daily biblical sermons


HE WILL ESTABLISH JUSTICE IN THE EARTH
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, Th.D.
Homily of Saturday, 15th Week of the Year, July 21, 2018
Micah 2:1-5, Psalm 9, Matthew 12:14-21


Biblical quotations are taken from the Revised Standard Version unless otherwise noted

 

"But the Pharisees went out and took counsel against him [Jesus], how to destroy him. Jesus, aware of this, withdrew from there. And many followed him, and he healed them all, and ordered them not to make him known. This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: ‘Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he shall proclaim justice to the Gentiles. He will not wrangle or cry aloud, nor will any one hear his voice in the streets; he will not break a bruised reed or quench a smoldering wick, till he brings justice to victory; and in his name will the Gentiles hope'" (Matthew 12:14-21).


Jesus tries to escape the plots of the Pharisees to destroy him by withdrawing to another place, where he healed all the sick "and ordered them not to make him known" (Matthew 12:16). Then St. Matthew quotes one of Isaiah's Suffering Servant songs (Isaiah 42:1-4), saying that Jesus is fulfilling this song. He fulfills it in the sense that he, at this point in his ministry, tries to be gentle and quiet and avoid conflict with the Pharisees by withdrawing to another place, yet nonetheless "he shall proclaim justice to the Gentiles" (Matthew 12:18) "and in his name will the Gentiles hope" (Matthew 12:21).


How will Jesus bring forth justice to the nations? He will not do it by raising an army and achieving a great military victory over the oppressing Romans, as many Jews of that time hoped that the Messiah would do. He will not bring justice to the earth in such a loud way.


"He will not wrangle or cry aloud, nor will any one hear his voice in the streets; he will not break a bruised reed or quench a smoldering wick, till he brings justice to victory" (Matthew 12:19-20).


Jesus will bring forth justice to the earth in a completely new way by himself meekly suffering and dying at the hands of the oppressing Romans for the injustices, sins, and breaches of justice in the world. He will heal all the wounds of our sins and of those who sin against us. So many breaches of justice will he heal by suffering our penalty for them, as the fourth Suffering Servant song of Isaiah (Isaiah 53) so clearly and movingly proclaims.


By quoting this first of Isaiah's Suffering Servant songs (Isaiah 42:1-4) St. Matthew identifies Jesus with this Suffering Servant, for Jesus will "give his life as a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:28), because his blood will be "poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins" (Matthew 26:28). This fulfills the prophecy of the fourth Suffering Servant song (Isaiah 53:5-6), namely that our sins were laid upon him - "The Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all" (Isaiah 53:6) - and that he suffered their just punishment for us: "He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities" (Isaiah 53:5).


This is how Jesus, as the meek and mild, gentle and quiet Lamb of God, lamb of sacrifice, will take away the sin of the world (John 1:29) and bring justice and righteousness to the nations, not by wrangling or crying out, not by making his voice heard in the streets (Matthew 12:19), but by dying for our sins - "Christ died for our sins" (1 Corinthians 15:3).


By dying for our sins Christ will atone for them by making just reparation for them before his Father and so will establish all who believe in him in justice before God.


We were alienated from God by wounding divine justice with our sins. We fell out of sorts with him by violating his laws and his will, by being unjust. And the wounds caused by our injustice cried out to heaven for just punishment, so that our wrongs might be paid for and made right and our broken relationship with God and with others might be healed.


But who can cancel out this alienation and reconcile us with God but God himself? So God did this for us in the person of his divine Son by becoming a man and suffering our just punishment for our sins for us. God is three persons in one God. So God the Son was sent by the Father to do this for us. He "died for our sins" (1 Corinthians 15:3). He agreed to be justly punished on the cross for all our sins so that all who entrust themselves to him and his saving death with faith might be justified by God the Father; that is, might be declared and made just and righteous by the Father, because God the Son paid for them their debt of suffering and death that they had with the Father for their sins.


Since Christ paid for us our debt of suffering and death for our sins, God accounts Christ's death as paying the debt of all who put their trusting faith in Christ for their salvation. The personal account of each person who believes and trust in Christ's death and who sincerely and genuinely repents of his sins - his personal account is credited with Christ's suffering and death on the cross for our sins as full payment of his debt of suffering and death that he has with God for his sins.


God therefore acquits him of all his sins and declares him righteous, because of his faith, because of what Christ did on the cross for him in paying his debt with God for his sins. This is how Christ, who fulfills the Suffering Servant, brings justice to the earth. He makes just and righteous all who believe in him, because of his atoning death on the cross that made reparation for our sins.


To tell people this and to invite them to repent of their sins and believe in this message is evangelization. To evangelize a person is to tell him that this is what God does to all who repent and believe in Christ. To evangelize is to preach the gospel, which is the good news about what God sent his Son to do for us. And to evangelize is to invite our audience to repent of their sins and put their faith in Christ's saving work on the cross for us so that they might benefit from his atoning death.


This is how Jesus, as the fulfillment of the Suffering Servant, "will bring forth justice to the nations" (Isaiah 42:1) and "established justice in the earth" (Isaiah 42:4). He will do so by making all who believe in him just and righteous, for, as the fourth Suffering Servant song says, "He [the Suffering Servant] was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all" (Isaiah 53:5-6).


The Lord laid on Jesus the iniquity of us all, and Jesus atoned for it on the cross by making just reparation for it before God so that all who accept and believe in Jesus might be justly acquitted of their sins and declared and made righteous by God, with Christ's own righteousness reckoned to them.

 

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