for sin in the death of Jesus on the cross, His death for sin, in your place, so that God’s justice brings about salvation, forgiveness (pardon), and inward renewal for the guilty and condemned person. God’s justice for the nations is this justice in the death of Jesus which brings salvation and pardon for your neighbor – not the world’s current shouts for justice which call for condemnation of your neighbor. Neither left nor right in our country speaks faithfully for the saving-justice which Jesus brings forth. But there is you.
This saving-justice of God in the Cross of Jesus is for every one of you, for your sins. And it is entrusted to every one of you for your neighbor, for those you know and love, and, above all, for the enemies of God who need His light and love.
Our Lord Jesus, with whom God was well pleased, was no loud shouting protestor for any party. His saving-justice is not a protest justice, but a meek and mild justice. “Behold my servant… in whom my soul delights… He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench.” Jesus carries forth the message of the Gospel to this nation, not through loud-mouths, but through the meekness and the mildness of your voice.
Brothers and sisters, let’s be the well-pleasing Baptized children of God. Let the world rage on. But let’s re-occupy our mouths with the one message that matters forever, so that our neighbors can hear and believe – and let’s do so with patience, with gentleness toward our neighbor, and with meekness and goodwill in our voices. Amen.